Mono a Mano OR Happy Halloween

Okay, I know I didn’t have mono, but it made for a better title. While I was resting from my “mono-like virus” I did some handcrafting.* It was restful handcrafting, so don’t worry. I made my Halloween costume!

If we’re FB friends, you probably already know what I went as, but for those of you who didn’t see the final photo, did you figure out from last week’s teaser what it is? No? I’ll give you some hints:

1) I love the 80s (as evidenced by my iTunes Library and my Halloween costume from two years ago–Claire from Guess Who?)

It's Claire, from Guess Who?, the classic game from Milton Bradley

It’s Claire, from Guess Who?, the classic game from Milton Bradley

6444362(Photo of Claire card courtesy of

2) I’m a big fan of John Hughes movies

3) I’m a total geek

4) I wish I went to high school with Jake Ryan

Still not sure?

5) Someone once told me I looked like Joan Cusack…aka Geek Girl #1from Sixteen Candlesso, ta-DA!

Geek Girl Photo courtesy of Heidi McFadyen

Geek Girl
Photo courtesy of Heidi McFadyen

Why I love** Geek Girl:

She’s resilient. Even though she bumps the drinking fountain with her brace, then can’t lap up enough water, she doesn’t give up. That didn’t work, let’s try this. Okay, this didn’t work, let’s try something else. She doesn’t flounder or keep banging her brace against the side; she finds a solution. Even though she gets sprayed in the face in the process.

She’s pathetic without being pitiful. Although her scene at the drinking fountain is funny because we sympathize with Geek Girl, she doesn’t inspire pity. Not once did I feel like she couldn’t handle whatever the movie threw at her.

She gets up and dances. Let me tell you, it is not easy dancing with a brace on. And mine wasn’t even tightened the way it would have been if I really needed it, nor was it a full-body brace like I’m assuming Geek Girl’s was. My friends applauded me for “staying in character” and moving awkwardly the whole evening, and some of that was me hamming it up, but some of it was because of the limited range of motion allowed.***  But despite this, Geek Girl can be seen twisting it up with another girl and seemingly having a great time. No wallflower here.

She shows us being alone without being lonely. Only one scene shows her talking to anyone (Farmer Ted/The Geek on the bus), and she’s mostly politely nodding and responding to his pining over Samantha Baker. The rest of the time she’s doing her thing (standing against the wall, getting a drink of water, moving and shaking, trying to drink a beer). And she seems perfectly content doing so. I wish there were more female characters in shows who aren’t constantly in pursuit of/defining themselves in relation to a guy (no offense, Molly Ringwald, but you’re the worst at this. But, I still love you. And Sixteen Candles).

Wanna make your own Geek Girl costume (or just learn how I did it)? Scroll down and see.

My friend Lisa broke her pelvis and two vertebrae in early 2012 and she needed a neck brace/C-collar to keep her spine in line. She remained in good spirits, though, and toward the end of her brace time I saw her out at a bar after our mutual friend’s thesis reading. Luckily, Lisa fared better than Geek Girl with her beer, but an idea was born. I traded her a beer**** for the brace, but I had to wait a year to make the costume because last year I was in the final hours of my thesis and didn’t leave the house the last few days of October.

Neck brace:

Neck brace courtesy of Lisa Maloney-Vinz

Neck brace courtesy of Lisa Maloney-Vinz

First step this year was to purchase a red sweatshirt. They are surprisingly cheap online (the shipping cost more than the shirt itself), and the other fabrics were procured from my mom (I’m not sure where the lace is from, but the white fabric I used to make the shirt and skirt comes from an old dressing table of my grandmother’s).

Red sweatshirt!

Red sweatshirt!

Mom and I did some initial sketches of the figure, just like they do on Project Runway.

My drawing

My drawing

Mom's drawing

Mom’s drawing

We paused and replayed the drinking fountain scene over and over to get it right.

Mom also helped me find a paper doll to use: Trixie Belden, who was a character from a girl detective series from 1948 to 1986.

Paper doll image courtesy of

Paper doll image courtesy of

Some Frankenstein-ian cutting and taping:


Ahh! Scissors!

Ahh! Scissors!

a pair of shorts from a dress my Aunt Joy gave me:

Check out those shorts--(sound of a whistle)

Check out those shorts–(sound of a whistle)

a cotton ball bust (between paper and fabric):

Shhhh, everyone has stuffed at some point...

Shhhh, everyone has stuffed at some point…

sequins instead of rhinestones:

It's starting to come together

It’s starting to come together

lots and lots of tacky glue:

So modest...

So modest…

and a semi-solid stitch job later:

Hand-sewn, y'all

Hand-sewn, y’all

Throw it over the neck brace, add a jean skirt, black shoes, white rolled socks, 80s eye makeup, and a set of curls, and voila!

It's really hard to take a timed photo

It’s really hard to take a timed photo

Apparently, I like costumes that involve 80s characters, curling my hair, and not being able to turn my head from side-to-side. So, what’s next? Ronald McDonald automaton?

Sorry it's blurry. And you can't see the socks and shoes.

Sorry it’s blurry. And you can’t see the socks and shoes.


Classic Geek Girl.

Check back next week for another round of Projecting (Part 3), in which I show you how to get rid of underarm stains***** and ******dye your clothes.

*Mano means hand in Spanish. Hence the second half of the title.

**Geek out about Geek Girl, if you will.

***I took it off to drive, so don’t worry.

****Actually, she left the neck brace on her porch in a gift bag and I left a different gift bag containing a beer in place of the other one, so I guess that makes me the neck brace fairy.

*****If I write an end-of-my-life memoir, I’m going to title it Sweating Through My Shirt.



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5 responses to “Mono a Mano OR Happy Halloween”

  1. Michael says :

    Nice. Did you win prize money for a contest? Any ideas for next year yet?

  2. Shannon H says :

    I had a 2 level cervical fusion 2 weeks .ago, so I am currently sporting that very neck brace (& will be for the next 2 1/2 months . Joy! So as a child of the 80’s, geek girl was a no brainer! And it’s been on tv a bunch lately. I am abnormality excited about my own costume this year. No idea what my kids are going to be! LOL

    • Sarah in Small Doses says :

      I’m so sorry to hear about your need for a neck brace, but I’m glad you were able to turn it into a clever costume! Please post a photo when you’re done, and good luck with the healing process! And good luck with your kids’ costumes! I’m sure they’ll be great.

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