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The Mysterious Stranger Costume Build; Part 6: Breastplate

Ok So we’ve come to the hardest piece: the armor breast plate. This is the most difficult because it has lots of prep and lots of steps, and needs to be precise, so be prepared for a mess and several days of labor.

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To fit this armor properly, you’ll need to have a mannequin or dress form. It’s easy to make your own dress form, and I’m going to give you a brief tutorial on that, before setting you up to make the armor. I would recommend this step, even if you have a store bought dress form, because the fact is, you want the armor to hug your body SHAPE, and if you use a standard form, you won’t get that hugging.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are female…which I am, and you are planning on binding your breasts beneath the armor, then you’ll need to be wearing that binding when you make your dress form. Whatever the shape of the body WEARING the armor, is what we’re trying to create. This includes girdles, muscle padding (in the case of other kinds o costumes), and various other appendages…ehem.

DUCT TAPE DRESS FORM:

Materials:

  • Several rolls of duct tape
  • poly-fill batting, you can buy a big bag of this animal fluff filling at your local craft store, 32 oz, for about 8$, you might, depending on your size, use only one, or you might use two.
  • a sturdy hanger, preferably one o those wooden coat hangers
  • scissors
  • a disposable long sleeved shirt that fits you snugly, but not so tight it rides up
  • HELP
  • pie or ice cream
  1. put on the long sleeved shirt.
  2. pre-cut some strips of duct tape that are about the length of your torso (exactness not important)\
  3. put one long strip vertically on back and front, following spine
  4. Always begin at the front. Have the person helping you begin by laying the tape in an X from shoulder to opposite hip, crossing at the sternum (between pec muscles or breasts. This can be reinforced if it feels flimsy, but really you can do all that later. you can make a few more X’s extending upward and downward if you want to get more coverage
  5. Next do the same thing in the back, creating an X from one shoulder to opposite hip, crossing at about mid back, where the spine begins to curve inward
  6. Now lay some horizontal strips beneath the breasts or pecs, tightly hugging the ribs, but not cutting of airflow (remember to stand naturally, not stifly, as you’ll want your dress form to create a natural shape)
  7. cover upper chest from one side to the other, with angled strips, like top-heavy X’s
  8. put some horizontal strips down the sides, overlapping slightly, from underarm to hip
  9. lay shorter strips horizontally, that run from midline (spine or belly button) to sides.
  10. create the neck hole. ONLY GO TO THE EDGE OF THE SHIRT COLLAR
  11. create the shoulder caps, or even arms if you’d like the form to have arms. being sure to keep your elbows slightly bent in a natural pose.
  12. fill in gaps and reinforce
  13. Now the help must take the scissors and cut in a straight line, all the way up your spine, cutting through both shirt and tape.
  14. put another shirt on, you naked bugger
  15. tape up the cut so that you have a torso. tape armholes and bottom shut. (not pinching them, but taping across the gaps, which you made to stuff a bit before doing)
  16. insert the hanger through the neck hole and begin stufing around it
  17. dont worry about over stuffing, in the case of the armor, its better to have a fatter shell of you than a thinner one
  18. when whole thing is stufed, tape the neck hole shut.
  19. give pie or cake to your help and thank them kindly
You can now hang this in a closet, or suspend from the ceiling via a knotted rope.
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BREASTPLATE (FRONT AND BACK)
i will be posting here, just the basic armor shape. the embellishments will be in a separate section below, so when prepping, make sure you have both sets of materials
Materials:
  • Sintra (If you’ve been reading this blog, you know what this is, but if not, then here goes. This is a thin, but sturdy plastic used for making signs. It can be heated in an oven and bent to most shapes. you can find it at a sign shop though you may need to negotiate. i got a sheet of it 4×8 for about $50
  • knit gloves, fleece will also work (you need gloves that do not have a pattern, but will protect your hands from heat)
  • marker
  • exacto knife and box cutter or crafting sheers. Pretty much as many sharp cutting tools as possible.
