Saturday, November 5, 2011


Where do I even begin to explain these costumes?

How about this - let's start by saying, ad nauseam, that halloween is, undoubtedly, my busiest formal "sewing period" of the year. It is also the shortest - because I have a dominant procrastinating gene, I usually have to start and finish three costumes in about 10 days. This includes several disorganized and panicky trips to the fabric store(s) for all the cheap sales on shiny and pretty fabrics and fancy trims. It is also one of the few times of the year when I sew at nights (hate) and throughout the day whenever the kids let me.

I'll also say that halloween costumes in our family are very seldom about trick-or-treating. Once a year, the girls get to pick a new costume they can wear throughout the year for their pretend play. Halloween is sort of the arbitrary deadline by which I aim to complete them, so they can conveniently also wear them out to snag candy. I make them as warm as possible because the candy-snagging happens after sundown, when the temperatures here often dip to 45 degrees or worse, but also because half the year is winter and it's nice to also wear warm snuggly dresses indoors while dressing up.

There is great wisdom in making a trick-or-treating costume that's simple, quickly-put-together and refashioned out of sweatpants, chicken wire and old yarn, but trick-or-treating lasts maybe 45 minutes and then the girls will never wear their outfits again. Whereas if they are allowed to choose and design a dress-up costume, they will wear these all through the year, which makes it absolutely worth my while to invest a little more time to properly construct them and make them fancy.

This year, after much hemming and hawing, the girls decided they wanted to be musketeers. Actually, Kate wanted to be a grape (cute, easy, unfortunately totally redundant for pretend play after Oct 31), but we knew she would come around when she saw her sisters' costumes. Ever since they watched the Barbie and the Three Musketeers movie, they'd wanted to be musketeers. We made swords and sword belts for them some time ago and they've improvised outfits from whatever is in their dress-up box, but they've also pointedly hinted that I should make them the real things someday. 

They got their hands on the book

and decided their costumes should be just like these

and have skirts they could remove to transform from belles-of-the-ball into sassy, crime-fighting heroines.

"That's sort of a change from (their usual) princess-fairy-ballerina-mermaid request." I thought unsuspectingly. "So, okay."
"Boots, too." Emily reminded me.

Enough preamble.

Here is Kate in her ball gown.

Layers of sheer and satiny stuff, scalloped-hemmed, over a fleece skirt. They are all cut semi-circular, so it's all twirly (very important, say all three children).

Everything in the bodice is layered over skin-tone sweatshirt fleece, so it's warm and camouflaged against actual skin.

Here is Jenna in her turquoise Victorian-style gown.

Same semi-circular skirt with a ruffle-edged panel down the front.

Emily, after seeing Jenna's dress, rejected the original purple gown in the book and wanted a purple version of Jenna's.

Very demure and ladylike.

But notice the back - the back seam of the skirt is suspiciously unstable -

because, in a crisis, the fancy skirts can be pulled
off -

and these damsels become protectors of the crown-



and Viveca -

(all for one etc.)

-and a (particularly young) child shall lead them.

Here follow photos of the dresses at rest. I thought it would be easier to show some of the details when the dresses weren't being twirled around or whipped through the backyard leaves.

Jenna's dress - satin and liquid gold layered over skin-tone sweatshirt fleece.

That liquid gold (which is what the fabric store called it) doesn't fray, so it was wonderful for layering

and ruffles. 

The ruffles were the most time-consuming part of the costumes this year. Ruffles are very not-me, so none of my clothes have them. Which also means I fail at being fashion-forward because everyone in blogland seems to be deliberately upcycling their lovely plain Tshirts by adding ruffles. I could never do it. 

I could add sequins and trims, though. And fake gems. As long as it isn't me wearing it.

On the wearer, the gold neckline trim looks like a necklace on bare skin. Good old sweatshirt fleece.

The entire long skirt un-velcro-s 

to liberate a shorter, flouncier semi-circular skirt underneath. Better for crime-fighting, apparently. And -look - more liquid gold ruffles on this new hem.

Because the velcro strip didn't quite blend in with the fabric, I sewed the drop-waist as a separate flap that conceals it, at least in the front where it would have been most noticeable.

Emily's purple dress is the same design as Jenna's, but in purple. 

Her accent fabric was already sparkly and starry, so I left out the extra sequins and trim swirls.

It has the same faux-necklace neckline trim

and removable skirt and hidden velcro

to transform it into the musketeer outfit.

Kate's is quite faithful to the book.
Do you see the random jewels stuck on the bottom tier of the skirt? Kate wanted to decorate her own outfit, so I gave her self-adhesive craft gems to do it with. 

