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.
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
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.
- 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.
- 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
- Clear tube (optional)
- Metal wire (optional)
- Wire cutters (if you use the wire)
- Fishing wire (10 or 15 pounds)
- Fake hair or wig
- 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
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.
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.