Halloween – Hmmmmm…

Let’s talk about Halloween a bit, shall we?

As a costume designer I can tell you the last time I got excited about Halloween was for my daughter’s benefit, back in the 80’s and 90’s. We NEVER, ever shopped, because why? I could make anything she wanted, and so I did.

Now that she is grown I wander through the aisles at Target looking only for decorative items, but I happened to wander into a Spirit store the other day in search of a pair of tights and HOLY MOLY.

First of all, just let me say this – the staff were VERY friendly and from the answers given to other customers they seemed to know their stock. I had nothing but a positive experience, partly due to the amount of gore that was NOT present in this particular store. A few years ago, when I was doing the Sew Weekly challenges I needed a hat for a western outfit so I ran into the Spirit store in Walnut Creek and the biggest display inside the door was dismembered body parts. Hundreds of them; arms, legs, feet, hands, they even had a head in a mock-up refrigerator. Trying to explain to the staff how offensive that was was an exercise in futility and I’ve steered clear of these stores for a reason. The store I was in the other night had a few bags of fingers and ears discreetly hidden in amongst the bugs and hair clips. <shrug>

Lest we think I’m a spoil sport here, I’m not. I’m not trying to tell you how to celebrate, I personally don’t think setting up a display that even hints at victims of a notorious serial killer is either cool, fun or tasteful. There was a controversy a couple of years ago about a bloody skinned corpse dog that you could “drag around by a chain” and a Cecil the Lion killer costume last year. People think they’re funny because we’ve blurred the lines of funny/ghastly to include all that is ‘gory’ and there are still lines, people. Lines that ought not be crossed. Only click on those links if you have a strong stomach.

So that begs the question – what is up?

Others have written about why we like to be scared. I’m going to go a different direction, to me the day has always been about being able to dress up as something we fantasize about. Maybe try something out we normally can’t get away with (for many years the number one rental was men wanting to be women, some caricatures, but many just vampy. Don’t know why, don’t care, it’s all supposed to be about having fun and I support that).

And since we’re less than 2 weeks away from a very contentious election, where we have the first female candidate running for President against a man that can best be described as racist, misogynistic, homophobic and just a plain old asshat, what is it about our culture that, in many small ways, has been saying that kind of behavior is OK?

So let’s see what I found at this store the other night and why it promotes the kind of environment where women are treated as objects and see what kind of legacy we’re leaving for our kids, m’k?

(All photos of bagged costumes were taken by me in the store, the ones with the white background were downloaded from the Spirit site. My phone ran out of battery part way through 🙁 )

 Right here. This.

Boys get serious outfits.

img_20161026_191034 Girls get cleavage.

These are a couple of the choices for men’s Police uniforms. There is NO female equivalent of the men’s outfit.img_20161026_190951The other interesting thing to note – sizes. The men’s costumes go all the way up to X-Large 48/50 chest. The woman’s version goes up to M/L 8-12.

Size 12. THAT’S their version of a Large.

Here’s an example of two outfits done RIGHT:

img_20161026_191106 img_20161026_191131Her skirt is short but covers her crotch (Hallelujah!) and it isn’t overly sexual. It’s cute, they’d be cute together.

NOTE: I’m not saying it’s not OK to have fun at Halloween, and if that version of it means you dress up in a more overt manner than the rest of the year then go for it! I’m saying that having NO OTHER CHOICES than the overtly sexual is limiting and debasing.

Moving on:

If you want to be a surgeon or doctor then the guys have choices:

img_20161026_192256 img_20161026_192247 The women do not.download-2I can’t even begin a conversation about the shoes.

Again, if you want to be a sexy doctor then GO FOR IT. But if you want to emulate an actual doctor you’ll have to buy the men’s version.

Try selling this idea to an 11 year old.

And then there are these:

download-3 Just so you don’t lose the full impact of this ensemble, it is denoted as “Dr. Howie Feltersnatch, Gynecologist”. Is this a Simpson’s character? I’m out of the loop on this so if someone could fill me in that would be great. Otherwise its just Ewww and I’m old.download-4Dr. Seymour Bush.

No. Just no.

I’m trying to find SOME justification for this but no. And I keep trying to figure out WHAT KIND OF GUY wants to go to a party as a gynecologist? Does he REALLY think some woman is going to let him ‘examine’ her? And ladies….never mind. I can’t even ask.