It has the same hidden velcro panel and twirly semi-circular long skirt, overlaid with scalloped layers of sheer stuff, all of which also peel off as one

to reveal ye old musketeer suit

The leader of the pack is set apart by having an especially ornate necklace.

The sleeves are different from the book's design because Kate firmly told me she did not want short puffy sleeves. So I cut out some odd-shaped layers and then promptly and irreversibly sewed one of the skirt pieces onto the sleeve, even though it looked so wrong that I had to reshape it. It was late at night, and I remember ticking myself off, "What the.........? Have you gone stupid so that you can't even cut a sleeve overlay right?" It was only the next morning when I tried to attach the skirt layers and couldn't find the topmost one that I discovered what I'd done. It's all corrected now, though.

The girls made their own weapons (except for Kate's sword, which momma made, because it was cardboard, and momma likes monopolizing that).

And those boots! 

They were fun to make. I'll deconstruct them for you in the next post!


  1. Oh. My. Goodness. This is awesome. This whole post made me laugh really hard. What a lucky group of girls to have such a fun mom that will make them princess musketeers outfits! The pictures are great. Thanks for sharing. I love it.

  2. Oh My Gosh! So completely fabulous that I can't put it into words!!! I LOVE THEM!!! Especially the boots!!

  3. You... and your creativity... and especially your ambition... never cease to amaze me!!! What fantastic costumes! I love the skin-colored fleece idea... and the fake necklaces... and those BOOTS!... and, well, just everything!!

    And to think you did it all in such a short time, plus the birthday stuff... !!!

    You're a magician! ;)

    And I think I'll have to catch up on the more modern Musketeers.... !!

  4. WOW. I am practically speechless as usual. Amazing.

  5. These are amazing and beautiful! My three daughters (ages 5, 3, and 1) are all gathered around my computer oogle-ing them (I made the mistake of saying "musketeer" out loud to my husband, and my oldest immediately asked "like Barbie and the Three Musketeers?" (Which she's only seen bits of on and they immediately flocked to my computer), and my oldest just said "I wish someday you would make us dresses like those, mom." I guess I know what my next assignment could be. :) We'll see how long their desire for them keeps up.

    I feel exactly the same way about Halloween costumes. I even wrote about it on my own blog here: I want my girls to be able to enjoy their costumes all year round (since they're already wearing costumes every day of the week), and for that reason, I'm absolutely willing to spend the time and money to construct quality pieces. And it's a good thing, too, as the costumes have been worn every day since they were made. :) Thanks for sharing these.

    I'm glad your health scare came back clear. As silly as it sounds, I'd miss your posts if you were gone. And it's clear, your girls need you.

  6. These are AMAZING! You are oh so clever

  7. Those costumes are wonderful! I hear you on the last-minute sewing screw-ups. I made my children dragon costumes this year and somehow (during night sewing, which I ALSO HATE), I managed to connect an arm and a leg so completely wrong that I had not a costume, but a mobius strip, which I kept turning around and around, trying to figure out what went wrong. I finally had to unpick a bunch of seams (so, so awful), and then resew. But my oldest will wear this costume all year as well, which is great. My youngest, however? I made a simplified version, and thank goodness I did because true to form the costume was on for about 30 seconds for pictures and that was only because the child was bribed with a lollipop.

  8. wow! super cute! i was spell bound with velcro opening of skirts! on seeing turquoise, it left me stunned as i chose similar color albeit lighter shade for the B'day ball gown i made for my daughter, she turned 5 yesterday! it is always so much fun to make ball gowns isn't it, but i can understand it can be taxing to make 3 in one go! a job well done!

  9. Wow! Those dresses are so amazing! And practical. I like your idea of making great costumes instead of just throwing something together. I'm a throw something together quickly for Halloween kind of person but I think next year I might adopt your philosophy. Makes sense. Then my kids might actually have some nice dress up clothes. I can't believe how amazing those dresses are. Well done!

  10. Ia want to be your daughter and have my own musketeer costume. They are awesome!

  11. Oh those "Step into reading" books!!! the costumes are amazing, I love the combination of fabrics and detail, something your daughters will enjoy for a long time. The fact that the skirts come off is such a playful touch and those boots really are something special.
    PS I am also glad that Thanksgiving came early. Take care of yourself LiEr.

  12. I'm NOT showing this to my kids!

  13. You're a wizard!
    The costumes are atonishing, not only their construction is amazing but you thought in all the little details! And that boots!! oh my!!!
    I cannont let my daughter see these!!!
    By the way, I read your previous post, I'm very glad that everything is ok with you!

