How (not to) Make a Carmen Miranda Hat/Costume Thing

So my sister has a Halloween party every year.  Every year there is a theme.  This year’s theme was “Hollywood is Dead.”  The dress code, as it were, was to dress as a dead celebrity.

I feel a lot of pressure at these things.  I still like to think of myself as a costumer, despite life’s recent attempts to strip me of that title, and I feel like there’s extra pressure on costumers around Halloween.  I was going to through together a Princess Leia costume.  (I’m glad I didn’t – there were two there, classic and Hoth editions, and I can’t top the sheer genius of using a white bath robe or of using legos to mimic the official left-breast military fal-der-ah.)

I got a last minute bug up my butt and went with Carmen Miranda, because I can make a fruit hat in minutes.  I have a great respect for Ms. Miranda – she thrived in a time where it was very difficult for women to do so, sure, but more importantly she was fearless when it came to hats.  That woman would put anything on her head!  (Seriously.  Go google it up.  This’ll still be here when you’re done.)

So I ventured out into the world, in search of fake fruit, a peasant blouse, and a long skirt.  Yes, fake fruit.  I can make a towering fruit hat in minutes with fake fruit.  The problem is, fake fruit is real expensive.  $6.99 a bunch for fake grapes at Michaels?  Um, no thank you.  $12.99 for a wee baggie of assorted fruit?  You know I can’t actually eat this, right?!

I tried Goodwill – two of them.  $1.99 for an anemic and aged bunch of fake grapes is better, but it was tacky.  (I don’t mean the taste level was low.  I mean it was that weird sticky that plastic gets after years in a kitchen.  Ewwww.). I tried a Dollar Tree.  No fruit; just holly and berries and glitter wasn’t really the look I was going for.

I tried a smaller local thrift.  No fruit.  Either everyone else did Carmen Miranda recently, or there’s been a terrible disruption in the fake fruit market.

I ended up at Jewel, buying real fruit.  This seriously altered my happy hot-glue plans.  Here’s how the whole thing shook out…

Sad silk blouse

This sad silken thing is the closest I could find to a peasant blouse. That color has to change!

Dylon packet

This dye claims it’s not so good for silk, but it is what I have on hand.

Vinegar bottle

Tip: Use vinegar instead of salt when dying proteins (silk, wool, your hairs).

The silk is considering taking the dye. The lining, not so much. I *could* care. I don’t, but I could.

Rinsed the shirt, went to bed.  The party is tomorrow night, and I need my beauty sleep (says the voice of procrastination).

Wake up, putter about a bit while drinking coffee, grab shirt and retire to my workroom.

Terribly dirty workroom

Oh. Oh, that. I’m going to have to clean a little before I can proceed.

Poor sewing machine, shoved to the side

Huh. Funny story: teaching fashion made me sew less.

I’m pretty sure that’s not what’s supposed to happen.  I get things all backwards and sideways sometimes.

52 minutes later….

less horrible workroom

That is much better!

Cleaner sewing desk

I might be able to use that sewing machine again now!

Top of work table

Ahhhhh….. My soul actually started to feel a little better when I saw the top of my work table again. It’s been too long, darlin’…

Shirt, now rose instead of icky ecru.

The dyed shirt – it’s a little blotchy. (Again, I *could* care. But that’s below the horizon, as it were, and I just don’t.). It doesn’t look terribly festive yet.

Magenta chiffon scarf

I picked up this bright chiffon scarf at the local thrift. If you have a thrift near you that gets a lot of Indian donations, you can find the world of shawls like this, in ALL of the colors. This one is relatively sedate – no embroidery or beadwork, but it’s 2’x3yards and hemmed, and that saves me time.

Ripped chiffon

Chiffon is one of those things you want to tear, because it will never cut straight. Make a snip to start, then let ‘er rip! Stop just before the end and snip again.

Where ruffle will be sewn

I’m planning to add a festive ruffle by sewing the strip of chiffon to the lower of two neckline flounces. I, like, gathered and used three pins. Apparently, at some point, I developed the ability to sew silk gauze without tragedy.

I know!  I was surprised too.

Shirt with ruffle

Now it’s a shirt, with another ruffle. Woot.

Small arm skirt

I’ve turned more of the shawl into little arm-skirt-thingsies. Ballerinas get things like this a lot, often with elastic on both sides. They look like the floats you put on kids so they don’t drown in a pool when you do that.

Skirt fabric and price

I picked up a lovely gold and pearl full length A-line skirt at the thrift with the Indian cast-offs. Line wise, it’s somewhat reminiscent of the skirts worn in “Boom Chica Chica Boom Chic.”

Skirt seam allowances

Fellow costumers: this is why you want Indian skirts for your olde-time costuming needs. There’s frequently a generous seam allowance from the hip to the waist. They’re designed to be let out by tailors.

I, um, really should have taken advantage of that.  I’ve gotten a bit fatter than I remember being!

Random objects

Things I bought that may or may not make it into the hat. (Except the adorable spider. That was for sister.)

