The Free Motion Quilting Project: Creating the Flower Girl Costume

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Creating the Flower Girl Costume

I officially have an alter-identity... the Flower Girl! Lol!

This has been such a fun costuming adventure. I'm going to try to link to all the steps of this process, including links to the books I used for inspiration.

Now, the quick backstory on how creation came into being: this winter I constructed a massive flower mask for a local wearable art fashion show. Click Here to read about the construction process.

After the show, I realized I wasn't done with the costume. I wanted to make a companion piece dress that would balance the extreme height and over-the-top flowery impact of the mask. Click Here to read about the beginning ideas for the dress.

I built a hoop skirt, a massive fluffy petticoat, and draped the dress in about six days. This was the fastest costume I've ever created and definitely has the biggest impact.

Here's a quick video for you to see how I get into the dress, which is also an adventure:

Draping the dress was my favorite part because I was able to use new skills I learned from the book Designer Joi's Fashion Sewing Workshop. One thing I might not have made clear in the video - this dress is created from two 70-inch long pieces of batik fabric that were cut straight off the bolt.

I arranged the two pieces over my dress form and overlapped the fabric in the front of the dress to create the crisscross design. At the beginning I used a 1 inch strip of elastic to hold everything in place so it would be easier to drape. I never cut the fabric because then I would have had to turn the edges under and finish them. So this is the full 45 inches of width being draped from one shoulder down the front of the dress form.

This was a tip I learned in the book Techniques for Draping and Design, which often used the selvages of the fabric as the finished edge of the sleeves and side seams. I'm not sure about you, but I had NEVER heard that before...

The most time consuming part of the dress was the hand stitching. I stitched long basting stitches over the shoulder seams, then pulled the stitching tight to gather the fabric so it fit the dress form.

I gathered the front and back of the dress the same way - running parallel lines of big stitches, then pulling on the stitches and knotting it off to fit the waist of the dress form tightly.

To make it possible to take on and off, I installed a short invisible zipper in the back, then sewed the back and side seams on the machine. I left the front of the dress open so my petticoat would show and add a bit of contrast to this otherwise overwhelmingly red costume.

The front edges of the costume are also selvages, leaving all the raw edges only along the hem. I folded the hem up so it also allowed the petticoat to peek out a bit and blind stitched to secure.

Whew! That might sound like a lot, but this dress came together very quickly. I began draping on Friday night, then mustered up the courage to start sewing on Saturday morning and had the entire dress together by the afternoon. Finishing the hem was the longest part of the process simply because it was such a LONG seam.

The dress definitely makes a statement all on its own, but when combined with the mask it's truly over the top. Perfect, exactly what I was going for!

So why did I do this? Why do I want to dress up with a big flower mask on my head and a giant hoop skirt?

Simple - it makes me happy. 

I enjoy playing dress-up. I also enjoy the challenge of creating a costume like this using techniques I've just learned. Working fast and dirty forces me to stop nitpicking every little detail.

Instead of focusing on perfection, I was focusing on just trying to get it together in time for the festival I could attend that weekend. I made the deadline and was able to go to the festival that Sunday in full costume.

Which brings me to the second reason why I do this - it's a challenge and it pushes me out of my comfort zone.

Driving to the festival I felt a bit scared and all the what if's started swirling in my head. What if people yelled at me? What if someone pushed me down? Could I even stand back up again without help? What if I tripped and fell and made a fool of myself?

These fears are natural when you step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. I began listing my fears out loud to Josh and James: I am afraid to do this. I'm afraid people won't like me. I'm afraid I will get hurt. I'm afraid I'll get in trouble.

Isn't this silly? I'm a thirty-three year old woman who wants to wear a giant flower costume and I'm afraid of getting in trouble?

Saying it out loud didn't make me less afraid, but it forced me to acknowledge how much my brain hates doing anything different. Overcoming this anxiety - feeling the fear and doing it anyway - that is why I do this.

I also created this costume because I wanted to make parents and kids happy. A few years ago, Josh and James and I attended our first comic convention and we had so much fun posing with our favorite superhero characters.

I went to this local festival with one goal - to pose with little kids and make a cool photo for their parents. Since I can't talk in the mask, I came up with simple hand gestures to indicate taking a photo so parents would know it was okay. I clapped my hands and waved at everyone in a cheerful way.

It was interesting to see people's reactions to this costume. When caught off guard, many people were startled and a little afraid of me. Some kids stared so hard at the mask, obviously wanting me to smile to make it clear I was friendly.

One memorable set of boys were so sweet and timid. They crept up to me so slowly because they were so scared. I knew if I made a sudden move they would both burst into tears and run away so I held really still and just reached out my hands to hold theirs.

James was exactly the same way when he was little so I was really careful to keep my distance when a kid seemed frightened. We once had a fun Easter egg hunt ruined because the Easter bunny thought it was a good idea to approach the child who was screaming in fear. Thanks a bunch, bunny!

I found I got the best reaction when I stayed in one place so everyone could see me from a bit of a distance and decide how close or how far away they wanted to be. When I was walking around, people would often miss me until I was right up next to them, and I imagine that was pretty frightening.

Other people were so excited to see a girl in a giant flower costume that they ran right up and hugged me. FYI- it's almost impossible to be hugged properly in a hoop skirt!

It was so much fun to be surrounded by happy, excited people, and to hopefully have helped create a cool photo for parents to enjoy. A few people asked where I bought the costume and I indicated through hand gestures that I sewed it myself. That might be an inspiration to new makers in my area.

As for all of those fears in the car on the way to the festival - I did nearly trip three times when the petticoat slipped under the hoop skirt and I stepped on it. I learned to pull up the dress slightly when I walked. Who cares if someone sees my tennis shoes underneath?!

No one attacked me or yelled at me, other than trying to get my attention for a photo from a far distance. And I didn't get in trouble. In fact, the event organizers encouraged us to stay longer and the police loved the costume.

See how silly all those fears were? But how would I have known what would happen until I pushed myself to go and have this experience?

I believe in pushing myself to try new things. This costume pushed me to build in new ways with new materials. The dress forced me to work fast and not worry about finishing every seam just right. The experience of wearing it out in public taught me how to overcome my fears of getting in trouble or hurt in a space I couldn't control.

Now that I've had this experience, I can't wait to become the Flower Girl more often, to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and to make people happy too.

Let's go costume!

Leah Day


  1. This is awesome! Your costume is fabulous- I'm so glad to see how it turned out. And thanks for sharing your experience at the festival- what a great reminder to push ourselves a little!

  2. I love your writing about your fears and how you address them. Your costume is wonderful. I as a 50 something year old adult still fear people in costumes. Something about not seeing the eyes. I've been working on my fears over the years. I'm so glad you were aware of this and approached it in a calm and aware manner. Great job!

  3. I think people will be looking for The Flower Girl to show up at different events! And I admire your awareness and sensitivity for all sorts of possible reactions. Falling down- that would have been my biggest fear, too. Enjoyed the dressing up video.

  4. You are amazing! The whole costume is quite delightful but your courage to repeatedly step outside your own box is inspirational! Thanks for adding a note of beauty, courage, and outrageous positivity to my day!

  5. This is just incredible. It has made me happy just reading it. Wonderful post! Been following this project from the get-go, and the photos still blow me away. Loved the part about kids'/people's reactions.

  6. Great job on your costume! Your helper did a super job.

  7. So much passion, play, persistence, generosity and courage here!


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