One of the complements I keep getting for my centaur costume is the sculpting. It doesn’t look bulky or unnatural and it moves realistically. Not only does it look real, it feels real. Because I use foam instead of chicken wire, it’s warm and soft like a living, breathing, creature.
Most of the centaur costumes I found online were framed with either chicken wire or layers of foam that were carved into shape.
This isn’t how I did it. Not to toot my own horn, but I think my way is easier.
Ready to learn how I did it? This post will be dedicated almost entirely to how to sculpt your centaur costume.
Making the Legs
Remember how I said to put off glueing the pipes on the legs. It is now ok to glue the PVC pipes together.
Now that the legs have a skeletal frame, they need some meat.
I used a 1 inch poly foam that I bought from Hobby Lobby in a giant roll.
I used the paper outline as a stencil for the foam so it would line up with the pipes and cut out four pieces (two for each leg). I then put one piece of foam on either side of the PVC pipe legs (like a sandwich) and stuffed those into panty hose. You were probably wondering where that was going to come into play. This gives them a curvy appearance and holds the foam together without glue and shapes them without having to carve.
After that, I used some stuffing to round out some of the places even panty hoes couldn’t make curvy.
I did the same thing for the body, cutting out foam pieces shaped like the back. I cut holes in each piece so the middle pipe would go through and hold them in place. I cut about four of these. You could even use a solid block of foam, but this was cheaper and made it lighter, because I just filled in the space between with stuffing.
After this I glued the PVC on the frame together.
Attaching the Tail
Now is the time to add the tail–well, part of it anyway. Remember the plastic tube. I ran a wire through it so that I could attach the tube to the PVC pipe, but also to make the tube bend. When I add my hair later, the wire can be bent so the tail can be bent up to give it a more realistic look.
Making the Harness
I’m actually going to dedicate an entire post to this in the future. I didn’t take a lot of pictures because this was a lot of trial and error, so I’ll have to make some doodles. The concept comes from a security harness–like for climbing mountains. We’ll come back to this.
Sculpting the Body
After this, you’re ready to build up your body. So why didn’t I use chicken wire like everyone else? I did at first, but I didn’t like it. It made it too bulky. So after three nights work, I tore the chicken wire off.
After much banging of my head and laying on the kitchen floor sobbing and moaning, I decided to put batting around the frame (not the legs) and stuff that with polyfiber stuffing to fill it out just as I did with the legs. The batting is optional, but it helps the stuffing stay in place. Here is a picture below of the costume with the batting and the panty-hoes-covered legs. As you can see the harness will be attached around the foam underneath the batting.
The stuffing, as I’ve mentioned before, makes the costume lighter and lovable. The kids at practice could not stop touching it, just like a real horse. If I’d used chicken wire, the costume would not move as realistically and it would feel fake. I got extra points for realism. It was a treat for the kids, which made it worth all the hard work.
Covering the Frame
After this came my least favorite part: sewing the body. I bought three yards of fabric to cover the frame from legs to front. Since there aren’t any patterns for centaur costumes, obviously, I bought a plastic tablecloth to make my own. It was based on the pattern you might find for a stuffed animal. I did not want a seem on the back, so I designed my pattern so the seam would be on the bottom sides, but for simplicity, you could follow the concept that is used for stuffed animals, which includes a back seam.
Once I cut out the fabric, I put it over the body and pinned it in place. Once it was pinned in place, I then sewed it on the machine. This was probably the most challenging part because I’m not a good sewer.
Important note: I was able to pin it and slide it on and off the body because I used a 4-way stretch fabric. Originally, I was going to use a 2-way stretch fleece. This would have made it harder to sew and hinder the movement of the legs.
I chose to use a 4-way stretch fabric in a polyester/nylon blend. This way the fabric would be less likely to tear or move unrealistically. It can also be stretched onto the frame so that all the sewing can be done on the machine, limiting how much handsewing you’d have to do. Not only can it be stretched on like a pair of tights, but it can be removed for mending or washing.
Jo-Ann Fabrics has a new cosplay line of four-way stretch fabric. This is great for making super hero costumes. I wish they’d had this while I was working on this project. Oh well.
I left some extra fabric in front so I could tie the costume around my waist; this held the horse body flush with my own body. I just tied the extra fabric in a knot; nothing fancy. Don’t worry, the knots are hidden by the next step.
I sewed a very basic fur belt to hide where the costume attached to my body. I literally just used a safety pin to fasten this in place, but you can use snaps or Velcro. I used the same color fabric to sew fetters for the legs and for the front legs to hide my shoes. I sewed elastic in these so they slide on and off. I didn’t want them to be permanently attached to the costume so that they could be removed in the event I need to wash or fix it.
Attaching the Tail
Remember the tube for the tail? I left a hole in the fabric for that to stick out. I tied a wig to it to create the tail. You can pick up a decent wig for 5-20 bucks. Fall is a good time to get them because most stores will be carrying them for Halloween. The wire that I ran through the tube made it possible to bend it so the tail would not drag.
So this is the costume so far. Next week I’ll try to post the DIY harness. After this the final steps are putting the costume on and making it walk. Thank you all for your wonderful comments. For those of you who are in the process of creating your own costume, I hope this helps. Let me know if any of the steps needs more clarity or depth.