DIY Wind-Up Doll Costume

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I’ve been eagerly anticipating sharing my daughter’s DIY halloween costume with you this year. I will fully admit that it is not nearly as elaborate as last year’s mermaid costume or her peacock costume the year before, but I will say it is still pretty awesome, and she’s all kinds of in love with it.

When Walmart challenged me to make a Halloween creation, I knew I wanted to do her costume. And since this costume is really more about assembling the right parts with just a little bit of “making” to do, I’ll share it without further adieu:

Wind-Up Doll!

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Doesn’t she look amazing! I genuinely love the way this turned out, and I love even more the fact that I didn’t have to spend as much time on it as I did the others, but she still feels like she got something special.

To assemble this costume, you will need:

We grabbed the tights and shoes at Walmart, and I was thrilled that the shoes were just $8. These tights are really thick and warm too, which will make them ideal for trick-or-treating on a cool Halloween night. We always try to take the weather into account when we plan her costume. If her arms get cold, we’ll wrap a shawl around her upper body, as a jacket wouldn’t work with the key on her back.

Speaking of the key, here’s how we made it, again with supplies from Walmart.

Doll wind-up key tutorial

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You’ll need:

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  • Foam board (aff)
  • Key template (click to download a PDF)
  • Scissors and X-Acto Knife (aff)
  • Gold paint
  • Hot glue gun
  • A piece of soft scrap fabric
  • Sewing machine OR iron-on hem tape

Let me say right up front that this is not a working wind-up key. I’ve seen some like that, but I didn’t want to mount a bunch of stuff on my daughter’s back to make it work. Do I decided to go with a faux key just for show.

Print and cut out the key template. I made it in a size that felt right for my daughter, but feel free to enlarge or reduce it before you print it out. You can use a variety of materials, but if you’re looking to save money then foamboard printing is an option. Cut it out, and trace the template onto a piece of foam board. I used a 3-pack of Elmer’s foam whiteboard, and it worked out great. This is the perfect material because it is lightweight, but stiff enough to hold the shape well. Thick cardboard could work too, though.

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Use an X-Acto knife to cut out the key shape. I will fully admit that this can be tedious, so it is best done while listening to music or something else to preoccupy your mind while your hands are busy. Also, cut out a small rectangle of foam board. I eyeballed it, and mine was about 2″ x 4″. This will become the base of your key.

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Cover the key shape with at least 2 coats of gold paint. Be sure to paint both sides along with all edges so there is no white showing through. This part took us about a day, since we used craft paint and had to let each coat dry well before we could add another. Also, we could only paint one side at a time. This likely would’ve been faster with spray paint, but I’m trying not to use it while pregnant.

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Once the paint is fully dry, hot glue the bottom of the key to the base piece of foam that you cut out earlier. It should look like this:

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Two things all of the costumes I’ve made have had in common are hot glue and improvisation. It took me a while to figure out how in the world I was going to attach the key to the costume, but I finally came up with the bright idea to create a buttonhole in the back of the dress. Be sure to make your child/model put on the dress so you can find the center of their back and mark it with chalk or disappearing ink. NOTE: In the photo below, my marks were off center. I fixed them, but forgot to take another pic 🙂

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I used my sewing machine to make a buttonhole long enough for the base of the key to fit through. If you don’t have a sewing machine or just don’t want to bother trying to make a buttonhole, I would cut a piece of iron-on hem tape at least as long as your base piece. Iron the hem tape to the inside of the dress where you want the key to attach. Then cut a slice through the middle. This will give you some reinforcement when you cut the fabric so the edges won’t fray.

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Slide your base through your new hole and hot glue it to the inside of the dress.

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Also hot glue right around the bottom of the key on the outside of the dress so the base won’t show through, like so:

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Because I didn’t want my daughter complaining that the foam was rubbing against her skin, I took a scrap piece of soft, velour fabric and glued it over the whole base on the inside of the dress. That way, the edges won’t irritate her.

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That’s it!

Assuming the dress fits well, the key should stand up pretty straight. However, we realized slightly too late that the dress is loose around my daughter’s torso, so the key was drooping a bit. We remedied that by propping it up from the inside with a tiny pillow my daughter had made a few months ago when she was on a hand-sewing kick.

