Yes, I grew up watching the little mermaid, so it’s probably not a surprise that I decided to pursue marine science! Anyway, in 2010, I decided to make my own ‘Ariel’ inspired costume from scratch! Well, sort of…I went to Goodwill to find some good ‘starting’ material and garments since I don’t own a sewing machine. So how did I make it? With some creative thinking, hand sewing (straight and invisible stitch) and luck!
The luck part came first. I chanced upon some turquoise MC hammer harem pants, whose elastic waist fit me perfectly and whose one pant leg was wide enough to fit both legs together! I decided those pants would be a good start/foundation. Later I removed one leg from the pants (carefully removed stitches) and sewed the one leg together. Instant skirt! Only downside… I wanted to be able to walk! Which would not be possible unless I were Morticia Addams…but as luck would have it, I also found a matching lingerie ensemble and a long tule skirt at Goodwill! My brain wheels started spinning…I could cut the harem pants at the knee and sew the lingerie skirt in its place (after removing the bra thing first!). Instant mermaid tail! I could have left it at that, but I wanted some volume/more colors so I found a very long tule skirt with blues and greens, so I used the lingerie skirt as a template and cut the tule (not precisely since I wanted a ‘worn’ touch)!
Putting it together: After I had the harem pant-turned skirt sewn, I started the bra task…luckily, the tule skirt had a purple/gray silk lining that went SO well with the turquoise mermaid skirt! I took an old strapless bra (with one strap) and covered it in 4 phases:
- Covering the bra cups. That was a pain. Not sure how I accomplished that feat since bras have a curved surface area, but as you can see the inside of the bra isn’t pretty! To do this, I cut a huge piece of fabric (about the same length, but twice the ‘height’ as the bra cups) pinned the fabric to the best of my ability and sewed away, tightening areas and resewing as necessary until it was done! I left the edges of the cups unsewn so that I could sew the elastic band covers to them (see step 2)
- Note: It is best not to sew all the way through the bra because most hand needles can’t handle it and you don’t want the stitches to show. I just sewed ‘shallow’ stitches through the bra’s foam padding which was good enough to hold it all in place!
- Covering the elastic bands. I measured the length and width of each bra strap while it was ON me (because elastic stretches slightly!) and then doubled the width measurement (since the cover needs to encircle the strap) and added a half inch to both lengths (for any mistakes) before I cut the fabric. After pinning the fabric together over the strap, I sewed both covers, long ends together, making sure not to sew the fabric to the elastic strap. Normally I would have sewn this inside out to ‘hide’ stitches, but I have very limited sewing skills and didn’t know how to account for the tapering of the bra band (as you can see below). Plus, it was against my body, so nobody saw the bad stitches! But I did use some sewing ‘magic’ by doing the invisible stitch to sew the band covers to the unsewn bra cup edges.
- Note: you can see that part of the elastic bra band (black) is sticking out of the fabric because I didn’t account for the tapering shape!
- Covering the halter strap: (I didn’t want any potential wardrobe malfunctions if I stuck with strapless!). I measured the length of fabric necessary to go around my neck and attach to the bra, so that when the elastic strap stretched on its own within the fabric cover, it would fit perfectly! For me it took a 22” x 3” rectangle of fabric, sewn together (inside out) along the long edge with a straight stitch. After, I turned it right side out to ‘hide’ the stitches. I then sewed the edge of the fabric AND the edge of the elastic strap ‘shallowly’ to the inside of the bra cups (this particular strapless bra didn’t have those fabric hooks (hence the numerous haphazard stitches), so I used an extra strap from a different bra that was no where to be found, otherwise I would have used that to begin with!) Again, not pretty stitching!
- Note: When attaching, I did not sew the silk to the elastic strap, it was a cover for the strap.
- Adding ‘bling’. I had a pearl necklace break a while back (thought I would eventually fix it since I also make my own jewelry, but hadn’t gotten around to it), so I sewed a link (3.5 inches of chain with pearl beads on the end) to the back of the bra with shallow stitches. It held in place!
Accessories: I wore an abalone shell necklace (blocked out in gray since I couldn’t get adobe illustrator to cooperate!), a net shawl, and some shells glued to hair clips in my hair (you just need some clips with a large surface area, some store bought shells and hot glue!)! If I really wanted to be Ariel, I would have invested in a red wig, but I just wore my hair down. As another option, I did consider ‘gelling’ my hair for a permanent wet look, but didn’t want to have to massively shampoo it out at the end of the night!
Disclaimer: I have little to no sewing skills, so I am sure there is a better/prettier way to sew things together!
Have you ever sewn your own costume? How did it go?