Introduction: The Plague Doctor

Picture of The Plague Doctor

A Plague Doctor was a physician specializing on tending to those who suffered from the bubonic plague.They were associated with death (where there's plague, there's the beak doctors and also death).
Because of this a Plague Doctor's costume is creepy - also with the added benefit of it's resemblance to both The Grim Reaper and Ravens.

Step 1: Pre-Construction

Picture of Pre-Construction

To figure out the mask dimensions I constructed a simple form from newspaper.
Then trimmed and shaped it to provide a snug fit to my head.

Step 2: Cutting & Arranging

Picture of Cutting & Arranging

Once the newspaper prototype was finished, I cut it in half and flattened it. I cut a template of each section of the mask from this flattened form.
The resulting template sections are traced onto the mask material and cut out.
I constructed mine out of light-weight foam paper. This foam paper is available in 12"x18" sheets at most hobby and craft stores.
Once the individual pieces for the mask base were cut out they were assembled and holes were punched along the seam using a tiny hole punch.
I used paper brads to hold the sections together to give the look of rivets instead of stiching.

Step 3: Attaching Straps

Picture of Attaching Straps

Attaching Straps
Once the base of the mask was complete I cut the forehead and side straps from craft foam -
Two pieces were cut about an inch wide and (one) the length from ear to ear, (the other) from forehead to nape of neck.
First, a long vertical strap was attached at the top of the head using the same rivet technique from before. The base of the vertical strap was then looped
back on itself so the horizontal strap could pass through it. The horizontal strap was then threaded through the vertical strap, and riveted at each side
of the mask.

Step 4: Painting

Picture of Painting

The material was given the appearance of brown leather with acrylic paints and an acrylic crackle medium.
I painted the base coat (medium brown) over the entire mask.
Next the crackled medium was painted evenly over each piece.
Then the contrasting topcoat color (latte) was applied. (Keep in mind that the cracks will appear in the direction you have painted your topcoat)
Once these layers were completely dry, using a wadded up plastic bag I stippled on deep brown (espresso) paying extra attention to areas around the
"rivets" and seams for shadowing and aging.

Step 5: Placing the Lenses

Picture of Placing the Lenses

I used plastic curtain grommets for each lens base. (These grommets push and snap together.)
Using the grommet base as a guide the lenses were cut from medium weight clear stencil paper, then sandwiched between the grommet and snapped in place
over each eye hole.

Step 6: Putting It On

Picture of Putting It On

Now the job will be to decide: Do I want to wear my costume in a classic manner - or go extra creepy....

Plague Doctors covered every inch of their skin to keep from being contaminated. They wore a wide brimmed hat to show their profession and used wooden canes to look at patients without touching them.

For the classic version:
Although the Victorian Era was well past the times of plage, I chose it for its steampunk fashion.I made a Steampunk Victorian Era inspired coat from Simplicity pattern #2172. (You can find it here )
With this I added a long sleeved black and white striped shirt, elbow length black gloves, black leggings,tall boots and a doctor bag.

For a creepier  version:
I dressed in black head to toe and added a hooded black cape (also a Simplicity pattern: ) with this costume I included creepy black  gloves that have extra long  fingers.


halloweenbuilds (author)2016-01-21

What was the thickness of the craft foam? The common size is 2mm thick (1/16 inch) which seems much thinner that what you have here.

Thanks for your interest in my project! I used 5mm thickness craft foam


halloweenbuilds (author)2016-01-21

What was the thickness of the craft foam? The common size is 2mm thick (1/16 inch) which seems much thinner that what you have here.

RiftwingDesigns made it! (author)2015-11-01

Thank you so much for sharing this! I made a mask for my husband, and it turned out fantastic! I used a normal mask as the base, and just used foam for the beak. I cut a pair of children's fake glasses for the eyes. The 'cheeks' weren't stiff enough, so I put some flower wire on the underside to shape it a bit more. All in all, an instructable that was perfect for what I wanted to (and did) make!

TaylorK5 (author)2015-07-24

For the paint did you also use acrylics for the medium and the topcoat?

ThomasM15 (author)2014-11-11

I really like how your tutorial covers information for a complete costume. I followed a different set on here that was twice as long and only on the mask. It also used craft foam like yours, but covered it with fabric. I used white denim for my mask, and for the lenses I used the plastic from playing card protective sleeves. I think the idea of using a wire mesh for the eyes instead of plastic might be a great idea, or you could put small holes in the bottom part and have the mesh glued/sewn in there as well.

Just to give a men's alternative to the patterns you posted above, I started with Simplicity 5942 - A (it's the golden one that is supposed to look like Elrond from LoTR) in black and added a modified form of the hood from Simplicity 5840. A stole was also made from the shoulder armor listed in 5840. A modified version of the corset belt from 5371 - D was done in red and it really works well.

didactylus made it! (author)2014-10-26

Thank you so very, very much for this! So many of the other how-to's I've seen have involved leather working and I was getting kind of despondent, but then I found this and had the whole thing ready in about a week and in plenty of time for the party! The paper-mock up idea saved me so much time and material. Thank you again.

nicholas.pinkert (author)2014-10-04

I really like this. If I do end up using it, I think the only change I'll make is possibly a type of screen instead of the plastic for the eye holes to hide my eyes better. Other than that I love it. Especially how cheap it is compared to other ones, but still looks as good.

nicholas.pinkert: I like your idea and think that it would be a nice improvement. I chose to use plastic lenses because traditionally the masks were equipped with red lenses and it was my intent to dye the plastic ones. However - with the plastic lenses in it made the mask even more air-tight and harder to breath in - your use of a screen would eliminate that issue!

halb51 (author)2014-09-19

Great idea I'm going as this for halloween

Plo Koon (author)2013-11-10

Grim Reaper, a raven, and the Black Spy!

troberts8 (author)2013-11-09

Thank you everyone for these thoughtful compliments! You've all made my day! :)

nerd7473 (author)2013-11-08

I say this a lot, epic

rasha yellow (author)2013-11-08

Cool and original

Mielameri (author)2013-11-07

Looks fantastic and feasible! Nicely done

jessyratfink (author)2013-11-07

A beautiful mask! Love the photo edits too, very moody :D

About This Instructable




Bio: I am troberts8, also known as Tami Roberts. I am an artist and craftsperson. I am an identical twin Gemini. I live with MS. Some ... More »
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