Introduction: Warrior Archangel Costume With Cable Controlled Wings
I went as an archangel for Halloween. The design I made worked for me (6'3'', 170 lbs), but can be adjusted to any size and/or shape depending on what winged creature you'd like to be. The costume took ~40 hours of work and $200, give or take. The majority of time and cost went into the feathers, so the time and cost are quite variable depending on your final design.
Components of the costume: robe, armor, cloak, wings, halo, sword, sandals
What you will need for the robe:
A white robe/nightie/dress
OR enough white fabric to make a robe - I don't have the sewing expertise to do this, so I bought a white robe for $10 at Goodwill.
2 yards brown upholstery pleather (feel free to use different leather or pleather - I used upholstery pleather for the cost).
Canvas or burlap (I used old carry bags made of canvas)
~25 yards of 18 gauge gold-plated wire
~50 brass eyelets of appropriate size
2.5 yards navy blue artificial velvet (again, feel free to use real - I did not)
1x 2ft long, 2in diameter PVC pipe (cut in half)
2x 2ft long, 1.5in diameter PVC pipes
1x 10ft long, 1in diameter PVC pipe (cut in half)
2x 2in-1.5in 45 degree PVC elbows
5x 3ft long, 0.5in diameter dowels
~1lb white turkey feathers (you can use more or less depending on how fluffy you want the wings)
3x 6ft long white feather boas - this was just enough for this design. If the wings were larger, I'd need a fourth.
Enough white fabric (or other material) to stretch across the wings - I used about a twin bed's worth of an old sheet.
1 12x12x1in wooden board
6 wood screws
2x nylon ratchet straps at least 4 feet long
5 feet steel cable (the lowest rating I could find had a 750lb limit - this was plenty).
NOTE: It may be necessary to enlist a friend for help when rigging the cloak and wings together.
3 yards 16 gauge gold plated wire
4 yards brown satin ribbon
A sword (mine is real, you can use a prop, or a spear, or nothing - your choice).
Feel free to make sandals if you want. I would suggest either twine or using lightly colored wood and twisted rope in a Roman style shoe. I used a pair of brown leather flip-flops that I own.
A huge amount of hot glue - I used about 100 6in sticks
Toothless pliers (also called ring pliers)
Cyanoacrylate - NOTE: Cyanoacrylate (CA) is dangerous not just because it bonds skin, but it also reacts violently with cotton (ie bursts into flames). Do not let it touch your skin, clothes, paper towels, etc.
Rotary tool with cutting bits and sanding bits
General tool set
Safety equipment including at least goggles and a respirator
Step 1: Armor (base)
I cut a piece of newspaper to the general shape that I wanted to use as a template (photo 1).
I used the template to cut out multiple layers of white canvas (from old canvas bags) in order to give the armor some thickness. I hot-glued these together (photos 2 and 3).
I hot-glued nylon cord and some metal wire to create a frame (photo 4).
I cut out the pleather slightly larger than the template (photo 5) so I could fold and hot glue the edges down (photo 6).
Congratulations, you now have a leather breastplate! The mail comes after the jump.
Step 2: Armor (preparing the Wire)
The chain mail was a variation on Japanese 2-6. I was going for a more ornamental look, so used one 1.5in diameter ring for every six 0.5in diameter rings - thank you to user "ineverfinishanyth" for instructables on chain mail: https://www.instructables.com/id/Volume-8-How-to-Weave-Japanese-26/
I wasn't sure how many of each type of ring I'd need, so I made the rings in small batches. How much you need depends on your design.
I wrapped a length of wire around a 0.25in dowel in order to create a coil that can be cut into rings. Since this was immensely time consuming and cut up my hands, I decided to use a drill instead. Insert the dowel into a power drill (please wear safety goggles - photo 1). held the drill with my foot, the top of the dowel with one hand, the the metal wire with the other
Start wrapping the wire by hand until it grips the dowel tightly. Depress the trigger with your foot, and hold the metal taut (don't blast the drill at full speed). If you do it right, the dowel will spin and the wire will spin around it (photos 2 and 3).
This will leave you with a coil of wire (photo 4). Use wire snips/pliers to cut the wire along the length of the coil (photo 5) to leave you with lots of open wire rings (photo 6).
I needed to wrap the wire around the PVC for the large rings because my drill wasn't large enough (photo 7). The same concept applies - snip the coil to create large open rings.
Step 3: Armor (making the Mail)
Japanese 6-in-1 chain mail is a pretty easy design. It may be easier to do this on top of a carpet or a couch (something with give) so you can hook rings onto ones that are lying down on a surface.
Take a large ring and put 6 small rings on it (photo 1).
Take another large ring, put 5 small rings onto it, and loop it into a small ring from the first one (photo 2).
The next large ring needs 4 small rings. The other two come from the prior rings (photo 3).
