The end product

This is the first costume I've ever done that could be considered even remotely "cute"; almost everything else to date has been kind of abstract and strange and much more about technical challenge than cute critter. I did enjoy the novelty of kids actually liking the costume instead of being afraid of it. :)

I debuted the costume at FC08, having shipped it out with 20 lbs of mixed candy, which I handed out from a colorful mesh (diving) bag. Chris Sawyer, acting as one of my handlers, came up with a great routine during walkabouts; if he saw someone videoing, he'd say, "Know how to get candy out of a piñata?" He always kept a handful of candy at the ready, and in one quick move he'd *WHUMP* me on the chest, I'd jolt backwards, and he'd fling the candy camera-wards. People seemed to dig that a lot. :)

Making the bodysuit:

The whole body is made of shiny irridescent satin.

Except for on the head (where the strips are shorter), the whole body is a backing of the same color as the tatters, and the tatters are made of many many 3 inch tall strips of material, cut into tatters:

I used my high-temperature (100-480F) fine tip surface mount electronics air gun to shoot a very very thin stream of hot air at the edge of the material to keep it from fraying:

As I worked, I had the backside face-up so that the front would be as unspoiled as possible. The anti-fraying work also caused the material to twist up a little bit, which made the surface sort of frilly and made the shininess really stand out nicely:

Here's just a small fraction of the material it took to cover the surface. Since each linear foot of the frilly material involves about 7 feet of edging, this costume worked out, in the end, to have more than 1 kilometer of heat-treated edging on it!

Sewing the frills onto the backing material. Row after row after row after row after row...

The lower legs, mostly done. The core is open-cell foam with a channel cut down inside and a hollow for my feet, on which I wore pink-rubber-soled Op beach shoes (I mixed up the pink latex and added it myself, and it proved to be an awesome high-traction sole).

Here's the mostly-completed legs (I later added some material to even them up), and you can see the cotton jumpsuit I used as the base for the whole costume. I added elastic strips to keep the sleeves and cuffs pulled in tight to keep it as form-fitting as possible.

Here's the mostly-completed body suit with the first incarnation of the mesh head. The arms are kept kind of stumpy/tubular by having the same mesh material pad out the lower arms to keep them the same diameter as my upper arms.

Making the mane and tail:

The mane and tail also have a rigid inner core of the plastic mesh material.

Using the same 3 inch strips of fabric, I cut lengths to exceed the lengths of the cores by just a small margin:

Inside out (the dull side out), I folded the mesh into the middle of the material:

These pics show there being a bunch of pins, but after I got good at it, I only had one pin at the top and I just kept the tension manually as I sewed down the line, making sure the needle was as close to the plastic mesh edge without actually being in it:

Turn it 90 degrees and cap off the bottom end...

Then cut off the excess material past the stitch...

And then pull the mesh core out of the middle.

Here the "sock" of one the tail pieces is empty and ready to be pulled inside out:

Using the long forceps, I pushed them all the way in and clipped the tip on the bottom of the "sock":

Pulling the forceps out, here the sock is about halfway inverted:

Now push the mesh back inside. It might be a little snug depending on how closely you followed the edge of the mesh during sewing. Because there's a bottom side of the mane and tail bits, the seam goes down the middle of the bottom side, and just before getting to the end, twists to the edge so the end can be square.

Sewing the "top" end closed. This end is going to wind up in the middle of an anchor, so it doesn't really matter how it looks.

One mane/tail strip, done! You can see that the anchor end is on the left.

Here's all the tail pieces sewn/anchored into the black ABS plastic sheet that screwed through the jumpsuit material and reached up the small of my back (where the waist gather keeps it tight) so the tail would stay on straight and stick out nicely. You're looking at it with the top side on the right; during normal wear, gravity bends the tail strands down (left) over the anchors, rendering the more or less invisible (and the cyan tatters are sewn over the anchor assembly anyways). I also used locktite to make sure the nuts didn't work loose.

Here's the mane. It's got a piece of brass braising rod lashed to it on each side for rigidity that I can bend to match the curve of the mesh head. And yeah, I use a bunch of needle drivers/forceps/hemostats as I work on stuff. They're cheap and precise and strong and when you need to clamp something, it's like having an extra six hands.

Here's a shot as I'm sewing the mane into the head mesh using nylon kite line.

Making the teeth:

The teeth were slipcast in latex.

