If you’ve ever watched Parks and Recreation, you know that the character Ron Swanson wears the one costume to all of the Halloween parties. When asked if he wore the same costume last year, he replies, “Yes. This is my Halloween costume.” That is what my flying squirrel costume has become for me. 

About five years ago, I came up with the idea to be a flying squirrel for Halloween. I can’t quite remember where the idea came from, but once it was in my head I couldn’t turn back. If you’re not familiar with flying squirrels, they’re similar in appearance to squirrels, except instead of a big, fluffy tail they have a wide, flat tail and in between their feet and their wrists is a membrane that when stretched out works similar to a parachute (or to the wing suits that base jumpers wear). With this membrane, and the flat tail to balance, they’re able to soar from tree to tree. Pretty incredible. 

After I decided I wanted to be a flying squirrel, a quick Google search showed me that the only costume option was a pair of white old-fashioned long johns with some brown circular pieces attached from the sides to the arms. It did not do the flying squirrels justice. So I came to the conclusion that if I was going to do this, I was going to have to not only make it myself, but come up with the pattern from scratch—not something I particularly like doing. But this turned out so well, and it proved to be so easy to make (because it’s little more than a slightly tailored blanket). It has become my go-to Halloween costume over the years because it’s unique and keeps you warm on a cold October night, not to mention it’s super cozy. So even if Halloween this year looks like logging into some Zoom calls and sitting on the couch, this costume perfectly fits the bill!

In making this costume again, I was able to upgrade some features (like the ears) so that they work even better! There were also a few learning curves that I’d like to share. I used a faux fur for the front of the costume, and although I like the look of it, it was much more difficult to work with—and it’s extremely heavy, which I think affects the look of the costume a little bit. If I were to make another one, I would go back to the original front fabric which was a swirl (or rosebud) minky. I also realized (too late) that pockets would be a great addition to this costume so that I could carry my keys or my phone while I’m out. I highly recommend adding them!

I made this costume to fit me, but because this pattern is so simple, with some extra effort, it can be scaled down to fit a child (or even a baby)!

Step 1: Take measurements

The first step is to take measurements of the person you’ll be making the squirrel costume for, whether that’s yourself or someone else. Write everything down as you go to keep track.

You’ll first need to measure the length of your arms fully extended. Measure from the crease in between your thumb and forefinger on one hand, across your shoulders and to the other hand. Add 6” for room for the thumb holes and for seam allowance. This measurement will be the width of the top of the costume.

Now take that measurement, multiply it by five and divide by eight. This new measurement will be the width of the bottom of the costume. 

Measure from the top of the shoulder to the top of the foot to get the length of the costume. Add 1” for seam allowances. 

Now, for the hand and leg openings. Loosely measure around your palm (minus your thumb). Divide by half and then add 1 ½”, and this is your hand opening measurement. 

Lastly, measure around the widest part of the foot (from the bottom of the heel around the top of the foot) so that the leg holes are wide enough to get your feet through. Divide this in half to get the measurement for the leg opening. 

If you are scaling this costume down to fit a child, the seam allowances will still be the same, but you may need to decrease some of the inches that have been added for extra give in the costume. Likewise if you're scaling it up, you might want to add an inch or two extra.

Once all of your measurements are written down, it may be helpful to draw out the shape of the costume on a piece of paper along with the dimensions to determine how much fabric you’ll need. The width of faux fur and minky fabrics is generally 60”, so if the height of your costume (like mine) is shorter than 60”, then you can turn the costume sideways on your fabric and easily cut it out of one piece of fabric (this means that you just need enough fabric for the width of the costume). If the height is more than 60”, then you’ll need to start out by sewing two pieces of fabric together to give yourself enough room (or you can find a blanket in the right fabric). 

measuring for squirrel costume
take measurements

Step 2: Start drawing out the shape

To draw out the shape on your fabric, fold one of the fabric lengths in half right sides together. Across the top edge of the fabric, measure half of the top width of the costume and mark with a pen. Measure the length of the costume down from the top edge, and then at the bottom measure across the fabric half of the bottom width of the costume and mark with a pen. This should give you a trapezoid shape. Measure down from the end of the top edge and mark for the arm holes. Draw a roughly straight line from this point down to the end of the bottom edge. Cut the shape out with scissors. You can repeat this process on the other fabric, or use the first piece as a guide to cut out the second. Just be careful if you do this because this fabric is very slippery and hard to hold still. The tan fabric will make up the front of the costume, and the brown fabric will make up the back.

