So, it’s been about a week and a half since we won “Best in Show” at the BritCon costume contest (Woo hoo! First time we’ve entered a con masquerade!) probably time to post the “How We Did It” post that I was promising that weekend.
First off, this is a pretty in depth post, with a TON of photos and info. If you have some experience in sewing and whatnot, it should be easy enough to follow. I don’t have the space or time to do up an actual step by step for the whole thing – these costumes took a TON of time to make! We’ve been picking away at it since I returned from MasterChef, and actually did NOT manage to have them completed in time for BritCon! (They’ll be ready for Convergence, though… we are SUPER excited!). To be fair, we were also busy with business, MasterChef, and still rebuilding our kitchen.
While these took a lot of time to make – and we probably killed a few million brain cells, breathing in all the spray paint fumes on account of crappy weather outside! – these were TOTALLY worth it. Even at a super tiny convention like BritCon, we had a *BLAST*!
We arrived early and costumed up on the Saturday, and had a ton of fun scaring the hell out of the groggy, just-woke-up people in the hallways. We had many photos taken, which was a weird experience – I hate getting my picture taken, but didn’t mind it at all when completely obscured by a costume.
Also, when it comes time for Convergence, we’re looking forward to the BEST photo bombing opportunities ever. Muahahhaa!!
Anyway, let’s get going..
We tackled the masks first, as they were the most intimidating part. I’d never made a mask before! Not even the wings scared us, as that was just… geometry and physics. I may know how to sculpt cake, but I’d never done anything with plaster casting OR paper clay before, so… yeah. Nervous!
First, I used plaster cast on Porter’s face to create the base of the mask, twice. Luckily, our faces are close enough in size/shape that both masks are quite comfortable!
To prepare, I clipped his hair back and covered his face in vaseline. I did – I think? – about 3 layers of cast material over the whole face, with a couple extra layers around the nose area. Also, as the face would be elongated in the chin area to allow for the “scream”, I wadded up a ball of plaster and applied it to the underside of the chin, securing it down with looong strips of plaster coming up on either side of the face.
After drying, I used paper clay to sculpt the face. This was just freehand, while looking at a printout from a pic I found online.
After drying, I painted with a base coat of grey acrylic, added shadows to the insides of wrinkles, etc and highlights to the tops of ridges, etc.
Once all of that was dry, I sprayed the masks liberally with granite texture spray, and allowed it to cure well. Once this was all dry, we cut some narrow, small slits in each mask – one set at the temples, another set near the back of the jaw bone, and threaded regular elastic through. While we hadn’t gotten around to painting the elastic in time for Britcon (As EVERY well-meaning critic managed to point out!), we will have them finished by Convergence 🙂
The eyes were a little bit of drama. Our original idea was to get a couple pairs of cheap sunglasses from the dollar store, cover with some black or grey pantihose, and spray with texture. Well, then we realized that our masks were SO perfectly fitting, that the edges of the lenses would be annoying at best.
What we finally came up with worked perfectly: Comfortable, easy, looked great AND allowed for pretty decent vision!
I bought a pair of opaque black tights, and cut 4 squares out of it. Without stretching them, I sprayed them liberally with texture and allowed it to dry fully. Once dry, I stretched them out a bit.
I ran a thick line of hot glue around the inside of each eye hole, and applied a square to the inside of each mask, textured side facing out. Once that dried, I piped another line of glue to the outside of the mask, just on the inside of the eye holes – think “eyeliner”. I carefully pressed the fabric into the new line of glue from behind the mask. This made it look more natural, not so sunken in…. and also gave us a bit of room so our eyelashes weren’t hitting up against the eye part constantly!
First I bought two cheap costume wigs, used a stitch ripper to remove all of the hair.
I took 3 balls of yarn – grey, white, and black, just in case any showed through – and cut them into LONG lengths… about twice as long as I wanted, so I could sew a seam up the middle.
I cut a piece of non stretch fabric about 1/2 the length of the center seam of the wig, and stitched the yarn to it with a very tight zigzag – yarn centered over the fabric, which was only about 1/2-3/4″ wide
From there, I sewed that piece down to the top part of the wig cap
From there, I styled both of the wigs… Porter was a VERY patient model!
First, I pulled enough hair forward to make a double twist down each side of the face. Just behind that second, I affixed a “headband” that I’d made from a tube of light blue spandex.
I’ll be honest, I had NO idea what I was doing, so I just sort of pulled and twisted everything until it looked passable. Hair is NOT my forte!
As I was going, I used LONG lengths of yarn and a yarn needle to sew everything into place. Twists and braids were secured not only to themselves, but down to the wig cap as well. The goal was that the style would NOT move, once I tied everything off and took the wig off his head.
When I came to the end of styling, I twisted any remaining ends of yard under and sewed them into place.
I stuffed the wig caps with newspaper to hold it to a head shape, and painted it with grey acrylic paint. It took several coats – and several days to dry – as I made sure to SOAK it. I wanted the paint to sort of act as a glue, as well.
