Before he adopted a more casual look, Elton John had an affinity for jeweled jumpsuits, flamboyant feathered frocks and outrageous costumes. My 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Lena, likes to watch the Muppet Show on DVD. Her favorite episode features Elton John as the Muppets special guest (1978). She sings along with the songs he performs on the show and for months has been asking to be “Elton John with feathers” for Halloween.
Halloween is a big deal at our house. We love to make our own costumes and have often used your site for inspiration and design tips. We also miss the days of Elton John’s head-turning wardrobe, so we thought why not travel the path of the unknown! We decided to take the plunge, designing and making an “Elton John with feathers” costume for Lena, as well as a piano for Dad to wear.
I had some idea of how to put the feathered costume together, but wasn’t quite sure what would work, so my “Elton” costume creation began with a trip to the craft store. I purchased feathers, feather boas, feathers with adhesive trim, jewels and fabric embellishing adhesive.
I created the hood from a free pattern on the Simplicity website, making some modifications so it would resemble the one Elton wore for the “Crocodile Rock” number during his Muppet show appearance. One of those modifications included reducing the amount of fabric that makes up the front of the hood. I didn’t want the hood to cover her face, nor did I want to have to pull it over her head, so I cut down the front of the hood to two strips of fabric. I then added Velcro so I the hood could be easily fastened under my daughter’s chin.
After constructing the hood, I used Aleene’s”Jewel-It” fabric embellishing adhesive to attach 6mm plastic rhinestones around the trim, then added 8mm and 20mm rhinestones in a pattern over the rest of the hood. It took several sessions of glueing/drying to cover the entire hood. I put crumpled up newspaper inside the hood to mimic the shape of my daughter’s head and to soak up the adhesive that soaked through the material. I also put newspaper down on our table for easy clean up. Toothpicks were also helpful when placing the smaller rhinestones around the trim of the hood.
The Feathered Suit
Before putting a single feather on the suit, I had to figure out how to support the plume of feathers that blossom up from the back of Elton’s costume. After a lot of thought, I decided to try thick cotton batting. I cut a large square, then cut the top into arch. I tacked the batting to the back of the shirt by sewing it at the four corners, about an inch from the edge of the batting. The batting would then be hidden by the feathers once I had them attached to the shirt.
At first I thought I would use feather trim with an adhesive backing to create the feathered suit. This proved to be a poor thought for a couple reasons: the adhesive was not strong enough to adhere to the long sleeve shirt and yoga pants I used for the base of the costume and the feathers were so thin that they didn’t give the full, fluffy appearance like the costume Elton wore on the show.
I ended up taking feather boas and cutting them down to the length that I needed. At first I cut one long strip to go all the way around the shirt, stitching it to the shirt in 4-6 places. I started with the collar of the shirt, then worked my way down. Before I got too far along with the project, I thought it would be a good idea to try it on my daughter to see how it looked. Thank goodness I did that, as I had cut the boas to small, and my stitches had taken any give/flexibility of out of the shirt making it hard to get over her head and even more difficult to get her arm up through the shirt to reach the arm holes.
After my error, I decided to use separate pieces of boa for the front and back of the costume so it would have some flexibility. I also cut them a little longer than necessary, leaving some slack between the spots where I stitched the boa to the shirt. I followed the same process for the pants, which worked out great!
After watching the “Crocodile Rock” number from the Muppet Show several times and using pictures of Elton’s original costume that I found on the internet, I discovered that Elton was wearing some sort of gold armored plate over his chest. While I couldn’t find the exact same pattern, I did find a plastic armored plate for a dollar at Dollar tree. It had an elastic band which you were to put over your head so your neck would support the armor. Since the elastic band was too long for my toddler, I ended up cutting the elastic band off the plastic armor, leaving a couple of inches on each side. Using the elastic, I stitched the “armor” to the shirt.
While Elton wore some very hip white, jeweled glasses with rose colored lenses and a pair of silver platform shoes, we opted for a pair of kid’s sunglasses and some shiny silver boots (no heel to provide comfort and ease of walking for my little one) from Wal-Mart.
Believe me, there a right way, and a wrong way when it comes to putting this outfit on your kid. With my toddler dressed in an undershirt, underwear (I would also suggest a pair of shorts, if possible) and socks, I carefully helped her put the feathered pants on, followed by her shoes, the feathered shirt with armor, sunglasses, jeweled hood, and last, but not least, the feather plume. Remember the piece of cotton batting I sewed to the back of the shirt? Now finding the top of the batting, I inserted several long fluffy, bright colored feathers, as well as peacock feathers and pheasant feathers (all synthetic, purchased from the craft store) into the batting.
