When you get right down to it, autumn is my favorite time of year. The changing of the leaves, the respite from the unbearable dog days of the beautiful Kansas summers, and of course, the happiest of the happy holidays: Hallowe'en!
This year, I was lucky enough to be visited by a pair of ghosts of Hallowe'ens past, two delightful clients from up Ontario way. I've worked with them twice in the past, and was happy to hear they wanted me back.
Here are some progress shots of the costumes taking shape. Can you guess who they were going as, yet?
Hint: the one above is female, the male of the species is pictured below.
If you haven't gotten it by now I may as well just spill: they were the ghoulish, ghastly pair of ghosts from the classic Tim Burton monsterpiece, Beetlejuice! This is a very silly post. Please excuse the puns.
The Maitlands, as their commonly called, are a great, cult-as-all-get-out, couples costume, and a quick google image search will return a handful of less-than-intimidating home made jobs, as well as a few that had me questioning whether I was up to the task.
These were definitely the most complicated costumes I have ever made, and more than once I worried they weren't going to turn out. An okay man maybe once said "success without crippling self doubt is none the sweeter than..." Well, I stink at making up meaningful quotes. Anyway, they turned out really cool! Moral: believe in yourself!
The tongue was a challenge of its own, but layering 1/2" foam cut to the contour worked, and I shaved it down and rounded the edges with scissors, then stitched some red fleece around the shape.
A couple of dime store eye-balls, about a million pieces of brown fleece cut into spiral-curls, a few hot glue burns, and VIOLA!
This handsome fellow was easier to finish up, with plush fur for the hair and no tongues or other extra accessories to make. My lovely wife Martha helped me with a photo shoot (and half of the modeling) a little after midnight, about a week before Hallowe'en.
We had fun trying them on, ha ha. It just happened that I was wearing a rather Maitland-ish shirt, and Martha's bathrobe was house-coat-y enough to pass for 'on purpose.'
I used a piece of red-dyed silk chiffon that Martha had from a previous project to let the wearer hide their face while maintaining a safe field of vision.
The clients were both thrilled with the photos, and more-so with the masks when they arrived a few days later. In the end they won all three of the costume contests they entered, so any lingering self doubt abated, and I slept easy the next few nights.
Once that was all said and done, I remembered that I had yet to make a costume for myself, as we were again hosting our annual party, and had guests coming from Chicago to impress!
I was in over my head before I started, working with materials that were relatively foreign to me. I considered going the cartoony route, as above, and softening the edges by building with foam and fabric, but I knew what I wanted to make, and anything less would be a concession to time and a lack of talent.
So, in a fit of stubbornness, I made a few paper models, one after the other, weeding out problems and making slight adjustments to an enlarged paper-craft toy pdf I found on 4chan. After something like eight (no joke) slight variations on failure, lightning struck and I lucked out, and I was finally ready to move on to the final material: chip board.
After a few dry runs of with painters tape, I busted out the hot glue and got serious.
At this point, I was only about three steps away from full on nazi-bustin'!
The piping on the sides of the helmet were made of bisected clear tubing from the hardware store, a tip from another DIYer of the same costume.
Foam core fin? Check. Brass brads for rivets? You got it. Time to paint!
Black base, then a few layers of gold.
With the helmet done (except the lenses, which I had waiting in a bag) it was time to face facts: without a rocket-pack, I was just a nerd in a cardboard helmet. This is the model from the movie. Gulp.
'Twas the night before our party, and I hadn't a plan for the pack,
so I did lots of sketches, and had a small panic attack.
I went for foam. The rocket pack wasn't going to look like the one from the movie, but I could match the shape and style close enough to get by on the helmet's cred. The thirsty cardboard started to swell and build up unwanted texture in few spots, but I was able to give it a day to dry out, sand it down and then hit it with one last layer of gold.
I tried the helmet on in the morning, after the fumes cleared out, before heading to work. Speaking of work, I had to scramble and come up with an alternate costume (the school rule is from a book or history, and I didn't want to explain all day that The Rocketeer was a comic before the movie). My cotes her Amy and I went as gender-swapped (though I think the Ox was always a boy ox) Paul Bunyan and Babe, which is one of my favorite tall-tales.
What, you may ask, does Babe the Blue Ox do when the Nazi's sail a blimp into Hollywood?
He blasts into action as THE FREAKIN' ROCKETEEEER!!!
The pack is less than perfect, but the jacket my buddy Phil hooked me up with was so good I wasn't at worried about it. I made the boot covers out of fake leather and wore some boots that almost matched, but let's be honest, no one was looking at the shoes.
The costume came together in the last hours before the party, and people who remembered the movie loved it. The helmet survived the party (whew!), and now sits proudly on display on top of a set of lockers. Happy Hallowe'en!