We have two daughters aged 13 and 10. We have long played games as a family, but it has become increasingly difficult to find games that we all enjoy playing. This year we taught the girls how to play poker, and they took to it instantly. It is now one of the games that we can all agree to. In fact, it didn’t take long for our daughters to learn how to beat us at poker. I’m not sure I love the fact that my daughters are so good at bluffing, but it does make them formidable opponents.

Every few years we decide to dress up as a family for Halloween, and this was one of those years. When we talked about family costume ideas, I thought it would be fun to play off of this new family activity, which led to the idea of us being face cards. This fall we had an exchange student from Germany join our family, which allowed us to complete a poker hand. I originally thought it would be fun to go as a full house, but none of the girls wanted to join me as a king. However, the longer I have lived with four females, the more I have realized that “Four of a Kind” does a better job of describing our household.

From that point, I took my inspiration from cards in an actual poker deck, trying to make costumes that looked like playing cards coming alive. Our youngest daughter is the Queen of Clubs, our 13 year old is the Queen of Diamonds, our exchange student is the Queen of Spades, my wife is the Queen of Hearts and I am the King of Hearts. In the end, I think we constituted a winning hand.

The Winning Poker Hand family costumes were made out of a variety of fabrics, ribbons, wood, duct tape and a few store-bought items. The back of the cards are a black-patterned vinyl fabric, sewn to white vinyl edges. The edges on the front are also white vinyl, while the letters and suit symbols are made out of colored duct tape. The main body section was pieced together from red, blue, black and gold broadcloth fabric. The accents on the main body are made out of sewn on ribbon, appliqued pieces of fabric and a bit of duct tape. The Queen of Spades scepter has a hollow plastic tube in it to give it vertical rigidity.

After the main body sections were completed, I sewed them on to the top and bottom sections. The top section is white vinyl and the bottom is white stretch fabric. The stretch fabric was used to make it easier to get into and out of the costume. There is also a bit of black stretch fabric on the sides to help the main section contour to the body of the wearer.

The collars are also made out of stretch fabric to allow the heads to get out. After the front of the card was sewn together the white vinyl edges were attached. The top and bottom masks were store-bought, decorated with blue Sharpie. The eyes on the bottom masks were drawn with Sharpie on duct tape. The crowns were sewn from fabric with ribbon and applique decorations and then glued onto the white masks. The hair and beards were cut from a blue and white striped flannel. Small holes were drilled into the bottom masks to allow them to be sewn to the white stretch fabric.

Where necessary, dangling pieces of the upside down crowns were tacked town with thread. Sheaths made of stretch fabric were sewn to the wrong side of the bottom white section to hold the bottom sword, and a sheath made of duct tape was attached to the back of the top white vinyl section.

After the front of the cards was completely finished the front and back sides were sewn together with right sides facing each other. 2 inch pieces of elastic were sewn on each side of all four corners to provide an anchor for the wood frame. Then the whole costume was turned right side out, and the wood slat frame was inserted into all four sides of the costumes to stretch out the fabric and give the costumes stability. Two store-bought swords were inserted into their sheaths to finish the King’s costume and everyone wore store-bought white gloves. Underneath the costumes everyone wore white shirts and black tights.

We started designing the Winning Poker Hand family costumes in August and spent most evenings and weekend free time making them throughout September and October. Well over 100 hours were spent in crafting these costumes.

As we walked through the streets, the reception we got was fantastic. People loved the idea as well as the execution. Quite a few remarked at how realistic the cards looked and commented on the attention to detail. A number of people stopped us to take our pictures. We got a lot of comments: “Amazing!” “Those are so cool!” “What a great family costume!” “Wow, that’s incredible!” “That is the most creative costume I’ve seen.” “Did you make that yourself?” “How long did that take you?” “How did you make that?” “Are you a professional costume maker?” (I assure you, we are not). “Will you make my costume next year?”

Our family costume was a complete family effort. Although I was the primary craftsman, everyone had to pitch in to ensure the costumes were completed by Halloween. With all of the interests our girls have, we don’t have too many opportunities anymore to do things as a family. The making and wearing of these costumes allowed us to share an awesome family experience.

I am especially pleased that the Winning Poker Hand family costumes satisfied the harshest critics of my previous endeavors: my daughters. They both wore their costumes proudly and declared Halloween a rousing success.