How to Make a Tin Man Costume

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This adorable Tin Man costume from the Wizard of Oz requires minimal sewing. Vinyl fabric gives it a stiff, tin-like appearance. You can custom make it to fit anyone, and there's even an option to create a skirt for a "Tin Woman" version, too.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Thick vinyl fabric, 1 1/2 to 2 yards (any color)
  • Straight pins
  • Pen
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Nylon thread 
  • Hand-sewing needle 
  • 3 to 4 hex nuts, 1/2 inch
  • Industrial strength glue or epoxy
  • Pair of sweatpants or jeans
  • 2-inch hook-and-loop fastener, 5 inches
  • Funnel, 2-quart
  • Stretch cord or elastic
  • Hot glue gun
  • White or grey long-sleeved shirt
  • White or grey leggings
  • Newspaper or kraft paper 
  • Scrap cardboard
  • All-purpose metallic chrome spray paint, 2 cans 
  • 2 wire hangers
  • Red felt, at least 3 by 4 inches
  • Silver face makeup 
  • Toy axe
(Image: Jessica Begum)

Tip

    • When choosing vinyl fabric, choose heavy-duty vinyl that feels stiff, like a sheet of plastic. You'll end up spray painting the costume silver, so any color of vinyl will work. 
    • The spray painting process of this costume requires several days of drying time. Plan accordingly.

Make the Vinyl Shirt

Step 1: Measure the Shirt Size

First, measure the back of the costume-wearer, shoulder to shoulder. Then measure from the shoulder down to just below the waist.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 2: Fold and Cut the Vinyl

Fold the sheet of vinyl fabric in half. With the fold at the top, measure out a rectangle to match the width and length measurements you just took. Use straight pins to hold the two layers together and then cut out the rectangle, leaving the fold at the top intact.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 3: Draw and Cut a Neck Hole

On the fold, mark 3 inches in from each side (or the custom length from shoulder to neck) and then draw a semicircle between the marks. Cut this semicircle out. Remove the pins and open the vinyl up to reveal a neck hole in the middle.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 4: Trace and Cut a Vinyl Circle

Use this neck hole to trace a circle onto a new piece of vinyl. Then, cut out the circle 1 inch larger than the circle mark.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 5: Fold and Cut the Circle

Fold the circle in half with the right side facing out and pin it together, like a taco. Use a pen to mark an arc from point to point across the center. Cut out along this dotted line. You'll yield two separate banana-shaped pieces of vinyl, which you will use to make the collar.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 6: Pin the Collar in the Neck Hole

Open the vinyl rectangle so the right side is facing out, and mark the center front of the neck hole. Pin the point of the first collar piece at the center mark, inside the neck hole with the arc facing up. The right side of the vinyl should be facing out. Continue pinning the vinyl in place around the neck hole. Then, pin the other collar piece in place on the other side.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 7: Add a Patch to the Collar

Make a vinyl patch to bridge the gap in the back of the collar. Measure and cut a vinyl strip 2 1/4 by 8 inches long. Pin it at the back of the collar just under the lip of the neck hole and also to the edges of the two collar pieces. Trim any excess height so the top of it is flush with the two collar pieces.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 8: Sew the Collar

Fit your sewing machine with nylon thread and a zigzag stitch. Sew the collar pieces in place. When you are finished sewing the collar, it should stand upright on its own.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Tip

  • Sewing vinyl takes some getting used to. Don't worry if the stitches don't look uniform. You will end up spraying the costume with paint to hide any imperfections in the stitch.

Step 9: Add a Bow Tie to the Collar

Start by cutting out a 1 1/2-by-4-inch piece of vinyl. Then notch the top and bottom to make a bow shape. Use the sewing machine to attach it just below the center of the collar with a small horizontal straight stitch in the center of the bow. Then pinch the bow together and use a needle and thread to hand-sew the pinch in place.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 10: Sew the Sides of the Shirt

Measure the recipient from the top of the shoulder to the base of the armpit and mark it on both sides of the shirt at the arm holes. Use a zigzag stitch to sew up both sides, leaving the arm holes open. There is no need to overlap the vinyl in the machine; just put the two sides together and use a zigzag stitch to join. This will also help round the sides of the torso so they don't stick out.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 11: Cut a Slit in the Back

Turn the vinyl shirt over and cut a slit up the middle of the back from the base to where the collar begins. This will make it easy to take on and off.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 12: Add Buttons in the Front

Flip the vinyl shirt over and apply three or four "buttons" using 1/2-inch hex nuts. Glue them in place in the center with industrial-strength glue or epoxy. Allow adequate drying time.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Make the Vinyl Pants

Step 1: Mark the Knees

Begin by marking an "X" on the knees of the jeans or sweatpants. For an accurate fit, it is helpful to actually put the pants on the wearer before marking, especially if you are using sweats.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 2: Cut the Pants Into Thirds

Next, cut the pant legs into thirds. Make the first cut just below the crotch and the second cut just below the knees.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Tip

  • If you are making an older child or adult-sized costume, cut the pants into fourths instead of thirds. Make the first cut just below the crotch, the second cut just above the knees, and the final cut just below the knees. This is because an older child or an adult leg is much longer than a young child's, and there is more room for adding a longer patch of vinyl to make the thigh.

