My costume was 20 years in the making. Wait, that isn’t right. My Queen of Hearts character was 20 years in the making. The actual costume took much less time (thank goodness)! When I was in 4th grade, our class play was “Alice in Wonderland”. Of course every girl in the class wanted to be Alice. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be Alice? She is the main character and looks all sweet and cute. Out of all of the girls that tried out for the role of Alice, I was the only one that did not. Alice was too boring to me. My eyes were set on playing the part of the Queen of Hearts.
I fell in love with the idea of making the character stand out in the story. Why should Alice have all the fun? Why should she be the only one remembered? The play was a huge success (at least to the school staff, fellow students and parents). But what made it a success to me was the fact that people left talking about the Queen of Hearts. My best friend was Alice and it wasn’t that I was trying to out-shine her or anything of that nature. I just simply wanted my character to be remembered. And it was.
My teacher made multiple comments on how in her long career and many renditions of the play she had never had anyone put so much passion into the role. Classes all around could hear my thunderous “Off with their heads!” during practice. It felt good to take pride in the role I had be given.
Now, 20 years later, I have had the opportunity to slip once more into the role of the Queen of Hearts. Only this time, I am not a student in a play. I am an adult that loves costumes. But not so much the costumes that are massed produced, a.k.a. store bought costumes. I much prefer the costumes born from a person’s imagination. Making your costume gives you the freedom to show exactly where your imagination can go. And not every costume that is homemade requires a great deal of talent.
With that being said, I do not see myself as being very ‘talented’. My hobby is to create things. Recently I picked up the needle and haven’t put it back down. I have self taught myself to sew, quilt and a few other crafty type things. Costumes are my favorite thing that I can bring to life with fabric, needle and thread.
Every year around the start of fall, I begin to ponder, “Who or what I could be for Halloween?” This year the light bulb did not turn on so easy. I just couldn’t seem to find the switch. And like love at first sight, as soon as the light bulb comes to life, I know that I have thought of “the one”. I had made a costume the previous year that I loved so much. It matched me and my love for all things owls. I even climbed a tree so I could have a picture of me dressed up as an owl in a tree. So making a decision on what could be my costume this year was hard.
My very first idea had been to make a female version of the Mad Hatter. I have tons of scraps of fabric and I thought that making a mismatched crazy hobo looking skirt, a flamboyant hat, and some other fun details would be a great costume idea. But no matter all the thoughts I had on making a Mad Hatter costume, it just didn’t give me the excitement that I wanted. Plus, it didn’t help that some of my coworkers did not even know who the Mad Hatter was. (Crazy!) I did not want to spend the whole day explaining my costume to everyone.
I finally turned to the internet. I did tons of searches for Halloween costumes. (Which is how I came upon this amazing website! Thank you Pinterest!) I saw so many amazing costumes. But still, I wasn’t able to find something that ignited my creative spirit. And of all things, I wasn’t seeing a costume that flipped the light switch. It was a red, white and black striped tutu skirt.
My husband was actually the one to point it out and mention how much he liked it. At first, I did the whole eye rolling thing. I even might have whined a little bit about how much I did not want to wear a tutu this year and that I was already looking at making four tutus in the next week or so for people I knew. He persisted though and the more I looked at the skirt, the more the wheels started to turn. Finally, I wasn’t just seeing a red, white and black striped tutu. I was seeing hearts. Yes, I had fallen in love once again with a costume. And it felt so right. All of my fond childhood memories of playing the Queen of Hearts and new, exciting ideas flooded my brain causing a storm that made me feel like I was in the movie Twister.
I cannot draw to save my life, so I didn’t sketch out my costume on paper. Though I wished I could have a sketch book full of my ideas. But in my mind, I had the visual sketch. Of course I was going to make a version of the red, white and black tutu skirt that me and my husband had seen. But that was just the starting point. My next idea was that I would definitely need to wear a pair of shiny red heels that thankfully I had purchased a while back.
