How to Build a Better Bat Costume

Halloween is coming right up, so it is time to post one of our favorite costumes to help get everyone in the spirit. This is a darned good looking bat costume you can make from a hoodie and an umbrella.

Yes, similar costumes have been made before. Even Martha‘s done it. However, our version is better.

Forget instructions that call for elastic harnesses and throwing out the “insides” of the umbrella. You don’t need elastic, and the umbrella parts are absolutely essential. Those extra ribs make extra big bat ears. The only raw materials that you will need are an umbrella and a hooded zippered sweatshirt. You will also need some tools and supplies: needle and thread, pins, pliers, scissors, and something to cut the umbrella ribs, such as tin snips, bolt cutters, or cutting pliers.

Unscrew the top of the umbrella. Pop off the short wires that hold the ribs to the part that slides up and down the stem of the umbrella – they are like staples, and you can use your pliers as a staple remover. Then use the pliers to untwist the two wires holding the ribs to the plastic parts on the stem of the umbrella. Unthread the wires from the ribs, reserving wires for later use.

The cloth part of the umbrella with the ribs attached should be separate from the stem now. Clip off two ribs opposite each other, and save them for ear frames. Split the umbrella in half down the seam previously occupied by those ribs. Using tin snips (or other cutters), cut off extraneous rib parts so that the ribs will be slightly longer than the fabric when they are joined together. If you have pointy bits sticking out, you can tape them down.

Pin the umbrella halves to the sleeves and sides of the sweatshirt, starting at the armpits. Pinning is a good idea since the umbrella nylon is slippery and the sweatshirt stretches. Sew the umbrella on, leaving a gap in the armpit for the rib ends to poke through.

Trim off the extra flaps of material straight across from the bottom of the sweatshirt to just before the point where the bottom rib is attached. You’ll need these triangles of material for the ears.

Here’s the gap where the ribs stick through. This will give you some flexibility of movement when you’re wearing it.

Use the wires that were holding the ribs together (or any other convenient wires, string or thread) to tie the three rib ends together.

Take the two extra ribs and trim extra points off so that you can make a (very uneven) tripod out of them. Stitch the point of the tripod to the point of the triangle. Stitch the long and short ends down as well. Bisect the angle with the middle piece and stitch that end down, too.

You’ll need someone (or a wig frame or mannequin head) to help you with this part. Getting the tripods into just the right triangle for ears may require repeated tries. My personal voodoo doll yelped several times as I adjusted them. The key is that the middle one needs to be set quite far back. The outer two need to be approximately in line.

After getting them nicely lined up, stitch them on and then trim off the excess fabric.

Your top is ready, serve with matching shorts and/or miniskirt (or alternate dress appropriate to your climate) and you are now ready for trick-or-treating.

Important safety tip: Do not attempt this with your new costume.

You can find more costume projects in our Halloween Project Archive.

19 thoughts on “How to Build a Better Bat Costume

  1. Dear miss,
    this is an ingenious costume design, including the warning about it not actually being an aid to flying; do you have instructions for re-assembling the umbrella, for after Halloween?
    It looks to be a considerable task and I ask your help.

    Please send them, danieldaviesicq at Yahoo dot com
    Yours sincerely

    1. I soooo love this costume ’cause it looks like the one the Cayote makes to catch the Road Runner

  2. Good job Lenore! I like it! Your mama – let me know how your presentation goes! Love you all!

  3. If this hasn’t been mentioned before, lets not forget this was done earlier by Jan Svankmajer in his 1996 film "conspirators of pleasure"

    And if you guys have not seen this film, then SHAME ON YOU!

    -Steven Ciccarello

  4. Brilliant! My 6-year-old will be thrilled. Now to find a black umbrella to deconstruct….

  5. So the ends of the ribs are pointing on the back of your hoodie, right? Or are you supposed to put a hole in the hoodie and stick the ribs in there?

      1. It took 2.5 hours, but it looks FAB!!!!

        Thanks to good old primark for providing a great brolly!

  6. Made this costume for my 7-year-old daughter for Halloween, and it turned out great! I modified it a bit, putting the wings on a stretchy velour bodysuit, and attaching the ears to a fleece hat. All items came from a thrift store and cost me about $5 total, plus maybe an hour and a half of my time. She got tons of compliments on the costume, too. Thanks for the great instructions!

      1. Could an umbrella with six ribs instead of eight work? I know this may mean no ears, but I can make those out of something else…. But I just removed the stem of mine and barely noticed it only has six….

    1. My 7 year old granddaughter wanted to be a bat this year and I found your instructions today via Google. Thanks for much for the instructions and the pictures to help make it clear. We just finished up the costume and she loves it. We had a lot of fun assembling it and it turned out perfect. Thanks again, and Happy Halloween!

    1. If you don’t want to sew the costume-I used stitch witchery and ironed it on. Worked wonderfully!!!

  7. Lots of thanks. I made bat costumes for my son and daughter from broken umbrellas. They loved it!

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