Start drawing out the shape
fold one of the fabric
cut fabric for squirrel costume

Step 3: Cut out neck hole

Fold the costume in half and draw a curve for the neckline. You can use a T-shirt as a guide for the width and depth. I drew the line exactly where I wanted the neckline to be and then cut 1/2” shy of it to give myself a seam allowance. I went for a sort of boat neck shape that was 11” wide and 1 ½” low in the middle. Cut out a 2 ½”wide yolk. This is a piece of fabric that lines the inside of the neck opening so that the sensitive skin around your neck isn't exposed to any seams. This is also a great way to bring the coziness of the outside of the costume inside. Pin the yolk to the neckline, right sides together, and sew in place. Trim the seam to reduce bulk. Repeat this whole process with the other fabric so you have a front and back neckline.

cutting neck for squirrel costume
using push pins
sewing push squirrel costume
cutting fabric for a squirrel costume

Step 4: Add zipper and sew top seam

Next, add a zipper next to one side of the neckline. Make sure that the zipper length and the width of the neckline together are wide enough for your hips so that the costume can be put on and taken off once the legs are sewn up. I used a 9” zipper, but found it was just a little tight to get on. Next time I’d use a 12” zipper. It may feel intimidating to sew through faux fur because it's so bulky and difficult to see what you're doing, but the good news is that it covers a multitude of mistakes. And for all my fear that the fur is going to get caught in the zipper teeth, it has yet to happen in five years of having this costume.

Once the zipper is sewn in place, you can finish closing up the top seam on both sides of the neckline with a 1/2" seam allowance until you get 3” from the edge. Leave a 2” opening for the thumb holes, and then sew up the last inch on either side. Lastly, secure the yolk to the body of the costume by tacking it down with thread in several places or by using fabric glue.

Add zipper and sew top seam
close the top seam
sew the top seam
sewing the seams
leave opening for thumb holes
secure the body of the costume

Step 5: Sew up sides of costume

Lay the costume out flat, wrong side out and freehand a curve from the arm hole down to bottom of the costume. Starting at the bottom, draw a line straight up for several inches before curving it in and then swooping it out and up towards the arm hole. You’ll want the last inch of the curve at the armhole to be parallel to the top of the costume to make hemming easier. 

This process will take some finagling, so sew the pieces together (mirroring the curve on the opposite side) and cut as little as is needed to get the idea of the shape of the costume. Try on and alter until you’re happy with the look of it. Then trim the fabric close to the seams.

draw curve to costume bottom
sew the pieces together
try on flying squirrel costume
trying flying squirrel costume

Step 6: Make the tail

Next, it’s time to make the tail. This tail is made out of the tan fabric that is the front of the costume. The length of the tail is approximately ⅔ of the costume’s height, and the width is about ¼ of the height. The shape of the tail is freehanded on the backside of the fabric and then cut out of two pieces. I like to pin the pieces together (right sides together) before cutting so that they don’t slide around while I’m cutting, and because I can then easily jump into sewing them together (don’t forget to give yourself a seam allowance as you cut it out). Once sewn together, trim off the excess at the tip of the tail so it can be turned inside out with a sharp point. 

measuring costume tail
drawing costume tail
cut tail for costume
sew costume pieces together
cut seam allowance
flying squirrel costume tail

Step 7: Close up the bottom of the costume

Lay the costume flat and measure up from the bottom center 4 ½” or 1/12 of the height of the costume. From the outside edge, measure in and mark the width of the leg hole. Then draw a curve from the inside of the leg hole to the marking in the middle. Once you're happy with the shape, repeat the curve on the opposite half. Pin both sides of the costume together and then cut next to the marking, leaving room for seam allowance. Tuck the tail inside the costume with the raw edges peeking out. This seems counterintuitive at first, but if you do it the other way you'll end up with the tail inside of the costume. Pin the tail to the costume, and sew with a 1/2” seam. 

