Introduction: Cheshire Cat Costume - Tim Burton Style

About: Just your average person who still enjoys dressing up, and making stuff.


This is my first Instructable, so any useful feedback is helpful.

For 2011, I decided that I would make a Cheshire Cat costume for a convention, as other members of my group were doing Tim Burton's, Alice in Wonderland. I decided to to do the Cheshire. After roaming the wild space of the Instructables, I found an instructable that was very helpful in giving me a big start on my own. The one done by seamster - Wild-Thing-headpiece . THANK YOU!!!!

This gave me a great start on making my own costume. So if you are making your own costume of another character, an bit of patience and the willingness to experiment and trying out new options sure doesn't hurt. Hopefully, this will help out the next person wanting to put together a complete suit as well. Also good for those who are a tad strapped for cash, and wanting to keep things simple.

So, lets get to it.

Items you will need:

Your subject! Get photos of who or what you are tying to make. Or drawings, if it is your own creation.
Cardboard. LOTS of it.
Foam board
Fabric : On mine, I used fleece, and some felt. For the head and suit, I bought 6 yards, just to be sure. It will depend on what size head you are making.
Plastic Xmas Globes (1)
Styrofoam balls (2)
Hot glue gun and sticks - You cant have enough. Seriously. You will be AMAZED how fast you will go thru glue sticks.
Acrylic Paint
Velcro/Zipper - I used velcro to close the suit up. You may wish to use something else.
Permanent fabric glue
White Glue

Extra nice stuff:
Fursuit Halloween Pattern - Up to you if you wish to use this or not.
Spray Paint - for spraying on stripes.
Shoe Goo, or any thick glue

Anything else to make your character special.

Step 1: The Basics - the Head

The base of the Head

Are exactly the same as from the other instructable, so I wont repeat it here. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera available, and didn't take pictures, but the other instructable has excellent pictures.

I worked the base the same was as in that instructable, using LOTS of cardboard, duct tape and TONS of hot glue sticks. You cant have enough here.

Continue to work on the base until you are happy with the shape.

Step 2: *THE HARD PART!* - Covering the Base

The next fun part came when I had to choose the fabric to cover the dome shaped head. I decided that I could not afford fur, not for the entire head and body, so I experimented with several types of felt and fleece.

I found some fleece on sale, that was not only comfortable and soft, but that when brushed, gave a very nice fuzzy appearance. I bought roughly 6 yards of grey. I had bought 2 yards of blue as well, and was going to use it for stripes, but I found that painting worked just as well, so I only used the blue for the hands and feet. If you use fur, make sure to buy some cheap material to get your pattern before you start cutting on the much more expensive fur. You could also get fur from recycling old fur coats from thrift shops and such, but you still want to make your pattern from the cheaper material first.

I cut a large circle from my felt, and began to carefully stitch, glue and tuck the material around the dome. I started with the front, to get that nice and smooth, and then slowly moved to the back. Since this will be the lip, I wanted it to be as nice as possible. You will have to fudge a bit and move your material around to get it as smooth as possible.

Some spots you will be able to hide later on, as you will see, such as hiding folds of material with the ears. You can also snip small slices, to tuck and move the extra material out of your way, if needed. Just fiddle with it. (On the photo, you can see a seam I created behind the ear to tuck fabric back.

Once you are satisfied with it, You can start to stuff it full, getting the shape you want through the holes left in the inside top of the base. Polyester filling works well. You can also use plastic bags, if you tend to collect those. They are good to fill out some of the tighter spots. Again, this will take a bit of moving things around, and perhaps using a pencil or knitting needle to poke your filling around until you are happy with the shape you have.

I suggest, if you DO use fur, test your pattern on some CHEAPER material first, so you will know how much you need to cut. Fur being thicker, you will have to take that into consideration.

Step 3: Making a Face

Here, I did something a bit different. Since my character was a cat, I wanted the shiny eye look of a cat. So I picked up 1 clear Xmas plastic tree decorations and 2 Styrofoam balls. The clear globes were a big bigger than the Styrofoam balls. I used plain white glue to seal the balls, coating them at least halfway. After they were dry, I used acrylic paints to paint them the way I wanted, looking at some pictures of various cat eyes, to get the look I wanted. Once that was completed, I placed half a plastic globe over the eye. You can either tape or glue the covers in place.

For the nose, I used paper bags, and tape, to get the general look of the cat nose that I wanted, and hot glued them in place. I then covered with fleece, shaping them as needed, and adding bits of stuffing until I got the look I wanted, and then glued down the fleece cover. I also stitched it in a few places, to give it a bit more security, and shaping.

As in the other tutorial, the eye sockets were cut with 2 or 3 "X" slices through all the layers of fabric with an exacto blade. I didn't use hot glue, but I used extra material to build an 'eyelid' to go over the eyeball, to help hold it in place, stitching it down. If you glue them in, I suggest you do it last, I I used the eye area to stuff the cheeks of the cat, to give it a more muzzle appearance. I then added whiskers. The ears were made of fleece, sewn, stuffed and shaped and then sewn on the head.

