How to Make an Inflatable Violet Beauregarde Costume

The Violet costume. This was probably the thing I was most worried about when we decided to produce Willy Wonka. Here are the steps I took and how it turned out.

Items you need:

  • Largest Blue Maxi Dress you can find. It’ll be best if it’s sleeveless & has an empire waist  (Mine was a 3XL from Target),
  • White Long-Sleeved Shirt
  • Thick Elastic Belt (I used a red one)
  • Inflatable Suit with skin-toned arms and legs
  • High White Socks
  • Bike Shorts
  • Blue Jersey Fabric

Preparation:

Once you have all of the parts, this costume is really all about the assembly. The one thing I did beforehand was cut a slit up the back of the dress and sew in a triangle-shaped piece of blue jersey fabric so that the dress could really grow big.  Without it, the suit only inflated a little under the weight of the dress and didn’t have much impact.

 

Assembly (or rather, getting Violet dressed):

  1. First start with something non-bulky for Violet to wear as a base.
  2. Put on the inflatable suit and hook battery pack with on/off switch to the top behind the neck.
  3. Put on long-sleeved shirt, bike shorts and socks and stuff the inflatable suit into them making it as flat as possible.
  4. Put on maxi dress, cinch it in with belt and adjust fabric.

*Notes: High socks are important to keep the inflatable suit from extending out and being see when the dress lifts up.

On-Stage Inflation:

First, the actor needs to find a time offstage to take off the bike shorts holding the suit down under her dress.

The actual inflation part requires some trial and error during your run thru. I found with my Violet/dress/suit combo it too 30 seconds to inflate.  I had Violet’s mom discretely switch the suit on which is why you need the easy access on the neck for the battery pack is so important. Violet and/or her mom then popped off the belt which allowed the dress to expand.

I had toyed with the idea of cutting a hole in the dress for the suit’s fan but decided that it would bug me to see it during the whole show so I left the dress in tact.  Just left on its own, the dress prevents the suit from inflating but I made it part of my actress’s blocking to pull at the fabric of her dress like she was getting uncomfortable with her skin expanding. With 3 or 4 good pulls of the dress away from the fan, it inflated perfectly!

*Note: Sadly there was one show where the suit didn’t inflate due to the fan piece falling off inside.  We found it was just screwed on very lightly with a round plastic piece. A little hot glue made sure that never happened again. Lesson learned.

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