The Official 2014 Post-Halloween Sewing Report

sew your own Willy Wonka costumes

October 31 was a wet, blustery night in Chicago. After standing in vain at a freezing wind tunnel of a bus stop for 15 minutes, I gave up and set out walking toward my destination. Traffic’s always rough, but it seemed to be particularly awful that night. It turns out cars were gridlocked on north/south streets because Lake Michigan was throwing up 20-foot waves directly onto Lake Shore Drive, effectively shutting down that thoroughfare. Guess it’s not Halloween without some real-life terrors.

I realized too late that I’d created my own personal Halloween sewing nightmare. As I mentioned in my plans post, my intention was to make Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp Willy Wonka coats and hats for my boyfriend and myself, respectively. Don’t get me wrong, this shit all got done, but not without some moderate freakouts along the way. Somehow I thought that making two jackets and matching hats from scratch would be totally manageable if I chipped away at them each day. I failed to recognize that sewing items I’m not familiar with (jackets, nay, MENSWEAR jackets, and hats) would involve some practice and probably many, many mistakes along the way.

Purple Willy Wonka Coat

Even with a muslin, the first jacket I made (the bright purple one), was a bit of a doozy. I decided against lining the jackets since I wanted to minimize spending and “uneccessary” steps for coats that we’d probably only wear one or two nights. I finally wrapped my head around how to attach the collar and facing without a lining, but then came the sleeves. I didn’t adjust the ease enough the first time I basted them in, and they were a complete disaster. They kind of looked like this. I ripped those sucker out, adjusted the ease a bit more, and Frankensteined them into place. They’re still not perfect, but at least they didn’t make Marc and me immediately burst into laughter just looking at them.

Thankfully, the Gene Wilder jacket and hat came together before our first costume party, held the week before Halloween. I abandoned hope of getting my Wonka getup finished by then, but the makeshift Golden Ticket costume seemed to go over pretty well. Thank god for Blick Art Materials’ golden poster paper and stencils!

wonka and the golden ticket

That next week, I focused on completing the red jacket. Since I’d already hashed out some issues with construction on the first jacket, this piece came together much more easily. The lapel and collar sit flatter, and the sleeves fit nicely after the first try. It was strange wearing a coat tailored for a man, but I cut out a small (instead of the medium I cut for Marc), and that seemed to balance out a little of the bulk. I didn’t have to worry about length for once—the sleeves and waist were pretty much spot on.

Red Willy Wonka Jacket

It’s got pockets, too! The flaps wouldn’t lie flat because I couldn’t iron them (hot irons+corduroy=burning plastic smell), but it was nice to have a place to stash candy, gloves, and cans of cider.


I could go on about these jackets, but I’m kind of sick of them at this point. McCall’s M7003 served its purpose, but I’ll be happy if I can avoid men’s outerwear or red or purple corduroy for the foreseeable future. Come to think of it, I’d like to add camel and black felt to that list, too.

felt top hats

These unfortunate “top hats” were nearly the death of me. Marc’s was way too small and ended up cutting off circulation to his head. My black hat fared a little better, but neither really looked like an actual top hat. And the camel one definitely looks like something an 8-year-old Indiana Jones might wear. As far as construction goes, I pulled from a medley of confusing WikiHow articles and online tutorials, opting to use sew-in interfacing for the brim and flue of the hat. I wish I’d had more time to make a prototype to figure out how to keep the top of the hat from collapsing into the flue. Millinery is tricky, y’alls! That said, the felt and ribbon came out to roughly $12 overall for both hats, and that’s way cheaper than most decent-looking hats I came across online.

We also made canes by attaching cabinet pulls to stained dowel rods. Thanks, Home Depot! And thanks especially for not giving us a breathalyzer before we used a saw to cut the dowels to our preferred size…

Despite the sewing hangups and imperfections, I’m happy with how our costumes turned out. I’m also happy that I discovered how fabulous dancing is with a cane. Try it! Now that Halloween’s over, it’s time to move on to the greener pastures of soft knits, patterned cottons, and trying to figure out what the hell I’m going to make for xmas gifts this year. Do you have any giftable sewing plans?

4 thoughts on “The Official 2014 Post-Halloween Sewing Report

  1. That’s amazing! When I asked Marc if you went crazy doing this (being a sewer and crafts person myself), he was very casual about it (I think he said, “not really.” LOL! How about the apple brandy?


    • Haha! He was probably just trying not to embarrass me, since I’m pretty sure he told me to calm down roughly 100 times. And the apple brandy is so tasty! Very sweet, but it’s good mixed with bourbon. I’m hoping to do a post about that soon. I think I might come down to Louisville for Thanksgiving, and I’ll definitely bring some along.


  2. Hello, this post was very helpful, I have been thinking of making this! What is the sizing like? Is looks quite small (I’m very small) What level sewer would you say this is for? And would you say this could be used as an everyday coat?
    Thanks in advance, it would be helpful if you’d help me out! It’s hard to find articles on patterns!
    Thanks again 😁


    • Hi there! The sizing is pretty standard for a men’s jacket. For reference, my fiancé (purple coat; size medium) is 6’2″ and on the narrower side, and I’m 6’0 and on the broader side for a woman (red coat; size small; I normally wear a US women’s size 8). I think this could be an everyday coat if that’s your style! Though I think I sewed the shoulder seams a bit flatter than they appear to be in the images, just an FYI. As for a sewing level, I’d say this is of average difficulty, meaning that you should have some experience sewing garments before tackling this. There are lots of pattern pieces to keep track of and a few mildly difficult elements: notched collar, flaps, pockets, back vent, etc. Hope that helps!


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