What if you want to be a nurse?

img_20161026_192239Because it comes with TWO syringes… And we also have –img_20161026_192235Ummm…

img_20161026_192302I’m sure every nurse wishes she had a pair of these!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have fun but THESE ARE YOUR ONLY CHOICES if you want to dress up as a nurse!

(Caveat – when I went to their website I found a few other options but all are form fitting and all have considerable cleavage showing. This is the only outfit that doesn’t show everything)

download-12And the hits just keep on coming:

img_20161026_191343 As far as ‘couples costumes’ go this isn’t bad on the surface – he’s wine, she’s cheese, it’s cheesy. But look at the label on the wine bottle – “4 Play Have a little, get a lot”.
img_20161026_191355<shaking my head>

Rape culture alive and well.

img_20161029_121552It’s electrifying. Or not…

And there is THIS:

img_20161026_191320Need I say more?
But there IS more:

img_20161026_191406“Includes: Skeleton Jumpsuit, Mask with Attached Hood, Gloves, Faux Phallus and Air Pump.”

So you can be disgusting and no one knows who you are?

If you’re going to an adult party or doing adult things with a consensual partner, Huzzah! But would you really want to bump into this guy on the street?

Then, just because we can’t leave the women out of the Super Tacky WTH category, we have this:

img_20161026_191524“One size fits most – fits up to a size 10”, complete with fake felt boobs with nipples, super short skirt, tacky sash and a ‘t-shirt’.img_20161026_191552Sigh.

There are only 4 categories of “Occupations” being sold currently – Cops & Convicts, Doctors, Firefighters & Military. Let’s go back to Law Enforcement.

img_20161026_191829Nice copy, one size fits most, not bad. If you’re a man…img_20161026_191716Not terrible but seriously, BOOBS. And small sizes.

Wait for it….img_20161026_191726Because EVERYTHING HAS TO BE SEXUALIZED.

Once again, I’m not saying don’t be sexy, don’t have fun. I’m asking for female equality when it comes to costumes! If these companies can do decent male versions they ought to be able to produce a decent female version. I’m guessing their arguments are 1) they don’t sell and 2) why not buy the male version?

Here are my answers:

  1. They’ve conditioned the market, via the culture, to make everything sexual. We’ve been so inured to being objects that when a Presidential candidate says things like “I grabbed her by her …..” there are thousands of men AND women who THINK THAT’S OK and spend countless hours defending those remarks! (And yes, there are thousands/millions of people who called him and everyone like him out on crap like that but the fact that this country is STILL having that conversation is sad. And more than I want to go into here so please leave your remarks on the political pages and let’s just talk about clothing here, ok?)
  2. Buying the male version is fine. Why not take a picture of the same outfit on a woman and market it as such? They could have done that with the doctor and surgeon outfits but didn’t.

And what if you’re a kid? Shopping with your parent? And you ask for a police costume? How do the teenagers working at Spirit explain all THIS?? ESPECIALLY if you’re a girl.

If you’re a kid and want to be a cop check out Target’s version:

img_20161019_081143Target gets ALL THE POINTS for their version of a Police Officer. Yay Target!!!

Now let’s talk about Firefighters:img_20161026_191747It’s not <so> bad. The fingerless gloves seem weird to me but whatever.


Interestingly, THIS is the men’s version of ANYTHING Firefighter-like:

download-13Note when they mean to show ACTUAL skin they’re using a painted t-shirt to denote physique. Not like the girls stuff which has real skin out for all to see.

If you’re a guy and want to dress anything close to a real firefighter you’re going to have to go to Party City for this version:

_ml_p2p_pc_badge_tallest15Let’s move on to the Military.

Want to be a fighter pilot? Cool. Here’s a decent version of the jackets worn in “Top Gun”:

img_20161026_191848But if you’re a girl…

img_20161029_121440You even get a choice between being Maverick or Goose. Did they pay royalties for that?

If you want to do Camo you can do this…

img_20161026_192010Or this…

img_20161026_191836I’m not sure how many Paratroopers wear three inch heeled boots but OK, this is Halloween and we’re supposed to be having fun. At least you can zip the jumpsuit up higher if you choose. Again, a size large is considered a 12/14 so we’re telling women that “LARGE” is a 14. No. But I’d like to know what real female paratroopers have to say about this.

