When I was young, I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Halloween. On the one hand, there are, of course, the parties and the candy, and I challenge you to find a child who dislikes either of those. On the other hand, you’ve got the trick or treating. For me, trick or treating in Vancouver meant going out in the rain (usually with the costume under a jacket) to slosh around collecting candy, while teenaged boys shot fireworks down the middle of the street. I guess I was a bit of a comfort-loving wimp (those fireworks could strike quite a bit of fear into me!), and so as much as I loved the candy, I was never a big fan of trick-or-treating. Later on, as a young adult, I enjoyed the revelry of celebrating a night out downtown with friends on Halloween, but while I went along for the fun, clubbing was never much my scene. However, none of this has prevented me from proclaiming Halloween as one of my favourite “holidays”, due solely to one reason: I absolutely LOVE dreaming up and making costumes.
For me, costumes are the best when they are home made. I love seeing people’s interpretations of their favourite characters. There is always something that tells you a little bit about their personality; even though they are dressing up as someone else, you’ve still got a little bit of them showing through, in an almost amplified way. Home made costumes are unique, and you can be pretty darned sure no one else is going to show up at a party dressed in the exact same “sexy _____ (insert random profession)” costume as you.
Pin-Up Girl “Chewy”
For Halloween 2015, a group of us bought tickets to a masquerade event at a fancy downtown hotel, where the dress code was listed as “sexy formal”. While we weren’t… erm…quite sure exactly what “sexy formal” meant or we wanted to dress up as, my boyfriend and I knew we wanted to do a couples costume. My boyfriend is a huge Star Wars fan, and so we tossed around the idea of him wearing a white modified tux with a R2D2 tshirt underneath alongside me dressed in a gold C3PO-esque dress, for a bit before realizing it would be pretty hard to find a white tux for cheap without really lucking out at a Value Village. Han Solo and Chewbacca came to mind next, but we weren’t quite sure how to make a large hairy Sasquatch-suit outfit acceptable in a “sexy formal” atmosphere. After a bit of brainstorming and day dreaming, I decided I would go all in, and sew a retro-insired Pin-Up style Chewbacca dress, complete with fur, the iconic bandolier sash, and a home-made bowcaster (aka space gun).
Now before you go thinking I know my Star Wars inside and out, I’ll stop you there and admit that while I had seen all the Star Wars movies when I was young, it wasn’t until I met my boyfriend that I even knew much about the them beyond basic plot and characters. However, you’ll be glad to hear that I have since had a pretty thorough education on the fundamentals of Star Wars – at least enough to arm me with basics needed to craft a Chewy costume! Although this post is technically a “DIY How-to” post, it does not include any patterns or direct walk throughs, and should be taken more as a “creation inspiration” for you to get ideas about how to create your own retro Chewy pin-up girl look!
To make the dress, I took a browse through the basic dress patterns at my favourite sewing store, and found a pattern for a dress with a strapless sweetheart neckline. I wasn’t paying too much attention to what the skirt of the dress pattern looked like because I knew I wanted something a lot more “full”than most of the patterns offered. I decided to use only the top of the pattern, and create my own circle skirt pattern for the bottom (more about circle skirts in a little bit!) So, armed with a pattern for a dress with a cute upper bodice portion, I picked out 2 types of furry fabric: a whole lot of lightly furry stretch fabric (about 2 mm thick) in a caramel colour, and smaller piece of super thick (about 2.5cm thick) and fuzzy faux “fur” in brown and black.
I wanted lighter, stretchy fabric without super long fur for the main part of the dress for 3 reasons, even though I knew it wouldn’t look as awesome as being covered in shaggy hair like the real Chewy. One, stretch fabric is suuuper forgiving if you’re not a pro-seamstress, as even if you make an error in measurement the garment still can stretch to your shape. Two, no zippers! Aaaand three: have you ever tried cutting and sewing fabric covered in super long shaggy hair? It’s a bit of a nightmare (think bits of fluff flying everywhere and hair getting stuck in seams).
I took the dress pattern I had bought, and cut out the portion of the pattern that encompassed the bodice portion only, with the bottom edge of the bodice falling justs below the length of my “natural” waist (aka the narrowest part of your torso). With the pattern, I laid out, cut, and sewed the bodice out of the “short haired” fabric, leaving the bottom edge of the bodice unhemmed. The pattern called for a zipper down the back of the bodice, but thanks to the stretchy fabric, I decided to forgo it to keep it simple.
For the skirt part of the dress, I drew up a quick circle skirt pattern on a piece of newspaper, with the waist part of the skirt narrow enough to sit at that same natural waist as the bottom of the bodice, and the hemline falling at just below my knees. If you’ve never made a circle skirt before (or if you’re not even sure what they are!) take a peek at this awesome DIY video by Dana on her blog “Made Everyday” – she does an amazing job explaining what they are and how to make them! Once I made the skirt (no hemming needed as the fabric tended not to unravel), I sewed the waist line of the skirt to the bottom of the bodice, taking the two pieces to one: the perfect pin-up dress!
