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He wants to be a what!?!

thimbles1260 | Posted in General Discussion on

I seem to have a very creative grandson.  Last year for halloween he wanted to be Santa Claus!  This year…..oh, my!…..He wants to be The Polar Express!  Not the conductor, mind you.  “The real train, Grandma.”  He’s four years old and about 43 inches tall.  I’m thinking I may need to strap a box to him.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  I haven’t found any patterns that even come close!


  1. ValerieJ | | #1

    My nephew went as a race car driver one year, and my brother made a cardboard race car that I think they strapped over his shoulders. I'd definitely do a cardboard box. He could be in the cab as the engineer. You'd need it to be pretty light, though, because most of the train would be in front of him.

    The only other thing I can think of is a wire frame with fabric sewn over it - maybe those fabric tubes you can crawl through would be some inspiration. Cardboard would be safer, though.

    Good luck with this one!


    1. zizi | | #2

      That's really great! I love it that you're grandson has these wild ideas. My nephew is 4 and wears a superhero costume nearly every day. Usually they are based on comic book characters and he cobbles together the outfits himself, but I've also made a superhero cape for him. Lots of times he likes to dress up as the Green Lantern, Batman, etc.I was going to suggest that you use fun foam for some of the train costume. It would work really well for the smokestack section and you wouldn't need something to support it from the inside. You can sew it or even staple it. It's less than 1/4" thick and you can buy large pieces of the fun foam in the kids art section at a store like Target (as well as little tiny cut out shapes) and it comes in lots of colors. It's sort of stiff, but not as stiff as cardboard. I've used the fun foam for making tricorn hats, epaullettes, collars, toques, and stiff max-headroom-type suit jackets. The material is lighter and breaths more than cardboard does. And it's treated with some sort of flame-retardant spray I assume because it's marketed as a childrens craft product.

      1. mimi | | #3

        I love the idea of using foam for the train!  It would make movement, and turning around especially, very easy for him.


      2. thimbles1260 | | #4

        The fun foam sounds interesting.  Would you sew it or glue it?  I saw a Thomas The Train costume that I tried to talk him into.  It was a commercial costume and they had used the box idea but made it with fun foam.  I wonder where a person might purchse it by the yard.

        1. zizi | | #5

          I've found pieces of the fun foam in 11 x 17" sheets but I haven't found it by the yard. Also, I've never tried glue, choosing instead to either staple it with a regular office stapler or to sew it with my machine. I also haven't tried snaps or brads.An internet search showed some very detailed foam armor tutorials. Hmm. They talk about heating fun foam to make it curl and then using a combination of Future No-Wax Acrylic floor polish and something called Rub'n'Buff, "a wax finish that is usually found by the gold leafing paint, etc, in the craft store". Sounds toxic. But maybe you should check it out?There is some type of packing foam that could be effective too. At some point I requested a catalog from a company called Uline that sells packing materials by the roll, but then you are talking about huge amounts that are expensive, and it's not intended for children, so who knows about lead content.

          1. thimbles1260 | | #6

            Hi zizi,

            It seems like 11x17 sheets should work.  Now to see if I can find them in gray, black and/or blue.  This will definitely be a challenge!  I do have access to an opaque projector at work, so possibly I could copy some pictures from the Polar Express book to help with patterning.  Is that infringing on copyright if I'm making a costume...one of a kind?  Hmmmmm.  I suppose that will be the next thing.  You'd think they would be honored to help out this poor grandma, wouldn't you?  LOL

  2. jeannearis | | #7

    One year my nephew wanted to go as the Invisible Man. Yeah, right. I cried for days. Then I realized that we could do the empty suit thing with the support for the shoulders on top of his head and then a hat and sunglasses supported over that. Luckily, he changed his mind before I spend the hours and hours necessary. I still would like to try it sometime!

    And this year: He wants to go as a chef! Easy and fun to do.

    1. thimbles1260 | | #9

      Kids!  They get you every time, don't they!  LOL

  3. Teaf5 | | #8

    A four-year-old is likely to change his mind several times between now and Halloween, but I'd caution against making any costume for anyone out of cardboard.  It's stiff, flammable, and awful to wear for more than 5 minutes (been there, done that!) 

     By mid-October, if he still wants to be the train, you might want to ask him to draw a picture of what he has in mind; you might find that you need only to make a cylindrical piece with a felt cow-catcher attached to the belly of a sweatshirt plus some kind of hat that keeps his face & eyes clear; that is, just a suggestion of the best parts of the train. 

    Among my favorite materials for way-out costumes are polyester double knit, fleece, and 1" upholstery foam rubber, all of which can be painted with bright acrylic craft paints and still be fairly comfortable.  Young children rarely stay in full costume very long, and they really need to be safe.  Sometimes, a really good hat or prop is enough to let them make believe they look like a train!

    1. thimbles1260 | | #10

      Your points are excellent and well taken!  With this particualr kid though, I think I'll go ahead while I have the time.  My experience is that once he has an idea, he pretty much sticks to it.  I love your idea of using the foam and painting it!  That would be much easier to locate.  As you say, safety is an issue although his parents are always close at hand on Halloween night.  He'll be visiting today, so I'll have a chance to question him  a bit more about what he has in mind.

      1. MaryinColorado | | #11

        Last year my twelve year old grand daughter decided to be "GOTHIC" for Halloween.   After all the years of asking for darling girly feminine dainty dresses and ballerina or fairy type costumes, she wanted to create her own.  GOTH  The entire family was  kind of horrified at first.....GOTH?  Like a vampire or punk or rapper or what?!!!  What does that mean, we wondered.

        Our imaginations ran wild with what she would look like and if this strange idea would go beyond the Halloween festivities...silly grown ups....!  Luckily we held our tongues and asked her to show us what she had in mind....

        Her long blonde hair was sprayed with black hair spray....but also PINK streaks.  She had the black lipstickand nail polish,  but long pink sparkly fake eyelashes too. Black jeans,top, boots, hat,  and her mom's leather jacket.   Interesting and inventive, kind of chic teen rather than our feared "freaky and wild".  She still looked like herself under the makeup, but something was different...was that our little girl? 

         The "costume" she created for herself allowed her to express herself in a very personal way.  It also opened our eyes to the blossoming teenager inside.  That day was a turning point for all of us.   

        The day after Halloween, the gothling turned into a lovely young swan...

        sew corney


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