Some people may find it hard to make time to create their own Halloween costume. I recommend that you consider “shopping your closet” and simply making outerwear that can be worn as everyday wear.

Some clothing that you may already own can be used for costumes – like a flapper, Mary Poppins, a butterfly, a cat or perhaps a witch with just a little imagination. Let’s add drama to your wardrobe and explore a new possibility.

Renaissance Festival, 2016

Alter Something Already Owned

I chose a dress in my closet that I made in 2016 and never wore. It was a fantasy and very lavish style heirloom 1920s dress.  I also felt I have never gotten a great picture of the dress.

The dress had a few problems across the board. To begin with the hemline was too long. I also used snaps, because in the 1920s they had no zippers for clothing, and you can see here that the white snap tape is popping out. And, maybe just perhaps, yellow is not my best color.

What this dress does say to me is I could be an elf! But, if I’m going to wear this for Halloween, I’m going to need to think about the cold in Ohio. I will need more coverage.

This is the original dress I designed in 2015 in order to learn more heirloom techniques. It has mitered lace, scalloped hemline, Art Deco flower, American Smocking and I used a drilling needle on the straps.

All things I learned from this vintage sewing book, Mimi’s Machine Heirloom Sewing.

If you wind up really loving heirloom sewing there are quite a few books out there. I found this timeless stitching very rewarding and easy to learn.

With a few simple alterations this yellow gown looked a little better. I took the flower off and hemmed the green and yellow scallop above the lace line.


I wanted to go with an elegant elf look, like in the movie Lord of the Rings. Cloaks, capes and caplets are the easiest outerwear to make.

With all the patterns and fabric to choose from I went with the ones that would make that yellow dress shine brightly.

After my photography class I now consider what would look good on camera with landscape and I try to consider the “pop” factor.

The Pattern Problems.

This pattern took a lot of fabric – 8 yards for the Midi version. Midi means middle of the knee but it tends to hit me right above my ankles on these old patterns. I went with it. The pattern was pretty basic to follow with the exception that they forgot to mark the place to cut where the lining stops for the robe front piece. The hood was clearly marked with a fold line and cut lining here line but nothing was written in the directions about lining for the lapel. A beginner may have had big problems here because the cape would of came out really large. There was also some hand sewing involved where the arms come out.

Our photos were taken at Lincoln Park in Kettering, Ohio. Statue is named Song and Dance by Barry Gunderson of Gambier, Ohio. It was one of the first commissioned pieces in Kettering in 2000.

I hope to have inspired you to get creative and shop your closet this holiday season.

Behind the SCENES~

A couple of heirloom dresses I made to learn techniques before I made the yellow satin gown.

Pattern Reading and Layout class at Rosewood Art Center went great! These ladies learned so much! We went over everything just as if we were in a fabric shop and buying our pattern, picking out our fabrics and cutting a dress. After cutting out the dress that was on display we drafted our own A-line skirt patterns. We used the symbols we learned and our measurements. We had a little extra time so we walked down to my studio and I showed them my set up.

Stay with us next week  as we interview Ayn Wood costume designer for The Human Race Theater Company.

Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream it! Sew it!

Tracy McElfresh