Category Costumes

A Holiday Pony Party

Last Saturday, the barn had its holiday party. The day’s schedule featured multiple events: a horse parade, a costume contest, and an obstacle course. This is all great fun for the humans, but for a sensitive, reactive horse, it’s like asking them to participate in a day-long episode of Fear Factor. 

I have a sensitive, reactive horse. If an object, say, a mounting block, has moved position since the last time she encountered it, Navani views it with fear. The kind of fear that indicates she has heard the stories about Pinnochio and is suspicious that other fairies might be out there, granting wishes of sentience willy-nilly. And of course, every object dreams to be free, free to move about and predate on horses. Other, less cautious horses.

Photo by Liz Ostasiewski 

So in the time I had between the invitation and the event, I did everything I could to help set Navani up for success. I introduced her to each element of her costume as it was completed. As new obstacles appeared in the arena, we’d work around and on them. I was especially proud the day we went through the new gate: she listened as I asked her for subtle movements to position me to reach the latch, and when the latch was free, she even bumped the gate open with her nose so we could pass through. I started to feel more confident. We might not cover ourselves in glory during the competition, but we’d probably avoid a Friesian-size freakout with everyone watching.

And then, five days before the party, the tarp tunnel appeared. 

It was nothing more than a large blue tarp affixed to the side of the arena, but the amount of fear it generated was equivalent to its size. Navani spotted it through the arena gate while still in the parking lot and hated it so thoroughly, immediately, that she threatened to rear. If a differently-positioned mounting block was worthy of suspicion and fear, this tarp represented the end of life on Earth. My confidence plummeted.

By the end of the first session in the arena with the tarp, I had convinced her to walk through the tunnel in both directions, in-hand and mounted. I had not, however, convinced her that the tarp posed no threat to her well-being. I thought perhaps asking her to work on a line in a circle near the tarp would desensitize her to it, but she’d veer in on the circle on the tarp side and speed up dramatically when she passed it, looking back to make sure no tentacle slithered out to snatch at her legs. Nothing lasting is built in a day, so I accepted the progress we’d made and determined to expose her to the tarp as much as possible before the party.

The next time we saw the tarp tunnel, someone had scattered pool noodles underneath, also known as foamy fear spaghetti. But I had a secret weapon. After my fall in October, I needed to take a break from riding in order to allow my brain to heal. It was the ideal time to begin clicker training, which I started by loading the clicker: sounding the click every time I gave her food. I did this for short periods over several days, varying the location of the practice space and where I would click so there was no question that the treat was click-related and not location-based. I was also careful not to click whenever she started getting pushy about asking for the food: nudging me, my pockets, the treat pouch, so as to avoid inadvertently teaching her bad habits. She’s a big girl and I don’t want her thinking it’s acceptable to shove people around if she believes they have treats. The way she’d slurp my whole hand into her mouth in her joyous dive for hay pellets was gross and left me a bit concerned for my fingers, but I hoped she’d be more polite as she grew confident that food was coming and accustomed to taking pellets from a cupped hand. Before party prep began, she had started learning to touch a target with her nose but we hadn’t done anything beyond that. 

The difference between the session with the clicker and the session without was almost unbelievable. It had been a couple of weeks since our last click session and I wasn’t sure she’d remember or had made the connection that a click meant food was coming. But that night, she proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that she fully understands its meaning, and her willingness to try everything increases when she knows there’s a potential for food. In a previous obstacle exposure session, I introduced her to a pedestal: a tire with a sturdy wood circle affixed to one side. The idea is to ask her to step up onto it, and though I’d had some success, it took a lot of asking while she circled around it, trying to show me that there actually was no need to go over this thing or touch it at all, really. But that changed as soon as she got the first click for putting a hoof up. She understood what I wanted, saw the value in offering it, and now steps up with no qualms. Same for the wooden bridge that teeter-totters as the horse walks across–suddenly even stepping on and crossing from the raised side was no longer as insurmountable as she’d insisted previously.  The click bridges the communication gap, the reward cements the behavior.

“Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds and horses in particular.”