Problem solved!

A note about the dress…

We had a hard time finding a dress that would really work for this effect, and finally found this one at a kids’ consignment store. It was part of a different costume, though. Alice in Wonderland. Not really what we were going for, and there was an image of the cheshire cat printed on the apron.

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I simply criscrossed some pieces of ribbon over the cat and hot glued them to cover him up.

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Done, and done!

The rest of the costume was just about putting it all together. The white tights and shoes were the perfect doll accessories. However, I wanted to push the effect as far as possible. So we took playing dress-up to the next level 🙂

Doll Costume Makeup Tutorial

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I will never profess to be a makeup expert, so all of this is complete improvisation.

You’ll Need:

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  • Lipstick
  • Highly pigmented lip gloss or blush
  • Lip liner
  • Eye shadow, including at least one to match your skin tone
  • Eye liner

I started with my daughter’s lips, using pink lipstick to create a loose heart shape in the middle of her lips. I outlined it with lip liner to enhance the effect of tiny doll lips.

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I made her smile and created two circles right on her cheekbones, much like you’d see on a doll. I think it is more effective when the circle shapes are clean and obvious, rather than just putting blush on the cheeks loosely like you would on a regular day.

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Finally, I wanted to give her dramatic eyes. I lined the bottom of her lids with navy eyeshadow, then filled in the top with sparkly bronze that came to a cat-eye style point at the edges.

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I very literally made it up as I went along. But voila! My doll is complete!

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We’ve been perfecting how to move and act like a doll, and she’s been having a ball with it!

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We can’t wait until Halloween so she can wear this out of the house. She’d wear it all day long if I let her, and she keeps saying that this is the most comfortable costume I’ve made.

So, what about you? Do you plan to DIY your or your kids’ Halloween costumes this year? If so, I’d love to see what you come up with! Feel free to leave links in the comments below, and Pin these pics if you like what I did!

Looking for more DIY Halloween ideas?

Check out all the other homemade costumes I’ve created for my daughters over the years, along with other Halloween crafts:

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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16 responses
  • Tara @ Unsophisticook October 18, 2013, 11:12 pm

    This is awesome, Jennae! And you know she looks just like you.

    Reply
    • jennae October 22, 2013, 1:40 pm

      Thanks Tara! She’s definitely starting to look more like me as she gets older, but she looks SO much like her dad and brothers 🙂

      Reply
  • Melanie @MelanieMedia October 19, 2013, 12:37 am

    Brilliant, great job!

    Reply
    • jennae October 22, 2013, 1:41 pm

      Thanks Melanie!

      Reply
  • Jen Lawrence October 19, 2013, 2:53 pm

    I LOVE it! She looks gorgeous! Great Job Sis!

    Reply
    • jennae October 22, 2013, 1:42 pm

      Thanks sis! She loves parading around in it, so that makes it a winner 🙂

      Reply
  • Claudia October 22, 2013, 12:15 pm

    This is fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing it. I especially like the way you did the key, it looks really secure in there.

    Reply
    • jennae October 22, 2013, 1:44 pm

      Thanks Claudia! Adding that piece of fabric over the base of the key on the inside of the dress really helped to secure it. It’s not going anywhere 🙂

      Reply
  • Skye October 23, 2013, 5:02 pm

    Nicely done! I had no idea how you were getting the key to stick out like that when I first saw it.

    Reply
    • Anne-Marie Fox October 24, 2018, 5:01 pm

      Nice it turned out really good but she shouldn’t be a wind up doll she should be Alice and wonderland but it is still really amazing

      Reply
  • Phil October 28, 2013, 5:12 pm

    Great idea and very well made i hope trick or treat goes well

    Reply
  • jessi November 10, 2013, 3:57 am

    We just tried this for my daughter for a pageant… so far so good! Its drying as we speak. Without your post I would have never thought to even try it. Thank you!!

    Reply
  • Destiney October 21, 2014, 8:08 pm

    Did you use a regular piece of copy paper for the key template?

    Reply
  • Janeth December 8, 2015, 7:14 am

    AHHH!! I LOVE IT!! She is sooooo stinking cute! Great job… you are awesome at what you do!

    Reply

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