Of all of the halloween costumes I have made over the years I am most proud of this one. As a matter of fact, I may wear it myself this year! Owen's obsession with Harry Potter began last year and that combined with his fascination with birds led him to want to be an owl.
I too share a love of birds so it was a fun one to think about. I started with this sketch, and while it helped me figure out a general plan I ended up constructing it differently once I had the material in front of me. I bought a yard each of white and pale grey felt and a yard of muslin at our local craft store...their website is limited but if you call the owner can help you if you want to order supplies. I also bought some really amazing feathers in the garment district that were all sewn onto a trim. This year I found a similar white feather trim here. If you are in NYC and can go in to the store I would recommend it, but if that is not possible they will do mail order. When I talked to the sales people they said you may need to send a photo for them to match so I have included a close up of the collar I made below.
The yard of muslin became the base of the costume, and because I always end up leaving things to the last minute and am short on time I did the least possible to it. I folded the muslin, corner to corner, to form a triangle and cut a neck hole in the center, forming a very basic poncho.
At first I had been imagining wings that spanned Owen's back and then some sort of breast plate or bib for the front. Once I decided to cut the muslin into a poncho that made the whole thing one piece, and actually a lot simpler to make.
I made a template from a manila folder and cut feather strips from both colors of felt. Then I sewed them in alternating rows down the front and back of the poncho. In order to cover the entire muslin I needed to space out the rows considerably...this also helped prevent the costume from getting too heavy and hot. The feathers for the front and back came to a bit of a point in the center. For the wing feathers I cut the strips similarly, but eliminated the tapering shape, opting to keep them uniform length instead. (see photos above)
Once all the felt feathers were cut I divided them up to be sure that I had enough for both wings. With open spacing I managed to cover the entire muslin, placing the wing feathers perpendicular to the chest feathers (photo above left). The opening for the head was not beautiful using this technique but luckily I had found that feather trim and had not used it yet. I sewed a piece of felt over the poky ends and added ribbon so we could tie the collar on like a necklace. It covered the top opening beautifully and added a lot of drama to the costume.
You can see in the photo (above right) that the muslin points extend beyond the wing feathers. I cut a slit in the fabric just under the feathers for Owen to poke his hands through--this helped keep the wings centered over his arms. I also sewed seams down the front on either side of the chest feathers from the bottom up, leaving a generous amount of room at the top so it would fit around the armpits. This helped keep the poncho from rotating around his body. Just be sure there is plenty of room in the costume to get in and out easily.
For the face mask I just bought a plain white mask and Owen and I glued feathers and a felt beak to it. Worn over his eyes, or on top of his head, it added the perfect finish.