This year I decided the costume theme our family was going to be as Disney’s Frozen.
I was completely mesmerized by frozen (like the rest of the world) and knew I had to make that dress! More than that, I felt like Elsa’s ‘let it go’- helped me on a personal level as well. I won’t go into too much detail, but last year I found myself stuck in a dead-end job that I had come to loathe. I was angry that despite the efforts of my small team supporting this huge corporation- we were all denied raises and titles equal to the work we were doing. I was stuck in a rut and not being challenged or growing professionally was driving me crazy! Things went from bad to worse when the company was purchased and I knew I had to get out; the message from “Let it go” helped empower me to take a leap of faith, and to trust in my own abilities. After a bad day at work I’d “belt it out” in the car during my 1 ½ hr commute- and somehow that made me feel better (I guess you could say it was my theme song for a while). Fast forward a few months and now I have an amazing portfolio; a job that I love with, an amazing company and coworkers, and I feel confident in my own abilities. I feel like a modern Elsa, ready to take on the world – I just needed that dress.
Even though I typically don’t make costumes I know everyone will be wearing, I decided it had to be this year for a few reasons: 1) My toddler (20 months) is the perfect size to portray an accurate life-size Olaf, 2) he loves the movie (and warm hugs), and 3) even though I knew there would be a million other Elsas running around and knew most of them would be little girls that I could inspire and give confidence to them, the same way Elsa did for me (tear).
I knew Elsa’s elaborate costume would take the longest- so I started a few months before Halloween- It was a little overwhelming, so I created a task list with a budget for each part of the costume. Then I did a ton of research online to find a wig that looked authentic, real, and was in my price-range. (a bad wig can ruin an awesome costume).
Fabric: finding fabric that had the right drape, aesthetic, and color was more challenging than I anticipated, and since the skirt and cape use so much yardage, I didn’t want to spend too much per yard. I also wanted to make sure my costume was modest, so I ended up using two fabrics in the shirt so that it wasn’t sheer, and also add more shimmer. The skirt was two-tone chiffon (which started pulling apart at the seams) L, cape: shimmery organza (I wanted it to be light weight so that when I walked, it would float behind me like in the movie)
Corset: (it won’t take that long, NOT!) I draped the pattern on my dress form and made a pattern. I just used muslin since I was going to cover it anyway. I used boning in the front to add shape. I looked for sequin fabric to make the corset but nothing was quite right, so I cut out several rounded rectangles, ovals, and squares from foam sheets while watching movies after work/weekends- this took much longer than planned. They didn’t have a pack of all white foam sheets at the 99 cent store, so I just used colors and bought a single sheet of white for the top since that was going to remain white. I glued everything with amazing goop. I used a whole tube and got a massive headache since my toddler thought it was a game to turn off the fan that was keeping it ventilated. (Oh well- hopefully, I didn’t kill too many brain cells ;) Gluing the pieces took longer than planned as well- I remember telling my husband “it’ll be easy” and he thought I was nuts (I probably am). It was basically a puzzle to fit the pieces together without large gaps- but it was worth it! The foam gave the corset a nice hourglass shape but was still flexible enough to bend and move in.
Paint away! After gluing, I had to paint all the foam with an ombre effect- I used folk-art paint in a metallic teal at the bottom, a pearl glacier blue, and a metallic white at top. I focused the lighter shades at the front and darker on sides in a “v” shape to give the illusion of a smaller waist and fuller chest. **note to self- next time, use a fabric that matches to avoid having to paint between all the foam to hide the muslin-** Other than that, the painting was fairly easy and captured the look I was going for. :)
Next came the Cape– The initial creation of the cape was pretty quick- I was able to drape and cut the cape before my son woke up on a Saturday morning. I serged the seams to give it a French seam look without the extra effort. Getting the pattern on the cape was a whole different story. I designed the layout of the cape on my computer, and had to recreate the snowflakes on Elsa’s cape because I couldn’t find the correct ones on the web. I made a template and used it to mask off the pattern. I ended up taking this with me on a work trip to Canada in my carry-on bag and did this in my hotel room at night. My coworker came in and helped me and we were able to mask one side in a night (I had to do the other side when I got home- I wore volleyball pads on my knees, so I looked pretty ridiculous). I also cut stencils of the negative space snowflakes by creating a sheet of tape on my cutting board and Cutting them out with a box-cutter creating custom stickers. The rest of the snowflakes I cut stencils on card-stock. It would be perfectly fine if I never have to cut out another snowflake in my lifetime.
