I made this costume (and even wrote this post) for Halloween 2011, but I just never posted it! Pictures are from the KCRW Halloween Party 2011 and Burning Man 2012.
Above photos by Blake Gardner. I also made Jason’s entire rainbow outfit.
I wasn’t planning on making a Halloween costume that year; I would just pull some pieces out of my playa wardrobe and call it a night. But then we got in this amazing sequin fabric at former-work, and the entire costume popped into my head and could not be ignored. I rocked the look at the KCRW Masquerade Ball, and then again in Old Town Pasadena on Halloween night.
Each element of the costume is separate, so that the costume can be easily adapted to different temperatures and concepts. The stretchy base fabrics give me full range of motion, and I can sit comfortably without damaging the fins. The leotard has pressed snaps at the crotch, elastic contouring at the bust line, and a center back seam to flatter my booty.
For the leotard I used a lycra that’s printed with a metallic sequin design–I love the bizarre faux sequin concept. The scale panels on the front and back are the copper sequin fabric that inspired everything. For an organic psychedelic look, I added individual scales on the edges of the panels and scattered throughout the panels themselves. The tail fins are layers of organza with pipe cleaners acting as supports. I really wanted the tail to stand up more, and I could always add a couple strands of fishing line (!) running from the tail to the back, but it seems like that could be a whole can of worms.
I think the fin helmet is my favorite part. For the base I used a felt helmet from the craft store, which is sturdy enough to support construction but weighs almost nothing. I covered the felt in my sequin lycra, then hot-glued scales made out of different gold fabrics, papers, buttons, coins, and a few round mirrors. The fin is 4 layers of poly organza supported by metallic pipe cleaners, with sequin and metallic trims sewn on as veins. The pipe cleaner supports are anchored through tiny holes into the helmet, and then glued in place. I added an elastic chin strap, but for the most part the helmet stayed put without the strap!
I wanted this costume to take advantage of ambient light–ghostly silhouettes, strange reflections, and lots of sparkles. I need to incorporate some lights for Burning Man, and while I know glow sticks will definitely work I’ll be looking for a less-disposable solution.
I love these weird arm fins! They are made out of a plastic netting that I manipulated into the shapes I wanted. They’re lots of fun to squeeze, and I keep calling them polyps. The sleeves are sewn onto a mesh undershirt, which I think will be fun to wear with leggings on the playa.
Accessory-wise, the bubble necklace was one of the most popular parts. I used plastic Xmas ornaments and a few clear buttons strung on a clear elastic. The gloves are lycra triangles with organza ruffles, which I’ll be able to layer over warmer gloves at Burning Man. On Halloween night I blinged out my glasses with press-on rhinestones, which stayed put all night long. I also made a bubbly drawstring bag out of organza, which I filled with little vinyl fishies to hand out as treats at the Masquerade.
Lastly are the aqua leggings. The blue metallic lycra was actually damaged stock, but the silver streaks were perfect for this project. I used purple and blue organzas to make the bubbles and the trails on the back of the legs, something to simulate water as I danced.
All in all, the costume took about 30-40 hours to complete over the course of a month. Although I had to buy all the main elements, it only cost around $40. Most of the small pieces, like random sequins and the golds for the helmet scales, I had on hand. Material usage breaks down like this: 1 yd sequin lycra, .5 yd copper sequin for scales, .5 yd copper mesh for sleeves, 1 yd orange organza, .5 yd yellow organza, 2 yd plastic netting for fins. If y’all are interested in the design process, check out my inspiration board on Pinterest.
Many thanks to Jason and Blake for capturing this costume so well!