How to Sew a Moulin Rouge Costume

Written by michelle powell-smith
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A Moulin Rouge costume is a great choice for anything from a fancy dress party to a Halloween party. It is a little bit provocative, but can still cover enough skin to keep you comfortable. Making your own cancan costume is easier than you might think, and there are a number of patterns that will work well for your vintage showgirl costume. These costumes are a great way for a seamstress to play with colour, trims and over-the-top styling.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Costume pattern
  • Fabrics
  • Trims
  • Petticoat or cancan
  • Stockings and accessories

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  1. 1

    Select the right pattern and fabrics. Consider what you will wear your Moulin Rouge costume for and make appropriate selections with regard to fabric and accessories. The most accurate fabrics are often quite costly, but inexpensive fabrics designed for costumes may be hard to sew and wear poorly. Vivid, bright colours are ideal, including scarlet red, peacock blues and rich purples. You may find that altering a pattern suited to a late 19th century style will work well, or that a saloon girl, cancan dancer, or burlesque styled pattern will work well. Your Moulin Rouge costume should be a bit provocative, so look for a lowered neckline, possible with corset styling, a skirt that reveals layers of petticoats, and interesting detailing.

  2. 2

    Be sure you choose the right size for your costume. Consider measuring your pattern pieces against a similar well fitting garment you already own or for a very close fitting garment, your own body measurements. Lay out your pattern pieces, being conscientious of fabric nap and any stretch that may be present. Cut as directed in your pattern. If using a satin type fabric, be sure to pin in the seam allowances as much as you are able to reduce the risk of visible pinholes in your final Moulin Rouge costume. You might also consider using pattern weights when cutting to avoid this problem.

  3. 3

    Once the cancan costume pattern is cut and ready to sew, you will sew based on the pattern instructions. Pin carefully to make sure that your pieces line up, especially if you are using slippery fabrics or trims in your seams. You should be especially careful about both fit and seam strength in the bust area. Most Moulin Rouge costumes fit quite snugly, so secure seams are critical to prevent an embarrassing wardrobe mishap. Adding contrast trims, seam bindings and piping can add style and flair to your party outfit. Black is the most traditional option for trimming; however, if you have chosen black for your costume, a bright colour will work beautifully.

  4. 4

    Typically, the bodice is the first part constructed of a Moulin Rouge costume. A vintage showgirl costume can have an attached skirt or a separate one, depending upon your preferences and the style you choose. In the simplest form, you will gather a very full skirt onto a waistband. Once you have assembled the skirt, gather the front portion of the skirt up to reveal petticoats and cancans for a traditional Moulin Rouge style costume. Lace, trims, ribbons and even striped fabric will all work very well for a retro style movie inspired showgirl costume.

  5. 5

    In order to finish your costume, you will need petticoats or cancans, plus stockings and a pair of great old fashioned heeled boots or shoes. You might also want to wear a garter belt with your stockings and flash your garters under your gathered up skirt. Add a great up-do for your hair and bright, slightly garish make-up to finish off your look.

Tips and warnings

  • Take advantage of pins, basting tape and other tools to help sew slippery fabrics.
  • Consider making a muslin to make sure that the pattern you have chosen fits your body.
  • Don't be afraid of vivid colours and gaudy trims.
  • Consider wearing heavier make-up than normal to finish your Moulin Rouge costume.

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