How-to Make a Costume: Shop Your Closet Tips

27 Dec

{How-to Make a Costume: Shop Your Closet Tips} As the journey of 2010 concludes, we are bound for grand adventures in 2011. But what if it includes an epic event with period garb to match?

(Photo by Holly Van Voast)

Have no worries, here are a few tips to keep you looking dapper and chic no matter what time-warping era the new year brings your way!

Dancing with the esteemed Michael Haar on the Vintage F train, Dec. 12, 2010. (Photo by Holly Van Voast)

Living in New York, my son and I have a great number of opportunities to fulfill the fanciful daydreams of our romantic hearts and nostalgic souls.

Yet, the catch is that we have to make sure we are dressed appropriately, which can be a bit of trick when the event calls for more than just a black cocktail dress, dress slacks and a tie.

For instance, we recently caught the vintage F train running from the Lower East Side to Queens for a tea party, circa. 1912. Certainly, with my years of thrifting and vintage shopping, I have amassed a fair collection of mid-century pieces, but 1912? Seriously, who finds early-century vintage these days, and even if so, pieces that are affordable and wearable? Yes, not likely, indeed!

(Photo by Kelly Neal/MetroMix)

TIP No. 1
Aside from it nearly being mission impossible, my personal protocol — mostly dictated by budget — is that when going to an event, I use and make do with what I have in my closet already. {So} be vintage in concept: don’t buy new, make-do and renew!

TIP No. 2
Without having original pieces, my goal was to mimic the silouhette of the era as authentically as possible. To do so, I had to have an idea of what fashion looked like in the early 1900’s: Ankle-length hemlines, tailored bodices and skirts, and brimmed hats. {So} old fashioned book smarts can really help you out in a pinch — hit the Web and research looks to know how to make something out of nothing.

TIP No. 3
Before I dipped into my wardrobe, I really wasn’t certain what the final outcome would be, yet I was determined that whatever I had hanging in my closet would be made into a workable solution. {So} take a deep breath, have confidence in your creative process, and remember it is creative, which means it should
be fun.

OK, alright! I get it … that might be easy for me to say, but how does it work in real life, for you?!?

  • Identify the core signature of the look: Tailored, high-neckline, long hemline.
  • Rummage through the closet with this in mind and pull out the shirts and skirts that best capture this core look. (Don’t worry about matching — yet!)
  • Consider every possible garment including the 27 bridesmaids dresses you’ve acquired over the years.
  • Take the best “candidates” and see if there is a structure of compatibilityi.e. matching colors, patterns, fabrics and lines — between the combination of top and bottom.
  • Once you have the core look decided, then start layering in the details —  this really takes the core look and solidifies the era’s peripheral fashion elements. For example, the ascot scarf with pin, the broad sash tied into a bustle (formerly, a stole for a bridesmaid’s dress).
  • Complete the look by pulling your hair  into a similar style of the era. Here, I had zero time for my hair, so I pulled it into a bun held by a hair-elastic. But, I did managed one quick little pin curl — I did it in such a hurry, I didn’t even bother to hide the exposed bobby pin.
  • (Photo by Holly Van Voast)

You can see this bodice I wore for the 1912 Tea Party also featured in my recent post: Fall Looks Bold & Rich.

And, from the image below, my “Little Red Riding Hood” Halloween costume’s blouse and scarf can be seen in: Wearing My High School Levi’s Cut-Off Jean Shorts.

In this video clip, I dance with Voon Wai to the incredible sounds of Mikey Freedom Hart and The Lucky Dogs.

The MTA, every Sunday in December, runs the F line with a set of vintage subway cars heralding fixtures, ads and details from the early to mid-century. But it was Levys’ Unique New York which organized the Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010 “Vintage Tea Party Aboard Vintage Subway Train: Party Like It’s 1912.”)


My 2010 Halloween costume of a "grown-up" Little Red Riding Hood. I applied the same principles as outlined above to arrive with this result -- no special purchases made! (Photo by Doron Gild)


2 Responses to “How-to Make a Costume: Shop Your Closet Tips”

  1. Jen December 28, 2010 at 10:23 AM #

    Robin, I love both of these costumes, but the Halloween one rocks my world! Awesome!


  2. marriedmyhero December 28, 2010 at 7:02 PM #

    This is very interesting! It inspires me to look for vintage pieces on my thrifting adventures. It will also add a little flair to my wardrobe! Thanks for the advice!


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