Introduction: How to Make a Mr. Peanut Costume
Haven't you always wanted to go to a Halloween party dressed as a legume in 1930's garb with a monocle? With some basic materials and a little bit of patience, you too can make an 8-foot tall Mr. Peanut costume!
Step 1: Get Materials and Figure Out Scaling Ratio
Your first step is to get the materials necessary for this project. Beyond that, it might be good to figure out the dimensions of your Mr. Peanut. I found an official image of Mr. Peanut and measured various distances along his body (length of body, width of head, width of torso, size of eyes, etc.) with a ruler. I then tried to measure similar distances along my own body so I could figure out a scaling ratio. I determined that a scaling ratio of about 20x was good from a ~4-inch high image.
For the structure of Mr. Peanut:
--a length of pigeon wire (around 10' long x 3' wide) -- hardware store
--a roll of duct tape -- hardware store
--2'x2' piece of cardboard -- old box lying around
For the papier mache covering of the structure:
--several pounds of old newspapers or scrap paper -- free at most newsstands (old newspapers)
--big bag of flour -- grocery store
--a little bit of salt and cinnamon -- mom's spice rack
--plastic disposable table cloth -- grocery store
For the details on the exterior of the structure:
--two paint brushes (one for papier mache, one for paint) -- hardware store
--one can orange spray paint -- hardware store
--one can of white primer spray paint -- hardware store
--pint of white paint -- hardware store
--pint of black paint -- hardware store
--a large magnifying glass -- pharmacy/hardware store
--two sets of cheap, white, women's stockings
For you to wear under the Mr. Peanut structure:
--white gloves -- costume store
--black shoes -- you don't have black shoes?!
--spats -- costume store
--black tights or black long underwear bottoms -- department store
--black long underwear top -- department store
--black cane -- borrow from gramps while he's not looking
Other equipment you will need (these don't get used up in the process):
--tape measure/ruler -- hardware store
--hot glue gun -- hardware store
--scissors -- hardware store
--wire cutters or snips -- hardware store
Step 2: Create the Body Structure
You're going to use pigeon wire or chicken wire to form the structure of Mr. Peanut's body and head (and hat). Pigeon wire is better to work with than chicken wire because it has smaller holes in the wire mesh, but either will do. Pigeon wire comes in arbitrary lengths of 3-foot-wide rolls, so you'll be making two separate structures: one that will cover you from your upper thighs to your chest, and one that will cover you from your chest to your head and stretch up to be Mr. Peanut's hat as well.
You'll have to figure out how wide you want the structure to be around your middle depending on your personal dimensions, but I found that roughly 5 feet long was sufficient to get around the circumference of my body, and since I made two of these structures I got a length of 10 feet of pigeon wire.
Once you have the wire, cut it into two 5-foot lengths using your wire-cutters or snips. Now roll each section into a cylinder and use the lose ends of the wire that you just cut to wrap into the other side. Each roll should now hold the cylindrical shape.
Step 3: Form the Body Structure
Now comes the hard part, actually molding the malleable pigeon wire cylinders into two forms: the bottom half of a peanut, and the top half of a peanut with a top hat on it.
In order to do shape the cylinder into another form, you will have to bend individual wires together. By pinching two wires together with your fingers, it effectively tightens that bit of the cylinder making it narrower. So if you wanted to turn your cylinder into a sphere, you would have to leave the mid-section of the cylinder alone, and gradually pinch more and more wires together as you went toward the top and the bottom.
Of course, we're not making a sphere, so it isn't quite so easy as this, you'll have to feel it out along the way. For the bottom section of your Mr. Peanut, you will want to pinch a lot of wires together at the very bottom of the structure (to make it more spherical there), and you'll also want to pinch some near the top (to make the structure constrict into it's characteristic peanut shape at your chest). With the top piece, you'll want to make a spherical looking part at the bass (Mr. Peanut's head) and then leave it somewhat cylindrical above that (for the top hat). Don't worry about getting the brim of the top hat or the top surface of the top hat, as we'll use cardboard for that afterward.
This can be really hard on your fingers, so you may find that gloves can help with this. Be patient, this process can take a while, but at least if you make a mistake you can undo it because of the malleability of the wire.
Step 4: Fine Tune the Body Structure
Now that you have formed your two chunks of pigeon wire into the two interlocking parts of Mr. Peanut's body, we can fine tune it a bit.
You may want to clip out some of the wire to make it fit better allowing more room for your legs or arms.
Additionally, you will want to wrap the sharp points with duct tape so that they don't poke you so much. In particular the interior should have duct tape to pad it. I also added some cardboard where the wire mesh was a little uneven.
