Part 3 is on the way

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Wow! In the last month, I’ve had so many emails and messages about my centaur costume.

Thanks to all my friends on WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter, word has spread about my centaur costume. I appreciate the complements and questions. I love to talk about projects I’ve worked on, especially the process, so I am delighted that so many people want to use my design and instructions to make their own.

Imitation is the best form of flattery.

There are other centaur costumes online, and some rather scanty or incomplete tutorials, but I am very flattered that people are choosing mine because they say it is the most detailed or even, the most practical or best looking design.

I will say this, mine is doable, especially for novices. After all, I was no master builder or seamstress when I made it–still not. But I learned as I went, and I am so happy to share with you all the steps, tips, and tricks necessary to complete your own project.

While I am happy to give one-on-one advice via email, I know this may not be enough help for those of you who would like pictures and the step by step process of making the harness and assembling the final touches, so I will get part 3 out this week. That means I will dig my costume and all its parts out of my closet and take pictures during the assembly project.

If you haven’t read part 1 and 2, they can be found on my blog.

If you are making your own, please send me pictures. Let me know if the tutorial helped, or even where you deviated from my design.

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Why I Cosplay

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So as you all know, my blog is where I share my passions–mainly writing (though lately my post haven’t been about writing so much). Right now my greatest passion is cosplay.

What is Cosplay?

Some of you probably cosplay yourselves or at least have heard about it. I’m really not sure what the etymology of the word is, but I know it has “play” in it. It means costume play or something of that nature. I like to call it adult pretend, though children can certainly cosplay as well. It means something different to everyone. Cosplay may be synonymous with weird to some of you who are no doubt looking for the unfollow option on my blog.

Cosplay gets a bad rep for being considered some sort of adult dress up where those who participate are in some sort of stunted state of adolescence or refuse to grow up.

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None of that is true. It’s not just dress up or pretend, it’s a creative outlet and a way of expression.

What Type of People Cosplay?

You’ll find all kinds of grownups, some serious adulting types even. A doctor, lawyer, or insurance agent by trade could be Batman, Iron Man, Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman, Gandalph, or Hermione at a con.

Whatever they do for a living, your typical cosplayers are artist, nerds, geeks, dye-hard fans, actors, etc.

Let’s look at some of my favorite cosplayers.

thgJoshua Dart: Thranduart: Here is an example of a man who took a character and made him his own. He has celebrity status for his Thranduil cosplay. He is the perfect example of cosplaying from the inside out. Not only does he look like the character, but he acts like him. While he still cosplays as Thranduil, he has also cosplayed as Nick Wylde, Woody, and he’s currently working on a new project. You can follow him via Facebook and Twitter. To learn more about him and his cosplay, read all about him in my blog interview here.

14702315_10154198864517955_4740621950542902139_nElysia Vaughan: I met her at my first con, and now I see her every year. The first year she won first place in a costume contest and rightfully so, as she made her costume the year we ordered ours. We won second place, but she certainly deserved first for her Predator cosplay. I wish I had a photo to share, but I can’t find it. She was very friendly and willing to share information about the process of making her costume. She really inspired me to try my hand at making my own. She made it sound easy. I always look forward to seeing her and learning more about her as a person instead of just a fellow cosplayer.

Even some famous people have cosplayed, even if it was just to disguise themselves at cons: Masie Williams, Daniel Radcliffe, Tom Hiddleston, and Henry Cavill. Chances are, if you see someone just wearing a spider man mask, they’re a celebrity in hiding.

Here are a few of my favorites who, sadly, I don’t know their names:

Why Cosplay?

 

There are many reasons to cosplay. Many of us just want to share a passion either for a fandom, a character, for makeup or costume art, or something else that can be expressed through the art of cosplay.

Yes, I just called it an art. And it is. It involves certain skills in arts, crafts, engineering, mathematics, textiles, etc.

I’ve always loved art: theatre, painting, drawing, crafting, textiles, music.

Cosplay gives me an outlet to do all of these things. I get to work with wood, fabric, makeup, do crazy hairstyles, create, and act. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to escape the stresses of normal adult life.

