The funk of forty thousand years…

*Disclaimer: There isn’t much recycling going on here, I just thought y’all would like to see how I made my Halloween costume.

This year I wanted to go as the King of Pop in one of the best music videos ever produced… THRILLER! (Mua ha haaa)

This is perfect for Halloween, as it’s zombie-tastic! After studying the video about 300 times, I had a pretty good idea about what was needed. A red leather jacket with black stripes, red jeans, white socks and black shoes. The jacket is obviously the key element to the look, it’s fabulous.

Unfortunately my trawl of all my favourite charity shops did not produce any cherry-red leather jackets suitable for modification. With time running out, it had to be made from scratch. But where to buy cherry red and black leather-effect material at bargain basement prices? With barely a hope that I might find something I headed to the wonderful Textile Centre in Walthamstow, thinking they might have some heavy red material that could be used at a stretch. Within 5 seconds of walking in the shop I spotted an extensive range of plastic leather (pleather?!) in just about every colour known to man, just inside the door. Obviously they had it in cherry red, and obviously it was only £4.95 a metre. I had to pinch myself, but it was real. Perfect!

On closer inspection it’s thick leather-look plastic. Not the first choice for a garment maybe, but fine for a costume, and if any0ne out there owns an American Diner and needs to recover the seats, well, you know where to go.

Next, I looked for a suitable pattern that could be modified. Turning to my favourite source of patterns (Burda) I identified Burda 08/2010 #104 as the main contender. (As an aside, I just noticed that on the Burda site someone’s uploaded a project of a Michael Jackson jacket made from this pattern! Awesome!)

The only real adjustment required was to make the front symmetrical, with the closure down the CF, and that was easy enough. Other than that I left off most of the details, like the pockets and zip, and drafted an enormous pointed lapel type thing that goes both front and back.

Here’s a really rough diagram (front on the left, back on the right). The key thing to remember was to make sure the top edges of both triangular pieces were equal in length.

Cutting the pieces was no joke! The material was so heavy I had to do it in single layers on the floor.

There was also a lot of topstitching to do on the collar and the shoulders.

I bought a metre of the black version of the same fabric and used about 20cm of it in the end! Cutting 2.5cm strips for the stripes it was tricky to get them straight and parallel but eventually I just stopped fussing and went with it. Stripes were applied down the sleeves and around the lapels at this stage, with the waist and wrist stripes added when I put the elastic in at the end.

I really bodged this together, so I’m not going to describe every step here, but here are some in progress shots. The sleeves were extremely difficult to set in, as obviously this plastic has zero ease. In the end I left big holes at the underarms, figuring I’d need vents if I was going to be dancing all night in this thing.

One of the annoying things about working with plastic is that, like leather, you can’t really pin it as once you take the pins out the holes would still be visible. I read, amongst some other excellent tips for working with leather here, that hair grips work well, and sure enough kirby grips were ideal. Hopefully you can see them below:

The finished jacket!

I also had the pleasure of making Mr. Charity Shop Chic’s costume. He wanted to go as the T-1000 from Terminator 2, which was an easy enough costume to make. Actually, his costume WAS recycled, as I got the blue shirt from the British Heart Foundation shop in Romford.

The T-1000 is made of liquid metal, so when he gets shot, the bullets leave metal ‘holes’ in him. He can turn his appendages into knives and stabbing weapons.

To make the bullet holes I cut concentric circles out of corrugated card and covered them in kitchen foil. After making some prototypes, it transpired that the best way to do this was to cover the inside edge of the circles first, otherwise when the foil tears to fold round to the inside, it leaves gaps with the cardboard visible.

I assembled the first three layers with the hot glue gun, then I ended up stitching them to the shirt, before glue gunning the top layer on to cover the stitches.

For the stabbing weapons, I used cereal boxes, and yet more foil. I cut two sword shapes with the base wide enough to accommodate Mr. Charity Shop Chic’s hand. I scored the swords down the middle and stuck them together with tape, then applied the foil.

There’s a great scene in the movie when the T-1000 stabs John’s foster dad while he’s drinking a packet of milk. We had so much fun putting this together:

Here we are modelling our costumes at my friend’s awesome annual Halloween bash!

Happy Halloween, folks!



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