For Halloween this year, I thought about being a sexy lobster, but I wanted to keep at least one hand free to hold drinks, open doors, and shake hands with the new people I meet. My friend suggested the pistol shrimp , which uses its one oversized claw to shoot a jet of water that stuns its prey. This idea sounded so nerdtastic that I just had to do it! The best part of the costume is that hidden inside the claw is a cap pistol, which is used to simulate the popping noise created by collapsing cavitation bubbles.
Step 1: Gather Up Your Materials
1. pink dress or clothing. I sewed a simple tube dress, you can do the same or use some clothes you already have.
2. pink fabric and thread (3 yards was more than enough, including about a yard for the dress) ~ $10
3. orange tulle (about 1 yard) ~$1
4. Pink craft foam: one large sheet and one small ~$3
5. Cap pistol and caps ($5 at Walgreens)
6. Pink hat (I had one, you can make your own)
7. Scraps of black felt or foam
1. Sewing machine- not necessary, but very helpful
2. Pink thread, needle and pins
3. Hot glue gun
Step 2: Make the Body and Legs
Draw your leg shapes onto some cardboard and cut it out. I made six of them, but real shrimp can have lots more than that. Trace each shape onto a double thickness of pink fabric and cut out the shape with seam allowance. Sew the legs inside out, then open them up and put the cardboard inside the little tubes of fabric. Sew these (by hand) onto your dress or shirt. If you have a friend to help you with the placement, it will be easier to get them in the right place.
Take your orange tulle and cut it into about six strips. Sew each strip onto the dress at the side, under your arm. If, as in my case, the tulle is not as stretchy as the dress material, it is easier to sew the strips only at one end for the stripes that go around your chest. The loose pieces are then pinned or tied in place after the dress is on you. This lets you pull the dress on and off. For the strips towards the skirt, you'll want to sew them at both ends so that they don't fall off as you walk or dance your shrimpy moves.
Step 3: Make the Claw
For the snapping claw, take the larger piece of foam and trim the shape. I started rounding about halfway along the length. This will be the top half of the claw. Do the same for the smaller piece of foam/ the bottom half. Save the scraps.
Wrap the big piece so that it fits over your hand and around your wrist. It will be too big to stay put on its own. Staple it into a tube. Insert the small piece into the larger and staple that too.
The claw is going to be too loose for your wrist, so you're going to attach the gun to the claw interior, giving yourself a handle. Do this by poking wire through the foam and making a twist-tie for the gun. It's important that the gun be removable so that you can reload the caps.
You can also make yourself some mitts with the fabric. I didn't measure, just wrapped fabric around my forearms and got a friend to pin it for me in the right spot. Then I sewed the tubes and hemmed them to the correct length. I also sewed together a pinch point for my thumbs, but this is optional.
Step 4: Make the Head
1. Make the long antennae: cut two long strips of pink fabric about 4" wide. ~ 2 foot length is good, but longer doesn't hurt. Sew down the side to make a tube, then turn it inside out. I made my strips about 3 feet long and left the last foot still stuffed inside the tube, which gives the antennae nice shape. Sew these onto your hat, getting the placement right in the mirror. I also put a little bit of cardboard inside the tubes at the base for structure. If I did it again I'd include a coat hanger inside for shapeable antennae.
2. Rostrum: using the larger of the foam scraps, make the pointy things on shrimp heads. Sew or glue these onto your hat. I split them at the base so they would stick out nice and pointy, like you can see in the picture.
3. Eyes: black felt or foam, sewn on the sides.
Step 5: Make the Tail
The tail is the trickiest part. Take a large piece of fabric and sew it into a tube. You can hem it if you want, but it's not necessary. Open up the tube so the seam is in the middle. Fold over the bottom corners so the shape tapers to the width you want.
Put some pleats in the fabric and sew them into place. The tip of the tail is made from foam scraps from the claw; these are easiest glued on, but sewing also works.
Before attaching the tail to your dress, pinch the fabric in the middle and pin it from the inside. This gives the tail some curvature, like a shrimp.
Attach the whole thing to your back at the height you want. I placed it so that one of the orange stripes would cover up the seam at the top.
Step 6: Hit the Town
You are now a pistol shrimp! There might not be anyone at the party who knows what you are, but if there is, they will appreciate the obscurity of your costume. If there isn't, you can always just do the Thriller dance and impress people anyway.