Introduction: Dragon Costume Wings

About: I'm here to productively procrastinate while percolating my music and media projects. Go check out my Facebook page and give it a "like" to help get these projects distributed, if you are inclined!

These wings can be adapted to fairy, angel, gargoyle, butterfly, etc...

This isn't my first craft rodeo, but it is my first Instructable (spellcheck wants to call it "Intractable!") I figure it's time to catch up on some giving back for all my Googling. As soon as this round of productive procrastination is over, I go back to making music.

My daughter wanted dragon wings, and my son wanted nothing, because he is just going to go to a party where people are not dressing up. I had to let that sink in for a minute, that my kid is somehow too old for Halloween costumes... and then decided I would go ahead and make my daughter some wings. And then I looked extra hard for where I hid the Halloween candy from myself.

Step 1: Materials

I bought my fabric at Pacific Fabrics Northgate, in Seattle.

  • Sequined fabric, at least 1/2 yard (I used ombré magenta, purple, blue, teal on a black base)
  • Silver lamé fabric, at least 1/2 yard (thin and slightly stretchy)
  • Lightweight poster board or paper
  • Pen
  • 12 gauge galvanized utility wire, about 12 feet (similar to coat hanger wire)
  • Latex tubing, about 8 feet (3/8" outer diameter 1/2" inner diameter)
  • Wire cutters heavy duty (don't worry too much, you're only making two cuts)
  • Utility scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Adhesive putty, about 2-3 packages - the kind used to hang posters
  • Hot glue gun
  • 1/4" dowel or equivalent, I used a 36" length and sectioned it
    • ...and superglue in case you break the dowel too short and have to fix it...

To attach wings to person:

  • 1" diameter x approx. 10" long PVC pipe to insert the wing stems into
    • (like a flower vase) and attach to your back
  • extra shirt (will be covered up so any color will do)
  • duct tape to wrap around torso to secure the tube
  • shirt or sweater you will use for the costume

Step 2: Make Wing Template

Draw the wing shape you want. Things to keep in mind:

• Costume practicalities like fitting yourself into a vehicle with big wings on your back.

• Avoid small details; you need to turn them into large gestures. For example, see original idea on left; the tiny claw on top is impossible to render so it was exaggerated until large enough to translate to the diameter of the wire and tube.

• On the right is the template with added seam allowance; you'll be cutting the fabric to this template and the armature will stay roughly the size of the original (left) template.

• Add a structural stem that will run down the person's back

Step 3: Make Wing Armature


Cut latex tubing long enough to outline the stem that will attach to your back, plus the top edge of wing, plus a couple of inches extra to hang over the outer top edge. * note that the inner edge of tubing is cut from the end to the point where the wire sharply bends, so that the tubing continues the top edge curve.

Cut wire long enough to outline the stem that will attach to your back, plus entire wing, plus extra couple of feet just for breathing room so it isn't too short.

Insert wire into tubing.

Bend wire to fit inside the outline of the paper template. You should be able to do this with just your hands, but some jewelry making tools might be useful if you want finer control. Try to keep it in two dimensions, but don't expect it to be perfectly flat. Pause after each bend to compare with template, adjust as needed.

If you didn't already, snip the underside of the end of the tubing, stopping at the corner of the wing.

When you reach the stem, wrap wire around it to secure.

Step 4: Cut Fabric

Good luck with the sequined fabric. If your scissors are not quite up to the task, beware of chafing the skin on your thumb knuckle where it contacts the scissors because you'll need a lot of pressure to cut through the sequins. The fabric is extremely stretchy, so make small cuts and keep letting go to allow it to shrink back to actual size. You'll want to err on the side of cutting outside of the line; you'll often find it was actually the right size once you let go and discover that you were stretching it when cutting. It can help to actually stand on part of the template as you cut! Also, there will be sequin detritus everywhere.

The lamé fabric is an absolute breeze to cut after your sequin ordeal.

When you have the two sequin pieces and two silver pieces cut out, put one of each with wrong sides facing each other and pin along the top edge of each wing. Where they don't line up perfectly, err on the side of the sequin piece being larger than the lamé piece; trim the lamé where necessary (if its edge pokes beyond the sequin edge, trim it.)

