There's a Garden Gnome Hiding in Halloween

I've been waiting to make this costume since my little one was born--that's three Halloweens! When I was pregnant, I saw garden gnomes in a children's costume catalog that showed up in our mailbox and I knew I had to make this costume when he was old enough. The first year he was just a few days old and we skipped Halloween altogether. Then last year I realized he was too small to tolerate the gnome hat so I made him a cloud costume instead. But this year... I was committed.

I've worked on a handful of professional performances over the years. My titles have ranged from costume designer, to set designer, to wardrobe supervisor, to props designer, to costume designer's assistant. I'm not a lifelong theater designer but I do love collaborating with them every chance I can. While there's definitely a difference to detailed studio work and meant-to-be-seen-from-a-distance theatrical work, I must say that I've learned so much about costumes and installations from working with the performance pros. They know how to economize. And they know how to prioritize only the most important details. These are big lessons to learn.

The biggest thing I learned in working with costume designers? If you can buy it then you don't need to make it! But if you can't buy it, you can't find it, or you know you can make one that's better than what you can buy--then you should totally make it yourself. That's definitely been my approach to working as a designer with any performance--make it if you must but assemble it if you can manage. And, of course, thrift stores and Craigslist are your very best friends.

So I stayed true to my own rules on this Halloween costume. I fell in love with the idea of a toddler's garden gnome costume and started scouring the internet for images of gnome statues. I decided on the essential costume elements and then went through my little one's existing wardrobe. I found the pants, the shirt, and then decided we needed the new boots. I sketched the basics of the hat, beard, and suspenders and then made the pattern up as I went along. I purchased 1/2 yard of red wool felt, 1/3 yard of red cotton for the hat lining, and 1/2 yard of white cotton flannel.

The hat was the trickiest part as I kept making it too small for his round head. I also lined the hat with red cotton so the wool wouldn't irritate his soft skin. But the bag was certainly the most fun to make. The stem is stuffed and then sewn shut into the bottom of the red top--so his candy just fills up the red top of the bag and the bottom stem keeps its stuffed shape. The suspenders are stitched into the top of his pants so I didn't have to bother with buttons.

If I had several spare hours on my hands I might just make toddler bags in the shapes of various vegetation--a carrot might be next or maybe a bonsai tree. But for now, I'm pretty happy I finished just one toddler bag and I'll leave it at that.

I'm so excited to take the little one Trick-or-Treating in his new garb. He had to be convinced to say "Trick or Treat" at the neighborhood Halloween parade on Sunday, so I'm curious to see how he'll react when we gather with a few other kids to go door-to-door on Halloween. Although, of course, this year I think his place is truly in the garden.

Happy Halloween!



  1. Anonymous11/01/2013

    Max is just the sweetest little garden gnome ever...!!!!!

    1. thank you! it was SO much fun making this costume. i can hardly wait until next Halloween.

  2. Yay gnome boy! You're the cutest. xoxo

    1. hooray! it was such a fun year for trick-or-treating. i'm considering dressing him like a garden gnome on a weekly basis. okay, okay. i'll resist the urge. happy belated halloween.


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