No need to buy a paper doll (costume) DIY

Halloween is my fave holiday!

The only drama is convincing my hubby Ray he wants to make me happy by dressing up. Lucky for me he is a good sport. I found a stellar musical note shirt and an outrageous record player necklace for the 24k gold plated bling for his Bruno Mars costume. (You knew Bruno grew a mustache, right? LOL)


I went as a paper doll!


Suggested by the tune-track playing in my head. My Popa used to sing the first couple of lines to the Mills Brothers’ “Paper Doll” to my mom.

I’m gonna buy a paper doll that I can call my own
A doll that other fellows cannot steal

I don’t know that I had ever heard the full song from the 1930s until I started this costume and went looking for it. Paper Doll by the Mills Brothers. 

paper doll costume.JPG

I saw the cute costume above. Alas, not in my size. But a good idea I thought. It’s just a front so I will be free to move, especially if I build it in 2 pieces.

  1. Fabric-paper means I can sit and the paper will bend without too obnoxious a crease.
  2. I can always recycle the paper into my art journal.

Yeah, but I have a larger bust than the model. What to do? Then I saw this coffee filter dress.


Eek! I am so not doing that skirt, but I am grateful it gave me a solution for my bustier top. Coffee papers are flexible and shaped right. Saved!

I know, I know, you might have heard me swear off coffee filters after I made a couple hundred paper and coffee filter flowers for my wedding, so this should be relatively easy… oh, the little white lies we tell ourselves!


Materials for bustier:

  • Coffee filters
  • Washi tape
  • Color Sprays – Lindy’s seem to be the only ones that do not clog.
  • Acrylic paint – white to repair a sprayed area I did not like.
  • Retro Comets Stencil by Mary Beth Shaw
  • Double-sided tape and packing tape



  1. Fold your coffee filters in thirds for the tabs and waist. Fold a bunch over leaving about a 1″ ruffle, fold a few in half, and some I simply flattened.
  2. Your shape is not my shape. I suggest, you kinda build the costume as you try it on, taping as you go.
  3. I completed the V and waist part of the bustier with washi tape.

Front of bustier before paint (the back looks pretty similar but there’s a goodly amount of tape.



Because my top had become so ruffled, I decided to go with a pencil skirt.

Skirt Materials:

  • Trash bag(s) so you can peel up your fabric-paper.
  • Painter’s or another removable tape
  • A mixture of 2/3 Elmer’s Glue and 1/3 water or Modge Podge
  • Cloth a bit bigger than your pattern – I used what I had in my stash, a 25-cent pillowcase I picked up from the Pine Senior Center Thrift Store as the base for my fabric-paper. You could use muslin or cheesecloth.
  • A combo of papers from your stash – I used:
    • book paper – worked like a charm!
    • saved baby wipes – thicker so took longer to dry
    • paper wine labels – must have been backed with some kind of plastic as they did not want to play nice with the other papers
    • misc previously stenciled papers
    • a shopping list
    • a receipt – thermal paper loses its ink
    • printed tissue paper
  • Stencils used:
  • Acrylic paint – white mixed with water to “knock back” the colors and unify the collage. Then I stenciled with red, yellow, and blue because it would match my comic strip makeup.
  • Sponges for paint
  • Safety pins to attach costume to clothes later.



  1. Tape down your trash bags.
  2. Tape down your fabric.
  3. Paint layers of glue mixture on to fabric and papers. Tip: Generous glue over stingy!
  4. Let dry completely overnight and hit with a heat gun if necessary.
  5. Stencil over the top and let dry.
  6. I considered this, but why use one stencil when two will do?! Optional: Make a 6” slit in the skirt over one knee, and alternate coffee filters in slit and above it as a ruffle.


Step 3 above. Step 5 below.


I must admit, I am pretty dang stoked how my costume turned out!



There are as many amazing patterns for paper hair as there are for paper dresses. The Cardboard Collective has a good starter diy.

Serendipitously, the hat for my hubby’s costume came with a half head shaped insert. All I had to do was copy the pattern and viola! Full head wig structure.

In addition to the wig structure you will need:

  • Newspaper and scissors to cut individual locks of hair
  • Barrettes or bobby pins
  • Marker
  • Tape to hold the hair in place


  1. Mark where your barrettes are going to clip on to hold the wig in place. You do not want to glue hair over the top of these.
  2. I went for curls about 1” wide cut mostly the length of the newspaper but a few, the width. I learned newspaper cut in strips curls pretty much like curling ribbon. Pay attention and if there are pics with colors you want to show, curl them out.
  3. Starting at the bottom, I taped ringlets in place then affixed with single and double-sided tape.



A Jack-o-Lantern full of thanks to my buddy Joe for doing such a fantastic job applying my (water soluble) make-up!



I cried my paper doll came out almost exactly as I imagined. Happy dance!

The costume was as labor intensive as I thought it would be and somewhat more difficult, but I had a truly good time making it and I was absolutely ready to PARTY!



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