Keep doing this in a circle - the last large ring will need 3 small rings and take 3 rings from the surrounding (photo 4). At this point, every ring on the perimeter should have 3 loose small rings.
Continue this until you get the shape you want. I also wanted a decorative piece in the center, so I made a loop of Full-Persian weave (photo 5). It is relatively complex, and instructions can be found here: https://www.instructables.com/id/Volume-6-How-to-Weave-Full-Persian/ (again, thank you to user "ineverfinishanyth").
I attached 6 large rings to the Persian loop to make a decorative form(photos 6 and 7). I attached this to the Japanese 2-6 weave until it looked like mail armor (photo 8).
Congratulations, your chain mail is now complete! Attach it to the base after the jump.
Step 4: Armor (putting It All Together)
I laid the weave on top of the base (photo 1). I cut up strips of pleather 2 inches long and pushed eyelets through either end (photo 2). I hot glued these down onto the base to hold the mail onto the base. I was little worried about stability, so I ended up hot gluing the Persian weave and a lot of the rings as well.
I added three strips with eyelets to the bottom of the armor to give it a fuller look (photo 3).
Note: I thought the decorative loop looked like a flower. My brother told me it looked like Iron Man, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but wasn't my intention. You may want to consider this if you're using this design.
Congratulations, your chain mail and leather armor is complete! The wings and cloak come next.
Step 5: Skeleton (creating the Frame)
Since we need two wings, we are going to do this twice in mirror images of each other.
Please wear safety goggles and a respirator when using power tools on PVC - PVC just is pretty nasty.
Carve a notch into one end of a 2ft 1.5in diameter PVC pipe - from here the called the "short pipe" (photo 1).
Use a rotary tool to shave down the sides of one end of a 5ft 1in diameter PVC pipe - from here called the "long pipe" (photo 2). This notch is so the long pipe can fit into the notch of the short pipe to create a joint.
Drill a hole in the end of the long pipe (through the part of the pipe you DIDN'T shave down) and feed the steel cable through it. To create the joint, you will need to fit the long pipe into the short pipe's notch. Drill a hole through the entire rig, and slide a bolt through it. Where you do this is up to you - the more overhang you leave, the easier it will be to open with the cable, but the less realistic the wing will look (photo 3).
I wrapped some extra wire around the top of the short pipe to keep it closed, and then used a lot of duct tape and packaging tape, which worked well.
Cut your wooden dowels so, for each wing, you have 2 1.5ft pieces, 1 1ft piece, and 1 3ft piece (you'll have some dowel left over).
You will create two triangles. The 1.5ft dowels are attached to the short pipe, the 1ft and 3ft dowels to the long pipe. I used hot glue, nylon, and duct tape to hold these triangles to the frame, and reinforced it with CA. NOTE: attach the triangles onto opposite sides of the plane of the wing - this will prevent them from hitting each other when opening and closing. Use the PVC elbow to connect the short pipe to a 1ft 2in diameter pipe - from now called the "structural pipe" (photo 4).
After you've done this twice, you'll have two mirror image wings (NOTE: the "mirror" applies to having the upper part of the wing be in front of the lower part of the wing on both wings when closed). Lay the structural pipes on top of your wooden board (photo 5 - shown on top of the cloak that we'll go over in the next step). My house's pool table was the only large table in the basement which is why I photographed it there. I worked on it on a workbench.
Use a drill and screws to connect the pipes to the board - make sure they go at the angle you want (and are symmetric).
Congratulations, you now have a skeleton for wings! The cloak comes after the jump.
Step 6: Cloak
The cloak is very easy. The fabric was a little too wide for my shoulders (It was 44in wide) so I hot glued the sides in (as seen in the last photo of step 5).
I knew the wooden board was going to act as a "backpack" for the wings, and would be slung underneath my shoulder blades so I would be able to comfortably move my arms while wearing it. I measured where this would be in relation to the cloak - it was ~4 feet from the bottom (the cloak is floor-length).
I cut two sets of notches into the middle of the fabric 4 feet from the bottom. One set of notches was based on the distance between the structural pipes - this would allow me to cover the wooden board with the cloak by feeding the PVC pipes through the fabric. The other pair of notches would allow the metal cables to pass down to my hands (photos 1 and 2).
Congratulations, your cloak is attached to the frame of the wings! Feathering the wings comes after the jump.
Step 7: Feathers (making the Wings Look Real)
This part was by far the most expensive and time consuming. There are well over a thousand feathers here, the vast majority of which were arranged and glued individually. NOTE: this involved a lot of repetition and and hot glue - it's easy to get distracted and burn yourself, so please be careful.
To start, cut your fabric to the proper dimensions such that it will fit over the triangles in the skeleton of the wings. Remove the short and long pipes (the "wing") from the wooden board and structural pipe (the "backpack"). Hot glue the fabric to the skeleton (photos 1-3).
