Costume Advice from a Pro

by Alexi Wilbourn

Not many men can transform a dinosaur mask, bicycle helmet and leotard into a giant, shiny, slithery serpent from the pages of Harry Potter, but Ivan Ingermann did just that. This down-to-earth 42-year-old has a hearty laugh and warm voice that fills the air like syrupy caramel coating a crisp Granny Smith apple at the fair. He has a sense of creativity that is extraordinary and an impressive resume that is pages long. Athens-resident Ingermann wears many hats – father, University of Georgia professor, designer. His latest role? Costume designer for Disney On Ice: Dare to Dream.
Ingermann’s journey has been like the fairy tales he designs for. His mother, a seamstress, would piece together Halloween costumes from his original drawings, driving his passion for costume design at an early age. An interview with Florida State University for the acting program led to a design scholarship. “I guess I was a better designer than actor,” Ingermann laughs.
FSU became a stepping-stone for his graduate studies at New York University, which connected him with important people in the business and allowed him to apprentice under Tony Award-winning designers such as William Ivey Long, Susan Hiferty and Desmond Heeley. After Ingermann did a show for SeaWorld Adventure Park, the Disney On Ice crew contacted him to design for the two newest princess storylines – The Princess and the Frog and Tangled.
Despite his 20 years of professional experience, design advice from Ingermann is anything but intimidating. His ideas are surprisingly simple and achievable (and won’t break the bank). Besides a lot of hot glue, all someone needs to create a great costume is imagination and time, Ingermann says. Parents with little sewing ability can cut and tie strips of fleece to make “seams” at the edges of the fabric or use retail-style tag guns, available at some fabric stores, to embellish designs onto plain clothing.
“You can get some really great things at dollar stores,” Ingermann says, who even uses these items in professional shows. But how can you make, say, a one-eyed-purple-people-eater costume from dollar store items? Easy – just take a stroll down the home goods aisle. Ingermann used two large plastic salad bowls to create the head and mouth of the monster, covering them with fake purple fur from a fabric store.
Battery-operated tea lights and glow sticks are also great for adding lights to a costume for that “wow factor,” he says. It also adds a safety element to the costume since kids trick-or-treat at dark: “I’ve put them in seams so the costume itself will glow,” Ingermann advises. The biggest thing to think about when making a child’s costume is movement, Ingermann says. “You don’t want them to trip or fall. They like to have their hands and face free,” he says, adding that most young children don’t like to wear masks.
His son Zachary, now 7, was a spider for his first Halloween. Ingermann attached eight spindly legs onto the Baby Bjorn carrier and red fangs onto Zachary’s black hoodie. A spider is nothing without his web, so Ingermann’s partner wore a black poncho, which was covered in criss-crossed rope in a web design.
Another great idea for infants or toddlers is to use their stroller or a wagon as part of the costume. Zachary was once an Arabian prince, with a carpet laid over his wagon so it looked like he was flying from house to house Aladdin-style. This year, Zachary’s Halloween costume will most likely be a skeleton with a sombrero in honor of the Day of the Dead, since the family will be in Cancun for the holiday.
Ingermann, a history buff, loves sifting through the library and watching the History Channel for inspiration on simple ways to make costumes. Stumped on what costume to make? Ingermann advises looking to your child’s favorite books for inspiration. “We make up our own stories about Harry Potter, so we take that as a starting point and create other creatures that could be in that world,” he says of his and his son’s brainstorming process. This idea relieves pressure on parents to make outfits that match those of the character to a T.
In addition, “When they go to school and there are 16 Spider-Mans and 16 pink princesses in their class, they have something unique to show,” Ingermann says. He also advises involving your child in the costume-creating process by having them draw sketches or cut out pictures from magazines of what they want it to look like.


Cool Costumes, Simple Solutions: Although he recently has been designing flowing, intricate costumes for Disney On Ice: Dare to Dream, Ivan Ingermann has some fantastic no-sew Halloween creations to fit any budget.

All sketches by Ivan Ingermann

Adorable Pumpkin 

Materials: Large “punch” balloon, masking tape, spray foam, rubber gloves, spray bottle (with water), acrylic craft paint, seriated knife, orange or black sweat pants, yellow shirt, battery-operated tea candle (optional) 
What to do: Blow up the balloon to fit your child’s upper body. Use the masking tape to shape the balloon into a pumpkin (flatten on both ends, instead of egg shape). Laying it on the side, spray the balloon with the foam; make sure you have gloves on – it’s sticky. Lay down three lines at a time running “north” to “south” on the balloon, then spray with the water bottle – it cures the foam faster. Then rotate the balloon and move to the next section. Keep going, making sure that the foam has cured before you lay the balloon on the side with the foam. After the balloon is completely covered, let it sit overnight. In the morning, pop the balloon and you’ll have your hollow pumpkin shape. The foam is easy to carve at this point, just like a large pumpkin. Cut a hole for the head and arms. For the legs, you’ll need to cut one large hole just above the leg line of your child (basically the whole bottom) so he can walk easily. The face can be carved just as you would with a regular pumpkin, involving your child in the design. Painting the outer shell is also fun for them: Bright orange, yellow and even dribbles of brown give the pumpkin a real look. For added effect (and safety in the dark), you can slip in battery-operated tea light into the eyes and mouth. Never use real flame as the foam will melt.


Funny Old Man/Woman Mask

Materials: masking tape, thin wire coat hangers (or similar wire): wire cutters. Optional: feathers and/or old wig/kerchief
What to do: Using the wire, carefully bend a shape the size of your child’s face. (Be careful with cut wire near the face.) Tape the ends securely to make a loop. Now make a loop going around the child’s forehead front to back. Secure with tape and attach to the face loop. Add a nose profile straight down the middle of the face, creating a large funny nose shape. Attach this to the forehead loop and the bottom of the face loop. Next make two eye loops, away from the child’s face. Attach to the mask. From this point you can add additional features such as eyelids, cheekbones and a chin. Or you can skip to covering the mask with a layer of masking tape. Run the masking tape north to south in one layer, then east to west in another layer. Repeat on the other side. The final layer of tape can have added wrinkles especially at the forehead, crow’s feet, and mouth area.
Make sure you do not cover the eye loops or underside of the nose with masking tape. Also, cut a hole in the tape for the child’s mouth so that they can breathe and easily be heard.
This idea can also be made as a 1/2 mask as shown for easier assembly and breathing. You can paint the masking tape with acrylic paint if desired, or just leave the tape as a skin tone. Add feathers for funny eyebrows and false eyelashes. This along with some thrift store finds for clothing (or from the unwanted clothes in your closet) completes the look.


Magnificent Mummy

Materials: Retail tag gun (available at Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft stores), white sweat suit or footed pajamas, stretch mesh fabric (most retail fabric stores), pot of old coffee
What to do: For the quick, no-sew solution, use the tag gun to attach strips of the fabric mesh to the sweat suit in a wrapped pattern. Finish by soaking all in coffee in the bathtub over night for a distressed aged look.


Safety Tips

  • Stay visible! Use glow sticks, flashlights or reflective tape on costumes.
  • Make sure masks and other costumes don’t obstruct breathing or vision.
  • Look for flame resistant costumes, wigs and masks made of nylon or polyester.
  • Double check that your child won’t be tripping on a long or oversized costume.