Halloween, Part I of 3: Raising the Dead

October 30, 2010 - 10:13pm -- swingbug

At some point in early June, I suddenly knew what I had to be for Halloween this year and I was bouncing with excitement to get going. This is early for me. Perhaps not in the scheming and initial design sense, but certainly for the execution phase. When that little serendipitous inspiration struck me, I was entrenched in sewing ballet costumes for a performance under the direction of another, and while the costume director was doing a great job, the perverse part of me was bristling to color outside the lines. At the time, I was taking yet another tour though Joann's to acquire materials for my required sewing project when I happened to pass some fabric that stopped me dead in my tracks. You could have heard the little click my brain made. Before I knew it, I was bounding through the fabric store giggling maniacally and piling bolts of fabrics high in my arms. I reached the cut table and didn't even wait for the nice elderly lady there to begin to speak.

"Go ahead. Ask me what I'm making," I demanded.

She complied.

"Zombie ballerina!"

Now, I know what you're thinking. Probably not the most original idea ever. I'm sure it's been done. If Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy have been zombie-ized, then everything's been done. But it struck me as so right.

I can't tell you how freeing this project was after hours of french-seaming georgette and chiffon. When you're goal is to look like you just crawled out of your grave, you can afford to break some rules. I didn't measure, I didn't iron, I didn't wash. I didn't finish a single seam. Didn't even hem most of it. I left my long threads dangling. When the layers of tulle bunched up under the presser foot of my old Viking, I literally ripped the fabric free with a big tear and kept right on going. No pins, I hardly gathered, never basted. I made the whole damn tutu in about an hour and half. At one point, I unwittingly stabbed myself rather viciously with a dress pin and I just smeared the resulting blood right across the skirt. Authentic.

The leo represents the zombie fabric that was my inspiration, worn over a bright red number to hint at barely contained entrails. The tutu is white netting, a couple of layers of white tulle, a couple layers of brown (yes, brown -- I found latté-colored tulle and then I squealed for all the world to hear), with a topper layer of cheese cloth.

Let me tell you about the cheese cloth because this was the epitome of fun. Cheese cloth, unlike its nylon-based tulle neighbors, is 100% cotton, so it holds dye well. Typically when I bring home fabric from the fabric store it gets carefully washed, dried to manufacturer's specifications, and pressed. The cheese cloth? I wadded it up, tied it in a couple of knots, wrapped a few hard-core rubber bands around it and threw it in a pot with two inches of Christmas tea for a couple of hours. While it was drying on the line, I grabbed big handfuls of the old, wet coffee grounds left over from my husband's Sunday morning coffee and hurled it on to the fabric in large chunky smears. Then I left it outside to bake in the june sun until it was crunchy and brown and remarkably pleasant smelling.

I may start doing this all the time, even when I don't have a zombie tutu to make, just for kicks.

There were a couple of iterations of the tiara before I got it just right. My husband went after the first one with a blow torch, and the melted parts were beyond awesome, but enough of the original plastic six-year-old birthday party style crown still showed through, and I had to face that it still looked like a tiara I wouldn't be caught dead in. And this is coming from a girl who owns five tiaras and frequently wears them around the house while doing the laundry. The ultimate winner was a wire number from the bridal section of Joann's, gutted with a pair of wire clips and pounded up with a meat-tenderizing mallet ("One more hit and that thing looks like it's going to fall apart," Shawn says. WHAP. "Perfect.") and then coated with some texturing primer black spray paint.

I did up some jewelry from the goth bead section at Michael's. My zombie earrings I'm actually quite fond of. I think I'll wear them frequently.

I topped the whole ensemble off with a few dead leaves, a handful of trout worms from the bait and tackle aisle at Big 5, and even (gulp) some makeup, and here she is. Zombie Ballerina.

It was unbelievably fun to make. More fun than it was to wear honestly. Every time I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror I was grossed out.

I always feel that way whenever I'm forced to wear eye shadow.

But it won me the Halloween costume contest at work and a certain amount of respect from my ballet teacher who, rumor has it, is already planning a version of Giselle with a very different take on the willies, as we speak.

Luke was never quite sure what to make of this get-up. Friday morning as I was making myself up for work, he was staring at me over his bowl of cereal.

"What do you think of Mommy's costume, honey?"

"You look... pretty. But the worms in your hair make it weird." He paused to look me over. "What is your costume again, Mommy?"

"Zombie ballerina, sweet pea."

"I think you should be Princess Leia instead."

It was fun to step outside my box for a year, but next year I think I'll take his advice.

(I'm sorry there is no photographic evidence of Shannon wearing makeup, even zombie makeup. Some things you just have to be there for.)

Photo credits (from the top): Cybelle Tabilas, Shawn DeArmond, Shawn DeArmond, Cybelle Tabilas