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Monday
Oct192009

How to Make Sesame Street Martian Costumes

I’d like to diverge from the topic of children’s video games for a moment to talk about some Halloween costumes my friend and I made a few years ago.  It’s not completely off-topic, I suppose.  Halloween is a very kid-friendly, if not kid-centric holiday after all, and the costumes are of the classic Sesame Street characters, the Martians.  Some people call them the 'Yip Yips'.

Halloween 2004
Here are instructions on how to make them, in adult sizes.  You could easily scale it down for a child, but keep in mind that the martians haven’t been featured on the show regularly for some time now, so a child may not recognize the characters.

Materials for one costume:

  • Approximately 4 yards of fabric of your choice, probably pink, blue or orange if you want to match the television characters.  Make sure to select fabric you can see through when you hold it up to your face.  4 yards is a good amount for someone 5’9 or 6 feet tall.  You can use a bit less if you are shorter, more if you are taller.  If in doubt, make it longer than you expect to need and you can simply trim excess later.
  • About half a yard of black fabric
  • Pink and blue thread
  • Glue
  • Two styrofoam balls, 4” diameter is a good size
  • Two feet of craft wire
  • One sheet of black construction paper, felt, or craft paper
  • One baseball cap
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Straight pins
  • Safety pins
  • Access to a sewing machine or serge machine
  1. Get someone to help you for the first step.  One of you needs to be ‘the model’.  Ideally, you should be working with the person who will be wearing the costume, or if it’s for you, you can be the model and they can put the fabric on you.  If the person who will wear the costume is unavailable, try to get someone their approximate size, or improvise somehow.  Stand or kneel on a chair, etc.
  2. The model should stand and hold his or her arms out in front of their body.  Each arm is making a ‘v’.  Your palms should be facing you, and your elbows should be pointed to the ground.  Don’t hold the hands higher than shoulder height, and don’t hold your hands out wider than the width of your body.  Your elbows should not be far away from your body.  It should be comfortable to stand like this for 15 minutes or more.  If you are unsure about how to hold your arms, see the video at the bottom of this post.  That may help clarify how the costume will work when it’s finished.
  3. The other person should drape the fabric over the model, inside out.  We are essentially making a bag of fabric to drape over the model’s body, with extra fabric in front of the body for the arms in their ‘v’ position.  Adjust the fabric so hem will hit the model’s body in about the same place in front and back.  If it’s not perfect, no worries.  You can always trim it later.
  4. Pin the bag of fabric closed.  First pin the excess bit that’s over the models arms.  Then start up by the head and pin downward.  When finished, carefully remove the bag from the model without sticking him or her with a pin.  Thanks, model!  You can relax.  Your work here is done for awhile.
  5. Sew the seams you have pinned on your sewing machine or serge machine, starting with the seams on either side of the arms.  Then sew each side of the body.
  6. Turn it inside out so the costume is now right side out.  You’re almost done!
  7. Get your model to come back.  Put the baseball cap on the model’s head, backward.  Then pull the costume bag you just made over his or her head.  Use some safety pins to attach the costume to this baseball cap.  Be sure not to stick your friend in the head if you ever want this person to help you with craft projects again in the future!
  8. Ask model to hold arms out in the front arm area.  Cut the black fabric in a triangle that reaches from the model’s 2 hands to his or her nose.  So the 3 points of the triangle are right hand, left hand and nose.  It’s tricky to measure and cut this, but do your best approximation.  Once you’ve made your cut, put a thin amount of glue on one side of the triangle, and paste it onto the front of the costume.  Use just a small amount of glue right now, and use more later if it comes detached.  If you use too much glue right now, it will just press right through the fabric onto your friend and make a mess.
  9. Thanks, model!  You can sit down now, but don’t remove the costume just yet.  Now you’ve reached the hardest part, attaching the eyeballs to the head.  There may be a better way to do this, but one way is to thread wire through the styrofoam balls, and then bend the wire back through the costume and the baseball cap.  They should attach high on the model’s forehead, but not the very top of his or her head.  When we made ours, we found styrofoam balls that were sold shrink wrapped in packs of two, so we didn’t have to struggle with keeping them together.
  10. Once the styrofoam balls are attached, cut two eye pupils about the size of a silver dollar from your black paper or felt.  Glue these onto the styrofoam balls right where you think the eye focus would be.  Look at pictures of Muppets on the internet if you need a model.  If you don’t like where you place them, you can always peel them off and try again.
  11. Fashion martian antennae out of your pipe cleaners.  You probably need to spiral them together at intervals to make them appear longer.  In other words, twist two together and when you're about halfway down, add a third.  Twist some more and then add a fourth, etc.  Once you have spiraled together one 2.5 or 3 foot long pipe cleaner, bend it in the middle to make a V.  Attach it to the top of your baseball cap (outside the costume, of course) at the point of the V.  You can sew it by hand, or you might be able to safety pin it.  Attaching it to the styrofoam balls with pins or thread will help them stand up straight.
  12. You’re done!  If necessary, cut the hem with scissors so the wearer can walk comfortably, or if one of the sides is longer than the other.  It shouldn’t be necessary to hem it on a machine if you only plan to wear the costume once, but you may if you like.

Remember: Relax!  If it doesn’t look perfect, it doesn’t matter.  No one will notice anyway.  Everyone will be filled with instant excitement when they see you in costume.  No one will lean in close to inspect your seams and ask “Well, what happened here? Why is this bit crooked?”  If you're not clear on some part of the instructions, ask me a question in the comments section, or email me at the address on my "About Me" page.

Here’s a video of my friend and I wearing the costumes in the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade.  We made news coverage on NY1!  We wore the costumes all night long, and were quite comfortable in them.  One advantage to the costumes is that you can wear whatever's appropriate for the weather underneath them and be as warm or cool as you like!

Sesame Street and Martian characters are copyright Sesame Workshop.