My husband and I decided on doing new fun costumes for this Halloween and an upcoming comic con in Reno, NV. So we started making our plans in mid summer so that we would not feel so rushed. Yah, ….famous last words. We did plan, but we had no idea we would run into so many challenges in making two new costumes and updating another one. The Mandolorian costume my husband had made about 6 years ago, but it needed repairs after several household moves. Things sometime get broken or there are aspects of such a project that one would like to make better. So we thought that leaves us with two brand new costumes – one of which, the Jedi, should be pretty simple. We spent many years researching, designing, and constructing really good Ren Faire costumes. We made European Renaissance Era royalty, Landsknecht military, merchant class, and also branched into other eras such as the Classic Rome, 1700’s European/North America, World War I, and 1800’s Imperial Austria. So we had both a pretty good background in doing the research and construction. And if you have ever tried making some of the clothing of these time periods, it can be pretty intense. The 1700’s clothing is pretty sophisticated in its design concepts and construction.
So we were sure we had the ability to make the Jedi costume. The Wookie costume was something we were unfamiliar with. I had only constructed one mask and that was from a unique idea that I was inspired to do unlike the Wookie, which had a very defined idea of what they should look like. So I did not have much freedom to do as I pleased. I needed to conform as much as possible to a desired standard to make the costume successful. The same thing was with the Jedi, although there was some flexibility since I was not doing a specific character within the Star Wars realm of reality.
How hard could it be to sew robes and vests? I had a limited budget and very little space to work in – these would prove stressful. Especially the limited space to work in. Inexpensive fabric will not yield the desired results, but I have seen some Jedi costumes made of what looks like bed sheet material – a light weight cotton – and they look basically what they are supposed to. These are good learner, or dare I say, Padawan costumes. People can have fun in these and they are washable. So I started looking around in our left over materials for things that would be suitable. Found great fabrics to use for a more traditional looking Jedi in the tans and browns, but the pattern I obtain was basically…..not very accurate when it came to sizing. I selected a small size thinking it was a male oriented pattern and when I constructed my lovely linen type fabric – it fit my husband who wears a large size in men’s clothing. This set off a series of derailments since my funds were limited. I was forced to develop a new Jedi character based upon a Clone Wars race called the Kage Warriors that wore a lot dark greys. There isn’t much about them, but it would have to do for my new Jedi character that has an almost creepy look to it. Once I got past the problem with bad pattern sizes under control, I was able to put together clothing suited for a Jedi.
And yes, I said clothing. This is an important aspect when creating costumes. It should be clothing and not a costume. It has to be comfortable. You are not a Barbie doll that just stands around looking pretty. It won’t be fun and things will wear badly if it doesn’t fit right. Think clothing instead of costume. This will change your whole perspective on making costumes.
So once my problems were basically solved with the Jedi character, I had to deal with the task of making our friend’s Wookie costume. This was totally different from thinking about a costume as clothing. This was a different body type. A new way to think about presenting oneself as someone different. Once again, research was done to look at as many pictures of Wookies as possible and then at a few groups out there that had done some rather professional looking costumes on Internet websites and blogs. One German blog really helped with their pictures of the Wookie mask under construction. And another site described that trimming the seam areas of the fur will help with the sewing of the various pieces together. This made the construction of the body fairly easy. We also bought some polar fleece on sale to do a test pattern since our friend’s Wookie fur fabric was not cheap. No mistakes allowed on this one! The gloves were pretty easy since we made our own gloves during our Renaissance Era projects and the feet were designed with the intention of being permanently used on an old pair of shoes that our friend had. Making sure you have good comfortable footwear is essential to making sure that wearing a costume is a fun time and not a miserable day or evening of aching feet.
My husband constructed the Wookie’s weapon ammo belt and pouch as well as modified a toy gun to become the Wookie’s crossbow rifle. Having all of this under construction went fine and left probably the most important and most difficult part of the costume– the mask. Neither of us are makeup artists and our friend was not interested in sitting for several hours having prosthetics and make up put on him. That might be fine for a film project but not so much for an evening of fun at a casino party. So a mask was very much needed. The three of us looked around for suitable masks to base our mask upon and settled on a scary skull mask that fit our friend comfortably. This was purchased and was to become the base for which we would build the Wookie mask.
Since the skull mask was not a face with flesh, I had to start adding padding or something to give form for muscle or flesh. A Wookie has a muzzle style mouth area, so adding some material was needed. At times I felt like one of those forensic artists trying to reconstruct a facial structure. I used Sculpy clay that I could bake in a home oven to make the pieces, which was also challenging because the darn toaster oven’s temperatures were not exact. Do some test bakes before putting in that perfectly sculpted facial form. I had a few burn and smell up the house. Yuck. Gluing the fur fabric strips onto the mask was also aggravating especially when I had super glue, Sharpy marker ink, and fur all stuck on my fingers. By the end of the day, I was happy to be done with the mask.
Time had run out and we did not have everything done for our costumes, but they were all wearable. I think the time and effort was well worth it. People enjoyed seeing our Star Wars characters on Halloween and some even wanted to take photos of us or have their photos taken with us. The Wookie was the big favorite. So our plans are now to finish the details that we wanted to do and repair or change anything that may have not been uncomfortable. We are hoping to have all this ready for the comic con in late November.
The surprising event of the evening at the Silver Legacy casino Halloween party was that we had entered the costume contest for best themed costumes, and we won! The crowd had final say on who won what, and we won our category. It was a great way to end the evening and give us steam to forge on to make things even better.
Gretchen Winkler © 2014