You'll notice that I forgot to put the tail in between the layers before I sewed them together, so I had to seam rip and go back and insert the tail. This is why I write tutorials—so you don’t make the same mistakes I do.

I love the way this tail looks, but to keep it clean I like to safety pin it to the back of the costume when I’m wearing it outside (or in a crowded place so people don’t step on it). You could easily make this a more permanent fix by adding a hook and eye to the end of the tail and the back of the costume. I always mean to, but never quite get around to it.

measure along costume height
draw curve in fabric
pin costume fabric
cut costume fabric
sew bottom of squirrel costume
pin squirrel tail to costume
attach costume squirrel tail

Step 8: Hem arms and leg holes

Now that the costume is sewn, it's time to hem all of the edges. Fold in the fabric at the arm holes and leg holes in half an inch, pin in place, and sew together.

fold costume fabric
sew costume ears
sewing squirrel costume ears

Step 9: Make ears

The finishing touch to this costume is the ears. Download this template and print it out. First use the larger “outer ear” template to cut out four ears in the brown fabric. Then cut out the smaller paper template and cut out two inner ears in the tan fabric. 

Sew together both sets of brown ears, right sides together. Trim the seam allowances and fold right side out. Fold a length of wire around the edge of each ear, giving a half inch space along the raw edge at the bottom and folding the ends and twisting them together so that there won’t be any sharp ends poking through the fabric. Do this for both ears, and then press the wires together so that you can slide them inside of the brown ears. Pull them taut so that they line the inside edge of the ears with some space left at the bottom. Place the inner ear on top of the brown ear, folding in the raw edges and pinning in place. Now it’s time to sew the inner ear to the outer ear. You can do this by hand if you’re not comfortable with a sewing machine. If you are using a sewing machine, use extreme caution to keep the needle away from the wire. The best way to do this is to make sure that the foot of the sewing machine is completely inside the wire. That way it creates a barrier between the wire and the needle. 

Once the inner ears are attached to both outer ears, it's time to hem the bottoms and attach clips. Fold the raw edges of the bottom of the ear inside and around the wire, and sew in place with a needle and thread. Use the same needle and thread to sew the ends of a hair clip to the bottom front side of the ear. Now the ear can be bent using the wires to position the ears on the head, and the clips can be used to secure the ears to the hair. I love the versatility of this ear design. The clips make it easy to place the ears wherever they look best, and the wire allows the ears to be bent forward and back as needed and can even be used to give emotion to your character. 

squirrel ears for costume
cutting squirrel ears
cut squirrel ears
sew squirrel ears
cut costume ears
flying squirrel costume ears
making squirrel costume ears
sew costume ears
stitch costume ears
flying squirrel costume ear
attach squirrel costume ears
tread costume ears
squirrel costume ears

Step 10: Getting into character

Besides putting on the costume and the ears, I like to do some simple additions to my makeup to enhance the “squirrel look”. In general, I took my inspiration from deer makeup tutorials on the internet because I like the marriage of adding animal-like facial qualities without getting in the way of your own human attractiveness. So this means increased contour powder, brown eyeshadow, distinct eyebrows, nude lips, black eyeliner all the way around the eyes (increase the width at the center of the upper lash line and come down in the inner corner for an exaggerated cat-like look), and lastly a soft “Y”-shaped nose made with liquid eyeliner. I like my hair for this look to be teased and a little messy looking because that’s how I imagine a squirrel’s hair would look in real life. 

squirrel costume for adults
diy squirrel halloween costume

Celebrating Halloween may look a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy dressing up. We hope you give this cozy, adorable flying squirrel costume a try!

If you’re looking for more DIY costume ideas, head to DunnDIY.com to learn how to make pin curls like Rosie the Riveter, a DIY lightsaber, and an astronaut costume