Glitter! I wanted this cape to be more subtle than some of the other ones I’d seen out there. In the movie, it is very tonal not ‘in-your-face’. To get the right color, I mixed a light teal blue and white extra-fine glitter that I got in a large container at Wal-Mart. I also used Glitter-Blast Spray and sealer in Silver. I first sprayed the silver and would add the loose glitter on top while it was still wet- Then sealed it- I used about three cans of spray. The 1st can started malfunctioning and wouldn’t stop spraying- so it ran out pretty quickly. :(- My awesome husband saved the day and ran to our 24 hr Wal-Mart and bought me two cans (just in case) at around midnight- (at this point, I had already been working on it for several hours) I finally finished around 5:30 am. I was really happy with how it turned out- but I would do it differently next time (if there is a next time). Unfortunately, after wearing a few times, most of the loose glitter came off – (that’s why you can’t really see it in the pictures) so it would have been better if I used embellishment glue and just did the loose glitter without the spray. I might do this to touch it up for Christmas- I’m going to make an appearance as Elsa at our Church Christmas party to take pictures with the kids and do a “let it go” sing-along :)
The Skirt– I won’t go into much detail on the skirt, as it is pretty standard. However, I should have made it much longer with bigger seam allowance as I didn’t account for how much Chiffon slides around, stretches out, etc. Also, since I had to line it, I thought I was being clever by serging the two layers together and then serging the seams. This totally backfired, creating seam puckering and shredding at the seams on the top layer. I ended up having to use fray-check, clear thread, and a fine needle to re-sew all the seams while tucking in the shredded parts- It helped, but it shredded again each time I wore it. :(
Shirt Pattern: The shirt gave me a few problems as well- I used a shirt I already had as a template, and made adjustments until my proto fit great- but the real fabric didn’t stretch as much as I thought (it is restricted by embroidery stitches and reacts more like a rigid) I didn’t have enough fabric to re-cut the whole thing, so I just re-cut the sleeves and added a panel to the side seam (since most of that is covered by the corset anyway). Once the pieces were cut, I had to add the glitter pattern- the original plan was to use rhinestones, but when I tried ironing them on, it instantly melted a hole in my sleeve (luckily, I had accidentally cut out an extra sleeve). Instead, I painted my template with embellishment glue and added glitter. This ended up being a blessing in disguise as it took much less time and I Liked how the glitter color ties in with the rest of the dress. Sewing was a little bit of a pain matching up the glitter pattern on the bodice and sleeve (I thought that part would be easy, so I saved it for last and ended up rushing to get it done the day of the event).
Tame the Mane– as can be expected, my wig came in much more disheveled than in the beautiful image online. It was super fluffy and resembled an awkward Dallas mullet from the 80’s on steroids! My sister-in-law and I attempted to flatten and relax the hair with a blow-dryer, curling iron, and some hair cream. It helped, but it still wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do. After she left, I played around with it in the bathroom while my toddler was taking a bath. It was amazing what WATER could do! I ran my fingers throughout he whole wig with water and hair cream, giving it a more realistic look and simulated highlights. I then used water and hair cream to separate the hair and mold it into Elsa’s hairstyle. I used bobby pins to hold it in place and let it dry. Then I added the side-swept loose braid, and tugged at it to make it thicker.
Snowflake hairpins– I ended up finding plastic snowflakes at Jo Anne’s in a pack with two sizes. I glittered them and glued them to bobby pins. I used two on my flip-flops as well since I ran out of time to make Elsa’s Ice pumps.
Make-up (I’m ready for my close-up!) I used the lightest makeup I could find from the 99 cent store and used my nice powder to set it. I made my eyes look bigger by painting white on/under my bottom lash line. I then re-drew in the shape of my eye with eyeliner approx 1/8” below my bottom lid. I winged out my eyeliner and attached fake eyelashes starting at the extended part. A little mascara, blush and lipstick and I was good to go. ** a little tip- add a little dab of blush on tip of nose to give a cold nose winter flush** and Viola! Elsa has arrived!
My Favorite part about creating Elsa, was learning and growing creatively. I tried a lot of things I had never done before (some of which I may never do again). In a way, I feel like I created my own couture gown :)
My Favorite part about Being Elsa is the joy it brings to little girls, boys, and adults alike. I had several strangers take their picture with us who’s kids truly were convinced that we were the ‘real deal’. Every time I saw a little girl staring at me, I smiled and said “hi”, and they were so excited! After attending a Halloween festival, we met up with my in-laws at Corner Bakery for dinner. Of course my Husband (Kristoff) and toddler (Olaf) simply took off the outer layer of their costumes and left them in the car looking perfectly normal. I, on the other hand, couldn’t do that so easily, so I went to dinner as Elsa. As I was feeding my toddler and eating my sandwich, my family informed me that a family with little girls had come in and were staring at me. So I went over and said “hi”, asked each of them their names. We then took a picture and the littlest one- (probably about three) kept hugging my legs and wouldn’t let go- she was so cute! This opened the door for the adults. Our waiter got a picture with me to send to his niece, and another lady to send to her granddaughter. :) It felt good making people happy.
