No-Sew Finding Nemo Clownfish Costume




Introduction: No-Sew Finding Nemo Clownfish Costume

About: I helped start Instructables, previously worked in biotech and academic research labs, and have a degree in biology from MIT. Currently head of Product helping young startups at Alchemist Accelerator, previous…

My daughter loves Finding Nemo, so when she asked to go trick-or-treating as Nemo, with her dad dressed as Marlin, I whipped up these super easy no-sew clownfish costumes from orange hoodies, some cheap felt, and hot glue!

They really are easy, I promise: the hardest part is sourcing an orange hoodie.  I made these Nemo costumes by trial and error the day before Halloween while my 7-week-old baby napped, so with the benefit of my experience you can turn your family into clownfish in no time flat.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Materials Needed:
1 orange hoodie (zip or pull-over are both fine)
1 yard white felt (more for a bigger human)
1 yard black felt
1/2 yard orange felt (I repurposed some felt pumpkin trick-or-treat bags from the 99c store)
small bag of fiberfill, styrofoam peanuts, crumpled newspaper, bits of cloth, or other light-weight poofy stuff
orange and white face paint

Tools Needed:
Hot glue & hot glue gun (or sewing machine, but we're being lazy here)
Stapler, needle & thread, or sewing machine (for more firmly attaching tail)
Rotary cutter or scissors for cutting strips
Flexible measuring tape

Step 2: Prep Hoodie

My adult hoodie was plain unornamented orange, but the child's hoodie had some embroidery across the front and on the sleeve.

I used a seam ripper to quickly remove the big letters appliqued on the front, but the logo on the sleeve was full of annoying little fiddly bits that would have taken ages to remove, so I gave up and hot-glued a piece of orange felt over it.  Easy, and nearly unnoticeable - especially in the dark.  I was pleasantly surprised.  

Step 3: Design Stripes

Check out pictures of Nemo here.  As you can see, our friendly neighborhood clownfish has three white stripes.
1) a narrow, even-width stripe around the face
2) a slightly thicker, even-width stripe near the tail
3) an even thicker stripe just below the pectoral fins with a flat lower side and a curved top side bulging up in the back.

The even-width strips are pretty easy to deal with. The middle stripe caused me some trouble, as human arms are't located as ventrally as clownfish pectoral fins. Due to these space constraints, I ended up having to flip the stripe curved-side down.  It gave a similar effect, and nobody besides a die-hard tropical marine biologist, aquarist, or OCD 4-year-old Pixar fan will possibly notice to call you on it.  

To design your stripes, lay your hoodie out and take measurements.  Here are mine, for reference - I'm using an Adult Medium from Old Navy, and a Child size 4 by Osh Kosh B'gosh.  If you've got tons of time, test with paper mock-ups to make sure your stripes will look good, then transfer to the felt.  I was short on time, so winged it.  Let's be honest: if you're looking for a no-sew costume, you're almost certainly going to be short on time and winging it too.  So start with my numbers, and tweak to fit.

Adult hoodie dimensions: 40" around below the sleeves, 16" from sleeve to lower hem, 30" around the hood.  
Adult hoodie stripes: 5.5" bottom stripe; center stripe 4" at chest, 5 1/2" at back, 7" max curve; 1 1/2" head stripe.  1/2" of black trim showing on each side (cut 1" strips).

Child hoodie dimensions: 28" around below sleeves, 10" sleeves to lower hem, 22" around the hood.
Child hoodie stripes: 2 1/2" bottom stripe, center stripe 2 1/4" at chest, 3 1/2" at back, 4" max curve; 1 1/4" head stripe.  1/4" of black trim showing on each side (cut 1" strips).

Step 4: Design Tail

For the child's costume, I glued an extra piece of orange felt at the bottom of the hoodie to accommodate the tail.  The tail itself was a felt Halloween candy bag turned inside-out, trimmed down to scallop the edges, and stuffed with fiberfill, with an extra bit of black felt glued along the (bottom) seam to create a proper clownfish black fin-edge.  

Depending on how much time you have, modify away.  The adult costume was as we were about to run out the door, so while it still has the black fin-edge (yep, that was done earlier), there's no additional orange piece - I just hand-tacked the tail to the base of the hoodie with a needle and thread.  I much prefer the look of the costume using the extra piece of orange felt, and it gives much better attachment points so you can use hot glue for everything.  Yay laziness.