Strange weird plastic ball

I found these at a dollar store. They’re flexible balls made of plastic gloobies all melted together. If you see them, buy a few. They are crafting gold.

So…..  I have basically no idea what I’m doing with this hat.  It’s gonna be heavy.  You can only find so much light produce.  I know how to build a stable, heavy hat if I can anchor around the skull.  I know how to build one if I can permanently embed it in a hairdo.  I can’t do either, because I won’t fit in my car.  (And I certainly don’t plan to stroll a couple towns over with a literal fruit basket on my head.)  So I said some choice bad words, and I went with the first thing that seemed plausible.

Spoiler alert: it was a horrible idea.  Don’t do like this.

A loop of elastic

This is my big plan: a loop of elastic.

There are hair types where this plan has at least the same odds as Frosty the Snowman’s winning a tennis match in the 9th circle of hell.  I don’t have that hair.  Despite my years, I have baby fine hair.  Complicating that, I recently switched conditioners and developed sleek, shiny baby fine hair.  For those of you who do not have baby-fine hair, let me assure you that basically no woman with it is going for “sleek.”  You know those no-slip headbands?  They slip, even without the new conditioner.  No-slip silicone hair ties?  Used to work, but not with this conditioner!  I think the secret ingredient is teflon.

With an absolute lack of concern for the obvious, I sallied forth.

Close up of elastic

I threaded the elastic through the basket. It stayed on the rigged-out styrofoam head!

Cutting weird ball-thing.

I cut the orange weird-plastic-gloober-ball in half(ish). Yes, I do wear protective gloves when cutting weird plasticy things with a slightly dull razor knife. I like my fingers. I don’t so much like pain.

Back ball location. I must never say that again....

My plan is to hot-glue (YES! FINALLY!) half the ball to the back of the basket to prevent it from drooping back, and half to the front for fruit securitization purposes.

Covering ball with tulle

While functional, the back ball isn’t so pretty. (Why does that sound so dirty? Like, Nat Geo gone sooooooo very wrong.) I’m making little fans out of tulle left over from a platter tutu.

Fruit and veg

The wet-ware – bananas, radishes, grapes, a precut fruit cup, and mustard greens (chosen for being the most vibrant of the seriously-ruffle leaf family).

Plastic fruit skewers

I got one of those fruit bouquets once. I saved the little extra-textured fruit spikes, because I thought I would use them someday and also I have problems. Obviously, I finally found a reason for why I needed them, but bamboo skewers might have done just as well.

Skewers in ball - yikes!

Stick skewers in the holes of the front ball. (Still doesn’t sound better, does it?). I say stick, but what I mean is “muscle in with pliers and much cursing.” I maybe should have done that BEFORE glueing the ball to the basket.

Hat of fruit

Add fruit. Two serious recommendations: 1) pre-pierce the fruit, and 2) don’t use a whole banana. Seriously. Normal bananas are not hat-size-friendly. If you must, take a note from the actual Carmen Miranda and use a bunch of mini-bananas.

Side of fruit hat

It’s … chic? Well, it’s visually rather balanced, if nothing else, and I could have hidden some serious metal bracing in there.

Right 3/4ths view

I was quite proud of the sultry hanging grapes. I should have sewn them in.

So I don’t have a picture that captures this, but here’s what happened

Mom called dinner.  (Quite nice of her, I feel.). Sister txted and needed green popcorn from Mariano’s.  I finished dinner, got dressed, cursed myself for not trying on the skirt in advance, put on far too much eye makeup, and went to Mariano’s.  They were out of green popcorn, but the incredibly nice fellow helping me asked if I needed the flavor (green apple, apparently) or the color.  When I said just the color, he freaking airbrushed popcorn for me!  I should wear strange clothes and too much eye makeup more often!

Got to the party, and assured doubtful observers that my costume would make more sense with a small amount of assembly.

Then I attempted to assemble myself, and I learned a thing.  I really doubt that Carmen Miranda had to put on her own hats.  The second I looked a billimeter forward, or attempted to get the elastic around my head, the gosh-darned grapes exploded out of the hat.  And that’s bad, because the grapes at the lower left of the hat-basket offset the weight of the banana agh the upper right.  No more grapes; hat slides backwards.  I gave up after the second batch of dead grapes and decided to just hold the bloody (juicy?) thing on my head

It was really more of a prop than a hat.

I am sooooooo out of practice!  Lol!  But I was the only “celebrity” at the party who died of natural causes, so that’s something, right?

I don’t know.  I do know that if you should decide to make a real-fruit-Carmen-Miranda-hat, you should a) mind your hair type, and b) bring hat pins to the party.  I think also I should have done a French braid from the nape of the neck up to the crown of the head and could the braid securely.  That would have given me a more stable base, even with my teflon-conditioned hairs.

I switched conditioner formulas the next day….

4 thoughts on “How (not to) Make a Carmen Miranda Hat/Costume Thing

  1. Anna-Carin says:

    Thanks for the laugh! I’d love to see the entire costume, if any of your friends got a photo.

    3 weeks ago | Reply

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