Friday, November 8, 2013

DIY Lightning McQueen Halloween Costume

When my little man asked me to make him a race car costume for this past Halloween, I was secretly thankful that he didn't request something that required sewing! It's like he somehow knew that this was not exactly one of my best strengths, and he instead chose to play to a particular skill that I possess: making cool stuff out of cardboard. More likely, it was just that he really wanted to be his favorite character, Lightning McQueen. My inspiration was the Lightning McQueen pinata that I had made for his third birthday party. Having already accomplished that, I was pretty sure I could pull this off. After many hours, I had created a costume that we were both pretty excited about (and it only cost me $3 for two cans of red spray paint)!

{The finished costume!}
  • cardboard box
  • pencil
  • scissors
  • masking tape
  • red spray paint
  • acrylic paint: black, white, red, orange, yellow, turquoise
  • paint brushes/paint trays (old Styrofoam trays)
  • black Sharpie marker
  • hot glue gun
  • wide red ribbon
  • craft knife
  • Mod Podge
  • computer/printer
  • scratch paper (optional)
  • tracing paper (optional)
  • clear spray shellac (optional)

Directions for Making a Car Costume:
  1. First I found a box that was in good condition and was large enough. A clerk at Meijer happily gave me this when I asked about boxes.
  2. Then, I removed all of the tape. I also took off the labels as best as I could.
  3. Next, I cut off two of the four flaps from the bottom of the box and set them aside. (This was so that he could easily fit his legs through the bottom, but it would still have some cardboard to give it structure.)
  4. I flattened the box and drew a car shape on one side like I had done when I made the Lightning McQueen pinata. Then, I cut around the lines, leaving the other sides of the box in tact. I used some scratch paper, traced the car shape, cut it out, and then used it for a template to draw the same same on the reverse side. I cut that out and then I had two sides of the car that matched up.
  5. After that, I measured my son to determine how big of a hole I would approximately need for the center. He's pretty thin, so I just ended up tracing around a big bowl and cutting out the circle from the top of the box.
  6. Next, I re-taped the bottom of the box, using many strips of masking tape along the seams. This made it easier to do the next step. To make the taping stage go more smoothly, I tore off many, many strips of tape and then draped them along the edges of my table before starting.
  7. To shape the car, I started with the back section of the body (the flat side that I had drawn on) and I bent the top panel of the box down (easily) to meet the side. Then, I taped it, first with many short pieces of tape going up and over, then with longer strips going lengthwise over the top. A way to describe this more visually would be that it resembles stitches. I did the same to the opposite side of the car.
    {Shaping the side}
  8. For the top of the car, I taped the flaps together around the cut-out circle, making adjustments with my scissors as needed. 
  9. Then, I reinforced all of the inside seams with tape "stitches" and added another layer of tape "stitches" to the outer seams.
  10. For the front end of the car, I cut about 3 inches off the flap (that would be the hood section), and this may have been slightly more than I needed to trim. Then, I folded it down to meet the top and sides and taped everything in place using my "stitches" method.
    {Shaping the front end}
  11. To make the tail fin, I flipped the box over and used the blade of my scissors to score the inside of the flap, about 2 1/2" inches in. I did this along the entire length of the flap and then flipped it right side up and easily pushed the section of the box down along the scored section, making a peak. Then, I just taped the rest of the rear end of the car in place, again using my "stitches" technique. (Note: This was the end of shaping the box into a car. I would have liked the front end to be more rounded to look more like Lightning McQueen, but given time constraints, I decided this was good enough. Plus, it was still reasonably sturdy and I didn't want to tamper with that aspect considering it would be worn several times by my 4-year-old and I needed it to hold up!)
    {Shaping the tail fin}
  12. I took the box car outside and spray painted it red. Once the first coat was dry, I applied a second coat. After that, I finished it with a third coat of spray paint. In all, this was more than one can, but less than two cans of paint. This was enough to get good coverage, hiding any writing on the box, and filling in all the taped areas which were initially much lighter than the cardboard. By this point, it was looking more like a race car, but it definitely needed some special details to be transformed into his favorite character!
Directions for Decorating the Costume:
  1. The front end: I traced a plastic bottle cap for the eyes and a button for the pupils. The rest of the eye area I drew freehand. I painted this with white acrylic paint and turquoise acrylic paint, and outlined it all with black Sharpie, including filling in the pupils. I drew the mouth freehand and painted it white and then outlined it with Sharpie. The Rust-eze logo on the "hood" is one I printed from the Internet and just sized the way I wanted in Microsoft Word. I applied it with a foam paintbrush and Mod Podge.
  2. The sides: I drew the side windows freehand and painted them gray by mixing black and white acrylic paints. Then, I went around the outsides with black Sharpie. The lightning bolt I also drew freehand, and then I used tracing paper to trace it and reverse it for the opposite side of the car, which was a big sanity and time saver! I painted these with a gradation of color from orange to yellow, with the two blended in the middle. Then I Mod Podged my number 95 "decals" on. Again, these were copied from the Internet and pasted in Microsoft Word, where I could size them the way I wanted. After applying the "decals," I outlined the lightning bolts with my black Sharpie.
  3. The tail fin: This Rust-eze logo was found online and printed off. I cut it out with scissors (and a craft knife for some of the smaller spots) and then decoupaged it on the front of the fin.
  4. The back end: Admittedly, by this point, I was getting worn out, so I simplified the tail end a bit. I included another Rust-eze logo like the one on the tail fin. Then, I drew "tail lights" and painted them orange and yellow, outlining them with my black Sharpie.
    {The rear view}
  5. The tires: Deciding it wasn't worth my time or energy to reinvent the wheel, I pulled the two rear wheels from this party game. For the front tires, I traced a pan or a bowl onto one of the flaps of cardboard that were left over from step 3 for shaping my box car. Whatever it was, I chose it because it was the largest round object in my kitchen that would fit onto that cardboard flap. After cutting out both circles, I painted them and added details just as I had done for the Pit Stop party game (and if you need directions, just click the link). I used my hot glue gun to adhere all four tires to the car.
  6. The straps: I used two lengths of 1 1/2" wired red ribbon that I had on hand. I had him wear the costume so I could tell wear to place the straps, and I made pencil marks where I would put holes. To make the holes, I used a craft knife to make a small "x" in each spot I had marked. Then, I pushed the ribbon through the tops of the holes and knotted on the underside. I used masking tape to hold the extra ribbon on the insides of the car, rather than cutting it, just in case I needed to adjust the lengths on Halloween night. (In Michigan, we never know if it will be 60 degrees or if they will be wearing snowsuits!)
  7. Finishing the costume: For good measure, I applied a coat of clear spray shellac. (Again, this was something I already had on hand.) It turned out that was a good precaution because it was a very, very rainy Halloween! Once he put the costume on, we realized it was hanging slightly funny, and we decided it was because the straps were spaced slightly too far apart for his narrow shoulders. (Remember, I had to make the opening kind of big in case he was going to wear five layers!) I fixed this problem by grabbing some red and white bakers twine and tying the twos straps together in the back. He was able to slip in on and off without adjusting anything, but it stayed in place well while he was wearing the costume.
{Don't they look so happy together?}

{Everyone agreed that this was a very cool costume!}

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