Pegasus and Griffin Costumes

Posted by jdg | Friday, October 30, 2009 | ,

[note this is Jim, not Wood writing]

Halloween is definitely the favorite holiday around here. I kind of hated it during the whole sexy/clever period of our mid 20s, but now that we have kids, I just can't imagine a better holiday experience than dressing up AS WHATEVER YOU WANT TO BE with all your friends and then going out in the dark to get a bunch of candy. Beats Hanukkah by a mile.

This was my year to do the Halloween costumes, and if my kid wants to be Pegasus for Halloween, I am going to make sure she really feels like Pegasus. The kid and I have been talking about and planning this costume together for six months. Maybe longer. We have drawn sketches. Diagrams. At some point she got it in her head that the costume would really fly so we went to Greenfield Village and went to the Wright Bros bicycle shop, "to learn about how to make things fly." We learned that it is really hard to make things fly but she figured that if we used enough feathers it just might work.

The boy is still too young to make big decisions, but he likes to roar, loves wild things, loves the lions and eagles at the zoo, and he carries around his griffin toy all the time. With a last name that means "griffin" in Dutch, we thought we could incorporate a lot of the ideas from the Pegasus costume into a griffin costume for him, and we liked the idea of two mythological hybrids on Halloween. Next year, when he cares, he can be a power ranger or whatever. Today I still have control (moo-hoo-ha-ha-ha).

The Pegasus costume started with the idea of having wings she could control with her hands (she really thought she was going to be able to fly). I rigged up some wire in the shape of two large wings and strengthened them with quarter-inch dowels, creating a wooden handle in the middle of each wing for her to grip. I ordered a box of feather boas from some sketchy website that came up in google shopping (how can they charge $6 for 50 boas? I am guessing these weren't free-range fowl feathers; I am totally waiting for my credit card number to be used in an order for $4,000 worth of poultry hormones to be shipped to Qinshan, China). I braided the boas through the wings, hot-gluing them when necessary. They are pretty heavy.

For a tail, we bought a $3 weave from the wig store in our neighborhood.

The mane is the beard from Gram's 2008 Halloween costume, which I originally made by gutting a stuffed goat we bought at the thrift store. 

Because she was going to be using her arms for the wings, I had to construct two fake horselegs to come out of her chest area to simulate the look of Pegasus just taking flight or rearing up on her hind legs. For that I took two dry cleaning hangers and twisted them together, hand-sewed the fabric around them and connected the bare end to a third in the tunic so that they wouldn't droop. We experimented using one of Wood's old bras, but it worked out best just to sew a "pocket" for the wire.

They really stuck out well, and because they're wire she can adjust them to look however she wants.

Wood sewed the tunic and the pants from her own pattern. I think they look amazing. We bought the furry fabric months ago and when we originally started working I felt like it was a little off with all that ribbing, but it looks fine in the finished product I think. The hooves and the booties are felt.

The head was the trickiest part. I came up with the idea to have it on top of her head attached to a hood and Wood executed it perfectly. She used part of an old fleece blanket for the mouth, nostril, and eyelashes, and we sacrificed an old stuffed frog in the Salvation Army pile for the eyes. This photo (click to make it larger) gives a much better view of the head, which we based on the simple idea that a horse's head is like two triangles attached at one end.

Gram's costume was challenging because he really didn't seem to want to try anything on. Wood did a beautiful job on the pants, using a wire (like the front horse legs) for the tail. It's really flexible. I added a bit of Juniper's 2006 Panda costume to the tail (I liked the idea of creating a sense of continuity with the materials from year to year).

For the Griffin, we just attached boas to an old fisherman's sweater he'd nearly outgrown (we wanted to make sure these costumes would be warm enough for trick-or-treating), and Wood sewed on the hood she made from the cool lion fabric I picked up many months ago. I took the eyes from a stuffed animal that no one cared about anymore, and glued black fur and feather over them to give him an eagle scowl. The beak was a $2 mask thing that I sewed to the hood. I knew he would never actually wear it on his face. I wanted the kids to be comfortable in these costumes. I built wings for Gram that draped across his back and stuck out like a heraldic griffin's, but he really hated them and I thought his arms made pretty good wings. I may figure out a way to make them work before trick-or-treating. I know the griffin costume focuses more on the bird elements than the lion, but I think the lion tail is a cool surprise. We used Maurice Sendak's griffin from The Griffin and the Minor Canon as inspiration.

So there were no patterns, we just used stuff that was already around the house (unwanted clothes, toys, wires, hangers, etc.) and re-purposed them for the costumes. Total cost was about $28 for both together (not including shipping on the boas). The Pegasus was the more expensive of the two because we bought almost a full yard of fabric (the Griffin needed less than half a yard). There were probably four nights of work put into these costumes.

I know that seems like a lot of work to go into a Halloween costume, but we'll use these for imagination games until they grow out of them.  I was a little worried that she was going to be disappointed that she couldn't actually fly, but when she got into that costume, stopped talking, and started communicating only in whinnies and neighs, running around with her arms outstretched, and smiling nonstop, I knew the whole flying thing was just part of the fun, an imagination that doesn't need boundaries right yet. And when I showed her that photo at the top of today's post, she said, "See, I told you I'd be able to really fly."

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