Sunday, October 22, 2023

DIY Halloween Costume: Rhythm Nation

I love Halloween, always have, always will.

I remember the cheap plastic costumes we had as kids, not just the mask was plastic, but the costume itself was also plastic, I still remember sweating buckets walking around trick or treating.

And when we had no money for those costumes, we (or our parents) made them, a.k.a. DIY (do it yourself).

Pillowcase or old sheet ghost, fortune teller with mom’s scarves and hoop earrings, or a cat face drawn on with black eyeliner, after I blew a whopper of a bubble gum bubble through said cheap plastic cat mask mouth opening one year, making the mask totally unusable.

That love of DIYing a great costume has never left me, which is why I am so grateful for the monthly LIPEDEMA PATIENT ROUNDTABLES, where we log onto zoom in costume every October.

This year’s costume was inspired after a Peloton Artist Series ride featuring none other than THE Janet Jackson (highly recommend this ride from 9/28/23 with trainer Emma Lovewell).

Growing up I wanted so bad to be one of Janet’s RHYTHM NATION backup dancers, practicing alongside the video whenever it came on MTV. Well this year, that dream (somewhat) came true.

Here is how it was done for around $80, and several hours (and it could be made for a lot less, depending on what you find in your closet and/or around the house)…

  • Baseball hat embroidered with the 1814 emblem - from Rockatee here for $24.99.
  • Black mock neck tunic - I lucked out and found one on clearance at Torrid for $15.94.
  • Black leather dog leash from Amazon for $9.90 - old handbag straps or ribbon would work.
  • Stainless steel chain from Amazon for $3.99 - I should have looked in my jewelry box.
  • Metal buckles for $8.99 - could have repurposed but was happy to find a pack of 5 under $10.
  • Leather gloves for $11.99 - I need new gloves this winter, so went with ones I would wear after.
  • Small sheet of metal for $6.47 - swapped out for cardboard.
  • Hoop earring and old silver work key I already owned - no cost.
  • Art supplies I already owned - no cost.


The metal I tried cutting into the 1814 emblem did not work. It was really hard to cut with my husband’s tin shears, and the cut edges were way too sharp. This is when I repurposed the cardboard from a small box that had come in the mail. Not only did I use it to create the 1814 emblem on my chest, but also the “riveted” pieces on my gloves (the rivets were painted hot glue dots in each corner).

Instead of sewing the buckles on the tunic, to more resemble Janet’s jacket, I added them to the right side chest embellishments - on zoom you wouldn’t have seen them if I sewed them on the sides of the tunic, so I modified the look, and really like how it came out. The piece was heavy with the metal buckles, so I attached the leather straps to the shoulder seam of the tunic, and in the back. I did the same for the 1814 chest emblem, as instead of cutting the silver chain, I left it intact and just taped it to the back, which added weight to that side as well. The stitching in both places held up during the zoom call. But if I wear this out on Halloween, I’ll tack it down even more.

These buckles and 1814 embellishments could also be added to any black top, jacket, dress, etc. that you already own, to save some money. I really liked the tunic and planned to remove the embellishments and then wear it after, so I was fine with buying it, and it was on clearance. The leather straps might be harder to source around the house, I was initially going to see if I had a broken handbag I could repurpose the straps from, but I think even black ribbon or marker could be used.

The baseball cap I really love and plan on wearing that outside of the costume, too. But you could make a second 1814 embellishment and attach to any black baseball cap you own to save even more money.

Initially I was trying to find the iconic key earring, and they do still make them, but they were $50+, so I just used a small silver key on one of my silver hoop earrings and it worked great. I thought if the key opening doesn’t fit the hoop, I could just wire wrap it, but the opening worked on the earring no problem.

It would be fun to try making this costume with only supplies on hand, like we did as a kid.

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