I knew from the start that this costume would be a challenge–less of a challenge than I knew would be inherent in my first idea, the Borg Queen, but a challenge nonetheless. Missing eight days in the middle of the month was a much larger setback than anticipated, and in the feverish last-minute final construction, I swore more than I ever have in my entire life. Here’s what happened, and what went wrong:
I constructed the costume from pretty pretty pretty thin cheap fabric, which I intended to coat in liquid latex in order to give the whole thing a shiny, wet sea-creature look, and save an asston of money in the process by not buying the shiny-wet-look-10x-the-money-per-yard fabric in the first place. Until it was coated in the latex, I couldn’t sew the complex pieces together to get any idea of what the first fitting would be like. This turned out to be one of the biggest problems–when I finally got everything together, the top bit, by nature of the strapless costume design, had to be quite tight in order to keep from falling down and exposing myself to everyone. To this very moment, I would swear to you that I made it (with a pattern, no less!) to my measurements, but when I put it on, it was a goddamned tent. You can bet *that* was a moment for some expletives.
Liquid latex is blended with ammonia to keep it from solidifying in the container, so I took the first piece out onto my back porch in order to have plenty of fresh air to breathe; unfortunately, since I could only work on the costume in the evenings, it was too cool out for the latex to cure. With my rambunctious dog, my only other option for latex was to lay dropcloths in my room and shut the door behind me, lest he track latex everywhere or shake fur into the mixture. This meant that every time I painted latex onto cloth, my lungs were burning, and it STILL took hours to cure, much, much longer than anticipated, so I could only work on small sections of the costume at a time, and everything had to be picked up and moved so I could actually use the room to sleep in, thus the window of time I could actually work on the costume was quite small.
Until it was entirely coated in latex, I couldn’t buff anything out with the silicone compound, so everything was sticking to itself in a most horrific manner. This was a HUGE problem. Because I don’t have a dedicated project studio and the costume bits needed to be moved around to accomodate actually LIVING in my home, no matter how careful I was, pieces would crease or fold in on themselves and one of two things would happen: Either the latex would mar when I pulled it apart, or I absolutely could not pull it apart, no matter how much I tried. This was extremely frustrating because I wanted the whole thing to look very smooth, and as creased and bunched as it got, particularly around the tops of the tentacles, it made the waistline look rotten.
I had wanted to arrange the tentacle skirt in such a way that my legs appeared to be the front two tentacles, instead of being awkward legs in the middle of a bunch of tentacles. This idea involved the procurement of super-shiny leggings from American Apparel. As it turns out, the fine folks at American Apparel have decided people my size are too fat to wear their shiny leggings, and that my money is not as good as money spent by people a size slimmer. So here’s a great big fuck you to American Apparel! For a moment, I thought I’d try it with black pantyhose, but the tentacles were cut very high in anticipation of full-coverage leggings, and had I worn pantyhose, there would currently be pictures of my junk on the internet. I know my friends love me, but probably not enough to have to look at my barely-covered ass. So again, at the very last minute, I had to change things up and I wore black pants underneath my skirt.
The tentacles were a nightmare. I’d sewn rebar tie wire to the backside, but sewing was not enough to keep the wire in place, so I had to glue the wire on with more liquid latex, which added multiple days of work that I could ill-afford. Once the topside was entirely coated in latex, then I sewed on the shiny purple undersides, and when I went to stuff the tentacles, I learned why I shouldn’t have skimped on fabric–a good portion of the seams popped immediately, and the purple fabric developed runs all over. !*^&#$ As an additional frustration, once I’d stuffed the tentacles tightly enough for the latex tops to be smooth, they were too heavy and full to be bendable, so all of the time I’d spent on wire-work was wasted.
Once everything was coated in latex, my sewing machine refused to work on it any more. It wouldn’t feed anything through, so the majority of everything at the end was sewn with a giant needle and cursing that would make a sailor blush.
I determined early that I would not be able to color my skin purple without an assistant and an airbrush, so that was right out. I determined much too late (after I’d already ratted and styled my hair) that the white spray does NOT make my dark hair look white, but instead makes it look old and grey. This was, of course, also after I had spent a loooooong time doing elaborate eye makeup, so I ended up having to do a really awkward wash-out hunched under the bathtub faucet. (Of course I had to do elaborate eye makeup–Ursula’s character was based on Glenn Milstead, better known as Divine, whom I ADORE.) Pictures don’t even begin to capture it, but it was a dark, dark base and crease with reflective teal glitter pressed into the center of the lid, so it looked like flashing fish-scales when I blinked.
The trident I made by melting and shaping a plastic pitchfork over a candle to give it the proper shape and then spraypainting it gold. It’s all right as far as a prop goes, but it’s nowhere near on the level of my Wonka cane, which I was particularly proud of last year.
Here’s the thing, though: For all of the problems, people REALLY responded to this costume. Everyone who saw it recognized it, even with the fundamental changes I’d had to make in terms of skin and hair color. More people recognized this costume than recognized Willy Wonka, which I felt was FAR more screen-accurate. I hesitate to call this costume a very successful one, but I would say that I learned more in constructing this one than I have in any previous costuming attempt, which is always the goal.
Other things I learned:
*Having a skirt made of giant, floor length, thick tentacles makes it awfully difficult to sit down.
*Having a skirt made of giant, floor length, thick tentacles makes it an adventure to drive, with half of them shoved back between the driver & passenger seats, and half of them stacked up and crammed into the narrow gap between the driver’s seat and the door frame; it’s like being hugged to death by tentacles.
*When making a costume in which it’s difficult to get into and out of the car, it’s really much smarter to buy gas EARLIER in the day instead of struggling with it in front of people.
*If you’re wearing a skirt made of giant, floor length, thick tentacles, expect people to treat you like you’re wearing a skirt full of penises and act accordingly.
*Four am karaoke is really the best way to end any Halloween party.
What were YOU for Halloween? I DEMAND PICTURES.