For the look, I decided that a plain black top would be a better pair with the skirt than something flashy. Again, I already had a black shirt I could use for this. All of these things will make a ‘pretty’ costume, but not something that stands out or even comes close to saying that I was the Queen of Hearts. But that was the point. I did not want too much to be into the dress part of the costume.
Thankfully, as I was piecing the puzzle pieces of my costume concept together, I was asked to make a Princess Anna costume. My plan for the Princess Anna costume included making the fuchsia cloak. That is what inspired me to make the royal robe (I researched to see what the cape type thing that queens used to wear was called, because saying cape type thing just didn’t sound right). But since I didn’t want my dress to be really flashy or even character defining, I knew the robe would have to be the main part of my costume. The thought of a royal robe made from playing cards was the exciting plan I came up with.
I loved the idea of looking like a queen in a pretty dress with this eye catching royal robe that would leave no doubt in people’s minds as to who I was. The robe to me also added the flare that the Queen of Hearts has. She is no ordinary queen. I also decided that my crown should be a simple crown made from playing cards as well.
Now that the puzzle pieces were in place, it was time to bring the costume to life. And like Dr. Frankenstein, I set out to the craft store to find all the right parts in creating my monster. I purchased enough tulle fabric to start my own ballet. I also bought about eight decks of Bicycle© playing cards. Thankfully, I had a couple of decks already at home. I did make the discovery that cheap cards would not work. I tried buying a couple packs of the cheaper playing cards at the dollar store. The quality and texture of the cards was all wrong. Bicycle© stock went up a few points, thanks to my desire to have everything just right. I already had enough plain black cotton fabric at home. So a few other notions was really all I needed.
I started out by taking the black fabric that I was going to use for my royal robe. I took measurements of myself so I could cut and hem the robe to look like a robe and not a big rectangle of fabric. Once the fabric was transformed into a robe, I placed it in the middle of my living room floor. I sat for hours (literally) playing around with the card arrangements. At first, I had thought that I would only put suits of diamonds and hearts. But it did not take me long to realize that not only would I go bankrupt from buying enough cards to achieve this, but I just didn’t like all the cards being red and white. After all, my skirt was going to be red, white and black, so the royal robe should follow the same scheme.
I decided to use the pattern of spade, heart, club and diamond. So it would be a black card, red card, black card, red card. But that wasn’t all. I then felt like the placement of the cards should give an even color distribution. Like I didn’t need two lower end cards beside each other or there would be too much white. So I tried to make it to where one higher card was beside a lower card. I placed the cards in this arrangement until I had all the rows laid out. I then removed them and placed them in stacks until it was time to start sewing.
I took some of the remaining cards and turned them over to their red design side. I created a big heart shape with the cards that I had turned over. I took quilter’s chalk and traced the position of where I wanted the heart to be on the robe. After placing the heart aside to be sewn on last, I sewed a small strip of Velcro to allow my robe to clasp in the front. To add a small touch and to also hide the Velcro’s stitching, I cut a red heart out of felt material. I used safety pins to pin the felt heart over the section when closed, so I could still remove the cape with Velcro. Then, card by card and row by row, I began sewing the cards onto the robe.
I loaded up black thread on my sewing machine to attach the playing cards to the fabric. Let me also note that before I started this process I took a scrap piece of fabric and a few extra playing cards and tested the strength of this process. The last thing I wanted was to do this and it not be sturdy enough to survive. I even gave the test subject to my stronger than my husband who attempted to pull the card and fabric apart. He was unsuccessful after several good tugs (not with all his strength, but enough to measure the durability of the stitch job).
The first couple of rows weren’t so bad. But it didn’t take long for the robe to become very heavy. The heaviness required more time and effort to make sure the cards didn’t shift as I was sewing them. For my last few rows, I enlisted help to hold the robe while I sewed. I stopped sewing the rows at about six to seven inches from the top and front of the robe. This section would be going over my shoulders and around my neck to meet at my sternum. I decided not to place any playing cards in this area. Instead, I used some of the remaining tulle that I had cut to make my tutu skirt with. I cut the red, white and black tulle into squares. I sorted the squares into stacks that had one square of each color. I then gathered them like a bouquet of flowers and pinned the lower section to my robe. After pinning a row, I would sew it. I repeated this process until the section was fluffy. This allowed the robe to sit better on my shoulders and also hid the top row of stitching from the cards.