Step 3: Measure the Thigh

Measure the width of the thigh, just below the crotch. Double this measurement and add 1/2 inch. For example, if the thigh width is 8 inches, the final measurement is 16 1/2 inches.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 4: Cut the Vinyl Thigh Pieces

Cut two pieces of vinyl 3 inches by the thigh width measurement you determined in the previous step. Note: The 3-inch measurement is for a young child's costume size 2-4T. For older children and adults, measure the length of the cut thigh piece instead.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 5: Pin & Sew the Thighs

Pin the vinyl strips to the pants just below the crotch, with the open seam facing in. Then use a zigzag stitch to sew the strips to the pants. Sew the sides of the vinyl together where the ends meet to make a full circle.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 6: Pin & Sew the Knees

Replace the original knee pieces that you cut off the pants and pin them to the vinyl thigh pieces. Use the same zigzag stitch to sew the knees in place.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 7: Measure & Cut the Lower Leg Vinyl Pieces

Measure the length and width of the original lower leg pieces. Double the width and add 1/2 inch. Cut two pieces of vinyl to these measurements. For example, these lower leg pieces measure 7 inches long by 6 1/4 inches wide, so the measurement for the vinyl is 7 inches by 13 inches. Once the lower leg is measured, you can discard the original lower portion of the pants.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 8: Pin & Sew the Lower Legs

Just like in Step 5, pin and sew the lower leg vinyl pieces to the lower knee pieces using the same zigzag stitch.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Optional: Make a Skirt for a "Tin Woman"

Step 1: Make a Waistband

Instead of shorts, create a skirt for a female version. First, measure the wearer's waistline (just above the hip) and add 2 inches. Cut a strip of vinyl 1 1/2 inches by this measurement. For this project, the measurement was 1 1/2 inches by 25 inches.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 2: Create a Pleated Skirt

Now, double the waist measurement and cut a long strip of vinyl 12 inches by this measurement. If your vinyl isn't long enough, piece together one or two pieces. Fold the vinyl strip into 2-inch pleats and pin the wrong side of the pleats along the wrong side of the waistband. Don't worry about the pleats being perfectly uniform or aligned, as the stiffness of the vinyl will hide imperfections.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 3: Sew the Pleats to the Waistband

Using a straight stitch, sew the pleats to the waistline, removing the pins as you sew. Then, turn the skirt over and sew the pleats a second time, 1/4 to 1/8 inch from the bottom of the waistband.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Tip

  • Because of the smooth surface of the vinyl, the foot of the machine won't grab the fabric to push it through. To fix this, gently pull the back of the waistline as you sew. Go slowly so the pleats don't flatten after the pins are removed. Again, don't worry about a perfect stitch.

Step 4: Add a Waist Closure

Add 2-inch strips of hook-and-loop fastener on the opposite sides of the waistband to create a closure. Sew them in place using a straight stitch.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Make the Funnel Hat

Measure the wearer from the top of one ear to the top of the other ear, going under the chin. Add 2 inches. Cut a piece of stretch cord or elastic to match this measurement and secure each end to the sides of the funnel with hot glue to create a chin strap.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Spray Paint the Costume Pieces

Shirt, Leggings and Hat

Spray paint an old long-sleeved shirt silver (and a pair of leggings for the female version). This works best on light-colored fabrics. Note: You can also use grey or silver articles of clothing and omit this step.

Lay the the garments flat alongside the funnel on newspaper or kraft paper. Spray in even, long strokes about 15 inches away from the items. Allow the paint to dry for an hour, and then turn the fabric over and spray the other side.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Tip

    • Use cardboard pieces in the sleeves and legs to keep them flat while spraying. 
    • The paint adheres nicely to fabric, but it does make the fabric stiff. If your child is sensitive to textures, then use grey garments and skip the spraying step. 

Vinyl Costume Pieces

The painting process takes longer for the vinyl. Begin by hanging the vinyl items on hangers outside or in a well-ventilated area. Protect the surrounding surfaces with newspaper or kraft paper. Spray the items with one even coat -- the first coat will look blotchy and uneven. Allow the pieces to dry overnight.

Spray a second coat of paint over the items, paying careful attention to corners and creases. Allow the paint to dry overnight. Apply a final coat of paint on the third day, spraying in the creases around the collar and the pleats for full coverage. Allow the paint to dry a full 48 hours before wearing the costume.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Attach a Heart to the Shirt

Cut out a heart from a piece of red felt and use epoxy or industrial-strength glue to attach it to the shirt front. Note: The hot glue gun will not work for this step.

(Image: Jessica Begum)

Assemble the Costume

For the male version, put on the silver or grey shirt followed by the vinyl top, pants and hat. For the female version, put on the grey shirt and leggings followed by the vinyl top, and then wrap the skirt around the base of the top so it attaches at the back. The skirt will secure the slit in the back of the costume. Don't forget to paint the face silver and add a plastic axe for the perfect accessory. Happy chopping!

(Image: Jessica Begum)
(Image: Jessica Begum)

Tip

  • There are several varieties of toy axes, including a silver-colored one, or simply cut one from cardboard and spray it silver.

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