home Tips and Tricks How to Make Your Store-Bought Costume Look Fab

How to Make Your Store-Bought Costume Look Fab

If you buy your costumes from a store, online or otherwise, most of them will come in a roughly 13-inch x 15-inch clear plastic bag that looks something like this:

costume in plastic package

The manufacturers fold everything neatly, but all the same, things get a little squished by the time they cram a costume and all its parts into one of these bags.The costume that looks so cool on the paper insert, or the photo online, might look a little crumpled and sad when you first take it out of the bag. You might feel a wave of disappointment instead of the excitement you wanted to feel. You can’t leave the house in that wrinkled mess, right?

Wrinkled poodle screen print.
Wrinkled poodle screen print.

The good news is, there are a LOT of easy ways to make that costume (and you, in it) look just as awesome as you expected … or even better!

Today, I decided to try out all the methods we could think of to get the wrinkles out AND add some bonus pizzazz to a store-bought costume. My willing victim assistant is this Pink 50’s Sweetheart Costume that my 5-year-old daughter needs for school.

Step One:

Take the costume out of the bag. I don’t mean take it out, have a quick look, try it on, and shove it back in there until the day of your event. Take out all the pieces and lay them out. Give each piece of clothing a good shake and whap them against something, like you’re shaking wrinkles out of a shirt when you take it out of the dryer.lay out the costume parts

Then hang the costume up on a hanger. Sometimes the best (and easiest) help for a costume is just to hang it up outside its bag for a few days to let the wrinkles and crinkles relax. (Store the accessories in the original plastic bag and hang it on the hanger with the costume, so they don’t get lost.)

Bonus: If you let the costume hang out in the bathroom while you shower, you’ll get some extra wrinkle-releasing power from all that steam.

hang up in bathroom to steam
Shower power!
Try 5 minutes on low heat first.
Try 5 minutes on low heat first.

Step Two: 

What if you don’t have a few days to wait? Never fear! Try throwing the costume in the dryer on low heat with a damp dish cloth to get some steam action going. (No fuzzy towels, though, or you might end up with lint all over your new costume.)

Check the washing instructions on the costume, and also just use your best judgment. The washing instructions on costumes are notoriously cautious – NEVER WASH THIS OR IT WILL EXPLODE (well, not quite THAT cautious), but if it’s made out of polyester and doesn’t have a lot of elaborate trims, it can usually handle gentle washing and low-heat drying.

Start with low heat, and if the costume is handling it well, you can cautiously try higher heat and slightly longer times. For me, doing this for five minutes on low heat had very little effect. I was impatient and moved straight on to Step Three instead of trying higher heats or more time.

Step Three: 

If your costume still looks like a crinkled paper sack, it’s time to progress to the ironing board. Some fabrics shouldn’t be ironed – or have to be ironed with special techniques – anything fuzzy like velour, velvet, plush or corduroy. Most polyesters, though, take to ironing just fine, if you use caution.

Iron over a press cloth.
Protect your costume with a press cloth.

First, spread out a thin cloth over your costume. There are press cloths designed specifically for ironing, but I use a thin white dish towel. It’s thin enough that you can see through it a bit and see what you’re doing.

I tried this with both a dry and a damp cloth, and the damp cloth worked much better and faster.

Set your iron on the lowest heat setting. Before trying a higher heat setting, try the damp cloth – it really helps get the wrinkles out without risking more heat.

Be careful to avoid any parts made out of plastic, because an iron can melt those!

Put a press cloth over screen-printed designs, or iron from the back of the cloth.
Put a press cloth over screen-printed designs, or iron from the back of the cloth.

This costume had sequin trim and a screen-printed poodle on the dress. I didn’t want to melt off poor Fifi, so I placed a press cloth between the dog and my iron, and used the lowest heat setting. For a potentially sticky thing like a vinyl screen print, you don’t want to do a lot of rubbing back and forth with the iron – it’s better to press down gently, then lift and move the iron and press down again. Another good option is to flip the design over and iron the back side of it, so the skirt fabric itself is between your iron and the design.

I did the same trick with the black vinyl belt that comes with the costume. It came creased from being folded and compressed in the bag. The front side is vinyl and shouldn’t be ironed without a press cloth, but the back is lined with soft fabric, so I flipped the belt over and ironed the back (carefully avoiding the plastic buckle), and it came out looking great.

Flip over vinyl belts to the back side before ironing.
Flip over vinyl belts to the back side before ironing.


Step Four: Iron down collar and add finishing details. 

One area that often comes out of the bag looking a little funny is the collar. In this case, the Peter Pan collar on the dress was slightly curled up. I ironed it down flat, carefully avoiding the plastic buttons down the front of the bodice.

This costume also comes with an alphabet of iron-on white felt letters in fancy cursive. I got impatient with attempting to iron on the letter, because it wasn’t sticking as fast as I wanted it to, so I quickly stitched it on the chest with a needle and some white thread.

The costume looked so cute and retro with the letter! See how darling it looks now?

The finished dress, after ironing and letter added.
The finished dress, after ironing and letter added.

Step Five: Up the cute quotient with retro accessories.

To make this costume even cuter, we added some pink rhinestone cat eye glasses, kids’ poodle socks, and a black and white polka dot headband from our shop.

Ruby wore her own white mary jane shoes because we realized at the last minute that she’d outgrown her saddle shoes. We added a white cardigan from her closet to make the outfit appropriate for a cool day and still sweetly 1950s. We also substituted a black skirt with a ruffled hem under the dress instead of the included petticoat because she is sensitive to scratchiness and would be sitting in the outfit a lot at school.

She looked perfect for her ’50s days at school and got lots of compliments on her nifty outfit!

My daughter practicing her "twist."
My daughter practicing her “twist.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *