Introduction: Making a "9" Character Costume From the Movie "9"
After seeing the "9" movie I liked the look of the character so much that I decided to give it a try to make a halloween costume of the main character. The main goal was to make a costume that looked as close as the character as possible, and do it in cheapest way possible, and hopefully in the easiest and quickest way I could find too as I had never done a costume like that on my own before.
Step 1: Getting Reference Material
The first thing about making the costume after seeing the movie was searching the web for promotional images and trailers trying to find different shots of the 9 character at different angles.. The main issue (other than the movie getting out of theather rather quick locally so no much chance of seeing multiple times for reference), was founding images or videos with clear shots of the 9 character that were not action shots to try to determine the actual proper shape of it in a reference pose..
fortunately one day browsing through the local comic book store to see if there were any new models of toy monsters, spaceships or robots which I like to collect I ran into a small highly detailed collectible toy of the 9 character and that was what I used for final reference, and to get the patterns needed to cut the cloth saving me a lot of trial and error time to get the right shape :-)
Step 2: Figuring Out the Cloth Patterns
The best way to get the cloth and sewing patterns from the toy is to stick pieces of paper to it using masking tape and then marking and pushing the paper against the against the curves of and sides of the doll (manequin now ?) with a pencil.
To fit the curves there are pieces of paper that will be bend, break and/or overlap just cut the pieces in the paper to get the basic cutting pattern. For the back as the character doesn't have any visible sew lines It had to be made from a single piece of cloth. On the other hand the front of the character is divided by the big zipper so a single side pattern can be done and then mirrored for the other side.
I only made the patterns for the main part of the body of the toy. And later made the patterns for the sleeves once the full main body of the costume was build to make sure they fit me properly.
Step 3: Really Starting to Make the Costume - Materials
Until now I have only talked about the cloth patterns for the body of the costume, as that is the hardest part, given the shape of the head it can be done using papier mache using an inflated balloon as the basic shape.
The actual materials you'll need are:
1. Burlap, a.k.a. potato sack cloth, you can buy it by the meter on your local tissue/cloth supply store. It is really cheap (around $3CAD per meter) and it comes in rolls a meter wide so given my height (1.73cm) I figure it that I only needed around 4 meters and ended using slightly less.
2. Buckram which is a cotton cloth that comes in different kind of stiffness to be used in the inside of clothes to help give shape to them. I got the cheapest one which in hindsigh wasn't a very good idea as the one I got tears really easily, but it did the job well enough for this case, and It was cheap too (same price as the burlap).
3. big rolls of cheap yellow wrapping/crafting paper to transfer the cut pattern to the proper scale. (bought two rolls at the local dollar store at a dollar each)
4. lots of thick thread, and a good big needle (I don't have a sewing machine so I sew everything it by hand using a simple straight stitch pattern (no loops or anything) which though it was very time consuming it added to the look of the costume. Also got that from the dollar store :-)..
5. A reel of tissue/cloth glue tape. This is a cotton like tape that when put in between two pieces of cloth it will glue them very well after ironing them with a common steam ironing machine. I think this is really what is keeping the costume together since the kind of stitch I was using is not very strong (and actually I hadn't really stitched anything since I was taught in primary school so I don't trust it would be any good structurally).
6. lots of needle pins.
7. lots of masquing tape.
8. scrap newspapers to make the head with papier mache.
9. a balloon to use a base to give shape to the papier mache.
10. scraps of flat packing foam for the big zipper.
11. a toy foam sword from the dollar store to be used as the zipper tooth.
12. a scrap of dark brown or black cloth to be used as the zipper support.
13. black and brown acrylic paint.
14. a couple of plastic cups for the eyes.
15. lots of patience.
Step 4: Building the Head
The head is made of papier mache, using a balloon as the base. the eyes are plastic cups cut around the middle and a couple of cardboard circles taped in the inside to the bottom of the cup to make the eye iris. and another one to hide the thinness of the plastic cups.
These cardboard circles are basically a circle with an inner hole, around 3 cm thick. for the outer one cuts of around 1cm are done in the radial direction in the inside and outside edges work as flaps to be glued to the plastic cup. For the inner part of the eye cuts are done only on the outer edge to be able to glue it as a base of the cut plastic cup..
the plastic cup has cuts in the bottom (the inner circle is not flush against the bottom), that are used as flaps that are glued and taped to the interior of the head.
The main problem with the head is gluing the burlap cloth, that has to be done before putting in the eyes. the cloth has to be cut into three pieces.. unfortunately I didn't took any pictures at that part of the process as it was the very last thing and really pure trial and error around 3 a.m. before the deadline (and really more error and glued hands that anything else :-).
Step 5: Building the Body
Since the papier mache model of the head takes a couple of days to completly dry out, you can start working on the body of the costume at the same time.
For starters the first thing is to take the paper patterns obtained from the toy and put them on a clean piece of paper, then using a piece of tracing paper over it, to avoid damaging the originals trace key lines and identify key inflection points of the curves around the edge of the costume then use the measures and scale it for your size, in my case I was lucky that if I multiplied the size in mm by ten it would give me roughly proportions close to my size (big by just a 3-4cm).