The tunnel was still scary, and the scattered noodles didn’t help matters. Each time through represents real danger…to me. I have to be mindful of her body language and mental limitations every time I expose her to a new fearsome object at home or in the field: her reactions can be big and fast. So, for instance, even though she looks to me for protection from the terror of the tunnel, I cannot allow her to walk through behind me because of what might happen if her fear gets the better of her, whether that’s rearing up and coming down on top of me, or smashing through me to safety like a bowling ball to a pin. It’s a real consideration, as not every walk-through was achieved calmly and more than once I ended up knocked against the arena wall as she shoved past me in her rush to be out.

I don’t know if the idea was that she was supposed to carefully pick her footing through the noodles, but, direct as always, she mashed her way right over the top of them. When I clicked mid-tunnel and she came to a dead stop to collect her reward, noodles shifting underfoot, I began to understand the power of this type of training. She was still nervous and didn’t want to be in there, but the click had happened and so she suspended her discomfort for as long as it took to crunch a small handful of pellets. By the end of the session, I even convinced her to touch the edge of the tarp with her nose a few times;  even with the promise of a food reward she wasn’t eager to do that. Still, it was a vast improvement in her overall comfort level. 

The night before the party, I planned to do a last costume exposure/fitting and some preliminary grooming because Navani is a firm believer in the skincare benefits of a mud facial and a crusty face for the party just wouldn’t do. The joke was on me for showing up at the barn with a plan, because as I crunched through the gravel, arms stuffed with costume, the barn owner called out to me. “Hey! Melissa! You riding your horse today? Because they put up a tent for the party, she’s afraid of it, the ceiling is low, and I don’t want her going through there and wrecking it.”

Of course. Of course this new, out of place structure was, in horse-o-vision, a flappy horror from the pit of her deepest nightmares. It was new and out of place and clearly in cahoots with the tarp tunnel, which, in addition to the pool noodles, now had a second loose tarp underneath. Because it wasn’t dangerous enough already, right? I knew that the plan was to set up the course that day in preparation for the party, so with the tent up and the new tarp, I figured at least that was the last of it and I probably wouldn’t find an arena full of live snakes the next morning or a cannon that fires glitter and screams on either side of the tarp tunnel. Probably. One more night of clicker-enhanced bravery training would help ensure a safer party for everyone. 

We worked on everything, acquainting her with the new tent and the sound and feel of a tarp underfoot combined with pool noodles, and afterward, I asked her to work in a circle again, near the tarp. This time, she didn’t come in off of the circle nearly as much on the tarp side (after a couple of reminders) and she was able to keep a consistent pace and respond to my instructions. I had enough time left to braid her tail and clean up her four-scoop fear poop before I had to clear out of the barn for the night. We were as ready as we were going to get.


The Big Day

Since I didn’t accomplish many of my grooming goals the previous evening, I was out and at the barn extra early in the morning. I knew that in the chaos that was to come, there wouldn’t be time or space to get her gleaming, so I took advantage of the opportunity, wrapping up just before the horse yoga class taught by a local vet. Over the course of an hour or so, she walked us through stretching the horse’s legs forward and back, relieving tension in the neck, and finally the “full body wave”, which starts with a butt crunch, moves into a back lift, and then into a neck release. Navani thoroughly enjoyed the process, and by the end, she was so relaxed, head hung low, bottom lip dangling, that she gave off the appearance of being drugged. She seemed even more relaxed than the last time she was actually drugged, potentially because no giant grinding dental bit attached to a drill ever made an appearance. In this relaxed state, she was even receptive to me hugging on her neck, which she normally barely tolerates. I was glad that the day started off with something that relaxed her, made her feel good, and helped improve our bond. I was going to need to cash in on every bit of goodwill I’d ever engendered in her shortly.

