Impressionist Joker Halloween Costume





Introduction: Impressionist Joker Halloween Costume

About: I Build Monsters.

Quite by chance, I started making this Halloween costume for 2009. I was all set to make myself a 1980s style puffy-sleeve Firestorm The Nuclear Man costume, but then I had one of those moments (as we all do sometimes) where I asked myself "I wonder if I can make the base of a mask just by sticking papier-mache to my face?"
Note: I am not suggesting that anyone stick papier-mache all over their faces and let it dry. It's a stupid idea and not very comfortable. Especially since buying a roll of plaster gauze is cheap, easy, and would work a million times better as a base... I'm just a mache fan, and wondered if I could pull it off.
So I did, and once it dried I reinforced the mask base and started building on it. Somewhere along the line, it turned into a kind-of-Joker mask. An Impressionist version of the Joker, in effect, and I started to wonder what sort of costume this Impressionist version of the Joker might wear.

Off to the thrift shops! I bought a black Italian suit jacket to work from, and a number of strange women's garments that were selected because of their fabrics. I'd originally planned to find a black velvet jacket and a purple velvet jacket, and turn it into something like a black jacket with purple tails and lapels. But velvet jackets were surprisingly scarce, and I decided it might be more interesting to do a sort of purple-patchwork.
I found a purple velvet princess dress, a girls' pullover made of purple glittered velvet, a purple leopard-print tank top and a couple of other items, which I began to hack up and fit back together again as tails for my tailcoat. I extended the points of the lapels by several inches and added huge pointy cuffs to the sleeves.
I didn't make an instructable for this costume because, essentially, I had no plan. I just made it all up! I put on the jacket and roughly drew in white pencil where I wanted the bottom hem to be, and where I thought the tails should go, and then I stuck pins all over it and hacked of the excess.
The tails were constructed by drawing the general shape on a large piece of newsprint, then cutting it out of purple fabric (a men's dress shirt that I got for 97 cents). Then I arranged large swaths of my various fancy fabric scores on the tails, stuck them with fusible webbing, and when I was satisfied I sewed them in with button thread. Later I used brightly colored embroidery threads to accent the seams.

This is essentially the same method I used on the lapels and cuffs.

I managed to procure some dark purple slacks from the thrift store a couple of weeks later, but they had pleats and a waist that was five inches too big.
Allow me to toot my own horn here. I have no experience or sewing machine, but I made the pants fit perfectly AND REMOVED THE PLEATS. I rule. Honest I do. I also added similarly fancy cuffs to the pants, though I don't think I have any pictures yet that show them off. And I made green spats. Spats! Who knew?

UPDATE 9-28-09
I've now added a few pictures that show the alterations to the pants. In addition to the cuffs (the most obvious alteration), removing five inches of waistline also caused the back pockets to move really, really close together. I countered this problem by cutting out some zigzag purple fabric the exact width of the pockets, the attached them with thread and fusible webbing. But I offset them, so the eye will naturally see them like pocket flaps in the place where pockets actually belong, and maybe people won't notice where my real pockets are. In any case, they'll only be glimpsed, since most of the time they'll be hidden behind the coat tails.

For the spats, I just used some old green fabric I had around, and modified a really generic pattern I found online. I added a strip of purple velvet trim to the front, and used slices from an elastic hairband for the clasp on the bottom.

I've also thrown in a couple pics of the dart gun I modified to match the outfit. Every villain needs a few props!


Between the last update and Halloween, the work I did on the costume itself was minimal... a couple of tweaks here and there, some embroidery and sequins on the cummerbund, nothing major.  The costume was pretty much finished (I started early because I knew I had another project to focus on in October, and I didn't want to be completely split about it!)  Clothing-wise, the only new addition was a pair of gloves.  For those, I merely purchased a pair of purple knit gloves (which conveniently were already bedazzled with ugly purple jewels) and a pair of black fingerless gloves. I placed the black over the purple, filled them with holes so the jewels would show through, and frayed out all the fingertips.  After a bit of hot glue to keep them from unraveling, I sewed the gloves together.