“Do you want to build a snowman?” I already did!- Toddler Olaf Diy
I started Olaf about a week before the costumes had to be completed for our Church Halloween Party. This year, it was really early in October, so I had less time than planned; (I planned to start earlier, but Elsa took FOREVER **note to self- everything ALWAYS takes at least 3x longer than planned**. I wish I could say I had a pattern that I created for Olaf, but I just kind of winged it. Almost everything I used was fabric and supplies I already had, so I created based on my resources.
Body part 1: I thought the body of Olaf would be a piece of cake, but I still ran into a few snags. I got a general idea of the length I wanted by measuring my wiggly toddler and added length to accommodate the fullness of the snowman shape. I also tried one of my hoodies on him to see if that length/width gave it the right fullness if I cinched in the waist, as well as getting a general shape for the head. That worked pretty well, but since he is so tiny- I had to use one of his hoodies as a template for the neck, shoulder width, and armhole placement. I then laid the reference hoodie on top of my fabric and traced half on the fold with a removable fabric marker. I did the same with the toddler hoodie to make adjustments. I then made a straight a-line shape from under the armhole to the hem. The lining was exactly the same except instead of a-line, it was a straight piece and a little shorter to give the bubble shape when attached at the hem.
Body part 2: I sewed lining and outer separately, and added a casing with elastic on the inside of the self fabric at the waist. I then attached the self and lining pieces at the hem. Then came the stuffing! I bought a bag of no clump stuffing from Wal-Mart and I used almost the entire thing on the body (I had to save some for the head). After getting the fullness I wanted, I tried it on my toddler who would run from me every time I tried to put it on him. After getting it on, I realized that it was too long and that the weight of the costume was pulling at the shoulders. You could also see where the elastic was separating the two halves (which didn’t look very snowman-like) and it was almost touching the floor. Solution: 1) took a few inches out of the shoulder and reinforced with the seam allowance instead of removing. 2) chopped off part of the bottom, re-sewed hem, 3) sewed the top and bottom portion together about 1” above and below the elastic to both shorten the length and hide the elastic. After finishing the armholes, I stitched a line to keep the stuffing from going into the shoulder, keeping the rounded shape I wanted. **This costume was a lot like making a stuffed animal (which I have never done), so there was a lot of trial and error involved.**
Head part 1: (Heads’ up!) I was dreading the head! I knew that the head could make or break the costume. The proportion and curves had to be right, it had to be structured to allow an unobstructed line of sight, and to make it even more seemingly impossible- It had to be comfortable enough for a 20 month old to wear and keep on. In a nutshell, I based the basic shape of the hood on an adult hoodie and added a little extra to the height and a few inches to the back to give a more rounded shape. I used a baseball cap to gauge how tall it needed to be and how much to add to the front of the hood for the mouth. I attempted to try in on my toddler, but he was not having it- so I resorted to using a large Darth Vader Mr-Potato-Head with a stuffed toy shoved in it that had a similar head size as my son.
Head part 2: (dun-dun-dunnnn!) the shape of the head was completely trial and error. The basic shape was created by hot gluing a white baseball cap to the front of hoodie at the top, adding stuffing, gluing, some more glue, stuff, repeat, glue, stuff, repeat. I ended up doing most of this while sitting on the toilet (not using- just sitting on) while my son was playing in the bath LOL! **Helpful Tip: To have a guide for the proportion, I scaled and printed an image of Olaf’s head in the size that I wanted, cut it out to see the scale of the top of his head, mouth, and all his facial features**. After gluing, I had to hand tack a few places around the cheeks and stitch a channel to create the shape of his mouth. Lastly, I attached the head- this was harder than you would think since the body was so puffy
Head part 3: (the fun part!) Now that the head was constructed, it was time for some arts and crafts. The eyes were made from black and white foam sheets and glazed with Modge-Podge. **note- fabric glue doesn’t work on foam (I learned the hard way) – use e6000 or goop**. I dabbed on a dot of paint for the “twinkle in his eye”. For the nose, I used orange model-magic. To get the right curve, I had to prop it up with various toys as well as a foam curved racetrack to let it dry- otherwise, it would have been flat on the bottom- (I wish I would’ve taken a picture- but it was late and my mind was mush at that point) Since the nose was thick (I used a whole package) It took a few days to completely dry and cracked a little on the bottom. Eyebrows: felt, tooth: multiple layers of white foam sheets glued together and painted with a the metallic pearl white I used on Elsa’s corset.