Immediately after yoga, it was time to get her costumed and ready for the party. I was all over the place in my ideas leading up to our first ever costumed event, ultimately going with a nod toward the pagan by dressing her as a tree. With a holiday sweater and a red velvet bow on my helmet, I was an accompanying gift. The kind you can’t return and endure with a grimace, perhaps, but a gift nonetheless. To construct the body of the tree, I was inspired by fleece horse exercise sheets, which sit under the saddle and extend down the back and over the rump. To bring the greenery up to her neck, I sewed a felt wreath onto her breast collar (I wanted color and texture to be consistent between the two components and also she’d try to eat a real wreath.). I braided her mane in a running braid down her neck and fixed in some artificial poinsettias, the first and only idea I never deviated from in the six different costumes I considered. And to top it off, I made her a star-shaped leather brow band for her bridle, finished in artificial gold leaf. It practically blazed in contrast to her dark fur. 

Because of the new tables and chairs taking over the front of the barn for the party, I had to get Navani ready in her stall instead of in the normal tacking-up area. We also couldn’t take our normal path to the arena, and the back path is less a path and more an obstacle course in its own right, having to step over extension cords and thread between farm equipment and trucks and trailers and after we got past all of that, the front barn door was 80% closed (horse brain: “different! bad! danger!”) and oh, there’s a glimpse of that tent she was concerned about yesterday and just as we passed the dark gap in the door, someone unseen inside ripped off a loud swath of duct tape and before I could react, Navani had already jumped in fear and landed full bore on the edge of my foot*. 

With the wet weather and ensuing sloppiness of the nearby trails, our outdoor pony parade turned into a parade around the arena which devolved into chaos after two or so laps, with horses going every which way, practicing obstacles, and people with cameras darting among them. We tried and were successful at some of the obstacles: the tinsel curtain, the platform, and the tippy bridge, and with all of these she understood that I was asking her for the same job under saddle as with the clicker, which I think is an impressive association and I was glad to see willingness from her even when it was clear I was not packing treats. The tarp tunnel, however, I could not convince her to approach mounted. I asked her several times and each time she would slant away, flap her lip, or otherwise communicate her concern by disregarding my cues utterly. I could’ve continued to raise the issue. She might have eventually acquiesced. (Maybe. She can really hold on to a thought!) But it was also possible that she’d explode in her fear and cause other horses to panic in her wake, and that was a risk I was unwilling to take.

Photo by Liz Ostasiewski 

Photo by Liz Ostasiewski , awkward “good girl” face is all me and 100% on brand.

I’d already decided that with Navani’s tunnel reticence we wouldn’t be participating in the official competition, and it was right around then that an entirely new group of new obstacles were dragged into the arena, including another giant tarp, which, like its brethren, was a fear-based entity. This is when we got into the most trouble we had all day: stuck between two tarps she feared to approach, she stopped listening to my cues and started veering on a collision course with a person on the ground having a conversation with someone on a horse, neither of whom were paying any attention to their surroundings, including the freaked-out horse dancing in their direction. It’s a Christmas miracle we didn’t crush anyone, and it was at that point I got off: I didn’t have control or at least enough influence and we were becoming a danger to others. I used the rope halter to introduce her to the new stuff in a more controlled, safer way, and then decided she’d had enough for one day and put her away. Though I wish I’d kept her out long enough to watch the neighbor’s mini pony try the obstacles and see how that bold little critter stomped through and touched everything immediately, as I feel she could learn a thing or two from its utter confidence.

I’m of several minds on the introduction of new spontaneous obstacles during the party itself. I think that if you want to have a fair competition and a trial by fire of sorts where no one gets opportunity to practice, this is the way to do it. Or maybe there wasn’t time to fully set up the night before. Or maybe they were being considerate of the space needs of the horse yoga class.  And I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to have less fun because I or my horse couldn’t handle it, which is why I don’t invite myself along on rides where we might be a burden on more experienced horsepeople. But another part of me, the part that felt vulnerable, the part that’s still recovering from a traumatic brain injury, the beginner rider and beginner horse owner of one of the most reactive horses in the barn part is upset that these new things came in when I was mounted, no warning and no choice in the matter. It added more wild cards into a situation that didn’t need them. “Unpredictable events out of my control that could spin out into a deadly situation” is part and parcel of interacting with horses, horseback riding is an inherently dangerous activity, and I cannot blame others for the risks I assume with the horse I chose to buy. But on the other hand, it’s a holiday party, not a serious event. Ultimately I’m left feeling a little annoyed and also feeling that I have no right to be annoyed because it’s not like I helped plan, pay for, or execute the event. How can I complain when other people went to so much work to host a good time? They couldn’t know Navani and I would struggle in this way. At least from the ground, she was more willing to investigate the new obstacles, though touching the snowman with her nose was right out and she was also offended when I took his little claw and used it to pat her.

