The Costume Building Backstory
First Year (2014)
It started around Halloween 2014 after 6 years together, my girlfriend at the time decided it was time to do a couples costume. I’ve done makeup and simple costumes previous years but she typically didn’t dress up. After throwing a few ideas around, from Chucky and Tiffany (Child’s Play), to Freddy Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street) and Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th), we landed on Jack and Sally from nightmare before Christmas. I was sold on the idea with only 2 conditions that I would not back down from; 1: I will not wear a mask, Jack Skellington masks look ridiculous and 2: I want Zero, I want him to float and I want his nose to light up. She agreed so I got to work building Zero to scale with floral foam, a red LED, Ping Pong Ball, and wrapped him in white gown material, hand painted the mouth and eyes and finished it off with a stiff wire that I wrapped in a leash that allowed him to float. Zero turned out better than I ever imagined, so we went out a night or 2 before halloween in full makeup. Bald cap for me, wig for her, my face/head/neck painted. With Zero in tow we went out to meet some friends. Jaws dropped when we showed up and I believe zero got more attention than real dogs do. People were petting him, trying to figure out how he floats, and taking photos with him. The response was better than I ever thought, and people told us we should enter a costume contest. We found out that a few nights later that one of my favorite venues, The Chameleon Club was offering a ‘Golden Ticket’ for the best costume, and that ticket allows entrance into every single show for a year. Not knowing what to expect, we entered the contest and won, that’s when I really wanted to see what I could actually accomplish.
Second Year (2015)
The following year one of my favorite summertime movies came out, Mad Max: Fury Road. This gave us a few options for costumes. We came up with Furiosa, Max or Immortan Joe. I really wanted to build myself an Immortan Joe costume, however, She wanted to be the star of the night, so I conceded and let her be Immortan Joe. This gave me the luxury of really not having a lot of work to do with my costume. Of course, I was going to build it from scratch but it wasn’t very involved, which was a good thing because her costume ended up being insane. Unfortunately, I no longer have all of the build pictures of her costume. I do however have a few that I found on my phone. While my costume only consisted of dirtied up (painted/stained) shirt, pants, mask, blood line and paracord bracelet… Her costume consisted of Hand painted mask, breathing tubes from a soviet era gas mask that fed into a vinyl hand-made (and functioning) bellow, custom formed acrylic chest piece molded to her body, acrylic back piece, acrylic shoulder pieces, acrylic forearm pieces, custom-made badges, leather straps to hold it all on, custom belt with foam buckle, a wig and boot covers. It took approximately 2 months to make her costume and I put everything I had into it. Mine took about 3 hours total the mask was made of hobby foam that I painted to look like metal. Anyway… we won again.
Pyramid Head Build from Silent Hill
This year (2016)
This year was going to be different, mainly because I was newly single and kept a death grip on my hobbies (Drinking, Co-Founding DangerUssMort Productions, Costumes, Etc.) to keep me balanced. But this was also the year that I initially said to myself and everyone I knew… I may not win, but if she shows up, I’m going to at least do better than she does, which shifted gears to “I’m going to fucking win”. I had been toying with the idea of pyramid head for a while before Halloween and this was the costume that I needed to do. Fortunately, I decided all of this with plenty of time to build the costume from scratch before Halloween, just over a week. It’s also worth mentioning that at the time I was drinking a lot, spending every night out with various friends, working full-time and napping for a few hours after work to catch up on sleep that was missed the night before. This gave me a rock solid 1-2 hours per day to work on the costume. Plenty of time…probably.
Add that to the fact that I no longer had a garage or proper workspace (I was living in a friend’s spare bedroom), I had to be tidy, and all of my tools were in storage. There were certainly more factors against me than what I had on my side, but I knew I could back out at any point. That was until I ordered the most expensive part of the costume and the only part I couldn’t make myself…
The stilts. Once I ordered these bad boys, there was no turning back. It’s probably also worth mentioning that I have never in my life been on stilts before, luckily Danger lived close and didn’t mind making sure I didn’t die with the introduction to my new-found height.
With phase one (being taller than I normally am) completed, it was on to phase 2 acquiring the necessary supplies.
With all of my tools buried in a storage unit I had to be very creative with the materials that I was going to build with. They had to be easy to use with minimal heavy machinery needed. Furthermore the head had to be light weight, allow me to breathe, and allow visibility (Very important when you’re already over 30″ taller than you usually are). I decided on balsa wood, seems like a decent choice, right? Well, that made for its own set of challenges.
See, balsa wood is like the fucking styrofoam of wood. It’s soft, easy to work with, but can’t support its own weight or allow anything at all to be attached to it if it’s built to any decent size. Also, it’s sold in strips, like in the photo above. Which means that there has to be some kind of solid framework to attach the balsa wood to. My thoughts were to frame the head out of cardboard and masking tape, attach the balsa wood, fill it with wood putty, and Boom! Pyramid head. It didn’t go quite that smoothly but back to the materials that I used…
Assorted Acrylic Paints (Turns out it’s quite difficult to make wood look like rusted metal)
Various plumbing supplies for accent pieces
I’m going to include the wood filler as material and not necessarily tools, but it really doesn’t matter.
Have to include the head and wig
Not pictured are the foam, the 6ft shower rod, and pints of paint that were used to make the sword. Or the white button down shirt that was painted as well, and a length of canvas that I painted to make the butcher’s apron. With all of my materials (or so I thought) purchased I decided to promptly take a nap. I was exhausted from the sheer thought of the amount of work needed and from staying out late drinking the night before. The next day I realized that I still needed tools.
