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Mysterious Stranger Costume Build Tutorial, Part 2: The Base of a Costume

The base of the costume is a long sleeved blue shirt, a skirt, and a black out mask.

MASK:

I have already posted in my blog, a tutorial on making the black out mask.  However, I would say that for this costume, because movement is very limited and the mask is worn UNDERNEATH the neck guard, you should add something to your blackout mask.

After completing all the instructions of the black out mask tutorial, cut a horizontal slit in the mask along the base of your skull and attach either velcro or hook-and-eye closures, that way, if you need to breathe or eat, you can just reach up, and pull the face of the mask forward.  it will stretch (if you’ve used a very stretchy fabric as instructed) and slide down around your neck so that it hangs in front of you, but is also still beneath the neck guard.  (Be sure to finish the edges of the cut with the zig zag roll over stitch so that it doesn’t unravel)  When you’re done eating or whatever, just lift the mask back up and it will “swallow” your head.

SHIRT:

You can choose to make one, or you can buy one.  If buying, make certain sleeves are long enough to come slightly over your wrist.  Do not buy a turtle neck, or cut o the turtle neck.

I chose to make mine, so that i could use some stretchy material I had left over.  (I’m not going to give you instructions on this, because you can just use your own wardrobe as a template, or buy a pattern).  I picked a color that is somewhere between royal blue and periwinkle.  I’ll let you figure that one out.  I made a long sleeved shirt WITH NO COLLAR, V-necked so that my mask and neck guard would fit properly.

I suggest cutting a thumb hole on the edge of your sleeves though, because I found it very hard to put the gloves and arm gauntlets on over the sleeves, because they kept slipping up.  Cutting a hole allowed me to hook it over my thumb beneath my gloves, and just slide everything up my arm.

The shirt has blue and tan scales on the upper arm starting at the shoulder seam and proceeding to just above the elbow area.  It’s impotant not to take the scales too low, toward the elbow, because you’ll also be making elbow guards that will get caught on scales.

In a moment, I’ll give you the scale-making tutorial, which is essential for the whole costume, but for now know this.  I DID NOT STITCH THE SCALES TO THE SHIRT.  I stitched them to a piece of fabric in grape-like clusters and then stitched on velcro.  I then velcroed the “patches” of scales to the sleeves.  That way, when the shirt is sweaty and gross (which it will be), I can remove the scales and wash it.  The scales are not water-proof, so this is critical.

SKIRT:

You can purchase a skirt, but I thought it would be too difficult to find one in the right color and with the right length.  It’s important that you look like you’re made of clay, coming out of the ground, so the skirt needs to be long.  So, I made mine out of 51/2 yards of 60″ sand-colored fleece.  i picked fleece because of the texture.   I thought looked a lot like sand.

To make your own skirt is very very simple.  It’s called a half-circle skirt.  You can even do it by hand if you don’t have a sewing machine.

1.   Fold the length of fabric in half (yours will vary depending on your size, just calculate about how wide you want it to be at the bottom and buy twice that much fabric)

2.   Measure your actual waist, above your hip bone and double it (you’ll see why soon)

3.   now plug that number into the C of this  formula:

R = C/6.28

and calculate a radius

4.   tie a length of string around the end of a marker or pencil and measure it to the length o the Radius you just calculated.  This is a compass that will help you draw a perfect curve that will equal one half of your waist measurement.

5.   on the fabric folded in half, go to a corner that is on the crease, position the end of string at the corner, then draw an arc on that corner

6.   cut this arc out to create a waist band area.  It should fit, but be loose and stretchy.

7.   take another length of string that measures from your waist to the ground, plus a couple inches, and tie it to your marker.  Holding the end of the string at the waist band edge, mark the hem of the skirt in a similar arc along the bottom

8.   with the good side of the fabric in (though on fleece that doesnt really matter), stitch up the open edge of the fabric.

9.   take a length of elastic and warp it around your waist so that it’s comfy, but tight.  Add a couple inches and cut.

10.   cut out a length of fabric in a rectangle that is slightly twice as wide as the elastic, and the same length

11.   wrap this around the elastic, making a sleeve, and stitch.

12.   stitch this into a circle, then to the waist band area of the skirt.

13.  hem as needed.  i finished my edges with the rollver zig zag, just so that it wouldn’t unravel

14.  Aply skirt velcro for scales(this is an optional step.  You can create patches, as in the case of the shirt sleeves above, or you can make a second skirt or apron that holds all scales, or you can even stitch the scales directly onto the skirt, but i wouldn’t recommend this, for the same reason as the shirt: you want to be able to wash the skirt, as it drags on the ground when you walk.)

SCALES:

This is probably the most important step in the entire costume, because the more you apply, the more intricate the costume.  Again, you can make alterations, but for me this was effective and easy.