Photo by Liz Ostasiewski 

Photo by Liz Ostasiewski 

Even with the foot-mashing and the attempted trampling, I would say we had a successful day. Considering her costume and all the other horses (some new!) and their occasionally loud, blinking costumes going in all different directions at different speeds plus all the people and the new objects and the music and everything else, she took it remarkably in stride. Sometimes when I see her snorting and reacting when a flag flaps in the wind, I despair at the idea of ever turning her into the warhorse of my renaissance faire dreams. But I also know that we couldn’t have done any of this a year ago. Six months ago. She’s improving because she’s starting to trust in me. The promise of a food-based reward motivates her, no doubt, but it’s the trust that brings the follow-through. I know it, when I see fear etched in her body language and nothing but trust in her eyes when she follows me into a scary place because I’ve asked. I couldn’t have asked her for a two tarp noodle maneuver earlier in our relationship. That we did so much, relatively calmly, is a testament to the trust we’ve built over time. 

We’re going to be a force to be reckoned with by next Christmas.

Photo by Liz Ostasiewski 

*It’s fine, don’t write my obituary yet.

Halloween 2016: Season of the Witch

Taking a week out of town during the month of October after two months of hyping myself up and working on projects was a good idea–it was a break, a reset, and a reason to get laser-focused as the big day was then almost upon me. I’d finished my costume before I hit the road, which meant that I only had about a bazillion small projects left on my list and one big one: a working Nightmare Before Christmas town fountain.

I already had the stuff I’d determined I needed to build it: a kiddie pool, giant sheets of home insulation foam, a fountain pump, a fountain hose, pvc plumbing pipe, chicken wire, and expanding foam, but I was also a little daunted by the build. I’d never made anything like this before, and it had the potential to go really rage-inducingly badly. Volcanically badly. But it was either buckle down and build it now or let all of these materials go to waste, because realistically, it’s not like I’d be more motivated to work on it in November. So I buckled down.

I used a hot wire to cut bricks out of the home insulation foam, which I glued together into a wishing well shape, and once the whole thing was dry, painted it gray and weathered it with black. I also half ass painted the kiddie pool edges–it’s something people mostly wouldn’t see at night or from a distance, but a bright yellow fish swimming on a purple pool tends to stand out and detract from the overall effect. I then eyeballed and cut the pvc pipe into roughly the shape and height I wanted, running the fountain hose through it as I built it because there would be no easy way (or potentially no way at all) to run it through the pipes when they were all assembled, owing to all of the sharp bends. I then shaped some chicken wire around the pipe to give the body some bulk. Then it was time for the part I was really dreading: filling the body out with expanding foam.


If you’ve never used expanding foam for any home projects, it’s essentially a monkey’s paw in a can, twisting all of your hopes and wishes into a sticky nightmare. At some point after I moved into the house, I thought I’d be clever and fill some of the gaps in our downstairs doorways with expanding foam, and almost from the first spray, I knew I had made a huge mistake. But I kept at it and made it much, much worse. By the time I had determined I was finished, about ten minutes later, there was almost impossibly sticky goo everywhere. Cans of expanding foam say not to expect more than one use from it, as they claim that it tends to seal itself shut. I posit that a can only gets one use because it causes such frustration that a use is always immediately followed by the user attempting to throw the can into the sun. But there I was, clasping that blasted monkey paw all over again and swearing that this time, my wish wouldn’t be corrupted. I was right…sort of. The foam did cling to the chicken wire like I’d hoped. Not very evenly or very well in some spots, and it was impossible to get it to come out of the can at a consistent thickness, but it did mostly do what I wanted. There was a portion near the bottom of bare pipe that I’d hoped to fill out with foam–I really should have bought more chicken wire but really, really didn’t want to make yet another trip to the hardware store. The expanding foam didn’t want to bulk out, instead choosing to slop right off the pipe onto the ground below–thankfully I had learned from last time and laid down some protective barriers for just such a scenario. I ended up covering the bare area with fun foam to give the illusion of bulk.

