Introduction: Make an Owl Costume

About: Former long time designer at Instructables. I have a degree in fashion design and like to sew, get crafty, and attempt to use power tools.

Now that many of my friends have kids, it's always a treat to make fun things for them to wear. This halloween I set out to make my good friend's daughter an owl costume after her favorite animal. After researching other tutorials online, I found that the majority of DIY owl costumes out there are cute, but don't really look like real owls. As a result my goal for this costume was to make something as true to the animal as possible. I got lucky and found very lifelike feather fur, and having the wings be the arms created a more realistic look than having the wings made as a cape. This design would work great for kids and adults alike.

While I can't claim this costume as quick, there are plenty of ways to cut corners and bring it down to an afternoon project. I'm really happy with how it turned out! Luckily it is big enough that she can wear it next year too, if she still likes owls that is :)

Hoot hoot! Let's get started.

Step 1: Supplies

I used a hoodie as a base, which made this project quite a bit easier than making it from scratch. Aside from an appropriately sized hoodie, I used the following:

  • Half a yard of feather fur (this one is close to what I found at my local store)
  • Small piece of darker fur for ears
  • Half a yard of soft stretchy fuzzy fabric for lining
  • Beige felt, brown fabric paint, and sewable corset boning for feathers
  • Yellow, black, and brown felt square for facial features

Step 2: Make Feathers

The first step in making this costume was to create a bunch of feathers. In my attempt at making an owl costume that was more true to life, I tried to make the feathers be shaped accurately and used some photos from the internet as my guide. These are around 6" in length.

I wanted the wing to keep its shape, including keeping the feathers on the same plane as the arm moves. This would mean adding some kind of rigidity to the feathers (like real ones), so I used thin strips of sewable rigilene boning sandwiched between two felt feathers. This created a more interesting looking feather than a single piece of felt, and gave it a visual and structural seam.

Once the feathers were sewn, I striped them with paint on both sides to make them look more like owl feathers. This step was definitely some work, but could be simplified to single pieces of unpainted felt to make this a less involved project.

Step 3: Drafting the Wing Pattern

By this stage I had decided to use a hoodie as a base, but the details of how the wings would look was still loose in my mind.

After experimenting with fabrics and silhouettes, I drafted a pattern which integrated some extra fabric connecting the arm to the side body for the wing. I decided to make the front of the wing the lining fabric and back of the wing fur, with the fur wrapping around to the front of the shoulder slightly.

I then cut out a set of wings using this pattern from both the fur and lining fabric. To incorporate the fur wrapping around to the front, I added an inch to the top line of the pattern when cutting the fur, and removed one when cutting the lining fabric.

Step 4: Cutting the Body

Using the hoodie as a pattern making base, I traced around the main body onto the back of the fur. Once half was traced, I folded it over to mirror that pattern line to the other side, and cut out my main body piece. I then duplicated that and split it down the middle to create the front and back of the main body pattern pieces.

For more about how to make patterns from existing clothes, you can check out my instructable on copying clothes here!

Step 5: Creating the Hood

Continuing in the same fashion, I used the store bought hoodie to draft the hood pattern. I wanted the ear tufts to be set out a little more to the sides than the seam lines on this hood, so I adjusted accordingly. After tracing the side pattern pieces I cut out two of those. I then measured for the dimensions of the central rectangular pattern piece, and cut that out.

Next I duplicated this in lining fabric, as I preferred the lining fabric I had to the store bought hoodie material.

Lastly I made some ear tufts out of darker brown fur that would be inset into the top of the hood.

Step 6: Ready to Sew!

I continued making patterns and cutting them out until all pieces were ready to sew. Shown are all the pieces I needed aside from the feathers to begin construction.

This was comprised of:

  • front and back fur pieces for the body
  • one set fur hood pieces
  • one set lining hood pieces
  • two ear tufts from darker brown fur
  • one set fur wing pieces
  • one set lining wing pieces

Time to sew!

Step 7: Assemble Hood

The first step in assembling the hood was to inset the fur ear tufts into the outer fur hood layer. I then assembled the lining for the hood, and sewed the two sets together along the facial opening for a clean edge.

Step 8: Assemble Wings

This assembly stage was more involved. I started by arranging the feathers as desired with a slight overlap on each of them, then carefully pinned all of them in place along the fur. Pushing the fur back as I went, I sewed on top of the edge of the fur to the feathers. At this stage the feathers looked good when laying flat, but they flopped all over the place otherwise. I found that glueing each feather down to the back pattern piece and to each other at points of overlap provided the added stability that the wings needed.

Once done with glueing, I sewed the lining piece to the top of the fur arm, and flipped the wing right side out. I folded under the lining of the sleeve and sewed it for a clean edge there, then folded under the edge of the lining fabric along the feather line and sewed it into place to complete the wing section.

Step 9: Assemble the Pieces

With the hood and wings constructed, it was time to put all the pieces together. I sewed the main body along the shoulder seams, then sewed the wings into the body. At first I had intended to inset the wing section hanging from below the armhole into the side seam, but after testing that out I realized it constrained movement too much. As a result I sewed up that bottom part of the wing, and simply inset the armhole portion for greater mobility.

For the hood, as I had made a lining for the hoodie to match the rest of the outfit I no longer needed the hood from the store bought hoodie and cut it off. I then attached the outer layer of the hood to the main body for the final step of sewing machine construction.

Step 10: Hand Sewing

On to hand sew the rest! The last sewing needed on the owl hoodie was to secure the inside lining of the hood, and to attach the outer shell to the hoodie along the zipper. While I could have done this with a machine, I found it easier to manage by hand.

Step 11: Create the Face

Next to create the face! Using great horned owl photos as a base I made the features as shown. It's a pretty intense expression, but I liked that given that it is halloween after all :) It would be easy to make the features more friendly by making the top arch of the eye shape rounded and less angled down to the nose.

Step 12: Make Pants

The last step was a set of matching pants to complete the outfit. I used a pair of my friend's daughter's leggings as a base, and copied them as shown. As the leg openings are very small, the only way to easily assemble these was to attach the rings of fur to the pant legs first, then sew up the inseam.

Once the legs were sewn, I folded down the waistband and threaded in elastic to complete the pants.

Step 13: Done!

That's a wrap! Be sure to share photos if you make this costume for your kids or yourself.

Happy halloween everyone!

Halloween Contest 2017

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Halloween Contest 2017