Tonight, I officially finished constructing a project that I’ve been working on since I got back from TransWorld last month. The premise was pretty simple: build a costume for the Gothic Nomad. I wanted to build something that I could wear should I choose to do some guerilla haunting while I’m on the road.
Practicality guided the design aesthetics. I tried to imagine what an evil drifter / hitchhiker might wear in a post-apocalyptic scenario. These considerations heavily influenced the design of the hood, the selection of backpack, and the choice of weapon. The rest is fusion of steampunk and cyberpunk influences.
The Hood and Mask
The most difficult part about designing a hood is turning two dimensional fabric into a three dimensional spheroid. I wanted to aim for the least number of seams and folds. Unfortunately, my sewing skills leave a lot to be desired.
I opted to build the hood primarily out of leather both for its aesthetic appeal and its functionality as a tough fabric. I was able to arrange three swaths into a hemisphere without too much trouble. For the bottom half of the hood, I cut up a t-shirt just below the sleeves to create a sort of turban effect. To tie the pieces together, I chose good ol’ rustic twine.
For the mask, I picked up a pair of welding goggles and an air respirator. I disassembled both of them and spray painted all of the accent pieces with a metallic copper paint. Further, I embellished one of the eyepieces with some spikes I had leftover from another project, and the other eyepiece with an LED system I cobbled together.
Initially, I wanted to secure the goggles and the respirator directly to the hood so it would be one solid piece. It might have been possible, if I had been willing to experiment with rivets. Instead, I chose silicone – possibly because I had gotten so used to using it in constructing other parts of the costume and the eyepiece LEDs. I don’t know what I was thinking, because using silicone to bind these pieces was an obvious mistake. After ripping the silicone back out, I chose to leave them as separate pieces, so this mask has to be assembled in three parts.
The backpack was the simplest part of the costume to design. The hardest part was finding a good bag. I was able to find a vintage (WWII-era) Army backpack. I adorned it with carabiners and stuffed it with a blanket to make it look like it full of important stuff. I grabbed a few random parts at the hardware store and rigged a mysterious filtration system that runs tubes to the ventilation mask. To color the tubes, I simply sprayed some fluorescent paint into a cup and siphoned it through the tubes like a straw.
This whole ensemble – by the way – is meant to accompany fairly generic punk apparel. This would include black jeans, leather boots, a black t-shirt, bandannas, gloves, and probably more carabiners.
The most important part of this costume is the character’s weapon. I could think of nothing more appropriate than a crowbar. So I bought a solid bar from the hardware store, painted it black, painted it with rust, and generously applied PermaBlood. It doesn’t stand out in the picture very well, but it is there.
This was, by far, the most difficult piece of the costume to build. My original designs for this armor were more elaborate, but contained inherent assembly flaws. This, to say nothing of the fact that I have no prior experience working with copper or soldering on this scale.
The final product looks much different from the original design. That said – it works and it fits. One of the advantages to all of the mistakes I made in assembling the gauntlet is that all of the soldering, desoldering, resoldering, and torching has made this piece look very old, very beat up, and very used. This is what I love about haunt work – things don’t have to look clean and perfect. On the contrary – construction mistakes usually make your piece look more authentic.
The original design had a little more functionality – including a retractable knife. Now, it is basically just a piece of light armor and a powerful flashlight. Once again, the value here is mostly in the learning experience. This project taught me to work with new materials and tools. So the finished product might not quite have met my expectations. So long as I have a reasonably acceptable and usable product – I can’t complain.