Once the expanding foam had completely cured, I tried carving it down to an even surface with the hot wire tool, which I’d been led to believe was something that would cut through expansion foam, and of course, it didn’t. So, instead, I hugged it to me like a lover with one arm while hacking bits of it off with a knife with the other, which I quite enjoyed. Admitting to that online is probably the sort of thing that will get me put on a watchlist, but you know me, I’m committed to the truth and elaborate hilarious lies, whichever the situation calls for.


After the body was reasonably even, the time had come to cover it with scales. If the hot wire tool had easily cut the expanding foam (why can’t it work more like a lightsaber and just lop off hands and whatever else I want it to?), I would have considered carving the scales out of the expanding foam, but as it was, I’d have to make them from something else and adhere them. I’d made scales of sorts for the shingles of my Zero tombstone out of pink home insulation foam and that was a complete and total pain in the ass and this was a MUCH larger surface area, so I decided to cut the scales out of fun foam and adhere them with hot glue. I started with about two hundred scales, figuring that’d probably cover most of it. Not even close. Every time I cut two hundred more out and brought them to the workshop I thought certainly it had to be the final two hundred, that there couldn’t possibly be any more surface area to cover, and I’d come up short. Some part of me is still cutting scales out of foam in foam purgatory, which is like hell only foamier. 

Once all the foam scales were on, it was time to carve the head. I’d adhered five rectangles of insulation foam together, and once they’d cured, I busted out the hot wired tool and started roughing out the shape. I’ve never carved material like this before and it turned out to be both satisfying and fun, taking away hunks of material until I had something wholly unlike the original starting material. And, bonus, it turned out pretty close to what I was trying to carve. Once the head shape was done, I cut teeth out of fun foam and glued them in as that was much easier than attempting to carve them out–I’m a foam dabbler, here, not a Renaissance artist. I also cut out a foam tongue and horns and attached both to the head before fitting the head onto the body. Once the head was attached, I made and attached the wings, tail, arms, and hands, and once it was all dried, it was ready for paint and weathering, and when THAT was dry, it was time to put the whole thing together, fill up the kiddie pool with water, and hope that it worked.

It did. By gum, it did. And I finished it in enough time to cross another thing off my decorating list–make monster silhouettes for the downstairs windows and back them with a bright shower curtain so they’d stand out, and also so people couldn’t see into the downstairs which is by far the least cute part of the house. AND I had time to make some food for the party as well. Some food, not all of it. I’m thankful for restaurants with same day catering to take some of the pressure off when it comes to feeding up to twenty people (which is my “small” game night, it is possible I’m struggling with the concept of “small”) plus getting the house and yard ready and me into a costume with a decent amount of makeup and answering the door for trick or treaters.


halloween2016-6-of-8Speaking of trick or treaters, the candy wheel was a hit–I had some kids come to my door and say they’d heard about the wheel from their friends, and at least one parent told me that my house was on their “must stop” list because of my decorations. It’s exciting for me because I love spreading the Halloween spirit, and it’s nice to know that my hard work has been noticed and appreciated.



Since it was a game night and I’d invited people over to “test their luck”, there were a few games of chance throughout the night, and the winners could choose from the gift cards arrayed on the table or one of two “mystery boxes”, because who can resist the allure of a mystery box? The contents of one of the boxes was the game in which my likeness appears, and the other contained two dog biscuits and a note letting the recipient know they’d chosen poorly. Hey, they can’t all be winners, right?

feastThat skull cakelet pan I bought made such awesome cornbread skulls, but damn were they ever beefy. ‘Cakelet’ implies mini cake but there wasn’t anything mini about this ish.