Now we get to add a ton of feathers. I wanted the wings to have a fluffy angelic look, so I used turkey plumes instead of long quills. They were smaller and thus took more work, but they gave a softer look.
Orient the feathers in the proper direction (to the bottom of the wing) and hot glue the quill to the fabric. Start at the bottom and work your way up so each layer covers the top of the previous (photos 4 and 5 - it is hard to distinguish between the white fabric and feathers, but there are successive rows of feathers).
Continue gluing the feathers until you have finished the triangle (photo 6). Then do the same for every other part of the skeleton, both front and back (photo 7). Do this for both wings.
To make the wings look much fuller, I used boas to cover the exposed parts and to fill in the gaps. Glue a boa along the long pipe and the short pipe (photos 8-10). NOTE: do not glue the boa to where the short pipe meets the PVC elbow.
I wrapped part of a boa around the overhang of the long pipe (photo 11 - the peacock feathers in the background were for a friend, not for this project). I then glued part of a boa to the 1ft dowel attached to the long pipe to fill the space between the upper and lower wing when opened. Repeat for both wings (photo 12).
Congratulations, you now have wings! The sword and belt comes after the jump.
Step 8: Sword and Belt
I collect weapons, so finding a sword wasn't difficult for me. I chose one that had a somewhat crusader-shape aesthetic - i.e. it was cross-shaped (photo 1). If you don't have a sword, you can use a prop, or find a real one at many cutlery stores or museums.
I removed the center piece of the scabbard and fed a length of brown satin ribbon through it and closed it back down (photos 2 and 3). Make sure you use enough ribbon to wrap around your waist two or three times.
Congratulations, you can now wear your sword! Make a halo after the jump.
Step 9: Halo
For the halo, I used a very simple 4-in-1 chain. In short, loop two rings together. From here, you loop each successive ring into the prior two rings. Keep doing this until the chain is large enough to wrap around your head, then close the chain (photo 1).
If you loop each new ring in from the same side every time, you'll get a nice twist (as in the photo). If you alternate (i.e. one loop in from the front of the chain, the next from the back, and so forth) you'll get a flat chain.
Congratulations, you now have a halo! Put everything together after the jump.
Step 10: Assembly
I used a wooden mallet to lightly knock the short pipes into the structural pipes. I managed to get them in there tightly enough that I didn't need to use PVC cement, which took out an extra step. Make sure the wings are angled slightly away from your back (so they don't rub) and are symmetric (photos 1 and 2).
I hot glued some extra feathers around the PVC elbows and onto the cloak to cover up the joint (photo 3 - it's an awkward angle: a friend photographed me standing behind the wing holding the board).
I used a staple gun to attach the ratchet straps to the wooden board (photo 4). I hot glued the leather armor to the straps that would go over my shoulders, and then reinforced it with twine (photos 5 and 6). This would allow me to put the wings and the armor on at the same time, armor in front, wings in back, kind of like putting on a weight vest or football pads.
Feed the cables through the holes in the cloak. I fed each wing to the opposite hand (right to left, vice versa) because it had less of a mechanical disadvantage than each hand controlling the same side wing.
Congratulations, you are now ready to wear your costume!
Step 11: Putting It On
The first few times I wore it, I needed help from a friend. I wore an ribbed tank undershirt and mesh shorts because they were comfortable and inconspicuous. I put the white robe on and tied the brown sash around my waist. NOTE: Tie it around two or three times so the sword tightens the other loops as it tugs down the one it's connected to. This will keep the sword at your waist.
Have your friend hold the wooden board at shoulder height so you can slip under the armor. Put it on and tighten the ratchet straps until it holds onto your shoulders. I wrapped the excess ratchet strap around my belt and tucked the cables into the belt at the back so I could grab them easily (photo 1 - this shows what is happening under the armor - in the final costume, the armor is attached to the straps and hangs in front of you).
While wearing it, my friend hot glued two pieces of twine to opposite sides of the armor near my waist so I could tie it flat to my chest. You can do this before putting it on, I just didn't think to.
My friend also laid down the velcro straps on the armor and cloak at this point. We did it now to make sure the cloak covered all of the ratchet straps and hung neatly. Step into your sandals, bobby pin the halo to your head, and you're good to go!
Pull on the wire cables to open your wings, let them go and gravity will close them (photos 2 and 3). They ended up having a ~9 foot wingspan. The costume as a whole weighed ~20 pounds.
Congratulations, you are now a warrior archangel! (Even if only in look and spirit - don't try to pull an Icarus!)
Recycling option / secondary purpose: I wore this at a party, which was really fun until it turned into a dance party, at which point it was large, immobile, and incredibly hot. I went back to my room down the hall, took off the wings and the armor, and tied a red cape to my back (from a different unrelated costume - you can use any cape of any color). I left the halo on as a crown and told everybody I was Caesar. Worked like a charm.