Halloween might as well be a perennial favorite at our house. Just like his dad, my son plans months in advance exactly what he'd like to be and for the most part, participates in the month long activity. I've been making costumes for years but not documenting their creation. Three years ago I decided to document and post the infamous "Wall-E Kid Costume Mostly from Recycled Materials" https://www.instructables.com/id/Building-WALL-E-and-EVE/ and this time we hope not to disappoint.
This year he chose the Power Ranger Mystic Phoenix Titan... yes, of all the characters out there, he chose this... he chose an obscure 6+ year old Disney mixup of the Mighty Morphin franchise. That's what happens when you leave it up to a 7yr old.
The project took about 25-35 hrs, I lost track of the total time. I chose to tackle the project with more of a "hand made" look, rather than a full reproduction. For a one-off halloween costume I try to balance time and an overall impression. If this was yet-another-ironman costume that could be worn for several years over, maybe I would have taken a different approach, however I also wanted my son to participate in the process and solve as my design issues as possible with these limited resources.
Hot Wire Cutter
3M 77 and 90 Spray Adhesive
*Glossy Red Duct Tape
*Extra Wide Black Gaffing Tape
*Thin Black Gaffing Tape
*Black Masking Tape
*Clear Packing Tape
*Paint Masking Tape
*Aluminium Foil Tape
Kitchen Aluminium Foil Wrap
8'x4' Reclaimed Sheet of Insulating Construction Foam-core (can be purchased from Home Depot)
Recycled desktop computer box
Recycled cpu box
Recycled Kid warmup sweats and hoodie
Pair of Gloves
Found Floral Hemisphere (can be purchased from Ben Franklins)
Step 1: Shoulder Pads and Basic Fittings
I chose the tackle the "shoulder pads" first for a number of reasons. First and foremost, he had to wear this to his second grade classroom, so it needed to be "school appropriate". What defines school appropriate exactly? Well, being able to sit comfortably and have some mobility, etc. I though an oversized shoulder that rested comfortably and evenly would be the most important feature.
As it turns out, a basic computer shipping box with two sides of styrofoam padding turned out to be the exact size for not only the shoulder frame, but the wrist guards (see step 6). The shipping foam was a little wide, but considering the need for mobility and the minimal emphasis on accuracy, I decided to it would do.
To frame the shoulders, I used pretty much the only image of the Titan I could find and sketched out the basic pattern on 11x17 paper. Newspaper would do just fine, just something as a template. After cutting the template up, I put it against the Foam Core and carved out the shape with the hot-wire cutter.
I attached the walls of the shoulders to the frame with 77, careful not to spray it directly on the Styrofoam-- it melts it to shreds!
I cut-and-creased some cardboard around the edges, securing it with 77 to the foam and T-pins to hold.
Cut a hole for the head- I used a cerated carving knife and smoothed with the hot-wire cutter.
The Face Mask was quickly constructed from the leftover motherboard packing foam. Hot-wire cut to fit a small head.
Finish it off with a fitting. It's good for morale for both kiddo and dad!
Step 2: Shin Guards
The "Shin Guards" are created by laminating 10 layers of foam and carving out the rough shape. This was by far the most laborious and tedious step, which is exactly why it's second. Not so early that you want to give up, yet after a good few hours of constructing the shoulder pads, you're feeling committed. Be prepared spend a few good days carving up the perfect shape.
I started out with a character sketch so I could get a feel of the form. Once I studied the curves, I marked up the laminate boards with his actual foot size and cut markups. In an all-day marathon session, I slowly whittled away at the shins until I was happy with the shapes from all angles. Working one to completion before starting on the second worked best for me.
Occasionally I'd hit it with a heat gun to shrink the Styrofoam. Use this technique sparingly, as it will melt the foam and the plastic laminate at different rates and may cause striations.
I also carved out the kneecap gards here too, to ensure a perfect fit.
Step 3: "Skinning"
Once I was happy with the curvatures, I sanded it down with 100 grit and dusted it clean. I Vertically applied the Glossy Red Duct Tape to follow the laminate grain. This is obviously not an ideal "paint job" on the foam but it's quick and easy, and besides the noticeable striations it looks pretty sharp at night. Additionally, the tape acts as a structural binding around the foam to create a very durable dress-up costume for months to come after Halloween and it's just a bad writeup on some blog on the internet.
It took more than a few hours to get the bore the correct diamater. I used the same long serrated knife and the hotwire cutter to finesse the width.
Once it was established a foot could slide in-and-out without too much hassle, I taped it up with extra wide ducttape so I could glue it to his sweats. By permantely securing the foam guards to the sweats, it would eliminate wardrobe failure and increase overall happiness of wardrobing up the final product.
Skinning the shoulder pads actually held them together since the 77 had nearly melted all the foam connection points to the cardboard.
Finish it off with a fitting. Ensure a proper fit and happy customer!
Step 4: Helmet Detail
I started the helmet a few steps back in step 1 to ensure scale and fit. in this section I used a printout of the Titan to freehand his ear in soft motherboard foam.
Next I taped up a leftover hemisphere foam piece from an aborted floral project. The masking tape was painted in a matte black and slipped around the mask to form a half-shell helmet.
Using 77 and T-Pins, I glued it all together.
The "Spire" was carved from two semi-soft foam pieces and glued on the top.
Round it out with a fitting to ensure balance and comfort.
Step 5: Chest and Thighs
The chest plate and thighs are made from the same material as the ears-- super soft packing foam slips used to ship motherboards. I chose this technique because comfort and maneuverability were a key design point and I wanted to ensure he didn't insist on removing the costume due to poor choice in construction materials.
To get the aluminum suit look, I used 90 to adhere foam to a fresh roll of foil- then laminated it with transparent packing tape to give it a gloss, but crinkled look.
These pieces were then individually adhered to the sweats and hoodie.
Step 6: Booties and Assembly
With everything assembled, I started constructing the booties. By wrapping them around a pair of shoes, I could find the correct curvature and form of the his foot. Once that was found, it was trivial to tape it up and glue the booties directly to the sweats.
I attached everything so that it was one piece- easy to put on, and easy to remove. No dangling or separate parts to deal with. I found out later that the to get full coverage of the booties, I taped it to his shoe.
One last fitting ensured a proper fit.
Step 7: Details
The final details included shoring up all the loose ends and corners. I preferred using the foil tape to do this job. In costume such as this, focusing on the right details matters, and letting others go is an artform.
Step 8: Final Product
The final costume has held up will. With more than 5 outings including marches at school, downtown candy runs and pre and night-of halloween parties has put this design to the test.
Between the the WallE costume and a full sized buzz light year costume I made a decade ago, I've found a process and construction with minimal materials that seem to work well to capture the essence of the costume, yet provide maximum comfort and durability.
Even though the "Mystic Phoenix Titan Power Ranger" costume won't be as well known as WallE Kid was, we had a great time making it and hope it lives up to the same standard.