Our family watched the most recent season of America’s Got Talent on NBC. My son quickly became a fan of Piff the Magic Dragon – a comedian/magician who was competing on the show. The real Piff finished in the Top 10, and when the season was over, my son announced that he wanted to be Piff for Halloween. Since the real Piff has no licensing agreements in place with any entity for the manufacture of replica costumes, the costume for my son had to made from scratch. Planning for the costume began in early October and was completed a few days before Halloween.
The basis for the costume was a Simplicity dinosaur costume (#1765) that was altered and augmented to match the costume worn by the real Piff. The body is green satin, with sequined fabric diamonds appliqued onto the suit, then edged in gold rickrack. The same sequined fabric was used to make the plates that run over the head and down the spine and tail. The original pattern called for one set of plates, made from felt. To match the Piff costume design, I increased the plates from one set to three sets running the length of the outfit, and added three more plates above the face. Each plate and the tail were stuffed with polyfill and sewn in place. In order to make the costume as authentic as possible, my husband watched several online videos of the real Piff, to document where on the suit the diamond appliqués were located, what colors they were, and what sizes they were. He then prepared a “map” of the diamonds, scaled the diamonds to my son’s size, and finally printed out cardstock patterns for me to use to cut out the appliqués. From initial concept to completion, the costume took about 3 weeks – one week for design and two weeks for construction.
The costume consists of two parts – the body of the costume and the headpiece. The body is a one-piece unit that zips up the front. The headpiece is a hood-style and is secured under the chin with Velcro. The headpiece is fully lined with cotton broadcloth. The body of the costume is also embellished with top-stitched designs using metallic gold thread. The costume was made entirely on my home sewing machine, an old Singer 603E Touch & Sew machine from the early 1960’s.
The red “attaché” case (which the real Piff uses in his act to store various magic items) was made from a postal shipping box. The box was primed with gesso and painted with acrylic paint. Graphics were designed on the computer, printed out, and then applied to the exterior using Mod Podge. The handle to the case is a drawer pull, secured to wooden slats inside the box. The box also has a large hole cut in the top of it, adjacent to the handle, so that my son could use it while trick-or-treating as a candy bucket.
Everyone who saw my son in this costume fell into one of two camps – those who had watched AGT and knew exactly who Piff was, and those who had not watched the show and therefore had to have the concept for the costume explained to them. Regardless of which group observers fell into, everyone agreed that the costume itself was impressive, the workmanship exemplary, and were amazed that it was homemade. We got many compliments regarding this costume. When we were out taking pictures of my son in his costume, people stopped in their cars to comment and compliment us on the costume, to inquire about the costume, and took their own pictures of him.
On October 30th, we visited our local Bass Pro Shop to have my son’s photo taken in their Halloween photo booth and participate in their in-store trick-or-treating. Unbeknownst to us, they were also hosting a costume contest, which we were shuttled into almost immediately upon our arrival. My son placed second in his age category (9 to 12 year-olds).
Additionally, after we began working on the construction of the costume, my husband discovered that the real Piff was hosting a “look-alike” costume contest on Twitter. The contest was announced on October 15th, but we did not find out about it until the following week. By then, I was well into construction of the costume. When the costume was completed, my husband took several pictures and began submitting the photos to Piff via Twitter. The contest was judged on November 1, 2015, by Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller), and our son’s costume was chosen as the 1st place winner. The first-place prizes for the contest were tickets to one of Piff’s performances and an autographed t-shirt. As of this writing, we will be attending a performance in late January, 2016, and my son intends to wear the costume to that performance, to have his photo taken with Piff.
Regarding why our costume should be selected as a winner in your contest, I feel that, while children have many choices of heroes or role models, often they choose popular figures well-known to our culture. My son chose a role-model that inspired and entertained him, but was also one for which no costume existed. DIY was our only choice in order to fulfill our son’s Halloween costume desire. By working diligently to make my son’s costume as authentic as possible, not only was I able to create a work of beauty that was appreciated by all who saw it, but I was also able to pave the way for my son to meet his role model in person.