What I really needed to do was find a way to realize my final prop, which I referred to as "The Joker's Pimp Cane".  I wasn't sure exactly what this would look like; my first thought was nice black cane with an enormous, fist-sized purple jewel at the top... something that would look really flashy and be an easy weapon with which to beat an enemy to death.
Fist-sized purple jewels being hard to come by, I began looking for places that sell doorknobs and drawer-pulls that I might be able to modify but came up with nothing.  At last I hit upon what I thought was a brilliant idea: look for a ghetto gear-shift knob!  Surely that category would have something to offer.

Sadly, what I discovered was that a cool shift knob would have to be purchased online, and I had no more time for that.  What I ended up with was a Dia de los Muertos wind chime that sported a carved wooden skull at the top.  I cracked off the skull and repainted it, added jewels to the eyes and more of my curly hair.  For the cane itself I just picked up a dowel at Home Depot, which I painted purple, then spiraled with black and gold, adding a rubber foot at the base and a black and gold ribbon tied at the top.

The dowels come in a standard length, which was too long for my purposes, so after it was painted I had to saw part of it off.  Once the pimp cane was completed, I had a couple of days left before Halloween so I decided to take the discarded length of cane and use it as the handle for a big mallet (I think I was fondly remembering my old Joker action figure, which came with a giant hammer accessory).  I made a hammer-head out of posterboard and papier-mache, then painted it to co-ordinate with the rest of my costume.

Overall, I think  it was a rousing success, and managed to creep out more than a few people.



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    Thank you! It's one of my favorites. I'm working on an interpretation of Two Face this year...

    Boy, are you from Louisiana? That'd getcha an awful lot of beads around Mardi Gras.

    I really like your take on The Joker. Very fresh and original. Would love to see your take on Batman or other characters in the same style. Kudos to you,my friend.

    1 reply

     Thanks very much!  We'll see what next Halloween has in store...

    Would look great at a pride parade.  However, doesn't look a bit like the Joker, or worthy of being a reasonable impression, but never the less, neither was Heath's.

    3 replies

     Ouch.  You must be one of those horrible "grownups".  Grownups don't think it's the Joker, but every kid I encountered knew exactly who I was!

    And do you know what "Impressionist" means?  There's a reason I called him Impressionist!


    If you want to get technical, despite the root word, it's probably more fitting to call it 'expressionist' as it fits in with that style of art more. 

    In terms of outward presentation, I absolutely agree!  But I named it after the process, because my METHOD was impressionist.    Either way seems fair, though.

     Ok. I coulda done without the shots of your arm pits, but otherwise, awesome costume. Obscure variants costumes of well-known characters don't get enough love. Great execution. of "The Batman"'s Joker.

    1 reply

     Listen buddy, the Joker is SUPPOSED to be scary!  I would be remiss if I left out the photos of my armpits!

    That looks amazing! Though, honestly, all I could think of was Doctor Who, and more specifically, the villains in "The Girl in the Fireplace." I don't think they have a name. :P

    2 replies

     I don't know, those clockwork folks still seem a bit fancier than me...


    The Clockwork Men! Heh heh.

    Your stuff rocks man, I really dig it. I was wondering how strong they are at the end, I use a lot of cardboard in my projects and I keep running into the same problem: it bends and cracks or chips paint. With the papermache, does it give it enough strength? and do you just use the flour+water+glue mache? or something more complex?

    1 reply

    Just flour-water-glue.  You're always going to run into the problem of chipping paint, it just happens sometimes if you're not careful.  But with paper mache, I've never had a problem with strength!  That stuff is incredible.

    Awesome costume Matt, it's creepy as hell. Jessyratfink was right, I was trying to figure out why it looked kind of familiar, and I think the Clockwork Men might have been on my mind.

    1 reply

    Yeah, I totally never saw the similarity until she pointed it out, but there is a sort of masky/big-haired/dandy-frockish resemblance there!