Do you want an original costume that can’t be purchased, but you don’t know how to sew? Or perhaps you need a crazy prop for your costume and you just can’t find anything like it in stores. I went to CONduit in Salt Lake City on Saturday, and there I attended a panel that was all about turning ordinary, random things into costume items, to create items that no one else has!
There are two basic tricks to making a costume item out of something else:
The first is to break down the idea of your finished product into components. You won’t be able to find the exact thing you need, but you will be able to find various things that you can put together to make what you need. Your costume is a puzzle, and you’re looking for the pieces.
The second is to have a creative eye. Go to places that sell an odd assortment of things, and when something catches your eye, think, “How can I modify that item to suit my needs?” Oftentimes costume makers will go shopping for the adventure of it. They buy whatever strange cool things catch their eye, with the intention of figuring out what to do with it later.
Take a vegetable steamer, for example. It doesn’t look useful, as it is, for making a costume. But if you took a screwdriver and took it apart, you’d have all these pieces of metal that would be perfect for making your own costume scale-mail.
With these two precepts in mind, the panel then progressed to a discussion about various ideas and examples of creative costuming we had all done. Here are some examples that were discussed:
The metal inside pop-up hampers can be used for boning in corsets or bodices. Take the metal out of old, broken hampers you’ve collected from your friends, instead of buying new ones.
Make an apron from a curtain purchased at a thrift store! Just cut it off to the right length and insert a drawstring along the top where there is a pocket for the curtainrod. No sewing required!
Craft foam comes in many colors and thicknesses and can be used to make almost anything, such as horns, ears, armor, masks, or even bigger items like mascot heads. Use contact cement or spray glue to build the pieces together.
If you can’t sew or don’t have access to a machine, you can use products such as Stitch Witchery or Fabric Fusion to bond your materials together.
Design Master Spray Paint is a type of fabric paint that can be used when dying the item won’t work. Unlike regular spray paints, this paint doesn’t make the fabric stiff and it doesn’t peel off.
To make furry hands for your werewolf costume, take a pair of tight-fitting latex gloves, adhesive, and fake fur, or the cosmetic hair that is used in theater. Glue the fur onto the gloves, and paint the rest of the gloves as necessary for a more realistic look. Even attach fake nails as claws! You can create high-quality cosmetic hands which can be used over and over again. Along these same lines, you can appear to have differently colored skin by dying or painting a bodysuit and gloves–much cleaner and faster than having to paint your body.
Do you need to be much taller for your costume, but without the aid of obvious props like stilts? Try making a pair of shoe stilts using rollerblades.
I’ve always wanted to work with leather, but never thought I’d be able to without buying a lot of tools. After hearing this tip, I’ve changed my mind. You can buy bags of scrap leather from leather dealers such as Tandy Leather for fairly cheap. It was suggested that that you soak the raw, heavyweight leather in water overnight. The next day, the leather would be malleable, and you could form it into shapes to make masks, armor, or other accessories.
These are all just examples of how you don’t need to be a master seamstress to make good costumes, and how normal, everyday items can be used in your costume-making endeavors. And remember, in costuming there are no mistakes–they are simply new design concepts!
And now, here are some of the awesome costumes I saw at CONduit!