The last step to my royal robe was to attach the heart I had made earlier out of the red backed playing cards. I placed it on the royal robe in the empty space that I had previously marked. I did not want any holes from sewing to be visible, so I attempted to glue it onto the fabric. I admit, that was not the best idea I had ever had. The glue was industrial strength. But the coating on the cards just didn’t allow the glue and fabric to bond. So I then took clear thread and performed hidden stitches by hand.
The tutu skirt was very easy to make. I used an elastic waist band. I took each color of tulle fabric and measured out the length and width I needed. I used my rotary cutter and cutting board to slice it up. Once all of the tulle was cut, I took it to my sewing machine. I sewed the tulle leaving enough of a gap to insert my elastic though. A lot of people tie there tutus, but I don’t prefer my tutus that way. Plus, I used wider strips, so it wouldn’t look so bunched up and fluffy. After sewing, I inserted the elastic and stitched it closed. I have made so many tutus that I no longer see them as a challenge. But I enjoy making them, so it is a win-win.
My final step in the creation of my costume was my crown. I used very transparent tape and taped the cards together, front and back. Carefully, I started curving them until I had a perfect round shape. With my Exact-o knife and cut a tiny opening on each side of the crown. I inserted a thin piece of black elastic that I had measured earlier. I sewed the elastic together so that crown would fit headband style. I made sure the elastic was placed where it would not bend or alter the shape of the crown as it was placed on my head. At the end, I took a pair of scissors and cut the cards to give it the pointy crown look.
Now, I should mention that I work in a doctor’s office. Within our company, there are multiple offices and locations. Every Halloween, to encourage employees to dress up and have fun, there is a small contest among employees. They recognize the top three best costumes, best group themed costumes and best pumpkin decorator.
On Halloween, I woke up early to get ready for my role. I could not wait to be the Queen of Hearts for the day. The one thing that I was not expecting was the reaction that I received from my costume. My coworkers gave me a lot of compliments for my costume. It made me feel really good about what I had created. But it wasn’t just my coworkers (whom I am sure wouldn’t tell me something was bad even if it was the worst thing ever), it were patients, pharmaceutical reps and pretty much everyone I seen.
Employees from other offices had gotten word that my costume was a ‘must see’. So all day, I was visited by people wanting to see me in my costume. It was a bit overwhelming, but at the same time, I felt so proud that everyone liked my creation. I even refrained from yelling “Off with their heads!” too much. It was hard to be a mean queen when everyone was so nice and complimenting. On my lunch break, I had to make a quick trip to the local Wal-Mart to pick up a forgotten item my daughter needed for that night. I didn’t really think about that fact that I was going into the store fully decked out.
Complete strangers were coming up to me all throughout the store to compliment my costume. And before I could check out and leave, an employee approached me with a camera and asked to take my picture. I agreed and after a quick pose I was out the door. Later, I wish I would have asked where the picture would end up. My luck it will end up on the website where people make fun of the way people are dressed inside the store (too late now). The best thing someone said to me was when a guy said, “You must be going to a poker game tonight.” I smiled and replied to him, “I sure am. And let me tell you, I have a few cards up my sleeve.” Who would have thought that the Queen of Hearts could be beloved character? I did.
In conclusion, I could not have been any happier with playing the Queen of Hearts. It was nice to rekindle the role I had enjoyed so much as a kid. I was sad to take the costume off and place it on a special hanger. But I found that it is not over. I am still having conversations about the costume, especially since it was announced that I won the small contest at work. My thoughts on submitting my costume to the coolest-homemade-costumes.com contest have been highly encouraged so that I can allow even more people to see my creation. And hopefully someone will be inspired to let their imagination take control and allow them to create something that they absolutely love.