For my costume this year, I decided to revisit the witch, and ended up in a very different place from my swamp witch costume. I thought about doing a similar transfigured arm and nail claws, but since I was throwing a party and not just attending one, I figured I’d probably need that arm and hand for things like making food, so that idea went by the wayside. I used a dress, leggings, and boots I already had (why spend the time making something if I have something that already works for that purpose?), bought the mask on etsy,  the hat from amazon, and made the rest myself: the belt, the cloak, the necklace/cloak clasp, and the hat accessories. The time consuming part was definitely the feathers–I wanted the look of giant feathers to go with the giant bird skull, which meant making them. They were all individually cut out of (you guessed it!) fun foam, textured with an x-acto knife, given a rachis of hot glue, and then painted matte black. I spent hours cutting, texturizing, gluing, and painting feathers, and once I started sewing them on, I realized that I would need to spend the rest of forever making foam feathers if I was to cover the entire shoulder to floor cloak in overlapping feathers. (Sensing some sort of pattern, here?) Additionally, I realized that many flipping feathers would make the cloak ridiculously heavy, especially for the frail 80 year old me who would finally be donning it after making all those feathers, so I decided to do the front panels and call it a day, which meant I actually had a few feathers left over for things like tucking into the hat and keeping in a scrapbook to remind future me of why I’ve got arthritis. I sewed a wire into the neck of the cloak in the hopes that it would hold itself on, but with the weight and relative flexibility of the wire, that was a futile hope. Enter the cloak clasp, which is made of a base of floor mat foam for thickness and strength (not enough strength to keep from ripping on the day of the party, heyooo), with a decorative design in apoxie sculpt and a cabachon of resin. The apoxie sculpt was coated in rub n buff to give it a silvered appearance because I’m a one-trick pony. If I’d had more time, I would have considered making a woods-y staff with glowing purple crystals, but getting the fountain finished was my first priority as it would have far more impact than a costume prop that I’d have set aside for most of the night.

All in all, I’m super pleased with how it turned out, and I’d wear and swoop that cape around again anytime. Maybe around the house, just because.






…After the party broke up for the night, things got a little weird.





Get in loser, we’re going shopping: A Halloween Costume Retrospective

I’m writing this in the past at a crossroads: either I went on vacation this week or I got mashed by a tree in STORMPOCALYPSE 2016. Or, I guess, I didn’t go and I didn’t get mashed but the power was out for a damn long while and updating my blog wasn’t my first priority. Regardless, I didn’t work on shit this week to reach my Halloween goals. So here’s a look at the costumes I built for last year. That’s right, last year. I’m nothing if not timely.

I’d had a bug up my butt for a while to make Jason a Thorin Oakenshield costume. I made his ring way the fuck back in November 2013, and then I hit a patch of severe depression and didn’t do anything for Halloween 2014. I’d had my traditional pumpkin carving party, but as far as a costume goes, I didn’t do shit. I stayed at home, handed out candy, and depressed myself further because it was my favorite holiday and I wasn’t doing anything. So I started working on his costume in earnest at some point during early 2015. First, I made a duct tape husband.


This allowed me to fit a costume to him without him needing to be present and with a slightly lower risk of sticking him with pins. I also turned these santa boots:


into these Thorin boots:


I cut off the faux fur top, covered them in brown fur, and made boot caps and straps from fun foam. I don’t know why I had never really used cosplay resources before to figure out how to make stuff, but it turns out there’s a whole community of people who know what they’re talking about when it comes to making costumes and props, and they’re willing to share this information with people like me. Hurrah! It turns out this fun foam stuff that I’d seen a million times at craft stores and wondered what anyone would use it for is actually a miracle substance that I may end up using for everything. It’s pliable, you can heat mold it and it will hold its shape, and if you seal it with glue and paint it with metallic paint, it can resemble metal armor. It’s pretty astounding! Cosplayers are also all about thermoplastics like Worbla, which would have also worked for this application but it’s significantly more expensive, so I haven’t dipped my toes into that pool yet. I also used fun foam to make Thorin’s bracers, shown below before they were sealed and finished:


