Help a man dress up as the Wicked Witch of the West
March 14, 2017 11:52 PM   Subscribe

I would like to dress up as the Wicked Witch of the West for an event many months in the future. Difficulty level: I am a very tall man and store-bought stuff is not likely to fit me.

[for the record: I'm asking anonymously not because I'm ashamed to be a guy dressing as a woman or anything (obviously) but because costumes for this event are supposed to be secret and my MetaFilter account is easily traced to my real name.]

I'm a guy, 6'5", around 185 pounds, classic ectomorph body type. I have access to a sewing machine and am equipped with the most absolute basic sewing skills. I also have access to a wife who's not involved (or interested) in this project but can give pointers for more advanced sewing if necessary.

What's truly important to me is capturing the idea of the silhouette of the Wicked Witch of the West from the 1939 film. This mainly means (to me) the puffy shoulders and tight sleeves, high neckline, and corseted(ish?) waist. If I had $900 to drop on this costume I'd just order this incredible custom reproduction but that's way out of my price range.

The costume doesn't have to be nearly as detailed as that, though. I'll be wearing a handmade mask that will draw most of the attention, so as long as the idea of the witch is there I'm good. I'd be more than happy to step down to this level of quality whereas this nonsense wouldn't satisfy my desire to be reasonably close to the movies.

So now that you have some vague idea what I'm looking for: how would you go about this if you were me? Search thrift shops for an old prom dress with poofy shoulders and dye it black and start there? Is there a pattern online for 'movie-accurate witch dress' that I could buy? Do you think there's a possibility that one of these store-bought costumes would actually fit someone with my frame? I'm not really in a good position to test anyone's return policy.

I'm fine with piecemealing this together - if I have to get the top from one place and wear a totally different skirt that will actually cover most of my long legs, and get a cape from a third place, I'm fine with that.

I look forward to your ideas and input. I don't have a throwaway email address for this one - didn't think it important enough - but if you have something more specific or private to add then just let me know in your comment and I will be happy to MeMail you directly.
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm transgender and almost as tall as you are, and I've never had much trouble getting girly costumes for various events. This witch costume in particular should be pretty simple, because you're not going to have to worry about necklines or skinny straps. Start by going to a good costume store and asking for help. Odds are they can set you up with something just right, and if they can't the next store probably can. This is the kind of project that a lot of costume shop employees live for!

If you're not comfortable doing all that in person for whatever reason, lots of online costume places have plus-size costumes for women and you can probably find something to fit. (You could always find something TOO big and pin the back so it's tighter.) You may have issues with costumes being too short, but if it comes to it you can always just wear a longer black skirt over your costume, since the look of the upper portion of the costume is what matters most.

You could wear a mask, but it'd probably be more fun if you just paint your face green, maybe trying to follow the look of the Oz witch's makeup. The nice thing about a witch is that even if you totally mess up your makeup, you still look fine!

If you simply cannot find a dress that fits you, you can always look for male angel of death costumes, evil wizard costumes, etc. There are plenty of male costumes that are essentially long black dresses.

Bonus tutorials:

These people want to sell you all sorts of witch kits:

Youtube tutorial. Follow this young lady's simple tips and you'll be a very pretty witch:

Commonsense advice about making a cheapo witch dress:

Drag witch makeup, very thorough:

Can you tell that I get WAY TOO INTO this sort of thing?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:51 AM on March 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

The part you need and which is the hardest to sew or fake is the body of the jacket. You may be able to find a jacket or blouse made out of tough material at a thrift store that would fit you. If the jacket has wide lapels and an open throat it might be possible to fold the lapels closed and get the high neckline. Your best bet is a heavyweight blouse as it would be harder to adjust a lined jacket.

The fabric could possibly be dyed with Rit dye (available at some dollar stores and some grocery stores) in a stainless steel kitchen sink, or a throw away dollar store dishpan/laundry basin. However it would have to not be patterned and would have to be a fabric that would take the dye as well as not being destroyed by being put into very hot water. So if you find say a navy blue jacket that would be perfect for your torso (but is sadly empty in the bust when you put it on) the next thing is to look closely at the labels. If the label says rayon and dry clean only put it back on the shelf. If it doesn't say delicate, and if it says tumble dry it can take the heat of the dying water and is worth a shot.

look for flat black braid to disguise details that don't work or show alteration. To lessen the challenge the braid can be glue on instead of basted. If you have to let it out the place to do so is down the side seams were it will be hidden in your armpits. Get help with the fitting.

