Crafty Adventures: Making my own Carmen Miranda costume for Halloween
I get really into Halloween. I start planning my costume in August. I love the experience of crafting a unique costume that isn’t a cheap out-of-the-bag costume that I may see ten other people wearing when I go out. Last year, I wanted to be Carmen Miranda. It took a little work, but my Carmen Miranda costume ended up being a success. Here’s how I made it:
Since I’m not a talented seamstress, I usually start with a pre-made costume or garment and modify it. I looked around at some of the “samba lady” costumes online, and didn’t find much that was my size, or that didn’t involve a bikini top.
I figured what I really needed was something strapless with a big slit up the side of the skirt that I could add ruffles to. I looked at some costumes on HalloweenCostumes.com and found a Jessica Rabbit costume that I thought might do the trick as the base. It came in plus sizes too.
The dress showed up, and it fit but was a bit big. Not wanting it to be too tight, I decided to keep the slightly too big size and modify it to fit me better.
But first, ruffles:
I bought all of the red and yellow ruffles that Joann Fabrics had. There was a bit more red than yellow, so I made that my main color, and it matched the dress anyway. I was hoping to make it a bit more colorful but I could only find other ruffles in white, black, or pastel colors that didn’t really go with the bold Brazilian samba look.
I started with a yellow ruffle along the hemline of the skirt and up the skirt slit, overlapping at the top. Next I added a red ruffle underneath it. I hand sewed everything, since my sewing machine died last year and I hadn’t replaced it yet. It wasn’t that bad, it was something productive to do while watching TV.
For the armbands I bought some extra wide elastic, made arm bands with it, and sewed four tiers of ruffles alternating yellow and red. Unfortunately, I didn’t account for the fact that if you sew something non-elastic to elastic, it prevents the piece from being elastic.
I solved this by cutting it back open and sewing a small additional elastic strip to give the band some elasticity. not the nicest looking job, but it was on the inside of my arm so no one could really see it. I did the same thing with the second armband, leaving some of the elastic open.
The top of the dress had a big sweetheart neckline that was a bit too big. I folded it down and hemmed it, trimming off the excess fabric. I then took some yellow ruffle and sewed it around the top of the dress. The lack of elasticity in the ruffle actually helped out quite a bit here, as the dress was a bit big and it helped tighten it up.
Last, the most important piece of the Carmen Miranda costume is the fruit hat. I ordered this one online from another costume retailer, intending to add some fruit to it:
Not surprisingly, it arrived much less glorious and more deflated than the web photo above. That giant green ostrich feather at the top was only about 6 inches long. This wasn’t a problem as I wanted to add a lot more fruit to it anyway. The grapes were nice, but the little pineapple on top was pretty pathetic. I went to Michaels and bought more grapes, two bananas, two lemons, an apple, and an orange and two big red and yellow ostrich feathers.
The thing that was most helpful to me in embellishing the Carmen Miranda costume fruit hat was a glass head that Paddy acquired from an old roommate. It sat out in our garage for ages and I once asked if we could get rid of it but he wanted to keep it, and now I’m glad we did.
I was able to put the hat on the glass head and superglue the extra fruit and feathers to it while it was upright. Assuming that you are a normal person who doesn’t have glass heads in your garage, you might be able to get a styrofoam wig head from a craft store to use, or just ask your best buddy to model it for you.
Wearing the fruit hat was a bit of a balancing act. I had to bobby pin it to my head around the rim of the velvet turban part, but it was still a little slippy. I had some flower hair clips that I ended up clipping in the back to secure it further, and they worked well.
I added some bracelets and beaded necklaces, and some spangly chandelier earrings, and voila!
Somehow, my Carmen Miranda costume fruit hat stayed on crammed into a car, at our friend’s Halloween party, crammed into a car again, at another friend’s Halloween party, and then out at the bars on Capitol Hill in Seattle. It got me a free drink from a guy dressed as a widow carrying around a framed photo of an old man. Finally, just after we were kicked out of the bar at 2:00 AM, I was eating a taco at a food truck and my fruit hat dove off of my head and crashed onto the sidewalk. I’ll call it a success.
Happy Halloween and happy costuming!
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