For the child's hoodie, I folded the orange felt in half (yay symmetry!) and set the sides at 2 1/2" and 7 1/2", then just cut a straight line between the two.  Figure 1/2" off the top lost to hot-gluing, as you really want this to stay on!  The tail measures 3" on the short side, 7" on the long side, and about 7" in length.  Again, leave about 1/2" for hot-glueing seams.  You can sew this if your kid is fidgety, but the hot glue will do OK in most use cases.

Step 5: Cut Felt

Use your measurements from the previous two steps, and cut accordingly.  Rotary cutters are great for straight lines if you've got them, but scissors are just dandy too.

Black felt: cut lots of long 1-inch strips.

White felt: cut head and tail strips.  Cut mid-body strip to length at maximum width, then fold in half (to ensure symmetry). Mark back and zip endpoints, draw a smooth curve between them, then cut the curve.  

Orange felt:  Fold in half (to ensure symmetry) and mark length of back and zip sides.  Cut between the endpoints to make a  sort of squat, irregular pentagon.  Cut two pieces of orange felt to make the tail itself.

Step 6: Glue Felt Strips

Test all your white felt strips against the hoodie to make sure you've cut them right.  Lay them out with the black strips, and plug in your hot glue gun.  

WARNING: hot glue is hot!  Always keep a bowl of water so you can quick-cool the glue by dunking your hand when you (invariably) get some on your fingers.

Apply a bead of glue to the black felt strips, then press the white felt down onto the black, leaving the proper amount of edging visible.  I used 1/4" on my child's hoodie, 1/2" on the adult's hoodie.  YMMV.

Continue until all white stripes have black edging along both long sides.

Step 7: Glue It All Together

Final gluing order of operations!  Glue, let cool, test, then proceed to next piece.

1. Glue tail together, and stuff with fiberfill (or soft/light substitute).
2. Glue tail into orange hoodie extension. Use lots of glue, as this will get bonked around a lot.
3. Glue hoodie extension/tail to bottom of hoodie; inside or outside is fine.  Use lots of glue here too.
4. Glue bottom stripe around hoodie.
5. Glue head stripe around hood.  Be sure to space it an inch or so away from the front edge of the hood.
6. Glue center/curved body stripe just under arms.  This one is the tricky bit - since the hoodie doesn't lie flat here, you may need help getting it placed and glued.  A dress form would be perfect, but a ball, a second pair of hands, or a (well-insulated) wearer will make this go.

NOTE: Be careful to glue the right side of your stripes down!  I was in a hurry (surprise!) and glued the last piece upside-down, so the middle stripe of the adult hoodie has inch-thick black edges.  Nobody seems to have noticed, but it still annoys me.

Step 8: Apply Facepaint, and Wear!

Huzzah, your Nemo (or Marlin) clownfish costumes are done!  Wasn't that easy?

For bonus points, apply white face paint in big circles around your eyes, and paint the rest of your face orange to match your hoodie.  Go forth and trick-or-treat.

My little fishies were a huge hit!  Children squealed "look, it's Nemo!" everywhere they went, and my 3-year-old was so proud to be recognized.  She loves to wear her Nemo costume to non-Halloween events, so we're getting more use out of it than I'd anticipated.  It's almost practical.

If you make one of these, please share your photo in the comments!  I'd love to see how it turned out, and will give a coupon for a year's Pro membership to everyone who posts a photo of their own version.

Happy Halloween!

2013 Autodesk Halloween Contest

Runner Up in the
2013 Autodesk Halloween Contest

Halloween Costume Contest

Participated in the
Halloween Costume Contest

1 Person Made This Project!


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9 years ago on Introduction

This is just too adorable! I love it!! Thank you for sharing this amazing work! :D


9 years ago on Introduction

It would have been nice to use an iridescent or scotchlite reflective fabric for the white stripes. Wouldn't want the big guy to get hit by a car when wandering around in the middle of the street.


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

That is a brilliant idea. Er, a bright idea. I mean, upon reflection, I certainly wish I'd done exactly that.