Happy Halloween! What follows is the general process I used to create a two emoji costumes: one a plush poo, and the other a ghost-like lightweight 3D fabric shell around the body.
To make either costume, you will need:
- fabric glue
- paper and pencil for patternmaking
- sewing machine
- sewing needle
- sewing pins
- safety pins
- pliers or heavy duty wire cutters
- iron/ironing board
Emoji Poo Costume
For Emoji Poo you will also need:
- 4 yards brown flannel
- 1 yard grey flannel
- 4 1′ squares black felt (or small amount of black flannel)
- brown leggings
- brown shirt
- brown ski mask with pointy top
- 6 wire coat hangers or similar gauge wire
- thread (brown)
Cut & Create Pattern
Using the original emoji graphic as a reference, sketch out a pattern on a large piece of paper or flattened grocery bag. Cut out the outer perimeter.
Use the pattern to cut out four pieces of brown flannel. Then cut the pattern to create the facial features, or make patterns for these using separate pieces of paper.
Cutting one inch outside the pattern, use the pattern to cut four eye pieces and two mouth pieces from grey flannel, and four pupil pieces from black flannel or felt.
Sew and Stuff
Sew two of the large pieces together around the edge, except the bottom. Turn it right side out and press the seams, using a chopstick or pen to get into the small spaces. Create a wire frame to match the perimeter shape by bending coat hangers or thick wire. Put the frame inside the fabric pouch and use a needle and thread to secure it in a few key places.
Repeat for the other half of the costume, but this one will have a truncated top so your face can emerge. Hold the fabric up to your body to determine the best place to cut.
The poo emoji has some swirls, which we’ll recreate by sewing between areas of fiberfill. Stuff the topmost area, then pin and sew a line to mimic the graphic. Fill the next area, and so on. Top stitch or hand stitch the bottom of each “sandwich board” plush closed.
Cut pieces of cardboard to match the pattern size of your facial features (not the fabric size, which you cut bigger). Use fabric glue to affix the grey flannel to the cardboard, wrapping the seam allowance around the back. Glue on the black pupil layer as well. Put them under a heavy book to dry, then glue them to the brown plushies.
Wear and Enjoy!
Use safety pins and thin gauge wire to attach the plush front and back to the straps of the backpack. Be sure to secure the wire frame inside the plush emoji, not just the fabric.
Generally, this costume was great for wearing in a parade. It helped me keep a modicum of personal space during the crowded cattle-hearding parts of the night, and because I wore the backpack backwards, I had easy access to my camera, phone and hydration.
What I didn’t expect or prepare for was the crowd’s propensity for shouting at me, excitedly yelling many different synonyms for the word poop. Rationally this makes sense, but it was jarring and hard not to take it a little personally. When choosing an emoji to dress like, take this aspect into account.
Emoji Ghost Costume
Warning! The emoji ghost costume limits your visibility and you could get very badly injured if you wear it while riding a hoverboard or other wheeled transport device. Use caution and common sense!
For Emoji Ghost you will also need:
- heavy gauge wire
- thinner gauge wire
- white ripstop nylon
- black ripstop nylon
- pink ripstop nylon (I ended up dyeing a small amount of white with Rit dye, polyester instructions)
- white mesh fabric (see-though)
- white grosgrain ribbon
- string or yarn
- pex pipe (found in the hardware store plumbing department)
- threaded rod to match internal diameter of pex pipe
- thread (white, black, and pink)
- two styrofoam balls
- two wooden dowels
- hoverboard (optional)
Build Frame on Backpack
This step is easiest on a live model. Cut and shape pieces of heavy gauge wire to conform to the shape of the backpack: travel over the shoulder and down into the main compartment, then back up and over the other shoulder. Use more pieces to create four supports for a halo-like ring. Sew the wire securely with a needle and thread. Then you can move the backpack to a stationary object like a microphone stand, chair, dress form, etc.
The next part of the frame is basically a hoop skirt. Use pieces of flexible pex pipe to create concentric rings, which will vary in size to create a flared silhouette. Hold sections of pex pipe end-to-end by cutting a 3″ section of threaded rod with your hacksaw, and inserting it halfway in to each piece of pex pipe. I learned this technique from this hoopskirt tutorial.
Use two more pieces of pex pipe criss-crossed across the top (and pierced/wired at the intersection) to create the domed top of the ghost’s head.
Sew some long pieces of grosgrain ribbon to the wire halo, which will suspend the rings. Use sewing pins or safety pins to suspend the plastic hoops by the ribbon and adjust to make them all level to the floor. I borrowed this construction method from this hoopskirt tutorial.
Measure or calculate the circumference of the largest ring in your frame. Or just pin your white fabric directly over the frame! Using one front piece and one back piece, sew a tube of nylon with two side seams to fit the largest part of your frame.
Drape the tube over the frame (inside out) and use pins to take in the side seams so that they fit the frame more snugly. Remove the fabric from the frame and stitch along your pin line, then trim away the excess fabric. This works fine for the mostly tubular body.
The head is sewn using pieces that look like plump triangles. This forms a dome with longitudinal seams. Then you can fit the tube and the dome onto the frame and pin them together. Then take the shell off the frame, stitch the dome to the tube, and turn the shell right side out before putting it back on your frame.
Sketch out your arms and face details using large paper (a grocery bags also works), and pin the paper to the frame. Compare to the original ghost emoji graphic and adjust size and position as needed. Mark the positions of the arms and face elements with pins, and remove the paper. Cut vertical slits in the shell where your arms will connect.
Cut out your arms and face elements from fabric of their corresponding colors. Sew seams on the arms. Optionally fold over and stitch the fraying edges of the face elements. Pin, but don’t stitch the face elements in place just yet, since they may overlap with your visibility panel you’ll sew in the next step.
The arms of this costume are supported by two styrofoam balls on the ends of long wooden dowels, held by the wearer inside.
The wearer should put on the costume and communicate his/her preferences for visibility panel location(s) and size(s). Since it was our intention to ride a hoverboard while wearing this costume, the lower “see the ground in front of you” area was critical for safety. Depending on your application, the location and size of the visibility panel(s) may differ.
To create them, just use pins to layer some sheer white fabric over the area you wish to see through, stitch it flat around the perimeter, and cut out only the solid fabric layer. Then topstitch the facial features in place.
Safety warning and anecdote of injury:
Please be extremely careful while testing this costume on any self-balancing device (or anything with wheels, really). Our brave model tested this costume on a hoverboard before any viewing ports had been created, and quickly discovered that your sense of relativity to your environment is lost, resulting in unintentional drifting, and a bruised rib. Don’t be the guy who falls on the filing cabinet. And don’t use your phone while you’re hoverboarding in this costume. The lack of peripheral vision combined with your inattention to your environment can result in the same dangerous situation. You won’t even realize you’re moving until you hit something!
Revise, Finalize, and Enjoy!
Upon testing, it was clear the arms needed a little support from above to maintain their ideal position, so a string is attached from the tip of each arm to the top of the dome frame.
The frame hoops can be adjusted by shortening the ribbons holding them, and to finish up the bottom, hem the shell to wrap around the bottom hoop. Hem shorter if you intend to skate or hoverboard, so you don’t risk running over the front of your costume and pulling yourself to the ground.
We also added a vertical slit in the ghost shell centered underneath the tongue, and omitted a hand-sized section of topstitching at the edge of the tongue. This allowed for the passing of objects between the wearer and others. Handy for drinks, payment transactions, cameras etc.!