Happy Halloween! Halloween isn't a celebration that goes down smoothly in Australia. It's really controversial here, because people feel like it's really American, commercial, and not held in the right season. Some religiously inclined people also think it's a little satanic (that's not me). I have recently come to love Halloween, thanks to brilliant, intelligent people, whose company I get to enjoy each year. It was for a Halloween party with them that I made this costume. It's not my usual weekly outfit, but I hope you like it!
Each year the Halloween party I go to has a theme. This year's theme was classic literature. After some debate and a last minute change of mind, my partner and I decided to go as Around the World in 80 Days. He would go as Phileas Fogg, and I would go as the balloon. I began researching the costume, and we hit our first snag: there is no balloon in the book. The balloon was added in to film, and to this day features on covers of the book, but it was never a part of the plot. It's probably that the balloon was inspired by another Jules Verne book, called Five Weeks in a Balloon. We decided to take our inspiration from the film, which depicted the balloon as red and white with blue ribbons around the base. I also looked up loads of vintage balloon pictures for inspiration. The next challenge was how to approach making it!
I thought about this for about a week before actually putting it into action. I wanted the balloon to go from my head, to below my hands when standing straight. If I made a paper mache balloon, this size would make it too big to fit through a door, or to fit into a car for transport. Here I took inspiration from my time volunteering at the nearby museum Sovereign Hill, where I had the chance to dress in 1850s clothes including hoop skirts. The skirts were flexible so could be easily stored and move through small spaces. That was the first hurdle overcome. I looked up some tutorials for how to make a hoop skirt for ideas.
Next, I needed to figure out how to actually make a round balloon. I couldn't just cut out two circles and sew them together. So I refreshed in my high school geometry and figured out the circumference of a 1m sphere. I then broke it up into portions of 8 (more would be a huge load to sew), and it had to be an even number in order to have the colours alternate properly. Once I got the height and width of each panel, I drew it onto cardboard and using a piece of string made a perfect arc from the widest point to the highest point. I cut out the template, and marked on it increments where I would sew in the hoop slips. I used the template to cut out all the pieces of fabric. The next step was to sew it together!
Once I got all the panels sewn together I had to stitch on the slips for the hoop material to go into. I needed a stiff material so I used TV cable (it was really cheap), and where that wasn't strong enough I supported it with coat hanger wire. Once I had the structure of the balloon, I needed to decorate it.
I painted alternating panels red with water based craft paint, then after that dried I painted on the gold net. Next I cut up some pretty blue velvet and used a hot glue gun to attach it to the material. Beneath each gathering of velvet I made small holes for the gold rope to go through and attached each strand to a basket. If I was doing it better, I would have put real eyelets in to stop the material from tearing.
Finally I got a cheap basket from a department store and cut the bottom out of it. Then using the scraps of calico from the balloon and some twine, I attached little sandbags to polish the look.
To answer your obvious questions...
No I can't see out of it.
It rests happily on the top of my head. The spinning image at the top of the post is me looking from side to side.
It gets really hot in there.
If I wanted eye holes, I would have also attached big fake clouds to the outside using toy stuffing, having one cloud cover an eye hole. An eye hole would have had to be large because the balloon sits out from the body quite far.
I think bunting would have also been spectacular, but I couldn't be bothered at the end (I had all the bunting cut out and ready to sew).
The party was brilliant. We had literary quizzes all night, talked about interesting intellectual things and enjoyed the company of inquisitive minds. It was a room full of some of my favourite people.
I also wore a ballet leotard with stockings and flats, because a skirt showed too much. Then when I got out of the costume at the party, I just slipped my favourite skirt on and was stylishly dressed. With some small structural alterations, this could make a magical hanging cat basket or toy basket for a child's room. Let me know if you have any questions about making it. I would be happy to help you figure out putting one together for yourself.
Previously I have been anti-Halloween. That's because it's an autumn/seasonal festival which Australian's celebrate in Spring. What has changed my perception on this is the great party I get to go to, good company, and seeing some beautiful community interaction. I love it when people get excited about kids trick or treating. It's cool seeing people who live near each other and might never talk to one another, prepare for a really fun interaction. Strangers that might not usually acknowledge each other have a great platform to open up a pleasant conversation. My grandfather loves it because he gets to meet people and make some kids happy. It can be a really lonely existence for some people and that little interaction can make their day.
I also love the exploration of darker subject. Looking at death, fear, things that scare us and the cycle of life is part of understanding life in it's complete form. Knowing the role that death has in rebirth is important, and knowing that life has an end is an important perspective to have. Also seeing people devise scary costumes is a really interesting way of exploring 'the other', which looks at things outside the self. It's often things with this 'otherness' that scare us: people of different cultures; social practices we are unfamiliar with; creatures that function in a way alien to us; identities outside of our cultural understanding. I feel that putting a face to those strange things enables understanding of fear, reduces the feeling of 'otherness' and opens a door to tolerance and understanding. After all, understanding what we fear is a great part of understanding who we are.