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2008 Grecian Sphinx

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Grecian SphinxIt's been a while since I was able to immerse myself in a costuming project - and actually finish. I'm not sure exactly what the trigger was this year, but suddenly I had the overwhelming desire to create a costume... and here we have it.

First off, I apologize for the lack of photos so far. Our camera is broken, so I had to rely on finding people who took pictures at work, and so far have only managed to track down one! :( There will definitely be more, as soon as we get a new camera.

A while ago, I sketched the first drawing you see in the list to the left. I tend to sketch up quite a few costumes that never make it past the drawing board, but I liked the idea of a sphinx costume. The original idea was to create a suit based off of Michelle from the webcomic, Skin Deep, by Kory Bingaman. I still give her credit for the inspiration though, even though the final costume didn't end up being Michelle.

Halloween was fast coming up, and several people where I work were planning on dressing up. I'd dressed up a little over the past couple years - but completely missed out last year, as we were closing on our house on October 31st! So this year, I decided I would make a new costume. The trick was, it had to be comfortable enough to wear sitting down at a computer for a full work day!

I returned to the idea of the sphinx. She doesn't require a mask, the wings could be built to fold over the back of a chair, and she would be a pretty unique costume. I decided against dressing specifically as Michelle, as people would have a hard enough time figuring out what I was in the first place - Greek-style clothing would give them more of a hint. Grecian sphinxes tend to go bare-chested, but I figured that might not be acceptable at work.

As it turned out, only a handful of people guessed what I was. I had found some riddles to ask of people at work... but most of the day was spent giving hints to people as to what I was, and letting them go research it if they didn't know. I'm a little mean like that sometimes. :) I got e-mails throughout the day with guesses - and one even came with citations! Hey, I educated some people!

On to the costume itself.

Most of it is pretty faithful to the original sketch, except I decided to make the wings quite a bit smaller for ease of sitting at work all day. I also left out the ears - I was down to the wire finishing this costume anyway! This was also the first time I attempted to create pseudo-digitigrade legs using padding underneath the leg fur, and I'm quite satisfied with the result.

Wings

I'm very pleased with how the wings turned out - not only how they looked, but how they felt to wear. The harness is like a backpack, with an additional strap going across the front of my body for more stability. The wings were fairly light, but I could've made them quite a bit heavier with that design. They were extremely comfortable to wear, and felt very secure against my back... they didn't wobble about or slip unnaturally.

The structure of the wings is made of good ol' plastic mesh (possibly one of the most useful materials on the face of the planet), built around a simple wire frame made from a metal coat hanger. The long feathers are made of stiff white felt, the shorter feathers of normal felt. Long white faux fur is used around the top and down the back. I will hopefully have better photos soon, but there's a sketch to the top-left that shows what I mean.

Legs

The legs are padded to give the illusion of being digitigrade, a trick used in many costumes and fursuits I've seen. I attached the foam padding to a pair of stretchy leggings. Spray-glue worked for a while holding this together, but in the end, I had to sew the padding onto the leggings. The padded leggings are a separate piece from the fur covering of the legs.

As usual, I didn't end up working from a pattern when creating the fur "pants". I sketched around my leg with the padded leggings on (leaving a generous amount of extra fabric), sewed the legs, pinned where they needed to be tighter, and kept sewing them down until they fit properly. It works well enough for costumes for myself, anyway!

The feet are built around a pair of slippers. The four toes are built up with padding, and the fur covers the padding tightly through a combination of sewing and hot-gluing. The claws, made from polymer sculpting clay (the kind you can bake in the oven), are hot-glued into place.

Arms

The arms are simple elbow-length gloves made entirely of faux fur. The only thing that makes them more complicated, is that I decided to have the fingertips and underside of each paw a lighter color. The claws are the same material as on the feet, again, hot-glued into place. I also intended to add latex paw pads, but ran out of time.

Tail

The tail is a series of plastic mesh "tubes", connected to eachother at angles to form the curve of the tail, and to where the can still pivot from side to side. This is a very simple technique which gives the tail a wonderful bounce and swing when I walk. When I create a tail in this way, I like to also attach a length of cord down the length of the tail, so that it won't break if someone decides to yank on it! Plastic mesh, for all I love the stuff, can be very fragile if mishandled.

The tail is covered by a simple fur tube, with a tuft of dark brown fur at the end. It is attached to the fur "pants", and secured by a strap around my waist that attaches with velcro.

Tunic and accessories

I need to learn how to sew normal fabric better!

Still, this didn't turn out too badly, all things considered. I found some designs for Greek-style tunics online, and adjusted them to have an open back which would fit around the wings. The tunic is made of crepe-backed satin, but turned inside-out, as the satin was far too shiny. The duller back of the fabric was perfect, and the fabric itself had a lovely flow to it, and was nearly opaque, unline most other white fabrics out there.

The belt is made of black ribbon (about an inch wide), with a simple geometric design in gold. A black and gold button acts as the clasp, and attaches to the other end of the belt with a loop of black elastic.

I also made a simple headband out of a length of fancier gold-and-black ribbon, hand-sewed to a piece of black elastic hidden under my hair.

That's about it for this one! As soon as I can, I will post more pictures of this costume. It was far too much fun!