Another change I did here, was to take one of those POOL NOODLES, and I sliced it in half longwise. I then wrapped it around the bottom of the base, to make a upper lip, and to shape it to make it look more cat like. I wrapped it in fleece, and then hot glued and sewed it to the front of the face.

Step 4: I Has Teeth

For the teeth, I had tried the felt, but I didn't like the look of it.

Also, since my jaw would move, it kept bending the felt. So I used foam backed poster-board, cutting out the teeth, like the type the Cheshire cat has. I glued them around the top half of the mouth, leaving some spaces, as I knew I had to gave room for the bottom teeth. I painted the mouth area black. I used a heavy clue, like shoe goop, to stick the teeth in.

I also attached a strap, to help hold the head more firmly on my head without rocking around. Extra padding and material in the area where your head goes does a lot to making this much more comfortable to wear, and being stable. A section of fleece was added to the back that hangs down to complete the back of the head.

Step 5: The Lower Jaw

Here I altered this step, as I did not want to mouth to simply dangle open. So I cut another cardboard ring, similar to the one the base was built but thinner. I then folded it it half. This became the lower jaw.

I tapped it and covered it with fleece on the edges. I then used another half of the pool noodle I had sliced in half longways, and used it to make the lip for the lower jaw. I painted the inside of the lower jaw black. I also added another section of fleece to the front, to hide the front/underneath area of the lower jaw. It is long enough that I can tuck it into the collar of my suit.

If you wish, you can also pad the inner part of the ring where you face/neck fits into the lower jaw. If it is close enough, when you move your jaw, the jaw will move with you. To make sure my jaw stayed on tightly, I threaded the lower jaw/lip area with plastic ties, like the kind you use for cables, so that it could move like a hinge.

The underside cant really be seen, so I only attached fleece to the area where my neck would be, in order to hide it. In the photo you can see part of the noodle I used for the lip.

Step 6: Hide That Face

Now, I wanted my face hidden, so I had to add a bit more. To hide my face, I cut off a 12" piece of stocking type material, and glued it from mid-way across the middle of the mouth, shaping it to follow the general shape of the mouth itself. It needs to be black, and if it is too sheer, you can spray it with black paint, to help one block out light being flashed at you, and two, making it much easier for you to
see out. I also left the sides open so I could get some AIR!

Now you can brush the fleece out, using a pet wire brush. If you want, you can also use spray paint, to add the stripes that Cheshire has along his head.

(Its hard to tell in the photo, but that is a picture of the inside of the mouth. You can just make out the teeth up top. In full sunlight, you can see just a bit of the nylon there that's used to cover the face.

Step 7: Making the Suit

Now, there are several ways you can make yourself a suit.

One, is to go and buy a commercial pattern. There are plenty out there, especially for Halloween. You will have to tweak those patterns to get a fit that you will like, as they are often loose-fitting. Nothing wrong with that, it just depends on the look you want. Since Ches is rather plump, I went for the round look. Just simple padding, nothing major. I actually used a water hydration bag to help plump it out..and to stay cool.

If you don't want to buy a pattern some folks have used a pajama with feet to make a suit. Some have even taken non stretchy pants and shirt, lay them together, and traced around it to make a rough body pattern for the suit.

You can make a "top" (fur shirt) and "bottoms" (fur pants) and then sew them together instead of trying to make as large a seamless piece of material from top to bottom as possible. It all depends on what you have to work with. On my suit, I made it a turtleneck, so that it would be sure to hide my neck, and blend into the head. I sprayed the stripes on, same as I did the head. I made my suit, making my own pattern, and where I joined the top and bottom, I used that to place my tail as well. The tail is just a thin tube, that I stuffed and put a coat wire inside, so that it could be poseible.

If you don't like the opening to the front, you can move it to the side, or the back. As I had injured my arm earlier, I went for the easy way. I also made a tummy cover to use on m suit..but decided I liked it better without it.

Also, after breaking TWO on a machine, and one trying to hand sew the velcro I used to close the suit, I found a much better way to attach it.


Aleene's New-Sew glue works fine...but the BEST..was Fabric-Tac. It is a permanent adhesive, and holds on well. Much easier than trying to stitch thru both Velcro and Fleece. The stuff I had was so strong, I bent 3 safety pins trying to close the opening earlier.

Step 8: The Extra Stuff

I also made 4 fingered mittens, for my suit, making a rough over-sized pattern tracing around my fingers. For the feet, I made foot covers (Spats) to cover a regular tennis shoe. The spats were made from fleece as well.

See this page for more information on both paws and spats:

You can also Google for other ideas.

Considering the time and cash constraints I had, I think he turned out well. Hope that helps out anyone wanting to make any type of character suit of their own.

Thanks for reading.

Have Fun.

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