Who wouldn’t want to be as graceful as a beautiful mermaid or noble merman, living in an underwater wonderland? This play costume—a mermaid crown and wrist ribbons—is something you can create in stages, or do only the part you like best. Mermen might prefer just the crown, without the veil. The wrist ribbons encourage so much imaginative play for boys and girls alike. They can be water flowing while your merfolk swim. They can be magical water powers made visible.
Materials for Mermaid Crown
- a craft-foam visor
- jewels, beads, and/or small seashells (Tip: look for packages of jewels and rhinestones for decorating flip flop sandals! Craft stores have inexpensive kits.)
- low temperature glue gun and glue sticks
- ½ yard of veil fabric (tulle, netting, etc.)
- scissors, sewing pins, hand-sewing needle and thread
- sewing machine
- notions and ribbons
Materials for Mermaid Wrist Ribbons
- ¼ yard satin or acetate fabric
- ½ inch wide elastic
- notions and ribbons
Make Your Mermaid Crown
Begin by gathering your materials. You will need a clean, flat surface to work on. First, remove the elastic or plastic coil that is the back of your foam visor. You will put it back on later.
Now decide how you want your headdress to look. Will it have points like a queen’s crown? Will it be scalloped like a seashell? Turn your craft-foam visor over and sketch the shape you want. When you’re happy with what you see, cut your foam with scissors.
Now play with your notions and jewels, beads, and/or shells, placing them on the visor here and there, until you have an idea how you want them to be arranged. Take some time with this part because once you glue the items to your visor, it will be hard to remove them if you change your mind about their placement.
With your low-temp glue gun, glue on any trim (such as in this photo) and your decorations.
It’s a good idea to measure to find the visor’s center. Try to arrange your biggest, most impressive or most special decorative item in the very center.
Using your glue gun and the smallest drops of glue, begin by gluing the special center item. Other smaller jewels or seashells can then be glued on. If your design is symmetrical, do the same item on both sides before moving on to a different jewel. You’ll have to pull off the strings of glue that may result from gluing on the jewels.
Have you decided to make a veil for your mermaid crown? (If you’re making this for a boy to play a merman, you may wish to skip this part.) Take your veil material (tulle, netting, etc.) and fold it in half so that it has two layers. You might measure your child to decide how long you want the veil to be. I decided I wanted the top layer of the veil to be shorter than the bottom layer. (Depending on the fabric you chose, you may wish to hem the bottom edges of your veil.) Pin the layers in place and then sew a seam about 1 inch from the top fold. This creates a tube through which you can pull the visor’s back elastic or plastic coil.
Measure the visor on the head of your child, and shorten the elastic or plastic coil accordingly, so that it fits. (The coil on my visor is visible in the photo above.) You might wish to glue this part onto the visor so that it’s permanently attached. This spot, where the crown attaches to the back can be decorated with another jewel if you wish (see below at the child’s temple).
If you have ribbons or notions for decoration or long mermaid locks, fold them in half and with a needle and thread, sew them on to the corner of your veil, where the elastic attaches to the visor, so that they are firmly attached and can trail either in front of the shoulder or behind like hair. Keep in mind the age of the child who will wear this costume. The more decorations you add, the harder it will be for the child to put the crown on herself. (I ended up not using several items that are in the photo at the beginning of the tutorial.)
Congratulations! You’ve made a beautiful headdress for a lucky mermaid, or a handsome crown for a merman.
Sew Your Mermaid Wrist Ribbons
Wrist ribbons are a huge part of dress-up play in our home. You might be surprised at how well your child takes to these simple accessories. There is a bit of sewing involved, but it’s pretty easy.
The first step is to measure your child’s wrist using the elastic. You want the elastic band to be snug enough not to fall off the wrist, but not too snug as to feel tight. You also want to have about a 1 inch overlap, so that you can sew the elastic securely closed.
Now that you know how long it needs to be, cut two pieces of elastic that length. Lay out your covering fabric (satin or acetate). You could be very careful and measure this, but you don’t really need to do so. The object is to cut two strips of fabric so that they are twice as long as your elastic pieces and about 2 ½ inches wide. Turn in ¼ inch on both sides of your fabric strip and the ends and iron it flat. Sew the flat rectangle’s ends together to make a ring. Now fold your wide ring in half to make a long skinny ring with the right side of the fabric out. Make sure the width of your skinny ring will accommodate your elastic, but don’t actually put the elastic into the ring yet.
Top sew along the very edge of the long skinny ring to make a skinny tube. Don’t sew the ring completely closed. Leave an opening of a few inches so that you can insert your elastic.
With a safety pin on one end of the elastic, insert your elastic into your skinny tube of fabric. Bunch up the tube and join the ends of your elastic together with the appropriate overlap. Sew the elastic ring securely with a good zigzag stitch. You don’t want the elastic ring to pull apart when the child is putting the band around his or her wrist. At this point you have what looks like a hair scrunchie with a small opening in the side.
Gather up your ribbons that will be trailing and, with a few stitches, tack them all together at one end. I used the same notions as on the mermaid headdress, but you can use any ribbon. Consider painting some white satin ribbon with watercolors to create a watery effect.
Now, insert the tacked end of your trailing ribbons into the hole of your ring and pin them in place.
By hand, with needle and thread, sew the ribbons in place to the elastic and sew the satin ring closed around them. I simply whip-stitched the opening closed and sewed the ribbons in firmly.
Repeat all the steps so that you have two wrist ribbons.
If the ends of your ribbons want to fray, you can sometimes use a match and carefully melt the fibers at the ribbon ends to seal them. I suggest you first test this out on a ribbon scrap before you try to melt the ends of your finished wrist ribbons. You don’t want to harm your creation.
Now all you need to complete your mermaid or merman costume is a play silk tied around the child’s waist for a tail!
You might be surprised at how your child uses these costume pieces. Perhaps the headdress or crown and the wrist ribbons you make will be used all together, or in different ways at different times. In this final photo, you can see that my son and his friend felt like using some of them at that moment, and found plenty of extra accessories (sword, goggles, pan pipes, cape) to transform themselves into a happy merfolk couple!