Parrot costume

The theme for my work Christmas party this year was jungle.  Excited by the possibilities this opened for costumes, we started brainstorming and searching the internet. We stumbled across a photo of someone dressed in feathers and decided a parrot costume would be fun. Searching for parrot costumes we found quite a selection of outfits, but decided on this one from Make It & Love It. It turned out to be a good choice being easy to move around in, a good conversation piece and lots of fun on the dance floor!

Crystal’s instructions are great so you should check out her blog post for the full details, but we were making our costumes for adults so I wanted to share some measurements and templates here that might be useful if you’re creating a larger costume. I’d suggest you read Crystal’s post, then come back here to read my comments on measuring and planning your wings, then go back to Crystal’s instructions for the actual construction of the wings.

Measurements

For an adult size bird, we scaled the feathers up to 18cm long and 7.5 cm wide. You can quite easily draw your own feather free hand, or you can download the template I created here.

Your feathers don’t need to be perfect. Remember that the top half of each feather will be covered by the layer above, so you only need one good end on each feather.

We weren’t very efficient when purchasing material, and have lots leftover. Before going to the shops, my recommendation is:

  1. Work out your wing dimensions (measure from your shoulder blade down to your wrist, then measure from the top of your shoulder to just above your waist)
  2. Draw out the wing on a piece of paper
  3. Cut out enough paper feathers to cover the wing – actually place them out to get a feel for how they will overlap and get a reasonably accurate feather count
  4. Count up the wings, then use this to estimate how much fabric you’ll need (don’t forget to factor in two wings and a tail)

You’ll see our colour patterns further down in this post, but in total we used 164 feathers per bird.

Layout paper feathers to determine how much fabric you will need

Work in a production line

Having a large number of paper feathers is also useful when cutting out the feathers.  Rather than doing one feather at a time, it’s more efficient to break the process down into a production line:

  1. Cut the felt into rectangles large enough for a feather (cut out all your rectangles up front)
  2. Pin a paper template to each rectangle (the paper templates you used to estimate your fabric have multiple uses!)
  3. Cut out all the feathers
  4. Start arranging on your wings and sewing them together
Cut out rectangles for all your feathers
Pin the paper template to all the rectangles
Cut!

Colour patterns

Since there were two of us in the same costume, we wanted to mix it up and have two different colour patterns.  We selected colours to mirror the scarlet macaw and blue and gold macaw.

Check out the images below for how we arranged the colours (click the thumbnails for a larger version).

As a general guide, we had 5 rows with an extra strip of feathers on top to cover the final row of stitching.  These photos were taken when we were doing the initial layouts, and the actual number of feathers ended up being slightly higher. Our arm / wing length was 77cm and it was 55cm high.  Starting from the bottom / longest row, our feather count was:

  • Row 1: 15 feathers
  • Row 2: 14 feathers
  • Row 3: 12 feathers
  • Row 4: 11 feathers
  • Row 5: 9 feathers
  • Top layer: 3 feathers

We sewed each layer of feathers, including the very top layer.  The only exception was the top most feather which we stuck down with a hot glue gun.  This was necessary to hide the stitching of the feathers underneath.

Bringing it all together

Crystal used the elastic straps to hold the costume together, but we decided to do things slightly differently.  The elastic is essential to make sure the wings move with your arms, but we found the weight of the wing was too great to sit comfortably on our arms so we stitched them to the shoulders of a tshirt. The tshirt helped to take some of the weight and hold the costume together. We also used safety pins to attach the tail directly to the tshirt. We did this after all the feathers had been sewn on to the wings and tail, but before gluing on the final top feathers to cover the stitching.

Putting on the outfit was super easy then – we just slipped the tshirt over our heads and poked our arms through the elastic straps.

The wings and tail were attached to a matching tshirt

Hair products

We weren’t keen on wearing masks all night because they get in the way of eating and drinking, and often get quite hot. So we opted for face paint and hairspray!

Check out the products we used below.  The Taft Super Glued hair gel was really strong and held well all night. The Colour Addict hair chalk spray was also really good at colouring our hair, particularly Ron’s black hair. These both came from Priceline, but you can no doubt find them at lots of other stores which stock hair products. We used BodyArt face paint from Dean’s Art. I’d highly recommend it – it was easy to apply, dried quickly and didn’t smudge or wrinkle during the night. We were really glad we went with this option over a mask.

Our selection of hair products and face paint

All in all, it was a very successful costume! Thanks to Crystal for the original instructions. If you’re making this costume for yourself, hopefully this post has also been useful to get an idea of measurements for an adult size and provided some hints and tips to get the most out of it. If you’ve created your own, it’d be great to hear your thoughts in the comments or a link to a photo of you wearing it!

The finished product!
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