SERIOUSLY??download-19It’s called “Desert Dolly Costume”. The fishnets are prime. Might as well call this the “Bundy Wet Dream” outfit or give it to a Trumpette.


img_20161026_191913Not bad. But the female equivalents aren’t remotely close.

This was the least offensive thing I could find.

img_20161026_191921You can go a whole other direction, go to the Rockabilly side:

download-15She’s adorable.

And here is where my eyebrows shot nearly off my face:

img_20161026_191842She’s a “Thing”. And is “Shore” a riff on “Sure”?

Let’s separate out the words and the picture. The words are HIDEOUS. She’s not even a person, she’s a THING. The outfit itself is kind of cute, in a musical theater sort of way. It’s short, it shows cleavage but if you’re going for cutesy and bringing out a side of you you only trot out once a year then go for it. The naming of this is a clear Marketing Failure. #Failure

Moving on to Astronauts – somehow this didn’t get a nod in “Occupations” but here we are:

img_20161026_191926Not bad. but then there’s this –

download-20The make-up, the cleavage, the SHOES, the make-up! Sigh.

But once again, Target gets it right:

img_20161019_081210How hard would it be to make a big version of this and take a pic with a girl or woman wearing it? Seriously, I want to know.

Now we’re going to move on to the stuff that shouldn’t even exist.

01262922-a It’s a culture, not a costume. #appropriation

download-23Are you kidding me? No. Just no.

download-22The boobs and the strapless and short skirt and Ugh.

download-24White guy wearing a ceremonial headdress and  WTF??download-10Another white dude in a hideous knock-off.

download-11 Blonde hair, high heels and bright pink. I think I threw up in my mouth a little as I typed this.download-6And then there’s this guy, in a white t-shirt under a red shirt.

“Hey Greg, the model didn’t show up today, you’ve got a nice red shirt there. Put this on and smile for us, we’re on a tight schedule….”

How about NO? Or even HELL NO?

And let’s not leave the kids out –

img_20161029_121028And then there’s THIS:

img_20161026_191436I can’t even….sexy-takeout-order-girl-costumeWho in the HELL thought THIS was a good idea?? ESPECIALLY the placement of the “Thank You” and the “Enjoy” on each boob?? @realDonaldTrump
I don’t have enough UGGGHHH’S for this ^ or the next one:

download-21And we’ll wrap it up with this. Because OH HELL NO.

So this is the message we’re putting out there for everyone. Boys get realistic, girls get sexy. Most of our choices are ‘sexy’ when given the opportunity they could give us equal efforts.

This is what the average consumer is being fed as “cool” and “now”.

Adults can tell the difference and make choices, but what we can show the kids around us is a confusing message that we think doesn’t matter because “it’s only one day a year’. Is it any wonder that the war on women goes on?


While out running errands today I drove by the Spirit store in Walnut Creek so I popped in. Much larger store, larger selection and low and behold these:





img_20161029_120939Well, that was too good to last.

Ironically I spotted this the same time two girls, who looked to be about 11, found it as well:

img_20161029_121343“Anita Bribe, that’s funny.”

“I don’t get it.”

“I-need-a-bribe, get it now?”

“Oh! That IS funny! Does it come in my size?”

Sigh. But this suit made me smile, I wish I knew someone who would wear a complete suit WITH tie in this print 🙂

img_20161029_121826So what are your favorite hits and misses? One of my friends said her idol growing up was Marie Curie and wondered how she would make a ‘costume’ that portrayed her. I’m kicking around the idea of doing a line of “costumes” that portray real heros, since they don’t (usually) wear a cape. Like a star printed vest for a Neil deGrasse Tyson, or a pretty floral skirt with headdress for Frida Khalo, you get the idea. There is THIS website, that shows you numerous historical female outfits and gives you a history lesson.

Chime in with what you’d like to see and you never know…

Part 3 of the Polka Dot dress: Skirt and hem

Side dress shot

When I drafted the skirt pieces I used a 6″ drop from the bust measurement for a waist measurement. If you’ve got the 36″ bust pattern then the skirt will be approximately 30″ in the waist. (You can adjust that easily by where you place the pattern piece in relation to the fold.)

