Hallowe’en is just around the corner, a lot of you may have children who want to be a superhero. In our household it is a very popular choice ~ every year! Moms out there who have experience with what I call the “Cape Conundrum” can probably attest to what I am about to say. Capes are a miserable accessory! There are some that velcro on to shoulders, the velcro is always cheap and never holds up. Then you end up using a safety pin to attach the cape. After a few flights around the living room, the (not so) safety pin opens up and stabs little Batman (or woman)..hang on, since I am working on my Bachelor of Human Resources let’s not be gender biased; instead we will say “Batperson”. Anyways, the pin stabs little Batperson in the shoulder and so you see the predicament. The other kind of cape attaches around the neck, does anyone else see a potential complication with this? Or maybe I am the only mom who is extremely paranoid about possible choking hazards (I am probably a little overly crazy when it comes to this topic, but we had a certain incident with a marshmallow that, no doubt, shaved at least ten years off of my life expectancy).
So back to the “Cape Conundrum”. I was recently designing a custom Supergirl costume for a customer when I had my “ah-hah!” moment. What if, instead of having a separate cape, I designed the dress so that I could sew the edges of the cape right into the shoulder seams of the bodice? Yes! That would solve a lot of headaches. If you are making a costume from scratch, this will work well for you. You can really create a cape to go with any dress or costume and just sew it into the shoulder seams. This may not be a revolutionary idea, it’s quite possible that moms have been doing this for years, but it’s a new idea for me! If you have bought a superhero costume, you could still do this. Grab a stitch ripper, open up those shoulder seams, and stitch that bad boy cape right in there. I don’t have a pre-made costume to demonstrate this idea, but I will show you some pictures of my dress construction so that you can see how I did it with a simple dress pattern (the best patterns to use this idea with are ones that close at the back, either with buttons or a zipper).
First you need to make sure that you construct a cape that will fit with your dress or costume pattern. To do this, I folded my piece of fabric in half and pinned my back bodice pattern piece to it (on the fold). Next I cut along the neckline and the shoulder, and then I cut downwards from the shoulder in a diagonal line. I made the cape the same length as the dress was going to be.
The cape has to be able to fit over your child’s head, since you can’t open the cape once it is permanently sewed in to the costume. A good way to figure this out the size to make your cape opening is to measure the neckline on your front bodice from shoulder to shoulder. Next measure the head opening part in your cape (see the arrows in the picture where it says “opening large enough for head). Take these two measurements and add them together. You need to have a number that is at least the circumference of your child’s head, plus a couple of inches for seam allowance. As you can see below, I cut down from the shoulder of the cape. Your opening does not have to be the same shape as mine, I cut mine in a way that matched my dress pattern, but it should be square rather than round because you will need to use a zig-zag stitch to finish the edge of the fabric, and then fold over that edge and stitch it so that you do not have a raw fabric edge on your cape.
The shoulder seams of your cape need to be about 1/2″ shorter across than the shoulder seams of your main costume pattern. This is because when you are sewing it together, you do not want your cape to get caught in other seams – especially if you plan to add sleeves! Make sure you hem all of the edges of your cape that are raw, so that should be the edges around the neckline, down each side, and across the bottom of the cape. I just sewed a zig-zag stitch around all of these edges, folded them over 1/4″ to the wrong side, and stitched them down. Now your cape is ready to go, you may want to add a nice applique to the back or something to jazz it up a little.
With your dress/costume pattern, I am assuming you have a front bodice and a back bodice. When you are ready to put your shoulder seams together, take your front bodice and lay it right side up. Next take your cape and place it right side down, on top of the bodice. Line up one of the shoulder seams. If you have a tricky type of fabric that slips and slides around (like satin) you can baste the shoulder seam of the cape to the shoulder seam of the front bodice before proceeding to the next step. Take your back bodice and lay it right side down. Line up the shoulder seams and pin them together. Sew all three layers together and then finish the seam with a zig zag stitch. Finish stitching together your bodice as you normally would. You probably need to have a bit of sewing know-how in order to modify your pattern and make this work.
Now you have a superhero who is ready to fly!