Friday, November 7, 2014


Can we pretend for a moment that all that lush green grass is the cold white snow of Arendale? Not that I want there to be snow in October. Or ever. But just so the context is a bit more familiar, you know?

So Kate wanted to be Elsa for Halloween. Everyone tried to reason with her: Elsa has insubstantial sleeves and shoulders that would freeze while out snagging candy; Elsa has a ridiculously narrow skirt with a slit so high that one might as well go out in the cold bare-legged; every girl in the world will be going as Elsa, etc. 

She would not be deterred. She wanted to be Elsa. Not Anna, not Olaf, not Oaken (sniff).

Elsa it was, then. And because I love my child (and didn't want her to be, literally, frozen, or particularly adult-looking), I adapted Elsa's original gown so it would work for a little girl with a penchant for running and dancing and flinging.

Let's deconstruct!

First, the bodice. 

"You must be able to see through it!" Kate insisted. 
(Hellooooo, french seams.)

After much shopping and no sign of powernet, stretch mesh or anything of that ilk, I bought this pale blue chiffon-crepe with a slight crosswise give. Instead of the movie's off-shoulder boatneck, I gave Kate a medium scoop that sat more securely on her shoulders. This neckline was narrow-faced on the WS and then covered on the RS with some silver sequin cluster trim.

The invisible back zipper, being no longer invisible under the sheer chiffon, was camouflaged with another silver trim. 

Then the bustier overlay - a glittery stretch velour

lined on the WS with a soft knit, because Kate dictated, "it mustn't be scratchy!"

I used the same trim at the seam where the skirt attaches to the drop-waist of the bodice. 

There being so much bling already on the upper dress, I only added one more embellishment detail to the front - a iron-on gem decal from JoAnn.

The skirt was a simple semi-circular skirt attached at the drop waist. This is different from the many varieties of commercial child Elsa outfits, which are gathered-skirted in stiff satin or organza. As a principle, I don't do gathered skirts for my costumes - they don't twirl and they drape badly.  

The sleeves were straight to the elbow and then slightly flared, which differed from the movie version. Several reasons: the fabric wasn't stretchy enough to support the tight fitted sleeves that the original Elsa had, the slight flared line went better with this fuller skirt, kids generally like billowy sleeves more than the snug ones, etc. I even cut it looser in the armscye than usual.

They were a little plain, even with silver trim at the hems, so I painted a silver snowflake on each bicep with fabric paint.

The train now.

I'm not sure if it's just my kid, but the train seems to be a super big deal in this costume. Kate had very specific requirements for her train (or cape, as she called it), the most important being that it had to be long and sparkly. I bought some random lurex and used it as is - a rectangle with the bottom corners rounded off.

The train wraps around to just under the front of the armpit.

As you all know, I sat on this train for the longest time, trying to decide on the simplest way to permanently attach it and still allow the function of the back zipper. The solution, it turns out, was ridiculously simple. 

Here's how it works around the zipper-

Make a pleat that bridges the zippered opening. It should be wide enough for the back bodice to fully open. Sew the sides of that pleat to both edges of the zipper on the RS, tapering slightly towards the bottom of the zipper. It will not taper to an actual point.

It really is as easy as that. When the zipper is closed (under the train fabric), there will be a triangular-but-not-pointy dart hidden under the train. The seam lines are hidden within the natural drape of the train fabric - see?

Here is the cloak. Obviously, Elsa didn't have one in the movie, since "the cold never bothered her anyway". But the cold clearly bothers my wee ones, particularly those with gossamer fabric on their shoulders.

It was like wrapping a (matching) blanket around oneself while walking outdoors. 

And you all already know how to make the wig. 

Kate was very patient during the photoshoot, posing uncharacteristically calm and composed (with the occasional crack in her facade). 

She was more than happy to explode at the end, and be her real self (no - mercy!- Please don't sing that song). 

Here she is with Narnia's Queen Susan - two monarchs on a diplomatic get-together, strengthening ties

and celebrating the happy liberation of their kingdoms from a long and bitter winter. 

While here in Minnesota, we are just entering ours. 


  1. Oh the pictures of the two sisters together! Swoon. Definitely portrait size worthy.

  2. Why did this post bring tears to my eyes?! I guess because all the love you have for your beautiful daughter(s) is so apparent in all the details you went to in making costumes. Kate look so serenely elegant! I love the pose with her looking down at her shoulder. Awesome job once again, Mama LiEr!

  3. I've been waiting to this post, hoping to understand the zipper and hoping for close up pictures of that, but it still confuses me so much. Oh well. Beautiful work!

  4. So lovely! Daughter was also nearly dissuaded but all for naught; I went for a full (self-drafted!) dress under the sheer top... you're my hero so your link is in there!

  5. I have no clue who Elsa is, but this is so beautiful!!

  6. Another puzzle solved prettily. I do wonder how the train fared though, in all those boisterous door to door journeys. Did other kids not step on it and tear it off the dress, did it not fall into some roadside puddle (must be rare there though), did she not find it a drag when running and so on. Pray reveal!

    1. Swati- you know that pleat/open dart in the back? We folded the train up so that it only hung down her back to her calves and looped it back/inwards through that open dart (it's really a hole with a fold) and there it stayed all night while trick-or-treating. From the back, it looked like a shortened train. It wasn't even our idea to fold it up - Kate herself didn't want it dragging behind her outdoors - just for pretend-play indoors.

    2. Now that's a smart girl, just like her mother!

  7. Beautifu! I love the way you hid your zipper in the back! I ended up using a thrifted nightgown in the perfect ice blue shade (stretchy, so I did not need a zipper) and made the cape detachable with velcro. It was simple and satisfied... until she realized I had forgotten the slit in the front. Ugh. Elsa really was THE costume this year, though! :)

  8. Awesome job, I love the way you approach costumes. I have just finished making the same costume for my daughter. Really trying to adapt a cartoon dress into an actual physical dress is painful... as is hearing that song for the tenth time today!

  9. You make the best Halloween costumes! I like your Elsa dress much better than any of the commercial versions I have seen.

  10. This spring I made two Elsa costumes (twin girls) and one Anna costume (younger sister). I chose out the patterns (not duplicates) based on how close they looked like the online pictures available of the dresses. The hardest part was fitting the outfits to the girls' bodies, thin though they all are! But I also forgot that children Grow!! So over the three months it took me to make the dresses (I visit them once a week), and the later summer height increase, one of the costumes was a bit short. But they all enjoyed them for Halloween and dressup times.
    For the long capes "which have to drag on the floor a long ways", I bought glittery net, pleated it to a piece of ribbon, then created a 'harness' from ribbon that they slipped onto their arms and over their shoulders. At the foot of the double long train I sewed a loop of gauze. I sewed a glittery fat button to the center of the pleated-to-the-ribbon strip, and then showed how the loop of gauze looped over the button and then the cape draped down the back to the hemline almost, out of the way. They loved them!


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