If you get it cut out and it’s a little too big then you can add a row of stitching 1/2″ in from the edge and use a basting stitch. GENTLY pull up the excess to fit, it should still be smooth. Any more than an inch or two extra will give you slight gathers, and try to pull it up on the bias parts, it will be MUCH easier to manipulate there!

Pin the front/back top piece to the skirt. There is an approximate 2″ self facing on the skirt, the ‘dog ear’ part of the skirt edge. I cut my pieces out using the selvage as the hem edge, which you can kind of see at the very bottom of the photo below. Turn back 1/2″ each bottom corner on both the front and back top, as seen below. Then it’s decision time – which part will be the ‘under’ and which will be the ‘over’. On the original dress the under was the white with red polka dots, as seen here. This half has ties, the red has a button closure.White skirt

White skirt A

For the ties I used the same bias tape, just edge stitched it to form a tape and then used two 16″ piece for the ties, one on the front and one on the back of the top.

TiesThey go right on top of the folded edge piece. Stitch top to skirt using a 5/8″ seam allowance. Done:

Ties done

And done:

Ties complete

For the other half of the dress, if you want to do it like the original, you need to make a button loop. My button was 1″ across so I cut a 3 1/2″ piece of bias tape, edge stitched it and folded it in half to make a loop. (I’m using the white half to demonstrate how its done because you can see it better than if I’d used the red half. In actuality the button loop went on my red half).

Button loop

I stitched everything else just like the ties part (folding over the skirt facing bit etc.). This is what it looks like finished:

Button loop done

Now I’m switching to the red half the dress only because its easier to see the next steps in that fabric.

Once the top is on the skirt it’s time to finish the sides of the skirt. The pic below shows the edge turned back BEFORE I made the dog ear change to the skirt pattern. When you turn yours back the top edges *should* be even, not offset like this shows.

Side pinnedIn any case just stitch that across the top like you sewed the top to the skirt.

Skirt to top sewnThen finish off that seam.

Overlocked top to skirtTurn the facing to the outside, press. PRESS. 🙂

Side turned

(Leave it un-stitched for now)

So now we have two dress halves, done. Just need to get this baby hemmed and we’re ready to party!

Because you’ve got ONE GREAT BIG CIRCLE here you’re going to get a little bit of growth in the hemline so IF YOU CAN, hang the dress on a hanger or mannequin for a few days. I used a stable cotton so the amount mine grew was minor.

Let’s just pretend that you let it hang, that you didn’t want to wear this RIGHT NOW, and I’ll show you my preferred way to hemming circles:

Using a seam gauge, cut off 1 1/2″ of your hemline.

HemBefore you separate the two pieces mark the center of each, I made a tiny clip:

Side hem pieceThis way you get the grain lines in about the same place.

Pin the facing piece that you just cut off BACK ONTO the skirt, right sides together, matching up those little marks –

hem pinned

pin hem piece in placeYes, you’ll have some extra. Now stitch that piece using a 1/2″ seam allowance.

Hem sewnFULL DISCLOSURE: As I was making the prototype I hemmed the red skirt BEFORE I attached it. Then I thought “Ooops, if this thing grows then it will be harder to hem and I’ll have sadness. Let’s wait to see what happens. Nothing happened and three days later I hemmed the white half. That’s why you see the skirt unattached in one pic 🙂

Now that its stitched, turn…

Hem ironedPRESS. Have I said that too often? PRESS!

hemironedAPress band up towards waist. Once turned and pressed then press the raw edge under 1/2″:

hem ironed1

And then turn under and press those corner edges at each end.hem ironedupTop stitch hem and voila!

The side edges on each end of the skirt just need to be pinned and top stitched down.

Side pinned1

This way you have a piece of binding that matches the grain lines of the skirt itself, you can make it wider or narrower AND it’s the right color. Yes, you can use bias tape if you like, even make it a contrasting color, or overlock the edge and fold it up and stitch. I like this way because it’s smooth and has a good weight to it.

What’s left? A button.

Button completeSew your button on to the opposite side to the loop and You. Are. DONE.

So here’s what I like about mine: Everything. It’s breezy, it’s adjustable and I never, ever feel exposed. I didn’t wear a slip, and my white fabric is pretty sheer, but I felt fine.