You also want to add the brim and top of the top hat using the cardboard you set aside. Just cut a ring of cardboard to fit onto the top body structure as the brim, and then cut a circle out for the top of the top hat. Use the duct tape to hold these in place.
You will need to attach some sort of suspenders to keep the bottom section from falling off of your body. I used cheap women's stockings tied to the frame, and they worked well, but any fabric strips should work.
Try this on to make sure it fits and is to your liking. Once you start papier mache'ing, modification of the shape of the body structure becomes very difficult.
Step 5: Covering the Body Structure With Papier Mache
This is tedious and and you will make a mess, but it is also pretty fun. Get out your plastic table cloth and put it on the ground (or else you'll end up with papier mache everywhere!) Get ahold of a bunch of old newspapers by going to a newstand--they're usually free! Tear the paper into 1- or 2-inch wide strips and set it aside. Now get a big pot and make up your paste solution out of flour and water. You can add some salt to the water which will help prevent mold later on, and cinnamon gives the glue a nice smell (and also makes you want to eat it!) There are countless recipes for papier mache on the web -- here and here are a couple of examples. I opted for more flour in mine than most so that it would dry quicker.
You now should have your two-part peanut body structure, a bunch of newspaper strips, and a big pot of papier mache paste. Cover the outer part of the frame entirely with one layer of papier mache using the paint brush and your hands. Let this dry and then cover it with a second layer. A third layer of plain white paper (printer paper) would be ideal to help in strength as well as preventing the newspaper print from showing through the paint, but it is a lot of work to cover this massive structure with papier mache so do what you can (I only did two layers). Let this dry and try it on to make sure it all fits.
Step 6: Priming and Painting the Body Structure
In a well-ventilated space, spray a layer of primer on the two parts of the body structure. I only did one coat, and you could still see some of the newspaper print, so you might want to do two coats. On the other hand, you may be able to avoid doing this step if you used white paper instead of newspaper for the papier mache step. Regardless, you should start with an all-white peanut body structure before painting.
I found some orange spray paint at the hardware store that was just the right color for Mr. Peanut. After the primer has dried, spray paint the whole body structure, except the hat. It doesn't matter if you get any on the hat, since you'll be covering this in black paint anyway. You may want to use two coats of the orange paint until you cannot see the newsprint of the paper mache.
Now use your black glossy paint and a brush to paint the hat black. Again, two coats was necessary. I marked with pencil where I would paint the "Mr. Peanut" text and the two shine-lines in white, and then didn't paint this black.
When all the paint is dry, you can use the white paint and a small brush to paint in the detail of the "Mr. Peanut" and the shine-lines on the hat.
Step 7: Detailing the Body Structure
Now that you have the bulk of the body painted, you can now add some details.
I added some black lines to the peanut body to make it look more like the illustrations with the peanut texture. I imagine if you were really careful, you could have the actual peanut texture with the papier mache, but that was beyond me.
Use light pencil strokes to mark where you want the face to be. Then cut out the mouth so that you can see out of this contraption (don't worry, we're going to fix it, so it won't be obvious that you're looking out.) When you're happy about how the face looks, use the black glossy paint to finalize it.
For Mr. Peanut's monocled eye, remove the handle from your magnifying glass (or hacksaw it off if necessary), and cut a circle of white paper that will fit inside the magnifying glass. Then, hot glue the magnifying glass to Mr. Peanut's face as a monocle. He should now be looking pretty close to done!
Step 8: Adding Dowels and a Transparent Mouth
Because the top part of the body structure is so much taller than you are (unless you too are 8-feet tall), it may have a tendency to fall off of your head when you bend over. You can fix this by adding a few wooden dowels to the interior of the head which fit into the bottom section of the body structure and allow you a broader range of motion. I secured them in place with duct tape, which worked OK, but it may be better to use wire and glue.
In the last step we cut out a hole where the mouth is in order to see out of this costume. Now we'll cover this hole from the inside with stretched out white pantyhose or stockings. I did two layers of this which allowed me to see out without other people seeing me see out. People constantly asked me how I could see out of this thing, so it seemed to work.
Step 9: Dressing Up Yourself
Now put on all of the clothing that you've purchased for this special occasion. I love wearing spats--so classy!
Step 10: The Finished Product
Here is the finished product--a two-piece Mr. Peanut costume. You should be OK walking around in it, since you can see *and* you have a cane for support, but still be careful. You're likely to run your hat into things since you'll now be about 8' tall. Doorways and low-hanging trees are the most difficult. Enjoy the costume and try to avoid the rain (although the glossy paint should be a little water-resistant).