Lots of things make up a good children’s costume. In this blog I’m going to summarise what these are from my experience. I’ll expand on the individual points in future blogs.
Another World Costumes is all about creating beautiful, versatile and play-worthy costumes which children can use for their own imagination, ideas and stories.
The idea came about when one of my children’s reception teachers asked if anybody would be able to make some superhero capes for use in imaginative play sessions.
I found it fascinating discussing with teachers what they wanted from the capes and how these would help the children in the sessions.
This whet my appetite to continue. Over the following year we discussed themes, topics and books, as well as costume practicalities and what made a good children’s costume.
After each discussion, I’d design and make sample costumes incorporating these ideas. I developed and tested these before arriving at my final designs.
The key qualities for my costumes were:
Adaptable and open ended: I wanted to create versatile costumes which adapted to different stories.
Traditional Stories and their human and animal characters are the inspiration for my first collection, as these are some of the first we learn at home and school.
For me, imaginative play is a time for children to explore and express themselves freely, discover, empathise and work out their own ideas and stories. Costumes should facilitate not restrict this.
The capes are reversible which creates more character possibilities. For example, the hooded cape is red one side and black on the other. Little Red Riding Hood one day and perhaps a witch the next day!
I purposely design my costumes without a particular character in mind. This enables children to take ownership and create their own personalities and emotions for their human or animal characters. I avoided teeth for the bear, wolf and fox, for example, so they weren’t just thought of as a scary character!
Visually appealing: Children need to be drawn to the costumes!
One of my design inspirations is naïve art. I love its simplicity, directness, bold colours and outlines. These qualities are perfect when designing for children.
I use bright colours and strong shapes to make the designs eye catching, as well as appliquéd shapes and trimmings to add interesting details and colour.
When researching the designs for my animal characters, I wanted to find achieve a balance of simplicity and realism.
I simplified colourings and markings but made features such as eye shape as accurate and detailed as I could. I felt this was a good way of capturing the essence of the animal.
Well made: I observed children using the costumes during their imaginative play sessions. Afterwards, I assessed how the costumes stood up to the children putting them through their paces. I clearly needed to use robust fabrics and trimmings!
I remember designing a crown. By the end of the play session, it was in a sorry state. It looked like a teething puppy had got hold of it!!
I soon realised that to make a good children’s costume, I needed to think carefully about the kind of trimmings and sewing techniques I used. I ensured that I stitched everything down several times and top stitched around edges!
Easy to self dress and practical to play in: Children develop fine (small muscle movements such as fingers) and gross motor skills (large muscle movements such as legs) during imaginative play. A good children’s costume should enable them to do so.
When putting on the costumes, children use fine motor skills to adjust the clothes as well as work out the fastenings.
I designed my costumes to encourage self dressing. The costumes fit over clothing and fasten with Velcro.
Costumes should be play-worthy, practical to play in. They should allow children to run around, jump, hop, climb, skip and twirl, when they are working out their character’s movements.
Comfortable to wear: I’ve chosen fabrics which are soft to touch. All the costumes are lined, for comfort and durability.
The hoods are gently elasticated to ensure a comfortable fit when worn. The lining covers the elastic at the back which means it isn’t scratchy and will last longer.
Easy to store and washable: My costumes are easy to store either on a hanger or folded flat when not in use. Perfect when space and storage can be limited either at school or home.
The costumes are washable at 30⁰C.
CE marking: The Toy Safety Directorate sets out the essential legal safety requirements with which toys need to comply.
I’ll write about CE marking in detail in the next few weeks as it’s a blog on its own. In short, there are 3 parts to this testing.
The first part checks the safety of the costume’s design.
Part 2 concerns flammability and involves measuring the rate at which the costume burns.
The third and final part checks that there are no harmful chemical present in the toy, for example, chemicals present in fabric dyes.