  • large sheets of crafting foam for pattern making
  • sand paper or block
  • spackle or bondo
  • glue that will bond plastic to plastic (i used goop)
  • drill
  • oven
  1. lay your dress form on the ground facing up. i set mine on a small side table, because you need to move quickly between it and the oven, so that the sintra forms properly
  2. tape together your sheets of crafting foam until you create a sheet big enough to lay over your torso.
  3. pressing the foam into place around the edges, trace the pattern of your front chest piece. You are using foam instead of paper or fabric, because it bends almost the same as the sintra will, so if you have a curve too sharp for the foam to bend over smoothly, you may need to make a notch cut, join the lines, and smooth it out later. It should look vaguely like this:IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure that the neck hole does not hug your throat at all. It shouldn’t even touch your neck. In thte finished product, this neck gap will not show.
  4. Repeat the step for the back (It is not so important to match up edges of front to edges of back, in fact, you should overlap the front onto the back a good couple of inches. This will give you enough extra to make sure that you have enough to work with, and will also contribute to the tight fit, when the armor is on IMPORTANT NOTE: whatever the bottom edge is going to look like, just make a straight line for right now, because you’re going to trim it after you’ve formed the sintra to your body
  5. Once you’re satisfied, trace these shapes onto the sintra
  6. preheat your oven to 250-275 ish
  7. cut out the shape carefully. This is very important. YOU MUST SCORE THE CUTS FIRST. I recommend scoring the exact line you have traced on both front and back, and then cutting outside the line. This score line prevents the cutting of the sintra from shattering into your piece. I had numerous cracks in my first small attempt, until I figured this out
  8. Now, you can lay the sheet of sintra on the oven rack, but this might leave rack marks on the plastic. It also might be difficult to get the sheet completely in the oven, but try.
  9. when it gets really floppy, like a noodle, take it out and quickly lay it over the dress form and press it into shape. This involved me straddling my own torso, which was odd. Don’t worry about perfection now. Just get the basic shape, because if you need to tweak it, that’s easy. you just heat the edges near the coils in the oven and flex them how you like. This may take many many tries. Each piece of mine took about two hours to shape correctly
  10. once both front and back are finished, check to make sure they fit together well around you or your form.
  11. using the spackle or the bondo, fill in all the notch cuts you may have made so that the armor is solid. If you have made no notch cuts, then don’t do this…obviously.
  12. take the foam pattern for the front piace and lay it over the armor. Trace a curved line horizontally at the “under the breast” line. Cut along that line
  13. trace this onto the sintra and cut out
  14. heat and form OVER the breast plate you made first. Make sure that the edges either match up perfectly (nearly impossible) or just make the piece a bit bigger and have the edges aterward.
  15. once you have it formed to exactly fit and hug the original plate, heat the bottom edge and flex slightly outward, so that there is about a one-inch gap between the “breast line” and the chest plate. This is as per the character and will assist later in the embelishment process
  16. fill in any notch cuts you may have made, again, if you haven’t, then don’t obviously
  17. glue the shorter chest plate in place on top of the larger breast plate
  18. NOW cut the lower edge. The armor should end at your natural waist, on the sides, however, the mysterious stranger has a tummy plate, or a longer flap over the stomach. You may also need to trim the back piece to end at your waist, so that you can bend over or flex at the waist comfortably. MALE SURE TO TRIM ALL THE EDGES AND MAKE IT FIT PERFECTLY (even during movement) BEFORE PROCEEDING TO NEXT STEP.
  19. drill four holes on the edges of the shoulder joints on both back and front plate. this will allow you to tie front and back together. Do the same at the sides. I advise leaving some overlap at the sides, so that when you move, there isn’t a gap. These holes will not show when you are finished
  20. Sand the shit out of this, all the edges, especially the neck, and even the edges of the drilled holes
You now have a solid and complete breast plate and back piece.

