To make an inexpensive child’s mermaid costume, you will need one yard of sequined or shimmery fabric for the main body of the mermaid. Look for something that is blue, aqua, or green in color with a shiny, wet look to it, or that is similar to fish scales. The fabric may be somewhat expensive, but for a child of three to eight years old, one yard is all you need (look for a remnant). Be sure to purchase thread to match. Remnants can be used to construct optional matching half-sleeves as well.
You will also need:
Fabric remnant, shell-colored for seashell bodice (white or off-white)
Thread to match
1 1/3 yards stiff netting or tulle for the tail (color to contrast with main body fabric)
Thread to match
18 to 24 inches Velcro (depending upon the height of child)
Batting or polyester fill, small bag or leftovers from a previous project
For warm climate or indoor wear, you will also need:
1 yard ribbon, ½ inch wide (to match color of main body fabric)
¼ inch elastic, remnant, or about 18 inches
For cold climate or outdoor wear, you will need instead of a long-sleeve t-shirt that matches the child’s skin tone.
Wrap the main fabric piece loosely around the child so that it overlaps 1 ½ inch in the back and extends from the armpits to the knees or mid-calf. Mark and cut off the excess. Save remnants for sleeves. Turn under the top edge and each back edges ¼ inch, press, and stitch. Cut a Velcro strip to measure from the top of the back opening to approximately the mid to lower thigh, leaving the bottom open so the child can walk easily. Attach the Velcro to the back opening of the costume, gathering the fabric up slightly into the stitching as you go. This will create a softer shape so that the body of the costume is not so tube-like.
For the tail, cut the tulle or netting into three strips, each measuring 12 inches by four feet (48 inches). Layer all three strips and stitch together along one edge using a wide basting stitch. Sew another row of basting 1/8 inch from the first row. Lay the costume flat on the work surface, right side up. Gather the tail loosely and evenly along the two rows of basting, so that the length of the gathered edge becomes equal to the length of the bottom edge of the costume.
Lay the tail on top of the flat costume body, with the gathered edge down along the bottom edge of the body, pin. For a more “tail-like” effect, the gathered tail edge may be curved slightly up each side of the back opening as you approach the ends so that the tail ends protrude partially from the slit at the back. After the tail is pinned to the main body, stitch and turn.
To create the seashell bodice, make a seashell-shaped pattern on paper first. Draw a shape similar to a heart, approximately five to six inches across at its widest point. Instead of two arches at the top (like a heart) draw four smaller ones to create a slightly scalloped edge. For the bottom of the seashell, draw a separate pattern that looks like the lower half of a triangle (as though it has been cut across the middle lengthwise).
This should measure five or six inches across (same width as the scallop pattern) at its widest point. Cut out four of each pattern piece from the remnant white or off-white fabric to create two sets of each shape. Place each matching set right sides together and stitch, using a 3/8-inch seam allowance, leaving an opening for turning. Clip all corners and curves, and turn. Lightly fill each shape with batting and slipstitch closed.
With a needle and thread, shape scallops using a quilting or simple in-and-out stitch to create a fanlike seashell texture, allowing the batting to shape each section. Place a half-triangle, wide edge down, on the work surface. Place a completed scallop shell over it, pointed end down, and centered so that the tip is level with the bottom edge of the underlying section. Hand-stitch sections together, repeat with the other set. Hand-stitch the bottom of each completed seashell to the costume along the upper front to create the bodice. Be sure the seashells are positioned so that the center of the costume front is exactly between them.
The optional “sleeves” are similar to long gloves minus the hands. For sleeves, measure the length of arms from just above elbows to wrists. Measure around the child’s arm at the elbow and add six inches. Cut two sections of remnant fabric, using these two measurements as the length and the width. At the elbow and wrist edges, turn under ¼ inch and stitch. Drape one sleeve, centered, over the extended child’s arm and pin the fabric together loosely just below the arm, forming a tube. Leave three inches hanging at the pins from each side. Remove the sleeve. Mark the other sleeve using the first as a guide, and sew both sleeves along with the pinned markings. Cut wide scallops along the bottom edges of the hanging fabric. Leave as is or finish the scalloped edges with a zigzag stitch.
For warm weather or indoor wear: Put the costume on the child and pin a length of ribbon to the top (back) of one seashell, and around the neck to the other seashell. Tack. Sew a length of elastic around the inside of the top edge of each sleeve (above the elbow). Make sure it is comfortable but tight enough to keep the sleeve from slipping down.
For colder weather or for outdoor wear: Cut the t-shirt open, up the center back. Turn press edges under ¼ inch and stitch. Cut a length of Velcro measuring from the t-shirt neck to just between the shoulder blades and attach to the t-shirt the same as a costume (do not gather). Put a t-shirt on the child and close back Velcro opening. Put the costume on a child over a t-shirt and adjust all to fit. Pin seashell bodice to the t-shirt. Pinback of the costume to t-shirt at the opening. Put half-sleeves on the child over long t-shirt sleeves and adjust.
Pin costume sleeves to t-shirt sleeves. Carefully remove the costume, tack bodice shells to a t-shirt, and costume sleeves to t-shirt sleeves. Sew a row of stitching along Velcro from below neck of the t-shirt to costume, and continue sewing through all layers to the bottom of the t-shirt. Repeat on the other side. For cold weather, a child may wear tights that match skin tone under the costume. Complete the mermaid costume with a bejeweled tiara, seashell necklace, and possibly a pair of fish, starfish, or seashell-shaped earrings.Pin costume sleeves to t-shirt sleeves