After transferring the pattern to the big piece of paper trace an extra outline (around 2 cm) following the existing one that would serve to give some leeway if adjustments are necessary and is also needed to use the tissue glue tape. (BTW, remember to build it inside out so the extra tissue and sewing gets hidden). Then cut the paper following the outer outline and use pins to hold the top and exterior parts of the paper patterns so you can try it and adjust it..
once the fit is right then put the burlap on the working surface, then the buckram on top and then the paper pattern, hold everything with pins (and masking tape, and trace the outline of the paper.. since the fit was a bit tight (and I didn't thrust how good i was adjusting pins by myself while wearing the paper patterns) is still gave it another 3 cm of extra leeway flap.
Proceed to cut at the same time the buckram and burlap following the external outline, then sew together the buckram and burlap for the front and then for the back separately (and add the tissue glue tape to give better structural support, in the small parts that were cut in the original paper around the hips don't cut them in the cloth sew them following the outline. That helps to give shape to the costume.
Once you sew up the front parts and the back part separately it's time to sew and glue everything together.. this is very time consuming if done by hand as I did, but it give a more authentic character to the costume, I just used the simple needle goes in one side then out the other at the same point then the opposite (no idea how that pattern is called, weaving maybe?)..
Remenber to not sew the front parts in the chest where the zipper is supposed to go where there is a lot of overlapping cloth (or sew shut the holes for the arms, legs and head ;-)
At this point the main body is almost done, you just need to add the piece of cloth that will serve as the zipper background, in my case I used a piece cut from an old pair of worn out jeans, and sew it to one side of the front pieces (right side) while folding the center of the front piece so it didn't touched the other side of the front so the dark jean cloth can be seen. on the other side (left side( didn't sew the dark cloth but glued a strip of velcro to the cloth and the folded sewn left side of the front.
Step 6: Adding the Arms
once the main body is done, the main things left to do to finish the body is adding the arms , to get the sewing pattern I didn't use the toy as reference as his arms are really thin. so I took one of my long sleeves t-shirt that wasn't too fitting nor too loose, put it on, put the body of the costume to see how off it was from the model... so I used the length and average width of my t-shirt sleeves to determine how long it should be and how loose i wanted it to be (I know I could have just take measures of myself but it is really hard to do on your own ;-)..
with that information in hand, measure along the edge of the openings in the costume and use that as a base and draw a basic sleeve pattern shape, since 9 has thin arms there is not much cloth hanging in the under-arms close to the body so I modified the shape based on that and on the shape of my t-shirt.
the final pattern is basically a trapezoidal shape with round sides. The process to go from the pattern to the final costume is the same as before but give lots of extra cloth at the bottom of the triangular shape when the sleeve is folded to be closed. which helped to avoid problems big problems as my sewing was not perfect and the hole on one side of the costume for the arms was sligthly bigger on one side than another..
To sew the arms to the main body of the costume put a pin to hold the sleeve at the top of the shoulder and start sewing from there always pushing the sleeve outwards to match the edge of the body, don't worry about having lots of free extra floating inside the costume while sewing the sleeve you can cut that later on. Oh, and BTW follow with your arm where you're sewing to avoid sewing the arm opening shut and having to cut the thread and re-start sewing the sleeve again!..
Step 7: Making the Big Zipper
While looking for ideas for the big zipper, Initially thought of using plain painted cardboard or take some packaging foam I had laying around and cut it into square blocks, when I run into the foam weapons for kids in the dollar store, I noticed that the blade had a nice trapezoidal shape on both sides.
The first thing to do was to cut the blade in two along the "edges" of the blade.. so one side was flat while the other was still the trapezoidal shape.
The point of the blade looked exactly like the metallic stop at the bottom of a zipper and cutting the rest of the blade into equal sized parts those can be used for the teeth. Since each tooth is meant to be offset to the left or right of each one after another the extremes needed to be cut so the zipper would preserve the width of the bottom stop.
the next thing after trimming the points was painting the foam pieces with brown acrylic to give it a metallic appearance and glue them to the costume in the black cloth that in the chest with super glue.
For the big zipper handle and base I just cut a piece of packing foam that came with my laptop. It is actually composed from layers of foam glued toghether so for the handle when I tried cutting a brezel I noticed I could just take one layer off and give it a better looking shape without much work, after cutting the foam it was all glued together with super glue, painted and glued to the black cloth at the top of the zipper area,
Step 8: Finishing Up
The last thing to do is painting the big 9 in the back of the costume and that's it.. well at least for me. time was over, I wanted to make gloves and shoe covers that looked like the wooden hands of the original character, and even the staff with the glowing light bulb, unfortunately ran out of time and had to make do with black gloves and brown shoes :-)
In all it was a great learning, tiring and fun experience.. certainly I made many things harder than they had to be and could have used more planning, Though I saw the movie more than a month ago, I really started doing the costume one week before Halloween..