If you can get a jacket that works the puffed sleeves and the skirt are the easy part.

You might start by finding out what woman's size you are and then searching E-Bay for such things as Victorian Style blouse.
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:32 AM on March 15, 2017

For the top, inspired by the Oriental Trading version, what about starting with a men's collarless black shirt (like this) and building the shoulder puffs on top of that somehow? You could swap out the buttons potentially, too, for something more witchy.
posted by kittydelsol at 4:45 AM on March 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Is this the same dress? It looks very similar. I realize this pattern may not fit you, but it would likely show you how to create the slashed sleeve look, which you could potentially do over a long black plain skirt and a blouse that was made to fit you.

I feel like the corset/bodice would be fairly easy to put together - it's not super shaped or boned, it doesn't look like, and if the blouse/skirt are flowy enough, having something there to pull everything in is likely to create the shaping effect you're looking for.
posted by needlegrrl at 5:42 AM on March 15, 2017

If you feel comfortable taking on a bit of a sewing project, look at this pattern: Simplicity 1773. It's constructed of a dress and an overdress, and the overdress has all the showy details you're looking for -- the slashed puffed sleeves and the unboned corset-y thing. I think it would be fairly easy to make that overdress match the costume -- you'd cut it short to waist length, and then make and attach tabs (those rectangular bits of fabric hanging off the front of the corset in the awesome historical reproduction you linked).

As for the bottom layer dress that the overdress goes over, you have a couple of options.
- You could make the dress from the Simplicity pattern (though you'd have to modify it to have a higher neckline - here's a tutorial).
- You could thrift for something that works. It doesn't have to be perfect (since it'll be partially covered by the overdress) -- it just needs long tight sleeves, a long skirt, and a high neck. In a pinch you could probably even wear a black tight turtleneck plus a long skirt -- the overdress and cape will cover/hide the waist and provide the cool costume details.

If you find you need to make a skirt, you can always draft one yourself from your own measurements -- A-line skirts are relatively easy. Here is one tutorial; you can find many more by googling "how to draft a full-length A-line skirt".

As for the hat and cape, I'm guessing those are going to be easiest and cheapest to find at a costume store or thrift store costume section.

And ... here is a pattern for waist pouches (similar to those found in the historical reproduction). If you have time, you could give one of those a shot, too.
posted by ourobouros at 5:56 AM on March 15, 2017

You might consider looking at the various black dresses at eShakti if your budget will allow - the dresses are extremely customizable both in terms of length & size but also neckline, sleeve length, etc. The puffy sleeves will be the hardest to capture, I think, but you can for sure get a long black dress that fits you for not a ton of money. Here's one with some fakey corseting.
posted by miskatonic at 6:38 AM on March 15, 2017

One other thought: it's relatively easy to lengthen a skirt by adding a panel of fabric at the bottom (sewing tutorial, no-sew tutorial). So if you find a skirt that fits well around the waist but is too short for you, know that it can be modified.
posted by ourobouros at 6:43 AM on March 15, 2017

Getting a good skirt long enough might be difficult at a thrift store and dying black will be difficult (It never seems to get REALLY black).
I think making or having a really basic black dress with puffy sleeves will do it. That and a cape. People don't think too much about that as much as the details. Make a great broom, get good facepaint (snazaroo) and some setting powder.
Terrific shoes would be good too. I would take some boots or shoes you no longer like and and doctor them with duct tape. Here is someone that did it. A glue gun and some foam will also help extent the foot to make a point. Here was how I made werewolf feet for my kid and I think you could do something similar for witch's shoes.

Good luck!
posted by beccaj at 6:49 AM on March 15, 2017

I would avoid dye-ing anything, unless you are familiar with that process. As beccaj says, you can never get anything black enough and if you are looking at prom dresses, they are most likely polyester, which will not take dye. However, you might luck into a black dress at the thrift store. I'd look there, at least for your skirt part, perhaps using the fabric from your thrifted dress to make a simple skirt with an elastic waist.

Also, as pointed out above, the jacket/blouse with the puffy sleeves will be the hard part. I would try to find a seamstress/costumer to make that part of the costume and then I would cobble together the skirt myself.
posted by sarajane at 9:16 AM on March 15, 2017

« Older How do stay-at-home parents hire divorce lawyers?   |   What are my options for a more mobile server rack... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.