Sticks & Stones… The stones were the easiest part of the costume and were created with black model magic. (Honestly, I almost completely forgot about the stones until I saw a picture of Olaf at the store- I knew something wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it). For the sticks on the head, I used thick floral wire and wrapped it with lots of fabric glue and a brown crocheted trim I already had. I did the same thing for the arms, just without the wire. Instead of wire, I made cording by gluing and rolling the trim. **This was a very messy project**. After drying overnight, I glued the arms to Velcro and sewed Velcro to the sleeves of a white long-sleeve onesie. This allowed the arms to be removed to get the rest of the costume on, as well as being able to wash the onesie (which is crucial with a toddler).
Just when you think you’re done…
Our church Halloween party was the first time I was able to get my son to wear the costume with the head attached. Despite all my efforts, the hood would not stay on very well (it didn’t help that my toddler kept tilting his head back to make it fall off) We were lucky to get one good picture of him wearing the head that night. He also spent most of that night running around in his Olaf costume (which looked pretty hilarious. Apparently he took a tumble and “rolled a few times” while grandpa was chasing him. Luckily, he was fine but the costume wasn’t as lucky. The nose split in a few places which I had to fill in with more model magic (it took longer to doctor up than to make the nose the first time). Then I had to figure out a way to keep the head on. I bought a white foam cowboy hat from the 99 cent store and cut out the rim of the hat. I sized it to my son’s head and hand stitched it inside the hood- This seemed to do the trick. The next time he wore it. he kept the head on most of the time (which for a toddler is amazing!)
So that is how I built my little snowman…
Not enough hours in a day: I wanted to make a harem type pant with a bubble hem to emulate his legs as well as make his trick or treat pail a snow flurry cloud with snow dangling from it but ran out of time.
My Favorite part about creating Olaf, was learning how to construct a stuffed animal-type costume and having it turn out exactly how I envisioned it. I now feel that I can tackle any project, and am excited to construct more authentic costumes in the future!
My Favorite part about my son being Olaf was every time I tried the body on him- he would run around like crazy and have so much fun. At first, he didn’t want it on and would run from me, but once we put it on and took him to the mirror the first time, he loved it and would run to the mirror every other time he had it on. Also, Once the costume started to really look like Olaf, he would come over and point to it and start Hugging the Olaf costume. That was a tender moment- because to him- that was the real Olaf.
The reaction we got in response to the Olaf costume was amazing. Several parents complimented it and asked where we got it, only to be even more amazed that it was homemade. The commercial versions of Olaf currently in the market are not that great, so people were excited to see something that really looked authentic and true to the character. Several young Elsas got their pictures taken with my little Olaf :)
I have a lot of favorite moments this year as this was my son’s 1st year trick-or-treating. It was so fun seeing his excitement when people loved his costume, when he got to pick out a treat, and as he proudly carried his pail. It was exciting to see him evolve from running from the costume- to wanting to wear it again. That’s what makes it all worth it. :)
My husband was perfect for this character, because in many regards he IS Kristoff. Just substitute a dog for the reindeer, the long blonde locks for short brown ones and that’s him to a T. His costume was relatively simple and I was able to get it done in a few days (even from scratch). I found a great realistic wig online for only $15. We had to trim the bangs a little, but other than that it was perfect. :)
Tunic– Constructed from Black micro-suede fabric and fur, I managed to do the tunic with only one yard since micro-suede can get pricey. The sleeve was a little challenging since typically men’s shirts don’t have a cap sleeves.
Trim/Belt– My favorite part of the costume! I tried to find Nordic trim in the color I wanted, but nothing looked right. Instead, I cut fabric I already had, that is some sort of slubby silk satin that is a burnt orange color on the reverse. I wanted the trim and belt to look like it was really nice when new, but was now worn and tattered from the physically demanding lifestyle of Kristoff and Sven. To achieve this, I frayed the edges and cut the belt edges to look ripped and jagged. For the stitching, I decided to try out the embroidery features on my machine. I mixed a bronze and antique gold metallic thread, so it would have a more antique-vintage look. Then I embroidered various stitches in straight lines, mirroring the pattern on both sides. I attached the trim and fur to the edges, and I’m really happy with how Authentic it came out :)
The Boots were the other challenging part. I had never made boots before and these had a curled toe. I used $5 slippers for the base, but I made a pattern and sewed the rest of the boot together. I added fur piping, and then glued the boot to the base. **I had to shove plastic bags in the toe to give the right shape. The boots were the last thing I worked on and I literally finished them 45 mins before we had to leave and I still had to get ready- a little stressed is an understatement. By this point, every surface in my kitchen/dining room was covered in the remains of projects, as well as a dusting of glitter and fur- as you can imagine, my husband was thrilled! lol.