WHAT YOU NEED:

Many (as needed) sheets of craft foam in blue, tan, and dark brown (to make red scales because the red foam comes out pinkish)  larger sheets are better, and you’re going to need quite a few.  They usually run about 75 cents a sheet and you can find them at joanns or any craft store

some self-hardening or bakeable clay (I use sculpy light weight $14.95 at Joanns fabrics)

Marker

scissors

acrylic paint in whatever shade of scale you’re making (I hand mixed to match the color on the movie), Red, Pink, Blue, and tan.  Important note: do not buy the pre-mixed little bottles of paint.  Get the squeezy tubes, because the little bottles do NOT cover.  They are too thin and flake off.

white glue

an electric stove, oven, or hot plate

tongs

clear varnish or polyurethane

needle, thread, and tiny clear (or matching colors to scales) beads (one for each scale)

1.   You’ll need to determine the sizes of scales you’d like to make.  I had 4 separate sizes, from the large scales around the waist, to the tiny scales on my arms  I staggered the sizes and graduated them down from big to small.

First, make a ball of clay and shape the scale, almost like a flower petal.  Make this scale MORE pronounced (deeper valleys and higher ridges) than you want the actual scales to look.  Follow the clay’s instructions and bake or dry it.  You should end up having four (or however many) templates that you will use to form your foam

You have just made your mold template!  keep these for the entire project!  you cannot lose these or your scales will come out uneven.

2   Lay the scale template (it’s up to you how you want to gradate the sizes.  On my skirt, I started with the largest and worked my way down to the smallest, so I had to make about two hundred of each size/color.  Depending on how you do it, you may want more or less) on the foam sheet that matches the color of the scale you are making-

On my skirt, I did red scales blending to pink, then to tan.

Trace the scale

You should know that I did not do each scale individually, because I found that they swiveled in place and got caught on things.  Instead, I determined, in advance, about how many scales equalled one row and traced the scales side by side, then cut out the whole line together so that the scales are connected.  This prevented them from moving from side to side, but looked like scales.

3.   You may wonder why we’re using foam to make the scales on the clothing.  The answer is: weight.  The weight of a clay scale or a wooden scale would be prohibitive.  When this foam is heat pressed, it looks just like clay formed by fingers.  It’s light, flexible, holds paint, and can even be squashed without anything more than some creases.

HEAT PRESSING:  after you’ve cut out your scale or row of scales, go over to the oven/stove/hot plate and hold the foam with the tongs over the heat until it begins to get a bit bendy (like a piece of melting sliced cheese).  If I were you I would not hold it too close, since the foam can begin to burn.

Temperature is not that important.  i would put the electric burner on high and then just adjust how high I held the oam.  YOU WILL GET HOT DOING THIS, so keep a wet washcloth or ice pack around to cool yourself off!

When my foam started to smoke a bit, but not burn, I would lay the scale (I did it one scale at a time on an attached row) over the clay scale template and pressed it firmly.  Use the mold template to form the scale.  if it isn’t the shape you want, warm it again or press it differently, but it should come off the mold looking like a hand-formed piece of clay in the shape of a scale.

4.  Once all the scales are made, paint them with white glue (dilluted with water if you need to).  This seals the foam and prevents the paint from just soaking in.  Because you’ve used a color foam that goes with the color of paint, it’s not that big a deal.

5.   when this is dry, you can paint the scales whatever color you want.

6.   when this is dry, either do another coat or proceed to the next step of varnishing the scales.

7.   when the scales are the exact color you want and are sealed, stitch them onto your extra fabric panel/second over skirt/ or onto your skirt.

I found that if i just stitched through the foam, the thread tore through the foam when I tightened it.  So I would stitch through the cloth, then out through the foam, put a bead on the string, then went back through the foam.

I put the beads where the layers of scales above it would cover them, but really you cant see them at all if you buy clear (or paint them the same color)  The only row that shows is the top row at the waist, and this is covered by the breast plate.

I staggered the rows so that the scales covered all blank spaces, almost like bricks in a wall.  It is very important, if you do attached rows of scales, to make certain that the tip of the scale on the upper row covers all the way over the joints of the lower row, so there are no gaps. It will also help disguise the fact that the scales are connected.

If you are stitching onto another piece of fabric that will then be velcroed or stitched onto your skirt, make sure you frequently hold the cloth up to the skirt and make sure it looks right.

The best option is really to make an over-skirt or apron of scales.  This will alow the scales to be removed.

You can also do as i did and have free-floating patches of tan scales all over the skirt.  These were done on separate patches, then velcroed on so that they could also be removed.  In this way, you can continue to add scales whenever you want.

This process can be repeated for the arms on the shirt.

_____________

So now you’ve made the base of the costume, the underclothes.  You will begin to see it come together already, and I can assure you, it’s awesome!

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