EMBELLISHMENTS:

Materials:
  • sculpey light weight bakeable clay for jewelry making
  • tan crafting foam
  • red and tan paint as per the color of your finished costume
  • resin (purchased at any craft or hardware store for about 25$ and can be used sparingly)
  • thin cording to fit through drill holes
  • hot glue or some other variety; “goop” works well
  • heavy duty foil
You’re going to be making clay scales for this. If you don’t want to spend the money on the clay, or you’re worried about weight of the final piece, you can use foam instead and make the same old foam scales you’re used to making for this costume, as discussed in the second installment of this series. This is cheap, durable, and looks good, with the added bonus that the bottom row of scales will not be fragile (one of mine broke in half when i bent over and had to be replaced) So this is a fine substitute!
  1. First, PAINT YOUR ARMOR RED EXCEPT FOR WHERE THE SCALES GO. To do this, you must have sanded the armor. You can do multiple coats. I didn’t want to have to paint the inside of mine, so I took some spray adhesive and some shiny satin in red, and fabric lined the inside, but you don’t have to do this. You DO have to paint it, or white bits will show. The easiest way to get an even coat is to use spray paint, but I had a hard time finding a plastic bonding paint in the right red. maybe you can find the primer or something, but i couldn’t, so i used acrylic.
  2. Take some newspaper and make the pattern for the curly decoration on the front of the tummy plate. I did this by folding the paper in half, lining that fold up on the mid-line, drawing one half of the image, and cutting. When it was unfolded, both sides were identical.
  3. Trace this pattern onto the tan foam and cut out
  4. paint or whatever you’re going to do to it, THEN glue it to the tummy panel and let dry completely
  5. IF USING CLAY FOR SCALE DETAIL: make a triply layered foil sheet and lay it over one side of your lower torso, to the right or left of the tummy panel. MAKE SURE THE FOIL HANGS OFF THE BOTTOM EDGE TO SUPPORT LOWER ROW OF SCALES AS THE BAKE.
  6. make your clay scales on this foil. Stagger just like you would bricks, overlapping the scales to cover gaps. Also, if you have a mind to, you can conceal the drill holes by bending the foil up away from the breastplate, then laying the scales down. When they’ve baked, there will be a gap above the holes that will conceal them. Also the overhang will conceal the overlap between back and front. When finished, remove the sheet of foil and supporting its curvature (with metal bowls or similar shapes, or even as I’ve recently learned, a BIG metal boil of sand. this holds any shape you set on it very snugly and does not melt in the oven)
  7. repeat for the other side
  8. after cool, paint only the outer surface, and glue to the breastplate
  9. Resin coat the entire surface. This will help make it durable. You can sand when dry and do a top coat of paint if you’re worried about the shiny resin finish, or you can wait until the resin is dry enough that it is still tacky, but not so tacky it will leave finger prints and do a coat of paint. This keeps it from being shiny without sanding
  10. lace up the sides by stringing your cording through the holes. Be sure that you have help when getting in and out. Believe me, it is not easy to get in and out of.
All finished, and ready for the next step, the gorget, or neck armor.

2 comments on “The Mysterious Stranger Costume Build; Part 6: Breastplate

  1. Thanks for the dress form instructions…I’m looking to make a breastplate for Halloween. I’m having a little trouble, no one was free to help me after work, so I’ve taped myself into my tshirt…my scissors won’t cut all the tape/material and I’m too scared to try the X-acto knife. So I’m currently stuck. But thanks for the inspiration.

    • Lmao…so sorry! I hope you made it out without an autoappendectomy!! If you’re making the breastplate from Sintra, you may need to heat it a few times to get it just right. That’s ok. It can take it. And I also found that after heat-forming the main body, it was a good idea to heat up the edges using my electric stovetop to curl them in a bit so that the edges were rounded. After that I sanded them. Sintra is quite sharp.

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