|Ursula backstage at The Little Mermaid Jr.|
When you like working on plays, you tend to think about them for most of the year, even though play season is fairly short. And for some reason, it seems the entire world schedules their plays for the same time.
With Halloween just over and play season just beginning, costumes are on my mind. I volunteered myself to make Willie Wonka's outfit as an assist for my friend, who is the costume creator at her school. More on his costume in another post. My sister tells me that her district is doing The Little Mermaid this year, which reminded me of this, one of my favorite costumes.
For those of you doing The Little Mermaid, this costume is really easy, even if you're not an accomplished seamstress. We used a long gown as the base. We then found a wide, black leather belt as the base for the tentacles. The belt allows the tentacles to stay in place, not be too heavy for the actress to drag around, and not affect the integrity of the dress underneath. The belt buckle allows for easy dressing and undressing, and can accommodate two different sized actresses (which we needed). I drew out a tentacle shape for my friend, who then chose this burgundy fabric (I would have picked purple, but this is nice also) and then she made 6 tentacles. We then proceeded to have a debate about how many tentacles Ursula should have ("eight" I said, "Ursula is an OCTopus"… duh!).
Here is the basic shape of the tentacle:
I would suggest not blowing up this exact shape on a photocopier and using it as a pattern, since it would probably have to be elongated a bit - make a test one out of paper first and hold it next to your actress to get the sizing right. You do want it to drag on the floor a bit, so don't make it too short - err on the side of too long, if necessary - you can always fold any extra over the belt when attaching each tentacle to the belt. When you have a size and shape you like, cut 16 tentacle pieces from your fabric. Sew sets of them together (sew right sides together, leaving the straight edge open) and then turn the right side out so that your seams are inside. Stuff each tentacle with pillow stuffing until it has the desired stiffness and then fold the open end around the belt and sew down. That's pretty much it! The tentacles will slide back and forth a bit on the belt, which is a good thing. You can adjust to the wearer. The year after we used this costume the way you see it in the picture, someone borrowed it and had me add a section of tulle in between each tentacle to make it look like the octopus' webbing. I would suggest something in a coordinating color with maybe a little sparkle. Use a tulle or other light, semi-sheer fabric so it doesn't look too heavy. Leave the section in the back open so Ursula can walk, or spread her tentacles out to the sides if she needs to sit down. These tentacles drag on the floor, which helps to give her that creepy, leggy look. Have fun, please don't hesitate to ask! If you make an Ursula costume, I'd love to see your pictures! Happy Play Season, everyone!