I’ve been doing this about three years now. The first year, we literally had a month before KokomoCon. I wasn’t going to do it but my sister wanted to. A month doesn’t give you time to make your own costume (or so we thought), so we ordered them. There are a lot of websites if you’re interested in ordering costumes, wigs, or costume accessories: Etsy, AliExpress, Amazon, and Ebay to name a few.

I did make the crown and we painted the ears. That first year was experimental. I wasn’t confidant enough to sew yet. I didn’t believe in myself and I hadn’t discovered I’m awesome and can do anything. We decided to be the Mirkwood elves from the Hobbit. Making the crown reconnected me to the artistic side of myself that had been on hiatus. It also reminded me of theatre, which I hadn’t been a part of since Highschool but meant to get back into. This got me involved in local theatre the following year.

My next cosplay started off as a theatre role. As some of you may remember, I was the centaur in the Lion, the Witch & the Wardobe. After spending over a month working on it, I decided to take it to the con. I learned how to sew a little in high school but this costume told me how to apply what I learned to go above and beyond: creating something they don’t make patterns for. I also learned a lot of shop skills from creating the body and learned to work with mediums I’m not that experienced with like foam. I used parts of my brain I didn’t even know existed, and I’m a lot more savvy than I gave myself credit for.

This year I went as Lagertha from Vikings. This cosplay has a special place in my heart because I feel like we all went as characters we can identify with. I hate to say it, but my kid probably relates to Bjorn. He’s a boy who’s parents split up and he struggles with accepting that while learning new responsibilities as he becomes an adult. I’ve always identified with Lagertha. She’s a protective mother who still has dreams outside of being a parent. Her ex screws her and so does every man she knows, so she becomes a fiercely independent lady boss. I’d say Kylie went as Porunn because she’s a bit wild, independent, and wants to be free.

For this cosplay, I learned to make chain mail, wooden swords, shields, and lace leather. It was fun and daunting at the same time. And we learned something we didn’t think possible when we started our Mirkwood elves cosplay–you can get a costume done in a month. I just don’t recommend it.

For our next cosplay we’re giving ourselves a little more time. I’m going to be The Goblin King from Labyrinth. Again, a lot of sewing involved, and glitter, so much glitter. But all our cosplays must have the wow factor, and the educational one, so I must learn how to do all of his crystal ball tricks. I’m not sure how long it takes to learn how to contact juggle (well) but I have several months to get good enough, so I’m going to try. My son decided to be Hoggle, which will give me practice doing a creature mask, possibly with moving mouth and blinking eyes. My sister will be Sarah. The ball gown should be a bit of a challenge, but I’m up for it.

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Do you cosplay. Share some photos. Why do you cosplay? Who have you been? Who are you planning on being this year?

Be the Centaur of Attention (Part Two)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Be the Centaur of Attention (Part One)

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If you want to be the center of attention at a con or costume party, dress as a centaur.

As many of you know, I built a centaur costume for my role in the Ole Olsen production of The Lion, the Wtich, and the Wardrobe.

This was going to be one very long post (a very, very, very long post), but I’ve recently decided to break it up into several smaller post outlining–in detail and with pictures–how to create a walking centaur costume from start to finish.

I recently had someone contact me wanting help creating a costume. There’s so much advice and information to give, it only makes sense to start at the beginning.

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Create your Concept

The first thing I did was what anyone would do … consult Google of course to see how other people mastered this challenging costume.

And boy was I not disappointed … in the number of pictures of finished projects, that is. What was lacking was a detailed how-to instruction. No where in the infinite interweb, could I find a complete guide, not even on YouTube.

When Google and YouTube failed me, I read forums and watched videos to develop my concept.

My DIY project just became a FIOY (Figure it out yourself) project.

It is my personal theory that cosplayers fall into two categories:Those who like to keep their ideas and techniques a secret and those who like to teach others.

Apparently I will be the first person to share a step by step tutorial from beginning to end.

From what I could tell, other people used chicken wire, metal or PVC pipe frames, and hinges for the joints. They then crisscrossed wires from the horse legs to their own legs.

All of their ideas seemed to work …but

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After trial and error–many, many trials and errors, I decided against chicken wire and attaching the wires to my legs, or using drills or hinges of any kind.

