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Jaguar Shark Costume from 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou'

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My husband and brother-in-law have recently gotten into scuba-diving and consequently have been watching Sea Hunt, Jacques Cousteau documentaries and the Wes Anderson movie, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, starring Bill Murray, multiple times. So for Halloween this year the family decided to dress up as members of Team Zissou with my niece going as THE key character – the Jaguar Shark. I was recruited to make the shark head and tail from scratch (and went as Eleanor Zissou myself). Hardly anyone knew who we were, but we had a lot of fun, and my niece looked awesome. This is an Instructable on how to make a (jaguar) shark costume for a toddler.
 
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Step 1: What You'll Need

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To make a Jaguar Shark costume, you'll need:

Sewing Pattern "for a shark body" (we used an old out-of-print patter McCall's 4529. I recommend Simplicity 2068, 2070 or 2788, or McCall's 6812)
1/2 inch thick Foam
Jaguar-Shark-spotted fabric
Brown Fabric (for lining shark body)
Red Fabric (for lining shark head)
Fiber Fill
Velcro
(Elastic)
Sewing Machine (or needle and thread)
Sewing Scissors
Regular/Paper Scissors
Paper or Newspaper to Make Head/Tail Pattern
Hot Glue Gun and Hot Glue Sticks
Big Black Pom-Poms

Step 2: Make the Body and Arms

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Taking your sewing pattern and jaguar-shark fabric and lining, cut out and sew together a 'body' - it's not going to look very sharkish. In fact, it'll look kind of puffy-and-balloony. That's fine. What matters is that it'll be comfortable for the toddler who will be wearing it. For easy entry and removal, instead of sewing the front and back together at the shoulder seams, we used Velcro to join the two.

For the arms, you can follow the sleeve directions for the sewing pattern, or you can sew long rectangles of fabric and use Velcro to attach them to the body (the rectangles will run along the top of the arms). We did this method (again, for toddler-dressing-convenience/dismantle) and cut and sewed the edges of the 'sleeve' bottoms to be pointed like a shark fin. A tube of elastic was sewn to the ends for my niece to stick her hands into, to keep her 'fins' in place.

Step 3: Make the Tail

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Fish and shark tails don't have a flat horizontal plane, like a whale tail would, to connect to a costume-body, so I made a custom pattern that matched the shape of a shark tail, but also wouldn't be too much a hassle to attach/wear.

I drew out a shark-tail shape, then two right-angled triangles, on newspaper for a rough pattern. One of these was fairly short - it would join the sides of the  tail at the top, at the front. The other triangle was longer than the length of the main part of the tail, and would join the sides from the front to the fins. I sewed the top triangle to the tail sides first, stitched the tail-fin parts together, then sewed the bottom triangle piece to the bottom of the tail sides. I stuffed the tail with fiber fill, then stitched the two triangle ends together.

Velcro was later sewn to the bottom triangle and to the back of the body (again, for easy removal and so the body part of the costume could be used again as just, say, a jaguar).

Step 4: Construct the Foam Head

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First I made a little paper mock-up of the shark head - for my own reference and because everyone was looking at me crazy when I tried to (horribly) explain what I was envisioning. I scaled up this mock-up to full size, taking into account the size of my niece's head and the width of her shoulders. I took the foam and cut out one front piece (like a rounded isosceles triangle, with a half-oval cut-out in the middle) and two side/back pieces (that were like rounded right-angle triangles). I glued the two side/back pieces together first, then glued the sides to the front, trimming the sides as I went so they would fit the curve of the front piece perfectly.

Step 5: Add Fabric/Teeth to Head

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With the same pattern I used for the foam head, I cut front and side/back pieces out of the jaguar fabric and red fabric (for the inside of the mouth). I didn't cut the mouth-section of the front fabric pieces just yet. After sewing the lining together, I carefully hot-glued the lining to the inside of the foam head. After it had cooled, I then cut out a small mouth hole in the red fabric and pulled it up and around the mouth opening, snipping cuts to create sections as I went, to get the fabric to be tight and smooth. I glued all of these sections down onto the front of the foam head. Once it had cooled, I repeated the same process, except this time it was with the jaguar fabric and I put the fabric on the outside and tucked the mouth fabric up into itself around the mouth (like a hem). I cut out some small foam triangles and glued them around the mouth for teeth. For eyes, black pom-poms were glued on either side of the side/back pieces.

Step 6: Bribe Toddler to Get Them to Wear Costume

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To finish off the costume, put the toddler in brown clothing/tights. Or, if they suddenly happily and eagerly decide to wear the costume on Halloween with no prompting or fuss at all, let 'em wear whatever they're wearing underneath!

Originally the idea was to have her all in brown, but during the whole costume creation, she was pretty fussy and uncooperative. To get her to test-try on pieces, candy was involved. So when Halloween actually rolled around we were ready with bribery treats, but she got ready all on her own and was pretty ecstatic...so we decided not to test our luck and just let her stay in her current clothes with her costume over-top.

Teach toddler shark (dinosaur?) noises and let her loose (following her close behind).

Step 7: *Bonus* Accompanying Team Zissou costume

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Team Zissou costumes are easy to make 'generally' - the hardest part is finding the clothing of the right colour. (It's still far from perfect). I went as Eleanor Zissou and I got everything from the thrift store, save for a white shirt I made.

For the Team Zissou outfit, you need a light-blue/blue-teal collared shirt (my husband found one at a thrift shop) and matching pants (which likely are going to be scrubs. We also found ours at the thrift shop). I sewed blue strips down the sides of my husband's pants and shirt and along the shoulders. I added blue epaulettes and a pocket that I had previously stitched a Zissou patch to.

The patch was found online, as was the hat (it's pretty orange, I dyed it red) and the shoes ("custom"-made).

My husband and I made a simple gun holster out of stiff black fabric (which consisted off a large pocket and one horizontal and one vertical running band, all held together with Velcro) and the glock was just a toy gun we picked up at the dollar store.

Make sure to practice your exercises.

 
D'awwwwww!

(My Phone apparently autocorrects that to "Da Walrus". I don't think i get either)
The more i think about it, though, the more it makes sense. :D
johnstat00010 months ago

I love Steve Zissou!!

amenough1 year ago
Best Instructable ever! Now get me a Campari. On the rocks.
So cute!! Love the tiny shark head mock up. :D