Wow, where to start with this one? I guess at the beginning...
I decided to do this costume sometime in the summer of 2005 because our group was going to go as characters from Cardcaptor Sakura. So when looking through our deck of Clow cards, I was drawn to Earthy because of the sheer difficulty of the costume. Turns out I had no way to really know the beastie this thing would turn into. Three years, $1000+, and literally countless hours later, I finally have it functional.
^.^'' This was actually my first wig, so there are about a million different techniques used (as I was seeing which worked the best) and it's actually a little more sloppy on the inside than I had hoped, but I'm rather pleased with it. The wig is an Ashley 850 (color #30) from Cosworx. And yes, it does have an understructure :D.
There is a two dimensional piece of foam board in the basic heart shape caulked to the center of the wig cap at a slight angle backward. From this frame, I used strips of fun-foam hot glued side by side to create a half circle that extended from the top of the board. These strips were then glued to another foam strip that went from one side of the board to the other (in the back), eventually creating a hollow hemisphere type shape that flowed with the heart shape of the wig and created a base for the wig fiber to be styled around. Now, the spirally vortexes of doom also had a frame. I took a styrofoam floral wreath form, cut a section out of the middle of the ring, and glued it back together to make a more elliptical shape. Then I took the ends of styrofoam cups and, after some re-shaping, glued them to the "wreaths" so that the fiber would have a place to go once it spiraled in. These wreaths were then glued to the sides of the heart-shaped form (I think with a mix of hot glue and caulk, but I honestly can't remember). I then painted the entire form brown and covered it with some cheap (and nappy, might I add), brown extensions picked up from the dollar store. The fiber that was directly under the hemisphere form was cut away and made into wefts to help cover up the sides of the wig cap since it was useless in it's current place.
I then used the extra wig fiber and a pack of Dr. Locks 100% Kanekalon extensions (also in color #30) to cover up the gaps in the sides of the wig cap (using too many techniques for weft making than anyone ever should, but there's a mix of sewn wefts, caulked wefts, hot glued wefts, straightening ironed wefts, heat sealed wefts, etc. in there). Then I took strips about 1 1/2'' - 2'' in width, combed them, and started hair-spraying them onto the form. I started on the sides, draping the pieces first over the back, wrapping them around the "wreaths", and then spiraling the excess into the cups. I then did the same thing with the majority of the fiber in the back (leaving the fiber at the nape of the neck loose). Then I moved to the front, where the fiber was draped upward and then wrapped around from behind the "wreaths". The gap in the center was covered by the remaining fiber in the back. I did not glue any of the actual wig fiber to the form, it's all held together by the magic of our friend hairspray :D. So, while there is a form underneath, it's not a solid shape that the fiber is just glued too. If anything, I would compare it more to a tent being created by the fiber draped over a skeletal frame.
~Corset and Skirt~
Actually very easy. I used Vogue pattern 2810 and my fabrics were different types of crinkled taffeta. The corset (really more of a boned bodice as it does little to shape the body...) has plastic boning and hand sewn hook-and-eye closures. The only trouble I got from it was from the fabric. Since the fabric is crinkled and only mean for window drapes, it wasn't really suited to creating a tight fitting garment. Especially since I cut it out months before I pieced it together, and during that time it got smushed under something else, causing the crinkle in the fabric to relax and flatten out, making my pattern pieces too big. The entire hem on the skirt is also hand stitched.
The cape is two layers of fabric; the bottom a sand colored crinkle taffeta and the top a two tone chiffon (polyester I believe). I wish I'd had more fabric so that I could have gotten more gathering and drape out of it, but oh well. It's glued to a foam board "mantle" that rings around my shoulders.
~Spikes/ Rocks/ Crystals~
The single hardest and most expensive part of this costume @.@. They weren't carved, but I made custom molds for each piece. One for each of the three on my head (yes those ear pieces are their own, whole entity, they weren't pieced together, they are undercut hell incarnate), one for each of the ones right in front of my shoulders, and six of various sizes and shapes for the rest of the ring of rocks around my shoulders. This is my first mold-making/ casting project, and I researched it for over a year making sure I got things right.
The initial positives were made out of Super Sculpey with tooth pick and skewer reinforcements. They were then sealed and mounted for the mold making process. I used Dragon Skin, a platinum cure silicon rubber by Smooth-On, to make brush on rubber molds. Dragon Skin is great because it's incredibly stretchy and strong, so I could peel it off of my Sculpey positives without tearing the molds. It also mixes in a 1/1 ratio by volume, so it was very user friendly to newbies to the art of mold-making like me. I experimented with a thickening agent to make the rubber brush on better (making it a consistency close to vaseline, very fun, actually), but for the most part just used it as it was. The entire process took about 8 hours of active construction, and then I let it cure overnight.
De-molding was, well, painful. I knew that while Dragon Skin is very flexible, I would probably lose some of the longer and more fragile spikes in the de-molding process. Except for the six long spikes around the shoulders, all of the initial positives were completely destroyed. So lesson learned, pieces with so many dramatic undercuts and delicate sections probably shouldn't be made with one-piece molds...
I then used FlexFoam-iT! X, a flexible polyurethane foam that expands to about 6 times its size also by Smooth-On, to create the final spikes. I chose a flexible foam because the costume needed to conform to con rules, and I knew there was no way I could walk around with a rigid rock pin-cushion around my shoulders. This way, no one would get hurt, and people could even touch the costume without damaging it if they were curious. I also chose foam because it would be lighter than other materials (and as we learned from the Sculpey positives, a rigid caste wouldn't get out of those molds alive). This stuff was very easy to work with, easy to de-mold, and it cured relatively quickly. Unfortunately, not quickly enough for me to make the mantle of rocks around my shoulders as thick as it will be eventually, but again, oh well.
They were then painted with Liquitex acrylic paint (which is flexible and bends with the foam). I brushed on some powdered metallic paint pigment in copper and bronze to the tips while the paint was wet, just to give it a slight sheen.
In all, this section of the costume alone cost me $600, give or take.
The five gems on the corset are custom made and caste in polyester resin. The initial positives were made from Super Sculpey, the molds were made out of a brush on latex, and then (since I ran out of surface curing agent right before casting these and could find no other way to get rid of the tacky surface before the con) the resin gems are sealed with clear fingernail polish :D
Eventually, I hope to make the U-drop crystals that hang from her hair out of resin as well.
Judge's Award: AnimeFest 2008