By creating my own design, what I ended up with is a lightweight, walking centaur costume that is fully washable that can be assembled with only one step requiring another person.

What You’ll Need

  • PVC or CPVC piping. I don’t know what the difference is. I just asked the guy at Lowes which one cuts easier. You will only need about two pipes. 1 inch or 3/4 inch pipe.
  • A pipe cutter or hacksaw. I got a cutter for $10 I like the cutter because you can cut them in the house without messing up tables or floors. Got it at Lowes.

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  • PVC pipe joints, tees, elbows, and bushings (I’ve included photos of which ones) You’ll need 4 T’s, two larger T’s, 8 elbows (2 90 degrees, 4 45 degrees), 2 caps, and 2 bushings.

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  • PVC glue (cement glue)
  • Marker (for marketing–duh)
  • Measuring tape
  • 1 inch poly foam. I got a big roll at Hobby Lobby
  • Fabric for body. roughly a yard to a yard and a half or two, depending on how long. (I recommend a spandex, rylon, polyester variety–something that stretches four ways if you want it to move naturally like skin) Go to Jo-Ann Fabrics
  • Material for a harness (I used the material you find on backpack straps). I bought several yards.
  • Black faux leather (for hooves)
  • Panty hose or tights (not for your legs. doesn’t matter what color)
  • Parachute buckles and strap adjusters
  • Rubber chair tips
  • Faux fur
  • Knife
  • Clear tube (optional)
  • Metal wire (optional)
  • Wire cutters (if you use the wire)
  • Fishing wire (10 or 15 pounds)
  • Fake hair or wig
  • Stuffing
  • Batting (optional)
  • Tylenol or Aleve. I really like Aleve for headaches
  • Alcohol (don’t mix with the pain meds)
  • Music or show to play in the background (the longer the better because this could take time)
  • Bandaids for boo boos

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Make sure you have a large area to build this. Remember, you’re making the butt of a horse. You’ll look like a weirdo, so I recommend making it outside where your neighbors can see. Weirding out neighbors will make the project more fun. Also you won’t have to worry about getitng marker, glue, or cuts on your nice floor, carpet, or other surfaces.

Now that you have your supplies, let’s go ahead with the next step.

Measuring

I can’t just give you measurements because how long you make it or how tall depends on your body.

Have you ever been told, measure twice, cut once? Take this advice.

First I measured from where the frame would rest on my lower back to my feet (if you’ll be wearing highheels or platforms for hooves, don’t forget to factor that in. Measure how long you want it and how wide. Make it thinner and shorter than you want the finished project to be. This is only the skeleton. Remember you’ll be adding height and thickness with your foam and stuffing.  I made it waste high so the straps would come around my waste like a seatbelt.

 

Building the Frame

Now you are ready to start making cuts in your PVC pipe. Measure and mark and then just cut.

 

This is the basic structure for the body.

After I laid them out, I attached the pieces with the fittings. DO NOT GLUE.

The section in the middle is for support–also to hold the foam in place (we’ll cover that more later).

Next I cut out the legs.

To make the legs, I drew an outline of the legs and cut the pieces so that when they were jointed, they would make a shape like that of a horse.

Fit all the pieces into the fittings and do a trial walk. DO NOT GLUE.

As you can see, the front of the skeleton is held together with 90 degree elbows while the back has T’s. This is so you can attach the legs. I’m not sure if you can see in the pictures, but the big T’s are for the legs. This is how I created a joint so the legs move back and forth. Because the big T’s are larger, They fit over the little T’s. I put a piece of pipe through to connect them and put a cap on the end so it doesn’t fall off. What I like about the way I did this is that it requires no screws or drills or hinges. If for some reason, the costume breaks, it is fixable. If you use a hinge or screws, once it breaks, it’s harder to fix. The picture on the end shows the bushing that you attach to the big T so that the fitting will hold the smaller PVC pipe (that way you only have to use one size pipe).

I hope this helps you get started. The next post will show you how I sculpted my costume using foam and stuffing.

If any of these steps are confusing, or if you  need a deeper explanation, please contact me in comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Stay tuned.