What I might change in the future: I might actually sew the button to the white top at the waist and add another button loop to the other side of the red top. That way I can loop both sides around the button and won’t have the slight dip in the hem that you can see in my pictures. That’s how this fits a body with lots of round parts 🙂

Let me know what I’ve left out! I’m HAPPY to add/change things to make them easier to understand. I tend to “assume” stuff so don’t be afraid to say “HEY! I don’t get it”. It’s fine 🙂

Polka Dot dress Sewalong Part 2 – Sewing the top


Now that you’ve got the pieces cut out (did you make SURE you have RIGHT front and back in red and LEFT front and back in white – or whatever your combination is? Good!)

Darts markedBodice front – let’s mark the darts. I’ll be honest, I HATE sewing darts but I like how things fit with them, so I get through them as quickly as possible. I mark the end points with pins (see above) and clip the bottom edge where the stitching lines are.

Darts pinned2

If you’re really concerned about stitching them correctly then pin them, like this:

Darts pinned3

Isn’t this pretty?

Darts sewn2

Darts front sewn

I cannot say this enough – Press, press, press. Press the underbust darts towards the center front, press the bust dart down towards the waist. PRESS! This is the number two thing that will make your dress/outfit looking professionally done.

I will say that this fabric doesn’t press out as nicely as I’d like because it has some polyester in it. I tried. Do your best, then move on.

Inside darts sewn3

Do the same for the back dart. Mark….

Darts pinned


Stitch & press….

IMG_20160414_184906 (2)

And done.

Join front to back. Pin side seams together –

IMG_20160414_185451 (3)

And stitch.

Now comes decision time. Finish the seams – you can either bind with Hug Snug, use pinking shears or overlock. I’m not fancy like Laura Mae (who does beautiful seam finishes with Hug Snug!), I’ve never been a fan of pinking shears (although those of you who like using period techniques when making period garments are welcome to do so!) so I overlock. I overlock EVERYTHING.

Side seam overlocked

See? Overlocked. Do what you like, it’s only a few inches 🙂 And remember to PRESS! Press side seam towards back.

Now for a very key part – edge stitch. Edge stitch around the entire top, you don’t need to do the waist edge but do everything else. Edge stitch about 1/8″ in from the edge. The entire point to this is to keep from pulling those long diagonal pieces out of shape, keep the armholes from getting stretched out etc. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.


IMG_20160414_184345 (3)

Edge stitchin

When you’re done, if you’ve gone a little farther inward you can trim. The idea is to give you a base for sewing on the bias tape and that will cover up all the pretty stitching you just did.

Again, PRESS everything.

Side seam pressed

All that stuff you just did to the one side? Do it again for the other.


PRO Note: Make sure you cut out a RIGHT front and back of one fabric and a LEFT front and back of the other. I mention this because, in my exuberance to get this done, I cut out the wrong pieces from the wrong fabrics. Twice.

Twice. Sigh.

Red front

So here’s the other side front…

Red back

And the other side back. And then you join them at the side seam, finish off that seam and edge stitch. Got it? Yeah! Almost half way there.

Now the fun part – the Bias Tape. Dun dun dun…

Pro Tip – don’t try to use the Extra Wide Double Fold tape. It’s large, bulky and unnecessarily cumbersome. If you REALLY like the look of it then go for it but technique-wise you’re not doing yourself any favors. Use the Double Fold, it’s about 1/4″ wide, double fold and looks like the original.

(Note: Lyric used the Extra Wide double fold tape on her dress and it worked out just fine, you can check her process out here)

Is it hard? NO! You can pin it if you like, you can use those binder clips we love so or you can use nothing. I use nothing so I can ease as I go. You will need to ease as you go around the tops of the ties and around the armhole but GO SLOW and it will all work out great.


You’ll go up the diagonal of one side, around the top of the tie, around the armhole, around the other tie and back down the other diagonal side in one fell swoop. One package is 3 yards, you’ll need most of it. Save the leftovers.


PRO Tip: Make sure your packages of tape are the same color. I managed to buy one of each red. Everyone I asked said they couldn’t see the difference but I KNOW. And it bugs me. I’ll get over it, but seriously…

Do the other side. Now you’ve got the bodices done! Skirts up in next blog post. You can always email me with “oh, you left this out” or “What did you mean here?” and “Are you KIDDING me??” 🙂

And I’m totally serious about cutting out the wrong color sides twice. Check this THREE times if you have to but don’t do what I did.