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Haunted Mansion Tight-rope Walker

When the summer draws to a close, I have one thought on my mind: Halloween. Yes, you heard that right. That's the time to start planning my Halloween costume. Last October, I made the decision that I would be the tight-rope walking ballerina from the stretching room in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.

I started, as always, by going through my pattern box to see if I had anything that would work--I have a few that I could Frankenstein into the right shape. But then I went online and found an option that was the right shape all over.

I loved this pattern because the bodice comes to a nice point at the bottom and it has the poof-sleeves and the open neckline. Those were the key elements I needed from a pattern (i.e. the parts I didn't want to have to figure out by myself).

As ever, I had to wait for Simplicity patterns to go on sale at JoAnn. (I had juuuuuust missed a sale when I found that pattern, so that's a bummer.)

In the mean time, I went downtown to buy the fabric. While I was there, I found a hooped petticoat that would give the skirt a nice structure, so I bought that as well.

Now, obviously, I couldn't start cutting anything until I got the pattern, but I started sketching the design for the skirt. My plan here was to flock the flowers rather than paint (which seems like the preferred method for most people on the internet making this costume) because I love suffering. I did the first drawing of the daisy and decided it was too plump and round. If you look back to the source, the flowers definitely have a mid-century vibe (which, of course, is period appropriate for when the Haunted Mansion was built!). So I drew a second version of the flower that was more angular and instantly liked that one more.

Then I scanned the flower drawing, cleaned it up in photoshop and printed out stencils.

Meanwhile I was finally able to buy the pattern (3 for $5, what!!) and once I started to take it apart, I realized that the skirt part wasn't really going to work. So I just decided to make a circle skirt. I did some quick circle skirt math and drafted a pattern. Then cut all my pieces.

The skirt is white satin and there's a white chiffon overlay onto which the flowers designs were placed. This had to be done before I put the overlay skirt together, so I started marking out where the flowers would go. I marked each skirt piece with lines dividing it into quarters--four columns of flowers per skirt piece.

I did a test with my flocking gun, just laying glue into the pattern shape and flocking over it but I felt like it was too sheer (this is because I'm flocking chiffon instead of opaque fabric) Then I tried design master with flocking over top. Still not great. Finally I used acrylic paint as both paint and glue for the flocking and that worked best.

Flocking test

Again, I'd thought I was going to use the flower pattern as a stencil to make the painting go quickly, but that looked sloppy so I had to lay the flower design under the chiffon (which is see-through) and hand paint, then flock each flower.

While I was working on figuring out the flower situation, I started to put together the bodice according the pattern. It was a simple enough build. But when I fit it for the first time, it was totally wonky. The neckline was too high, the armholes were too low. It was so weird that I took it apart and put it back together to make sure I had done it right. I had. It was just a dumb design. Luckily, most (all?) of the issues were in the side front piece. I took the bodice apart and tweaked the pattern for the side front, then recut that piece and put it all back together.

The tweaked Side Front (white) and the original SF (red).

I don't know. Maybe I'm just shaped really weird. Anyway, the newly cut bodice went together perfectly and was just the shape I was hoping for.

At this point, I was done flocking all the skirt pieces and could finally clean the fine layer of flocking off everything in my apartment. (Seriously, it was everywhere.) And put the overlay together. I stacked it on top of the white satin skirt and put a gathering stitch in the waist. Then I built a simple waistband and put the whole thing together.

With the skirt on the dress form, I measured from the floor to mark the hem, serged it off and attached the trim. I found this super cute pink ribbon with lace on ebay!

I wanted the hem of the skirt to kick out a little at the bottom and was originally planning to put horsehair in both layers, but decided I only really needed it on the bottom layer. So I did that too.

Then I attached the bodice to the lining, adding a bit of ruffle-y trim along the neckline. I had expected to use a zipper closure, but once I tried it on, I decided that it would fit better and be easier to close if I used a corset tie closure and grommets. A choice I hated, but knew was the right one.

Ugh Grommets

The pink part of the sleeves is pretty much just the pattern that came with the dress. I folded them in half and stitched a casing for elastic into the bottom part of the sleeve and ran a gathering stitch along the top. Then I stuffed a little bit of tulle (leftover from my Christmas aprons) inside to give them volume. The white upper part of the sleeve, I just traced onto a scrap piece of fabric and winged it. Then I stuck some pink ribbon in the seam and stitched it all in place. After the sleeves were attached I tied the ribbons into bows and tacked down bits to give them some life.

The shrug. That damn shrug. Who would have thought that this would be the part that gave me the most trouble. I thought it would simple to pattern but I made four mock-ups before I got to the right shape. Then, I had to find that fur trim--and I didn't want to spend a lot of money. At last, I found a fur trim that looked good and cost the right amount. And when it came in the mail I realized it must be for boots because the backing on the fur is reaaaaally stiff. Like, my hands were sore by the time I was done pinning it on. Once it was sewn, the stiff trim made the shrug all wonky. So I got the steamer and loosened up the curves with some steam. Then I pinned and hand-stitched the places that still weren't sitting right. Yeesh.

The shoes I bought on Amazon--I actually bought a different pair and they were too big and also shockingly uncomfortable so I exchanged them for a simple ballet flat. And I just used ribbon to make the ties. I'll whip stitch it to the tights I plan to wear on the day. The only trouble was that they were beige instead of pink so I gave them a light coat of spray paint. (They also had a dumb bow that I removed.)

For the umbrella, I went through several plans including finding a lampshade with the appropriate shape and recovering a bubble umbrella, but I wasn't happy with any of those plans. So, since I live in drought-stricken southern California, I went to my closet, grabbed a regular umbrella and started dismantling it. My plan was to shorten the arms and the recover it to look like the carriage parasol in the painting. Guess what?! That plan failed. Miserably.

So I went to the craft store and wandered around for a while and decided I could bend wood strips and attach them to a dowel. I found a drawer pull that would work for the top of the umbrella and some little wood doodads I could glue together to make a handle. Then I painted it all black. The fabric I used is a stretch taffeta I got on Etsy after an order of stretch velvet from eBay went south. I actually LOVE this fabric and couldn't be happier.

For trim, though the source looks like lace, I used a beaded trim that I had in my stash because I was being cheap.

With all that done, it was time to start styling the wig. The most important feature of the wig was the bangs. So with that starting point, I found this ol' gal on Amazon for less than ten bucks.

I knew I had some extensions and crepe hair in my box o' hair that were medium brown, so I figured I could fill in any thin spots and add hair if necessary. And I actually ended up adding the whole top bun with extensions (and filling it with crepe hair). The rest of the wig is pulled into twisty pigtails. And then I sewed in a couple layers of extensions in the back to fill in the part.

Finally all the pieces were done, except for some on-the-day tweaking and it was time to bring it all together.


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