The Centaur Mentor

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This time last year I was a novice cosplayer. Honesty, I’m still a beginner by most standards; however, turns out, I’m just experienced and knowledgeable enough to offer advice on the subject.

A friend of ours invited my sister and I to talk to her club about attending their first con. She was very impressed with our Mirkwood Elves cosplay and wanted us to share our experience. This time last year we were in their shoes. We told her we weren’t professionals (not that there are professional cosplayers) but that was part of the reason she chose us. Our first cosplay was a big success by any standard. We received a lot of praise and photo requests–not to mention a $200 cash prize in the costume contest.

So I arrived at the school in my centaur costume to mentor the kids about what they should know to attend their first con.

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I’m not a stranger to the class room or guest speaking. I’ve given presentations to students before; I’ve just never given one in a centaur costume. The topic was a first too. Usually I talk about auto insurance and the importance of maintaining insurance and a clean driving record. It was nice getting to talk about something I’m passionate about. I felt like I got to take my hobby to the next level by sharing my passion and knowledge with others.

We talked about what to bring, how to plan and budget a costume, what to expect, etc. We showed them my latest cosplay along with pieces from last year’s Mirkwood elves cosplay. They enjoyed trying on the ears and the Thranduil crown.

My sister even snuck in a little shameless marketing for her books.

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It was a very rewarding experience, and a great networking opportunity. Many of the kids came to the con. Several even bought my sister’s books. We even connected with another librarian interested in scheduling a day to have us talk to her club about cosplay.

Book sales, networking contacts, new friends. You don’t need a ruler to measure that success.

When I made this costume, my expectations were to wow and amaze people. I never thought it would lead to opportunities to network, guest speak, inspire, and teach.

I’ll get to mentor as the centaur again in the near future since the librarian at Eastern wants us to guest speak and the theatre director at Northwestern wants me to make a costume for his production of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I’m looking forward to it.

For those of you who have been following my post about creating the centaur costume, I will be posting a very detailed how-to very soon, I promise. Just got to get caught up on a little housecleaning, book outlining, and rest–lots and lots of rest after the play and the con. I’ve also got to get my receipts and notes together so I can give an accurate account of how many hours it took to make, the cost, and all the materials that are required.

Stay tuned.

I’m going to build a butt

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For those of you who don’t already know, I was cast as the Centaur in The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe.

I’m sure you all know what a centaur is, but for those of you who don’t …

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A centaur is a mythological creature that essentially has the head, arms, and torso of a human attached to the torso of a horse.

Let’s see . . . I already have the torso and arms of a human, but I don’t have horsey parts, which  means . . .

I have to build a butt–a horse butt.

I’m starting to suspect that this casting decision was made more for my cosplaying abilities rather than my actual acting talents.

(and with the lines the centaur has, it’s going to be hard to show off my acting abilities, so this costume is going to rock)

Most people would be daunted if given the task of creating a centaur costume.

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On the contrary. It’s actually quite doable, even without CGI. So when I was offered the role of centaur I said

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And where did I go to research concepts for my costume–why, the internet of course.

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Oops, sorry, that’s not a centaur. That’s Kim Kardashian. I guess I could just sit on my ass until my booty is big enough o glue a tail on.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with this guy

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He pops up a lot if you Google centaur. His name is impossible to pronounce and equally challenging to spell, so I’m just going to call him that cool, muscled guy from Narnia.

For those of you who remember Xena: Warrior Princess or Hercules, you might remember these dudes–er horse guys, or whatever.

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Not bad special effects for their time … considering Xena had some of the best–and worst–CGI I’ve ever seen.

But alas, I will not be using CGI or green screens. I will be doing this the old fashioned way.

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Between Google, YouTube, forums, Pinterest, and all other forms of social media, I found a lot of pictures of finished centaur costumes … but very little on the step-by-step process.

So it seems no one wants to share their methods. No problem.

If you’re interested in making a centaur costume (or just want to see how mine turns out), keep in touch with me via Facebook, twitter, and my blog for tutorials, production updates, as well as reveals of the finished project.

Allow me to be your “Centaur Mentor.”

Next post–building the skeleton.

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