It took me about 15 hours to create this costume. Though I had purchased most of the materials to make it a month prior to Halloween, I procrastinated and put it all together in the 3 days prior to Halloween. Don’t do that.
If you live in a warm climate, this costume may not be the most comfortable. If the weather turns cold by Halloween, this is the perfect costume. The shirt, pants and feather boas provide nice insulation for a cool autumn night. The hood also provides warmth and covers the ears. The sunglasses do make it a bit difficult to see, so plan accordingly and be prepared to assist the wearer.
My daughter loved wearing this costume so much, that she didn’t even complain when one of the feather quills was scratching her leg. If she would ever wear this costume again, I would put a pair of shorts underneath the pants for added comfort.
Be prepared to vacuum! Construction of this costume is a little messy, as cutting the boas causes the feathers to become loose. Also be aware that as the night wears on, this costume will shed feathers like crazy. I think my Mother-In-Law is still vacuuming up feathers from our visit.
I was worried the rhinestones would fall off the hood as we planned to wear the costume two nights and figured we’d be taking the hood on/off several times. I was really impressed with the strength of the “Jewel-It” fabric Embellishing adhesive, as we only lost two rhinestones through two evenings of wear and taking it off/putting it on her head countless times.
My husband wanted to get in on the fun, so he constructed a piano out of foam and cardboard. He hand drew a baby grand piano on mattress foam and cut it out (one piece for the front, one piece for the back of the costume). The sides of the piano were made from thicker, more ridged foam, which he cut to fit the width of his body. He then hand stitched the foams together using upholstery thread. He reinforced the top of the piano (which was on his back) with wooden dows and duct tape. For the keyboard, my husband used a large piece of cardboard which he ran through the sheet metal brake in our shop. (You can do the same thing at home by scoring the cardboard; it just takes a little longer). After making the proper creases, he painted the cardboard white. He then marked the keys with a pen and made the black keys by using electrical tape. (If you don’t have a piano, the internet provides several keyboard photos which you can use as a guide). The cardboard keyboard was bolted to the foam with lag bolts. We then cut holes in the front of the costume for his arms.
As you’ll see from the photos, the piano was designed so that my daughter could “play” it when my husband got down on all fours, or bent over. He was able to put it on/take it off like a jacket. I stitched two large buttons on each side of the opening on the front of the piano and we used a long piece of string, wrapped around each button to hold the front of the costumed closed.
Fine Tuning The Piano
The piano costume was a bit cumbersome, and at one point, my husband nearly knocked our daughter over when he went to turn around and didn’t realize she was behind him. Our closure design didn’t work the best, as half-way through the night, the foam ripped where I had sewed on one of the buttons.
I had also envisioned so much more when it came to the piano. I had purchased battery operated lights so we could spell out “Elton” on the sides of the piano. I thought this would also help people identify my daughter’s costume. Unfortunately we were under the gun and had to forgo any decorations on the piano.
My husband also wanted to paint the piano white, which I advised against. I learned from previous experience making costumes out of foam, that foam soaks up a lot of paint, takes forever to dry, and some foam doesn’t react well to paint.
Our Halloween Night
Our mini Elton had a blast tickling the ivories, singing “Crocodile Rock” and entertaining parents and trick-or-treaters that stopped by my husband’s business on Halloween night.
I revived my old Kermit the Frog costume from several years ago so I could introduce “Elton”, just as Kermit did on the Muppet Show, as we entered some of the stops along our evening of Trick-or-Treating.
While we had a memorable Halloween watching our kiddo channel her inner Elton, we weren’t surprised that most people under the age of 40 had no idea what her costume was supposed to be. Those who did recognize Elton, or after we told them who she was, just loved her costume. She posed for several photos and got lots of laughs throughout the night. My personal Facebook page has been crazy with comments including “Best. Costume. Ever.“, “This is the bomb!“, “My hands-down FAVORITE costume” and “THAT is awesome! Great parenting!“. We even had a few “shares” of her costume and the video of her singing “Crocodile Rock” has had a few views on YouTube.
We had a VERY memorable evening of family fun; Lena got her wish to be “Elton John with feathers” and ended the night on an amazing sugar high!
Thank you for this site and a chance to show off our creations!