Homemade Muscle Suit Tutorial


DIY Muscles for Halloween Costumes by Sew a Straight Line


Thank you, Kari, for inviting me today.  It pretty much made my month!
My name is Sabra.  I’ve been married for ten years and have three little boys: 7, 4, and 2.  My family totally inspires my creativity, and I share my crafting adventures over at Sew a Straight Line.    A main section of my blog is sharing lessons I go through in my attempts to really learn how to sew.  I throw my other crafty stuff up there, too, when and as it happens.  I’d love to have you stop by and say hi.


Sew A Straight Line

One of my favorite things to make, even as a kid with just cardboard and glue, are costumes.  I love Halloween, but I think kids in costumes are adorable year-round.  Our costumes see nearly daily use by my kids and their friends.  For today, Kari asked me to share one of my tricks in creating a unique and fun costume.

First, a little history: Two years ago my then five-year-old announced that for Halloween he wanted to be He-Man.  His favorite bedtime book at the time was Masters of the Universe: The Sword of Skeletor, circa 1983, inherited from his father.  A total sucker for matching my children, I decided we’d do a whole Masters of the Universe theme.  But when it came time to make the costumes, I realized that He-Man is really just a naked guy in a pair of wooly briefs and a ton of muscles.  And though I’m sure my kid could have rocked the wooly briefs in what nature gave him, he was severely lacking in the muscle department.  After Googling and searching for ways to make muscles, and not finding anything not involving mixing my own latex, I just sucked it up and came up with my own way.
So here’s what I came up with for Halloween ’08:

5 Yr Old He-Man

the baby was a muscle-less Orco
2 yr old Skeletor
And today I’ll show you how to make your own muscle suit for any costume, or just perhaps to impress your friends and neighbors with your physical prowess.  Your choice.
Homemade Muscle Suit Tutorial

I’m just going to show you how to do the chest/torso.   The tutorial I’m sharing applies to the other muscle areas, as well.  It’s just this is the most complicated section, and it happened to be the one I needed for my kid’s costume this year, so it’s the one you’re getting.  But I’ve included PDF files for my interpretation of the thigh muscles and upper arms as used in the He-Man costumes.  Just an FYI, though:  I graduated in PoliSci, not anatomy so…

Muscle template, either your own of my
PDF shared here
Washable glue stick
Zipper foot
Craft scissors
Knit, or any stretchy material

Coordinating thread
Knit or stretch needle for your machine
Sewing pattern of your choice (not pictured.  sorry)
Nu-Foam—I used 2 inch width
**Nu-Foam can be found in the upholstery cushion area of your fabric/craft store.  I used this rather than that green funky foam stuff because it’s washable.  The general consensus among my local JoAnn’s employees was that the green stuff was not.** 
Trace your muscles onto the Nu-Foam
Cut out. 
I find it easiest to cut through a few layers at a time, rather than try to tackle the whole girth of the stuff in one swipe.

Trim down as needed to acquire the desired shape
Cut out the sewing pattern pieces.  For whatever area you’re wanting muscles, double what you cut out.
eg:  I was only needing the front top to have muscles, so I needed two front top pieces
Arrange your muscles on the wrong side of one of the pattern pieces. 
Here I show how I arranged the chest/torso as well as the shoulders and biceps (this is the last you’ll see of the latter, though.)

Take your washable glue stick and, one at a time, remove a muscle, apply glue where it will go, replace muscle on top of the glued area.


Repeat for all muscles, then let dry for about an hour


Lay the second, matching pattern piece on top

Using your zipper foot, butting up as close as you can to the muscles, sew around the entire outside area of the chest/torso muscle area

Stretch the top fabric as you go, making sure that the pattern pieces continue to match up  

This next picture is a bit risqué, but you need sew down the center of the pectorals, and then around each and all of the rest of the muscles    
At this point, I switched to a free motion foot because it’s my narrowest foot, and I had one. 
When I made the He-Man costumes, I didn’t have anything so fancy, and my zipper foot worked just fine.           

After you’ve gone around each of the muscles, you’ll have this beauty of the human-ish form      

And you haven’t even broken a sweat. 
When I got to this point, I really tried to convince my kid to be Mr. T.  But nothing doing.  I pity the fool.
Now just continue making your costume, or whatever, as you normally would, using your now beefed-up pieces in place of the wimpy ones, as originally planned in the construction process.  For my four year old’s werewolf costume for this year I used Simplicity 5874 for the top, and the hood was adapted from Simplicity4012.  The rest was all my son and me.

      Next year he wants to be a hamster.  Awesome.

But let’s say you have an already made shirt you want to use…
Flip the shirt wrong side out and glue the muscles down on the wrong side front (because of the size of the shirt I used, I had to go with some impromptu baby muscles) IMG_8744
Take a piece of knit, or other stretchy material, roughly the same size, and drape that over the muscles

Being careful not to catch the back of the shirt, and not to let the shirt bunch as you go, use your zipper foot to get as close as you can to the muscle area.  IMG_8747
Sew all around the outside of the entire area

Trim the excess, being careful not to cut the shirt itself.

Then go back and define each muscle by sewing around each in turn.  IMG_8802
Flip right side out and strut your stuff.
IMG_8764 IMG_8760 IMG_8756
I hope this helps one or two of you with your costume-making this year. 
You can check out “Costumes” on my blog for other ideas from my kids’ Halloween and dress-up past (or click the running bat below).


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  1. says

    Aha! You are my super hero today! Our church’s Christmas program this year involves lots of super heros, and zero budget. This will be super easy to work out. Thanks! (And yes, I do realize it’s just August.) Thank you!

  2. says

    I know this seems like a weird time to make use of these instructions, but my kids think playing superheroes isn’t just for Halloween. They are getting Hulk costumes for Christmas! Thank you very much for a great tutorial!

  3. says

    Love this!! Thank you SO much!!! My little fam is doing Emperor’s New Groove themed costumes this year, and my hubs suggested it’d be hilarious to beef up his Kronk shirt…I was planning on just stuffing the shirt with polyfill, but this is a much better idea! Thank you!

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