I also learned to do resin casting, which has turned out to be another useful tool in my arsenal. I needed to learn for this costume because Thorin wears a suit of brigandine armor under his cloak, and it’s one of the most visually striking aspects of his costume, so it’s not something I could skip out on. First I made a master in apoxie sculpt. I then made a silicone mold of the master, and then dusted that mold with aluminum powder, poured in resin with more aluminum powder mixed in, waited for it to cure, rubbed the new resin part with steel wool to make the aluminum shine, and then weathered it with black paint to give it dimension. This had to be done one hundred plus times, most of which was spent simultaneously cursing myself for having such big stupid plans that involve so much work. And most of that work was hidden by the cloak. Blargh.

brigandinel-r: master, fresh cast, steel wooled, weathered


Thorin’s jeweled belt buckle is also a pretty big visual point in his costume, so I wanted to hit that recognition point as well. This involved resin casting some gems (the backs of which are painted with metallic nail polish, which gives them a reflective sparkling quality) and socketing those gems into a belt buckle made from more foam, this time from one of those thicker foam floor mats. Cosplayers work wonders with floor mats, but so far, I haven’t managed to do as well. It’s harder to cut, takes more heat to shape, and I think ultimately the belt buckle turned out just OK.



I also sewed the tunic, the cloak, made leather patches for the knees of his pants, and repainted a plastic toy sword, and Thorin was complete!



My costume was a little more fraught. I vacillated between a number of options: lady bearded dwarf, Tauriel, Bilbo, and Thranduil, ultimately deciding to go with armored up party king Thranduil. The armor builds started off ok, with foam handguards and bracers, which flexed really well with my arm and hand movements. The raised portions were made with puff paint, and while it’s useful to make designs, I have determined it is also the devil’s paint, and this is never more evident than when you’re trying to paint a long, smooth, curving line with it. Three quarters of the way through and PFHT!!!!!!!!! Surprise air bubble! which will cause paint to spurt everywhere and/or come out in a horrendous lumpy mess. And then it takes a lifetime to dry and if you touch it even one second before it’s fully, fully, fully dry, it will wetly smear all over everything. My hands were silver for at least three weeks.




While waiting for armor to dry in various stages of puff paint and elmer’s glue, I started constructing the cloth portion of my costume. No pattern, just eyeballing it. It turned out surprisingly ok except the neckline which I hated and didn’t know how to fix. I figured it wasn’t all that important because the whole thing would be covered with chest and shoulder armor anyway. I made his complicated shoulder pauldrons and though they weren’t exactly identical, I felt they looked pretty cool.


But then I started on the chest armor and the shit hit the fan. Because it’s such a large piece, I needed to make it out of the larger foam floor mats rather than the fun foam (which is generally about the size of a sheet of paper). That foam is thiiiiick, and a piece that size needed more heat to shape than my hair dryer could provide and some dumb part of me refused to buy a heat gun for this one thing. I’m already a fat person, and the additional thickness of armor that I couldn’t get to curve in anywhere made me look like a walking barrel. And THEN there was the complicated pattern on top that turned into a goddamn puff paint nightmare world. I needed to reassess.


Could I made the costume work without the chest armor? Eeeeeeeeehhhh. The shoulder pauldrons were supposed to attach to the chest armor to keep the weight of the cloak from straight dragging the whole business off my shoulders, so that wasn’t working super well. The wig that I bought was way too long and thick, and at this point in the game, I hated the whole thing together but it was too late to change to something completely different.

armored-upThrilled. So thrilled. Ignore the PJ bottoms. And all the Halloween bins in the background. 

Soooo it was at this point that I decided to ditch all the armor I’d made. The handguards, the bracers, the boot armor, the pauldrons, and especially that fucking chestpiece. I cut and thinned the hell out of the wig. But with the armor chopped, it really needed something  else to make it more Thranduil. I determined that something else was his branch crown. I made the crown out of twisted wire:


which I then coated in hot glue and painted brown. At this point, it looked like a crown of weird turds, but I kept at it:


Thranduil’s crown in the movie just has leafy bits in it, but I felt like he was the sort of dude who would probably accessorize to the season, so I added in sprigs that had tiny pumpkin looking things. And with that, I was done! And not too soon, I think I wrapped the whole thing up the day before my Halloween party.


king-thranduil    All hail your King under the Mountain and your Party King!