So, I didn’t have much space, had to keep things clean and didn’t have a lot of time. In my mind I whittled down the tools that I need to the bare bones requirements. I settled on…
To be honest, I didn’t take many pictures other than pictures to show my updates as they were developing, so there may be a few steps missing. But I’ll do my best to explain things as they happened. First thing was to establish some kind of scale from the photograph of pyramid head.
From that photograph I knew that I wanted the helmet to be down to my belt line as wide as my shoulders and the height appears to be about 2/3 the length. From that I started the rough out, which actually took much longer than I expected. I made it out of cardboard, keeping the lines straight with the yardstick and cutting with the exacto knife. Holding it together with masking tape. It took quite a bit of trial and error before I settled on a size/shape that I liked.
This is a very rough frame, made out of just cardboard. Even though I used a heavier stock of cardboard this was not going to be able to support the added weight of glue, balsa, paint and mesh. I had to add supports. I found 1/4″ square balsa pieces, this allowed me to hot glue a piece in every corner joint on the inside as well as add bracing across the top, back and sides. By the end of it, it was rock solid.
The next step was to start adding balsa wood to the frame, which I started to do without a clear idea what the final shape would be. I pretty much winged it at every point after buying the tools and materials. I started by hot gluing long and straight pieces of balsa as a veneer. This allowed me to put putty on the joints and gave me a smooth and clean surface to paint. Also because I did not have exact measurements or a real idea in mind, it allowed me to alter the shape and size easily with the exact knife, making things fit together flawlessly.
After finishing everything in balsa wood, and getting the shape exactly how I wanted it, I started to fill in areas with putty to get everything smoothed out. I carefully applied putty to every joint, crack, gap, etc. At this point I did a rough sand and added more putty where it was needed. Luckily because of the paint scheme I was going with I was not concerned about the wood grain, so I didn’t have to cover the entire thing with putty. I trusted that any pores in the wood would act almost like rusty pock marks. While waiting for the putty to dry I decided to install the mesh screen on the inside.
If you’ve ever used mesh or chicken wire, know that it is a pain in the ass to work with. It comes in large rolls and the thin framework of metal has a memory, it remembers that it was rolled up tight and shrink wrapped. It may never forget this fact. Due to this, I shaped it out to the approximate dimensions I wanted, then inverted it, so basically it would have curled inward if not pulled tight, this made it easy to put in place and apply downward pressure while the glue dried. I also decided that this was a good time to attach the fixtures, the embellishments or whatever you want to call them. Sidenote…this was not a good time, see the putty was still drying, still needed sanded smooth. However, I was really getting down to the wire, so I thought it was a great choice. Luckily, I didn’t break anything when sanding, because if anything would break at this point I was done for, there wasn’t enough time left to rebuild any of it. Once sanded I used a dust free cloth and cleaned it up as best as I could.
This would be it, the final product. There could be no more shaping, no more building. I believe this was a Wednesday, the halloween party was on Saturday. At this point I had only worn the stilts once, I had no wardrobe, no sword and the female head wasn’t started. I decided to put a base coat of black paint on the pyramid and while that was drying I painted the mannequin head and attached a wig to it.
The mannequin head was really easy, I think the paint job took me all of 20 minutes. Attaching the wig was a bit more of a feat but I accomplished this with tons and tons of hot glue, which worked out well because not only did the glue bind the wig to the head, but the heat from it melted the styrofoam, fusing the wig onto the head. Similar to Joe Dirt and his mullet. The next step was to dry brush some metallics onto the pyramid. With metallic copper and metallic gold I was able to pull off a pretty convincing metal look. I then added blood with 2 different shades of red acrylic, dirt with brown acrylic and a few other dark colors to add blemishes. When all of the other colors were finished I brushed the whole thing with metallic silver and quickly wiped it off, this left behind a trace amount of silverflake which gave the entire head a metallic sheen.
I also brushed over the mesh with brown to make it look rust, at this point I realized that you can see straight through the mesh to my face. I went back to the store and got screen door material. Not the frame or the door itself but the black screen. This was to be attached behind the mesh, so it will still have a rusty mesh look, but black out my face. Afraid that the pyramid would get too hot or restrict my breathing, I decided to make the black screen removable. I attached it at the bottom (Near my shoulders) and put Velcro on the top, so it could Velcro in place when I needed it to, and drop the screen if I’m short on breath or too hot.
That’s the finished helmet, it’s really difficult to appreciate its size from the picture. It was huge, shoulder to tip was about 3 ft. It weighed approximately 8-10lbs, not bad for its size but to get the proper stance I had to tip my neck forward pretty hard, that got exhausting. All that was left to do were the accessories, which I did the morning of the halloween contest. I didn’t take pictures mostly because I didn’t have time. The paint was still wet on the sword when I put it in my car. I basically just took hobby foam, cut it to shape, glued it to a 6ft shower rod, and painted it. The wardrobe was simple, I ripped up the shirt, methodically applied paint to make it look a very specific way and let it dry. Same thing with the canvas, the canvas actually took a lot longer to get a very specific look. It looks as if I just threw paint on it, but that wasn’t the case. Approximately an hour beforehand I applied my makeup…
At this point I was ready to go, I packed everything into the car and headed to the Chameleon club to meet up with my buddy Adam, who actually helped me a bunch that night, see, I couldn’t really see where I was going or what I was doing let alone traverse a flight of steps on my own, Adam made sure I didn’t die. Thanks Adam.
Aside from helping me not fall and die, he took the photo of me on the left. He also photoshopped it after the fact with the resulting image on the right.
At this point I have absolutely no idea what I’ll be doing next year, I’m not sure if I even want to do another huge costume. The expectations at this point are pretty high. I would really like to do costumes for kids, or even dress up to visit hospitals or something, I think I have the talent but would like to put it to a better use. Either way, keep an eye out, maybe I’ll do a costume this halloween.