Once the wigs were completely dry, I sprayed them liberally with granite texture spray paint.
Ok, the dresses are something that could use a lot of photos/diagrams to explain. Of course, I didn’t think to take pics as I went… so, hopefully words are enough.
First off, we decided how big of a hoop we wanted for the hem, and settled on 30″ diameter. We used lengths of 9 gauge wire for form two rings, one each.
Once that was done, I set about designing and making the dresses, which have three main parts – A liner, an outer skirt, and an outer bodice.
This was a floor length, fairly fitted liner. Gores were added to either side of the bottom, as well as to the center back seam – this was to add enough fullness to the bottom of the lining hem, that it would easily fit around the hoop. The center back seam of the top was left wide open (but finished!) from just below the neckline, to the waistline. This was to allow for access to the wing apparatus.
This was made from 2 lengths of 60″ wide fabric, cut long enough to be waist – floor, plus a couple inches for hem, plus a few more inches to allow for it to “pool” a bit around the hem. Additionally, long pockets were sewn near the top of each side seam – long enough to easily conceal wallets, water bottles, etc.
This took a fair amount of planning – we wanted to completely conceal the wing apparatus, while still allowing convenient enough access to easily get the wings on and off.
The outer bodice was made of 6 parts – a front yoke, a back yoke, front main bodice (the gathered section), two back main bodice parts, and a “flap” for the back, to further conceal the apparatus.
The front main bodice was gathered and sewn to the front yoke. Easy!
The back bodice.. let me see if I can describe this well. The flap was finished along both long edges. It was sewn, right side down, to the center of the back yoke piece. The two main back bodice pieces were finished on what would be the center back, and sewn down over the flap seam, overlapping by about two inches, and the rest of the top edge of the main piece was gathered and stitched down along the bottom of the yoke edge.
When the seam is flipped open, the flap covers the open center back.. which isn’t all THAT open, on account of the overlap.
On the bottom of the main back bodice piece, the two pieces are overlapped in the same manner that they are up top, and stitched down. From there, the side seams are sewn, and all horizontal seams (shoulders, bottom edges of yoke) are reinforced with bias tape to completely enclose the seam. Then, the bottom edge of the bodice is gathered.
– With the right sides together, I sewed the neck seam. Flipped it right side out and also sewed around the seam from the outside – this made it lay more flat, and reinforced it.
– I serged the liner to the outer bodice at the arm holes, flipped the edges and stitched them down to finish the edge.
– I sewed the outer bodice to the outer skirt, gathering the skirt a bit as I went. I was aiming for a fair amount bigger than waist size, to allow for a drawstring later. Make sure that the side seams match up, as well as the center back and center front. I finished this seam off by enclosing it in bias tape as well.
– Add a LONG drawstring, finishing in the center back of the waist. It’s accessed from the center back of the bodice, and the ends are tucked in after being tightly tied around the waist. With the time and expense of these costumes, I wanted them to be able to fit through ANY weight fluctuations we may go through!
– Making sure everything is lining up, I pinned the bottom edge of the outer skirt to the bottom edge of the liner, matching up side seams, center back, and center front. There was more outer skirt than inner, so I gathered it – evenly – to fit as I sewing the two pieces together around the entire bottom edge.
– To finish this off, I flipped the bottom edge towards the underside of the dress, and VERY carefully sewed the whole bottom edge around one of the hoops. This is tedious, but not super difficult. Once the entire hoop is enclosed, evenly distribute the fabric mass along the edge of the hoop. Done!
Once the dresses were completely finished, in terms of the sewing… we had to paint them. This used a TON of granite texture spray paint, but it made a HUGE difference.
We aimed to get it in between the folds as much as we could, but the variance in coverage looked amazing – like shadows, etc.
With our Aspie sensory/texture issues, one thing was sure – we would NOT be able to handle makeup or other skin paint. Ugh!
So, I made a very customized set of bodysuits to suit our needs. It was a full, relatively tight spandex shirt, with full sleeves, attached gloves, and a hood that covered most of the face. I picked a lightly textured grey nylon lycra for this.
You can’t see it here, but there is a strip of velcro up the back of the neck/head to make it easier to get into, while still maintaining a very fitted profile once done up.
One feature I built is was that the gloves were only attached on the top and sides of the wrists, but not on the underside. The glove part under the wrist had a flap of fabric attached that tucked in under the wrist of the sleeve, so you couldn’t really see that it was an opening. This was to make washroom trips, etc a lot easier!
Once the suit was completely sewn and I was happy with the fit, I had to make it look more realistic.
I traced both of our hands and arms, and made stretch forms out of cardboard.
Once the stretch forms were placed inside the sleeves/gloves, I used superglue to attach a set of fake nails to the gloves. I had fit the nails to our hands beforehand, to make them proportionate to our actual hands.