I started out with about 3 bricks, sliced down to be roughly the size I wanted. I buy bulk oil-base modeling clay (Klean Clay), firm hardness, 50lbs at a time from Special Effects Supply.

Dental tools/picks are dirt cheap and ideal for sculpting in this clay. (Note: the price on the linked page is $7 for ALL 12!)

Here I've set up a clay dam all the way around the teeth for making the negative out of Hydrocal. Just for ease of identification later, I used a pick to write the name of what the thing was in the back wall of the mold (backwards). (As a note, I didn't really cast it with the wood as a base. That would have been bad. Below you'll see I really cast it on a sheet of smooth ABS plastic)

The mold has been filled with Hydrocal. There's actually more steps here, but they're explained below on the lower dentition pics.

The mold has been cleaned of clay (I use orange cleaner and a very soft brush, but I should probably be using a mold release of some kind).

The first layer of latex is drying. It's got a fair amount of white acrylic (Liquitex) paint in it to make the base color of the teeth for the first few layers, after which I revert to pure, uncolored latex. Running the blower really speeds up the cure (and led to a small accident that I won't go into here).

Here's the upper dentition having been pulled out of the mold, as yet untrimmed, and held in front of the model picture on the wall for comparison.

The upper teeth sitting on the clay that will be used to model the lower dentition, for checking registration/meshing of the teeth.

Pretty good registration. He's got a slight overbite (by design). I made the lower teeth go back another row or two but I didn't end up needing them.

Same as before, the walls of the dam are built and ready to cast the negative mold. The dam is squished to the ABS plastic sheet and a pick was used to seal the edges down. Tape keeps the mold from blowing out due to pressure.

This is a very important step: The first layer of Hydrocal on the model is thinner than the rest, and is carefully brushed on with a very soft brush to work any bubbles out that may be next to the clay. I also removed the sandpaper pad from a power sander tool and pressed it down hard to the board to vibrate bubbles out of the Hydrocal after pouring it.

The completed teeth (actually a little more trimming took place later). They've been painted over with one more layer of white acrylic paint, and that was then covered with a clear acrylic gloss coat. I also dipped some cloth in latex and let that dry, then cut it into strips and latexed it into the insides of the teeth as an anchor to sew to while installing the teeth (new latex always sticks to existing latex as long as it's clean, so it's effective "glue"). Sewing through full-thickness slipcast latex is quite difficult; you need a cutting needle as with leather to get through the material and it takes a lot of force, so having the rubberized cloth to sew to makes the job a lot easier.

Making the eyes:

Using a dremel with a cutter disc, I cut the eyes out of 80mm clear plastic ornament balls from a hobby store (people make Christmas ornaments with them). I used a sharpie to draw rough outlines of the pupil, iris, sclera, and anchor regions so the lines would be permanent during fabrication (more on this below).

I painted the pupils first, again with acrylic paints, which takes a few layers before it's truly opaque. Then I moved out and did the irises, and finally the sclera.

Once the painting was finished, I drew over the (permanent) sharpie guide lines with a dry erase whiteboard marker. This solves the permanent marker, which can then be wiped off with a soft cloth. After that, I used a torch to heat up a thick piano wire and poked a few holes in the plastic in the anchor areas around the edges so I could sew the eyes in place on the head mesh. (The green lines are a little rough down in the forward corners, but that's okay because that part is hidden by the border of the eye)


Here's the completed head. The ends of the mane are tied in place to keep them from flopping around. The head is held in place by a fiber-filled cotton neckbrace with elastic that holds it firmly around my neck. Vision is somewhat poor; I'm looking out the trapezoidal "hole" in the bottom of the chin, my eyes even with the teeth.

Also, on the muzzle, I used a shorter satin tatter, and I painstakingly sewed the tip of each tatter down to the base since unlike the rest of the body, the head really needs clean definition and it looked odd to have the tatters sticking out funny.

As a side, note, I spend so much time reaching for various tools, especially during sewing, that I wore a cooking apron that had pockets. This caught various blobs of spilled latex and it was a great place to clip any forceps I wasn't currently using.

Some neat pictures taken by Tugrik/Revar/Dusty:

Mach's just a subby bitch.

I guess Hudson must be straight; he blew his candy just hugging a girl (actually I just accidentally spilled the bag, but it plays off pretty well ;)

What a dope.

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Pictures © 2008 by Kevin Kelm

Hudson Horstachio is © and ™ by Rare, Ltd.