How to make a fish costume pattern

Written by sandra benally
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How to make a fish costume pattern
Study pictures of fish for ideas on how to design your pattern. (scorpionfish,fish,sea fish,sea,water,nature,anima image by Pali A from

Making a pattern for a fish costume does not have to be complicated, but the resulting costume can be dazzling. There are 20,000 to 40,000 species of fish that can be used as a guide. This variety offers something for everyone, from a flounder to a colourful lion fish. You don't need an art degree to put your best fin forward. All you need is an idea, a pencil, some paper and a pair of scissors to create a pattern.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Yardstick
  • Large piece of paper
  • Grease pencil
  • Scissors

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  1. 1

    Measure the person who will wear the costume from one shoulder to the other. Choose whether the costume will cover the wearer's head or if her head will protrude from the top of the costume. Measure the desired length of the costume from top to bottom.

    How to make a fish costume pattern
    Measuring the person who will wear the costume is an important first step. (measuring tape image by Sarah J Duckfield from
  2. 2

    Look at pictures of fish and fish costumes for inspiration. Determine whether your fish costume will be horizontal or vertical. Choose a basic shape for the costume.

    How to make a fish costume pattern
    A basic fish shape is easy to draw. (Fish image by Alhazm Salemi from
  3. 3

    Cut lengths of butcher paper four inches longer than the length of the costume. Tape enough paper together to allow for the width of your design. Fold the paper in half lengthwise and crease to mark the centre. Open on a flat surface. Draw a mark at the top of crease to mark the pattern top. Measure the length of the costume from this mark down the crease and mark the bottom. Mark the crease where the wearer's shoulders will be in the costume. Draw a line the width of the shoulder measurement, centred on and at a right angle to the crease. Draw the shape of the fish around these marks. Draw a tail onto the shape where needed. Cut out pattern, leaving a quarter of an inch of paper on the outside of the line for sewing or gluing.

  4. 4

    Draw patterns for fins and other features of your fish and cut these out. Mark the places on the main pattern where these will attach.

    How to make a fish costume pattern
    A flounder is an easy fish to draw. (Fins on fins image by klaus junker from
  5. 5

    Make a bodice pattern to hold the costume in place by cutting a band of paper eight inches wide to fit comfortably around wearer under her arms with an overlap of at least four inches for a closure. Tape the pattern around the wearer for comfort and fit. Cut two strips of paper three inches wide and long enough to pass over the shoulder, with two extra inches for attachment. Tape straps to the bodice pattern in front and back. Trim the straps to fit. Mark the bodice where you will attach the straps. Carefully remove the tape.

  6. 6

    Pin or tape the body pattern to foam, fabric or paper and cut two pieces. Cut one bodice and two shoulder straps. Transfer marks from the pattern to fabric. Sew or glue the shoulder straps onto the bodice and attach hooks, snaps or hook-and-loop fastener to secure the opening. Sew or glue the fish shape together, leaving the bottom open for legs. Put the harness and costume on the wearer and carefully safety pin the costume to the harness where the straps meet the bodice. Mark openings for arms and a large mouth for the wearer to see out of. Remove the costume. Cut out mouth and arm holes, and secure the costume to the harness with thread or glue. Attach fins and eyes.

Tips and warnings

  • Scales can be glued, sewn or painted onto fish costume.

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