Once the glue dried, I coated them with some matte white nail polish. If I had my time back, I would have used black or grey – I just didn’t have any on hand, and was feeling lazy! This is what it looked like after one coat of texture spray. (One a subsequent coat of spray, I pulled the wrist flay out and sprayed it as well – really helped it blend in!)
Once the nails were completely dry, I used granite texture spray paint to paint/texture the entire hood, arms, and shoulders, as well as the upper part of the chest and back.
The wings were the big stress for us this whole time. We’d looked online and didn’t see anything that looked at all comfortable, so we decided to – I’m sorry! – wing it.
After studying “Blink”, making notes of wing length/height/etc proportions, we figured out approximately the size we’d want, and I sketched it out on rosin paper
With my custom rosin paper pattern, my husband cut 8 wing pieces out from 1/2″ foam insulation. Each wing would have one front foam piece, and one back piece.
We cut feathers from sill plate insulation, glued them down with foam adhesive, and then sapled them down for good measure.
We designed our wing apparatus to be based on a 3/4″ thick piece of hard wood. 4 holes were drilled on the top edge, going straight down about 6″ deep. Each wing was designed to have 4 ends of wire sticking out: two would be bent to rest in these top holes, and two would slip into these black plastic cable straps that we positioned on the outside of the wood piece, and screwed them down.
Porter took great care to make sure both sides of each apparatus were symmetrical, and that the wires that would come out of the wings were in the appropriate places – you may be able to see the diagram we had drawn out on the pink rosin paper in the photo above.
With a diagram ready, Porter had to bend 9 guage galvanized wire to form the wing supports. (2 pairs of pliers will help get some sharp corners on bending the wire, but your hands will still be sore!)
Each wing ended up with 2 separate wire pieces – one upper piece to go in the top of the wood, and one lower piece to rest in the black cable tie things.
Once everything was bent and fit – and we were SURE everything would go where it was supposed to, it was time to assemble it all.
The wire was stapled down to one side of the foam wings with 1″ narrow crown staples, angled downward into the foam. After MUCH frustration with staples pulling right out, we started using two staples at each staple point, facing in opposite directions. Problem solved!
Once the wire was completely stapled down, the wings were glued together with foam insulation adhesive and weighted down to dry (we used leftover bathroom tiles as weights). It took quite a bit of adhesive – 4 normal size tubes for two sets of wings.
I don’t have a photo for the next step: We filled any spaces between the front/back of each wing with caulking, allowed it to dry, then hand carved all the edges to be rounded.
Once the wings were completely dry, I painted them. First, I coated them with a grey colored spray primer, then with a generous coating of granite texture paint.
Once the texture paint was dry, I felt that it was sort of flat looking, so I mixed some VERY thin, watery darkk/ light grey acrylic paint, and sponged on some shadows and highlights. (Sorry for the cell phone pic – it doesn’t do it justice!)
Back to the apparatus: We bought some strapping, and attached it to the back (outside) of the apparatus using Gorilla Glue and staples, each end sewn to adjustable strap fasteners.
Note: be careful where you staple! If you staple into your drilled holes, you’ll have to ream them in order to get the wires in later – we learned the hard way!
Note 2: We failed to account for the fact that Porter does NOT have boobs to hold the “X” of the strapping in place, so his straps end up crossing up in front of his neck and showing above the neckline of the dress – not cool. We’ll be fixing this before Convergence!
Once the glue dried on the wooden part, we had to try it all out – PERFECT! Again, I think the hair really makes the picture… (Also: this was before we’d finished painting the wings!)
To get the whole thing on, here’s what we do, in order:
– Bodysuit (leaving our hands poking out of the wrist holes)
– Wings: Flip the back flap up and over a shoulder, pull the back bodice panels aside to expose the apparatus. Slide the wings in, adjust the back bodice panels to conceal the apparatus, and flip the flap back down – the bottom edge tucks into the waist.
DONE! They’re super easy to get in and out of, so… mission accomplished! Also, with the wings as light as they are, and the way we designed the apparatus, these are not difficult to wear at all. My only problem was overheating, but that’s just because I don’t sweat properly. Porter was able to wear his for hours, no problem!
We wanted to have some fun with the costumes, so we decided that we NEEDED a baby. We went to a thrift shop to find a baby doll… and found a really beat up looking one that was about the right size.
After washing the doll, I tied the hair back with elastic – as much as I could, it was a bit short to work with – and painted the whole thing with grey acrylic paint.
Once the acrylic dried, I gave the doll a generous coat of granite spray. Then I decided that it needed a diaper, so I made one from scraps, sewed it right on, and had to spray THAT!
So, that was it! It took a LOOOONG time, and we probably breathed in way more fumes than is at ALL healthy, but I think the final product was worth it all!
Here are some great photos taken at Britcon, all courtesy of Ben Huset:
Oh, and if you’re in the market for an awesome costume, but not willing/able to put the work in? I’m officially available for hire. Click here to go to my new costuming website! (Note: I’ll make anything, doesn’t have to be spandex!)