Costume Advice from a Pro
by Alexi Wilbourn
Not many men can transform a dinosaur mask, bicycle helmet and leotard into a giant, shiny, slithery serpent from the pages of Harry Potter, but Ivan Ingermann did just that. This down-to-earth 42-year-old has a hearty laugh and warm voice that fills the air like syrupy caramel coating a crisp Granny Smith apple at the fair. He has a sense of creativity that is extraordinary and an impressive resume that is pages long. Athens-resident Ingermann wears many hats – father, University of Georgia professor, designer. His latest role? Costume designer for Disney On Ice: Dare to Dream.
Ingermann’s journey has been like the fairy tales he designs for. His mother, a seamstress, would piece together Halloween costumes from his original drawings, driving his passion for costume design at an early age. An interview with Florida State University for the acting program led to a design scholarship. “I guess I was a better designer than actor,” Ingermann laughs.
FSU became a stepping-stone for his graduate studies at New York University, which connected him with important people in the business and allowed him to apprentice under Tony Award-winning designers such as William Ivey Long, Susan Hiferty and Desmond Heeley. After Ingermann did a show for SeaWorld Adventure Park, the Disney On Ice crew contacted him to design for the two newest princess storylines – The Princess and the Frog and Tangled.
Despite his 20 years of professional experience, design advice from Ingermann is anything but intimidating. His ideas are surprisingly simple and achievable (and won’t break the bank). Besides a lot of hot glue, all someone needs to create a great costume is imagination and time, Ingermann says. Parents with little sewing ability can cut and tie strips of fleece to make “seams” at the edges of the fabric or use retail-style tag guns, available at some fabric stores, to embellish designs onto plain clothing.
“You can get some really great things at dollar stores,” Ingermann says, who even uses these items in professional shows. But how can you make, say, a one-eyed-purple-people-eater costume from dollar store items? Easy – just take a stroll down the home goods aisle. Ingermann used two large plastic salad bowls to create the head and mouth of the monster, covering them with fake purple fur from a fabric store.
Battery-operated tea lights and glow sticks are also great for adding lights to a costume for that “wow factor,” he says. It also adds a safety element to the costume since kids trick-or-treat at dark: “I’ve put them in seams so the costume itself will glow,” Ingermann advises. The biggest thing to think about when making a child’s costume is movement, Ingermann says. “You don’t want them to trip or fall. They like to have their hands and face free,” he says, adding that most young children don’t like to wear masks.
His son Zachary, now 7, was a spider for his first Halloween. Ingermann attached eight spindly legs onto the Baby Bjorn carrier and red fangs onto Zachary’s black hoodie. A spider is nothing without his web, so Ingermann’s partner wore a black poncho, which was covered in criss-crossed rope in a web design.
Another great idea for infants or toddlers is to use their stroller or a wagon as part of the costume. Zachary was once an Arabian prince, with a carpet laid over his wagon so it looked like he was flying from house to house Aladdin-style. This year, Zachary’s Halloween costume will most likely be a skeleton with a sombrero in honor of the Day of the Dead, since the family will be in Cancun for the holiday.
Ingermann, a history buff, loves sifting through the library and watching the History Channel for inspiration on simple ways to make costumes. Stumped on what costume to make? Ingermann advises looking to your child’s favorite books for inspiration. “We make up our own stories about Harry Potter, so we take that as a starting point and create other creatures that could be in that world,” he says of his and his son’s brainstorming process. This idea relieves pressure on parents to make outfits that match those of the character to a T.
In addition, “When they go to school and there are 16 Spider-Mans and 16 pink princesses in their class, they have something unique to show,” Ingermann says. He also advises involving your child in the costume-creating process by having them draw sketches or cut out pictures from magazines of what they want it to look like.