*Note: I did end up attaching a strapless bra into the bodice (just with few quick stitches that would be easy to take out after) just to prevent any wardrobe malfunctions at inopportune times!*
To amp up the “hairy” factor of the dress, I cut out a rough heart shaped piece from the shaggy “long haired” fabric and used a few stitches to attach it to the front of the dress, along the bustline/neckline (can you call it a neckline if it starts just above your bust?).
To get the full-skirted, retro look I was after, I used a tutu from a previous costume to create a crinoline effect under the skirt, puffing it out 50’s style.
Technically, Chewbacca’s bandolier is a leather side bag with a strap that holds a number of little metal boxes (I guess for storing special Wooky treats? Bullets? I’m sorry for my ignorance, diehard Star Wars Fans!) For simplicity’s sake, I decided to make it as just a leather sash, and leave out the bag part. I used faux leather (or “vegan leather”, if we’re being fancy) and cut two long, arm-length rectangular pieces to create the sash, sewing the ends together so that I could drape it across my body, Miss Universe-style. For the little metallic boxes, I found little wooden blocks at the dollar store (about 1 x .5 x .5 inches in dimensions) and spray painted them with a silvery metallic spray paint. Once dried, I used a staple-gun to fasten the little metallic blocks to the sash, spacing them out by about an inch and putting the staples in from back side of the sash. I cut a long, 1cm wide strip of the faux leather, and again used double-sided scrapbooking adhesive (like double-sided tape, but stronger – I use this for EVERYTHING) to glue it down the middle of the front of the sash, running over top (and tightly around) each of the little metallic blocks.
Finally, I pushed brass paper fasteners from an office supply store (also called “brads” in scrapbooking circles) in between each of the metallic boxes on the sash to give a more industrial, military look (and also give a bit more security to the glued on metallic blocks on the sash). With all the little blocks, the sash does get quite heavy on one side, so I used safety pins to attach it to my dress when I was wearing it, so that it wouldn’t slide around.
Finally, the Bowcaster (aka Chewbacca’s crossbow-style space blaster/gun).
*Side note: I was pretty torn on whether I wanted to make this, because any Halloween costume that involves carrying around something that looks like a weapon makes me a little nervous (on account of the people around you being unsure if it is genuine, and potentially taking actions towards their “safety”). I purposely tried to ensure it looked very fake, getting a crappier spray paint by choice just because I thought it would be a bit safer (I know, lame, but these are the realities!) Please keep this in mind, dear readers, if you’re making this costume yourself – judge where you’ll be wearing it, and how realistic it looks, and please make a safe decision for yourself, as its always better to be safe than sorry (that’s, as my friends call it, the Mama Emma side of me coming out 🙂 ). *
To make the Bowcaster, which is a hybrid crossbow/gun, I bought a plastic toy gun and a plastic bow and arrow set at the dollar store, costing less than $3. I removed the string from the bow, and used a glue gun to attach the bow to the front of the toy gun. I spray painted 2 styrofoam balls in black paint, and pushed them onto each end of the bow, to create the ball-like pieces the Bowcaster has on each side. Finally, I gave the whole thing one last spray of black paint.
I won’t delve into the accessories too much, but since we were going to a masquerade, I used a bit of glue and a piece of the lighter faux fur to cover a dollar store face mask, creating a lovely furry facade for my face. I had an open toed pair of high heels I never wore that I glued a bit of the same fur to, which gave it a bit of a marabou heels look. I also found a pair of plastic vampire teeth at the dollar store, to give me some Chewbacca-style incisors, but admittedly I gave up on them pretty quickly (so uncomfortable!) Finally, before we went out for our night of masked fun, my awesome boyfriend took my liquid eyeliner and painstakingly outlined and coloured in a little black nose, completing my Wooky looky (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Chewbacca and Han Solo go together like peanut butter and jelly, and so while this post focuses on the pin-up style Chewbacca dress, I’ll throw in a couple notes about Han Solo’s costume. It was definitely the easier of the two costumes to create: my boyfriend wore his own white long-sleeved shirt, a pair of navy slacks, and his own motorcycle boots for the foundation of the outfit. We found a black jacket at the local thrift shop that had a similar neckline to Han Solo’s vest, and so we bought it and cut the sleeves off to make it into a vest. Finally, the most important part of Han’s costume (his leather gun holster and space blaster) was crafted similarly to Chewy’s bandolier and Bowcaster (aka out of faux leather, double sided adhesive, and a dollar store toy gun) BUT sadly… none of these accessories made it off of the dance floor that night! Which tells you we definitely had a good time, but that the accessories themselves probably should have been made of stronger stuff, and thus don’t warrant a walk through in this post! 🙂 Use your imagination – I’d love to see what you all come up with!
Thank you for reading all the way to the end! Let me know what you think in the comments below, and whether you would have done any of this differently (I’m always looking for ways to improve my DIY projects!) Have a wonderful Halloween, stay safe and as always, stay creative!
Xo Urbanista At Home