  14. How fantastically wonderful are those costumes. :D

  15. Oh My Goodness, those costumes are AMAZING! My daughter would die to have one of those. It's way too hot in Singapore to dress up, think Max lasted 10 minutes in his penguin outfit that I made him. Cant wait to see how you made the boots, you're so talented!

  16. Cindy,
    You are so amazing. These costumes are absolutely brilliant, you are Brilliant.
    Thanks so much for so many pics. Your Daughters are lucky to have such a creative mum.
    Skin Fleece..... Oh to be in your head for a day. Bless you!!!!!!

  17. awesome costumes, how lucky are your girls!!!!!

  18. You may just be the most awesome mom ever! These costumes are fantastic. They are such lucky girls!

  19. Wow, they are wonderful ! And those boots. You are a genius !

  20. Wow, wow, wow!!! What truly fabulous costumes :) They make me wish I had sisters so that I could play Musketeers with them!!

    And I, too, am thankful that your test results came back in the clear. God is good.


  21. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!!!!

  22. This is a great idea...and I believe that they will get more use out of them...and easier to hand down to the next one...

  23. Que lindos trabalhos. As crianças são lindas também. parabéns.

  24. WOW! It is a good thing that my oldest 2 girlies left for school before seeing the full blog post! I have 4 girls, so we could have all 4 of the musketeers if I had the ambition. I don't think I do. AND I don't have any fabric stores nearby, either. Probably a good thing...

    Fabulous job! We have seen the movie many, many times! :)

  25. Those are are amazing...I don't think I'll ever be able a to sew like this, but I LOVE reading about you doing it.
    Heather L

  26. This is a post made of awesome. I want to be you when I grow up and don't have three jobs... especially love the "necklace" trim, that they come up with the idea of pull-off ball skirts, and that your girls are so specific about not wanting "short puff sleeves" or the purple one in the book.
    Where does one get flesh-colored sweatshirt fleece? this may become a staple of dress-up clothing making...

  27. I love all the stuff that you make. These costumes are by far my all time favorite. You really went above and beyond. You are so talented.

  28. Olá,
    Você faz coisas maravilhosas! Parabéns!
    Eu tenho somente uma filha, mas ainda não consegui
    fazer nada para ela. Mas voce e seu blog me inspiraram.
    Suas filhas também são maravilhosas. Muita saúde e paz para sua família.
    Aqui de longe, do sul do Brazil,

    Susana Cardoso
    Itajaí - Santa Catarina - Brazil

  29. you are really amazing! I'm game to try this myself but not sure how it'll turn out but yours looks so fun and beautiful! Thanks for the inspirations!

  30. Fabulous! And couldn't the ball gown skirts be used as cloaks in musketeers mode?

  31. These costumes are beautiful! You are so talented with sewing skills! :) :)
    Lee Ann
    My blog: Crochet...Gotta Love It!

    Crochet...Gotta Love It!

    My website: Crochet...Gotta Love It!
    Crochet...Gotta Love It!

  32. I'm one of those girls that grew up not liking barbie in the least bit. I mean she didn't move, she couldn't stand on her own.. but give me a remote control car anyday! :D
    so when you were talking about three musketeers, I was thinking of the old story and didn't know a barbie version existed. And I'll admit, seeing that book made me think " oh for the love of all that is.. " but then seeing how the dresses morph, now hey that's something interesting there! I love a strong girl character!
    firstly love it because it morphs, secondly it reminds me that you don't have to be a complete tomboy (like I was) there is something inbetween - Gown wearing heroine turned musketeer!

  33. UnBelieveABLE!!! you must be some sort of super-mom. or something :)

  34. ......Will you adopt me? :D These, and the mermaid, and the butterfly/fairie outfits are the most awesome thing ever. AND they look awesome! Beautiful details and everything!

  35. I will first say that I am so glad it's not just my girl! My youngest, my dino-loving, dirt digging daughter saw this movie and was instantly hooked. She has since then fell in love with the Barbie 12 Dancing princesses movie as well.
    I just don't get it, but your costumes are amazing!!
    Fantastic job ( and I love that they are warm)!

  36.!!! Love it! Blessings!

  37. Wow! Those are AMAZING! Great job!

  38. So unbelievably cool. And thanks for sharing your philosophy on Halloween costumes -- food for thought! Though I don't have your garment-making skills, in the slightest.


Thank you for talking to me! If you have a question, I might reply to it here in the comments or in an email.