How to Sew a Collar and Cuffs for a Clown Costume

ruffled clown collar

The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove

Overview
  • Total Time: 60 mins
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $10

A quintessential piece of any clown costume is the ruffled collar and cuffs. And if you're looking for an easy and inexpensive costume for Halloween or a special party, you can make your own clown collar and cuffs to pair with colorful clothes you already own. The clown collar and cuffs don't attach to your clothing, so this will leave your outfit usable once you're done with the costume. This project requires intermediate sewing skills and about an hour of your time. The size can be adapted both for children and adults.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Tape measure
  • Scissors
  • Marking tool
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Pins
  • Rotary cutting tools (optional)

Materials

  • 1-inch-wide ribbon
  • 1 to 2 yards of bleached muslin, depending on the costume size you need
  • Colorful double-fold bias tape
  • Quality thread
  • String
  • Snaps (optional)

Instructions

  1. Calculate the Ruffle Size

    Clowns come in different sizes. So you will need to do some measuring and calculations before you begin.

    Collar ribbon length: Measure around the neck of the person who will be wearing the costume. Leave a comfortable amount of space around the neck and some excess that you'll use to tie the collar in place. (For a small child, consider snaps instead of ties as a safer option.) Cut your ribbon to the desired measurement. Mark the center of the ribbon and the ends of the ruffle where the tie area begins.

    Cuff ribbon length: Make at least two cuffs for your wrists and two more for your ankles if you wish. Measure around the wrists (and ankles if desired), leaving enough space for comfort as well as any clothing that will go under the cuffs. Add 1 inch to each end to allow for the amount that will be turned under. Cut the ribbon to the desired length, and mark 1 inch from each end.

    Ruffle width: In most cases, the ruffle will be 2 to 4 inches wide. A 2-inch ruffle is ideal for a child while a 4-inch ruffle is better for adults. Mark the width of the fabric two times the desired width for the finished ruffle. If you will be turning under the edges rather than encasing them with bias tape or a serged edge, add an inch to allow for a 1/4-inch hem on each edge.

    Ruffle length: Mark three times the length of your ribbon on the fabric. This will be your fabric strip length, which will give you a nice amount of fullness once it's bunched. Cut out fabric strips for the collar and cuffs. Two to four strips per ruffle should give ideal fullness.

    measuring tape on a mannequin
    The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove
  2. Prepare the Muslin Strips

    Join your strips of muslin to achieve the desired length by sewing them together if necessary. Use a 1/4-inch seam, and zigzag stitch the seam allowance.

    Turn under the ends of the strips 1/4 inch, and press in place. Turn them under again to enclose the raw edge. Sew the end hems in place.

    muslin strips
    The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove
  3. Option 1: Decorate the Edges With Bias Tape

    A fun and easy way to add a pop of color to the clown ruffles is to use a double-fold bias tape. This is a good option if your sewing machine doesn't have decorative stitches or if you want a solid strip of bold color.

    To sew the double-fold bias tape onto the muslin, find the narrower edge of the bias tape. Set the edge of the ruffle into the center of the bias tape, lining up the edge of the ruffle with the centerfold of the bias tape.

    Turn under the ends of the bias tape to enclose the raw fabric edge. Baste the bias tape in place. Then, with the narrower edge up, stitch the bias tape to the ruffle, sewing close to the edge of the tape. Continue to enclose all edges on all layers of the ruffle.

    using bias tape
    The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove

    Option 2: Decorate the Edges With Decorative Stitches

    As an alternative to bias tape, you can apply one of your sewing machine's decorative stitches along each ruffle edge. First, turn under the edges 1/4 inch, and press. Turn under again to enclose the raw edges, and press in place.

    Using white thread, sew the hem in place close to the inside edge. Then, using a bright color or a color thread that matches the costume (in the bobbin, too), choose a dense decorative stitch to sew on the hems of the ruffle.

    decorative stitching on a hem
    The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove

    Option 3: Decorate the Edges With a Serger

    A serger is the fastest way to give a ruffle a decorative, colorful edge. Set up your machine for a three- or four-thread overlock stitch. Shorten the stitch length, so the stitching is dense. Serge the long edges of all the strips.

    decorative edge using a serger
    The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove
  4. Stack the Ruffle Strips

    With the edges decorated, it's time to begin assembling your ruffles. Stack the lengths of the ruffle strips, aligning all the edges. Fold the length of the strips in half to find the center. Gently press the center fold to mark the center.

    finding the center
    The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove
  5. Gather the Ruffle

    Gathering fabric requires strong thread or the use of a string to achieve a uniform gather. Because this project involves multiple layers of fabric, it's recommended to use string to gather the ruffle.

    Cut a piece of string that is longer than the ungathered ruffle. Lay the string in the centerfold of the ruffle. Using white thread in your sewing machine with the unfolded layers of fabric strips flat on the sewing machine bed, zigzag stitch over the string.

    Knot or tie off one end of the string, so it doesn't get pulled through as you gather. Then, tug on the string to gather the fabric until it's the length of your ribbon. Evenly distribute the gathers.

    Next, pin the center of the ruffle to the center of the ribbon. Pin the ends of the ruffle to the ends of the ruffled area of the ribbon. Using a straight stitch, sew the ruffle to the ribbon. Sew in the center of the ruffle and the center of the ribbon.

    gathered ruffle
    The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove
  6. Add Snap Ends (Optional)

    Fold the ribbon ends under twice to enclose the raw edges. Sew the end hem in place. Then, hand sew a part of a snap on each end, or use pronged snaps.

    Snap Ends
    Debbie Colgrove

Tips for Decorating Your Clown Costume

Your ruffles should now be complete, though you can add decorative elements to your clown costume if you like. Two or three fabric pom-poms down the front of the costume are a fun option. You can make these with leftover fabric from your ruffles.

First, cut a fabric strip that's half the width of what you cut for your ruffle. Finish one edge of the strip the same way you finished the edge of the ruffle. Gather the strip of fabric, and turn in the raw end of the strip.

Roll the gathered strip to form a flower or pom-pom. Use a hand-sewing needle to sew through the rolled fabric at the gathered edge to secure the gathering. Hand-baste the pom-poms to your outfit, remembering to start spacing them below the neck ruffle.

Furthermore, your outfit can be transformed even more by either hand-basting or using fusible web to attach round fabric spots randomly on the clothing. Using fusible web will be pretty permanent, so do this only on clothing you want to keep as a costume.