Step 5: Sew Top Edge

On your sewing machine, sew with the lamé fabric on top. Keep about 1/2-3/4" seam allowance.

Turn right-side-out and test the fit on armature, adjust as needed. I had to deepen the curve under the claw.

Step 6: Hang Wings on Armature

Pretty cool. Now go eat some Halloween candy and think about what you've done.

Step 7: Define the Wing Anatomy

Use adhesive putty to press the inner and outer wing together under the tubing edge. This will define the "bone structure" along the upper edge of the wing.

Place the putty ropes in the inner edge of the tubing; pull fabric down around it and press downward. The putty will not stick as readily to the sequin fabric mesh as it will to the silver lamé, but it should work. As a last resort you might try double-stick tape, but the putty is much more forgiving.

Step 8: Brace the Frame; Glue the Silver Fabric Down

Measure and resize dowel:

Insert the dowel between the inner and outer fabric and place it inside the top point; holding the silver fabric taut, line the dowel up with one of the points on the bottom of the frame. Stretch a little bit more and make a mark where the bottom of the frame will meet the dowel. You will need this length as a strut to support the frame and stretch the fabric into nice diagonal ripples.

Cut or carefully break dowel to this length, apply hot glue to one end and glue it into the upper tip where you placed it before; glue bottom end to the point at the bottom of the frame.

Now you can line up the silver fabric with the points at the bottom of the frame and glue it to the backside at each of the points. It will of course make straight lines between the points, as math is wont to do; in between each point pull it gently back and glue it to the back at the midpoint of the curve so that it will follow the curve of the frame. (the above photo was before this step)

The sequined side should fall freely and hang nicely behind the front side.

You know, someday it would be great to experiment with inserting a curved membrane to glue to both the inner and outer fabric so that the wing is more shell-like and thin throughout, with thin outlines of bones leading to the points. But my friends, this is NOT THAT DAY.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Step 9: Make a Tube "vase" to Attach Wings to Your Back

It works IT WORKS!!! Hilariously awesome side effect of using a narrow tube for the stems is that they are free to rotate around in there. What does that mean?

You get to have FLAPPY WINGS.

Okay, so get a t-shirt, and a helper. Have them duct tape a 1" diameter x about 10" long PVC pipe vertically down the center of your back, with the top edge just beneath the shirt neck. Now have the helper tape a length around your entire torso to secure the tube near the top, and another near the bottom.

Put your costume shirt on over that, pull the back of the neck down below the pipe opening, and have your helper stick those wings in! YEAH! (Oh, remember the extra wire on the ends? I ended up cutting it level with the bottom of the latex tubing... so I stuffed two bare and two wrapped wires into the PVC pipe.)

Step 10: Use Scraps for Other Dragon Parts

My daughter made paper cones for claws (think Bugles on your fingers) and hot glued the silver fabric onto them.

If you have more fabric, make a tail:

  • Fold in half lengthwise right sides together
  • Sew a lonnnnnnng narrow triangle but don't end it narrower than your index finger, so you can shimmy it back rightside out without any hassle
  • Stuff it loosely with bubble wrap. If the tail isn't bendy enough, pop a bubble or two!
  • Sew it by hand onto back of costume shirt
    • it's helpful to use an upholstered pillow as dress form

And a belly:

  • Cut a long egg shape
  • Iron three or four pleats
  • Hot glue the pleats shut
  • Trim the pleat edges
  • Use double-sided tape to attach to costume

You can tell that this was the point at which I was racing to be done (note crooked top pleat) :)

Step 11: Pretty Much Done

Feel free to bend a nice curve into the wings.

The sequin tails down the middle are not necessary, but consensus was to leave them on for some reason.

There was talk of adding LED lights to these, but this was NOT THAT DAY.

Step 12: Dragon at the Door

This is where I leave you and go back to MAKING MUSIC at PunchBeam!

Thanks for taking a look, I wish you much success and minimal trauma. :) Please share your results if you try this, especially if you take it further!

Halloween Costume Contest 2016

Participated in the
Halloween Costume Contest 2016

Glue Challenge 2016

Participated in the
Glue Challenge 2016