Introduction: Blueberry Leatherface
I made a lot of masks this year, but the one I find most interesting is the Pie in the Face mask. As Halloween rolled around and I found myself with an embarrassment of riches when it came to costume starters, that mask always had my attention. So weird. So juicy. So menacingly delicious.
But it was just a mask. What was the character? First, if I was going to wear that mask, I had to figure out who I was. Who was this man who strapped a piece of mouthwatering blueberry pie to his face?
Well, obviously he's a dangerous lunatic. Face isn't where pie belongs! At least not on the outside of a face. Anybody who believes otherwise is a dangerous lunatic. And what about the poor pie? Somewhere, presumably, at least according to the implication of my mask, was a pie that had been brutalized, vivisected, and its face worn as a mask. What an awful thing to happen! Who would do that?
That's how I figured out that this guy was basically Leatherface, iconic matinee idol of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, except that his victims are blueberry pies instead of human beings! Once I understood that, I had a much clearer idea of what I would need to bring him to life.
I required three main props that I had to purchase: a purple chef coat, a black chef hat, and a rubber apron. I found what I needed online (in China), and in the meantime I got to work.
Step 1: 280 Blueberries
Yeah, that's right, if you want to make this costume the first thing you have to do is make hundreds of fake blueberries. I had some Paper Mache Clay left over from my last project, so while it was still viable, I decided to make as many blueberries as I could. It's tedious, and messy, and not a whole lot of fun, but it's always best to make more than you'll probably need
The process is simple. Roll clay into a little ball. Pick a hole in the end with a metal tool. And move on. The paint job involves a base coat of dioxazine purple, which gets overlayed with a mixture of purple with a light cadmium red. A bit of white in that mixture makes for some nice highlights.
I figured the blueberries would be great for gluing all over myself, like blood spatter. Which got me thinking, and I decided I would need some crust.
Step 2: Get Crusty Love
If you murder a lot of humans, you're going to get splattered with blood and tissue and hair. Similarly, if you murder a lot of blueberry pies, you're going to get splattered with juice and blueberries and crust! So I made some.
Unfortunately, I had used all my remaining paper mache clay to make 280 blueberries, and I didn't want to make a whole new batch just for a handful of crusty bits. Luckily I had an old square of Sculpey in the bottom of my tacklebox, so I started forming it into shapes that would resemble bits of pie crust. I've made a lot of pies, so I know what that looks like.
I baked those up and painted them a yummy golden brown, then glued miscellaneous blueberries to them. Finally, I tinted some glossy varnish with berry-colored paints and drizzled it over the berries and spotted the crust with it. Then, knowing that these would basically be the last step in my costume, I put them aside.
Step 3: Stained With the Blood of My Enemies
During this early phase of production, I was also heavily involved in acquisitions. My blueberry Leatherface was going to require some tools. Some scary, gory murder tools. Pie servers and stuff. I knew I would need to get some kind of belt, and I would hang my tools from this belt, with straps and chains or something. So when my boyfriend and I got a couple of Fridays in a row off together, we took day trips and hit all the thrift stores we could find.
I bought a lot of second-hand kitchen tools, which meant that every piece looked completely different from every other piece. Each one might potentially be used to menace a blueberry pie, but it didn't make for a very cohesive presentation. I thought that if I wrapped the handles with matching leather straps, it might bring the look together.
I found a spool of beige leather because, it turns out, that's a lot easier to find than purple leather. And then I did the most obvious thing in the world: I mashed up some berries and I used them to stain the leather. Ultimately I just smooshed them all up in a Ziploc bag together, left them for a while, rinsed it off and let them dry overnight. I thought they got too pale when they dried so I did it again, but the leather seemed to have absorbed all the blueberry juice it could absorb. But then I made a blackberry pie and thought, "Why not?" so I dyed them again with the blackberries, and that combination gave me what I was looking for.
(Later on in this costume, when I needed some more leather, I mashed up the two types of berries together and it worked on the first try.)
I was careful to choose implements that were all metal, or had wooden handles. Most of the wood I painted black before I did anything with them.
The tools had a lot of different shapes and styles, so I didn't approach them all the same way, but they're all done with the same leather. Some I glued the ends down and carefully wrapped them with a spiral pattern. Some I wrapped thick and fast, and others with a more decorative touch, but the purple leather handles definitely brought a sense of unity to the collection.
Step 4: 90's Fashion Is Useful for the First Time Ever
On our second Friday excursion we hit this thrift shop on the way in to Walla Walla that we'd never been into before. There I found, for a mere $5.99, an actual genuine purple leather jacket. That was pretty much exactly what I needed! The jacket itself was appalling, but once the lining and the huge shoulder pads and contour stitching had been torn out, what I had was quite a bit of purple leather for really, really cheap.
Our previous trip had turned up a police belt at a pawn shop, which I was pretty confident I could pull off as a threatening tool belt of pie-related torture. But I was sure that the whole effect would be better if I also wore some kind of bandolier with additional items on it.
At that point I was still thinking about fashioning a primitive bandolier from a couple of old belts, but that was because I never dreamed that my rural ramblings could turn up something as wonderfully specific as a purple leather jacket.
The whole bandolier was made from the collar and waistband of the jacket. The collar was removed and the padding taken out, then roughly sewn back together using embroidery thread and a leather punch. I left the collar completely whole, allowing its gentle curve to be part of the design.
The bottom seam of the waistband was never even taken out! I used it as-is, merely trimming it for length and cutting an angle in it on my left side. It looked amazing. Now I was getting somewhere!
Step 5: Spatterdashers!
A dangerous lunatic or a True Gentleman? It can be so hard to tell sometimes, especially if he is wearing a spiffy pair of spats like these! Why do I need spats? I've got a purple chef jacket and a black chef hat, there is clearly some kind of chef motif going on here. Do chefs wear spats? Is that even a thing?
Probably not. But first of all, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I love spats. I think they're fancy and great and people should wear them all the time. Also, they can be a nice way to tie a costume together without having to wear special shoes. They're a little costume for your shoes!
A pair of purple leather spats would tie my extremities in with the rest of my ensemble nicely. Also, it would be a lot of seemingly-unnecessary work, which I also love!
First, I downloaded a spats pattern off the internet. Okay, not really. I downloaded a low-res picture of a spats pattern off the internet. Then, I figured out how large I needed the ankle circumference to be.
I zoomed in on the picture until the top line of the largest piece was exactly two inches, then I started to take a lot of measurements using my fabric tape on my laptop screen. I got a pretty good idea of the inter-relationships of the various lines and shapes. I used - wait for it - math to figure out the necessary numbers to make the spats fit my foot, then I freehanded a pattern to the best of my ability.
What's really astonishing here is that it actually worked. I traced the pieces with Sharpie on the back side of the leather, and cut it out leaving a margin of a quarter inch or so. I rolled the excess back and glued it down with Gorilla contact cement. I used my leather punch along all of the seam edges and stitched them together with embroidery thread (I like a bold Frankenstein style stitch.)
For the closures, I cut lengths of the purple dyed leather lace, folded them into a teardrop shape, and glued the ends together. I also wrapped them with thread. I glued these to the inside of the top flap, and stitched buttons on the opposing side.
That worked, but they were a bit loose so I added the short lengths of metal wire bent into an oblong slider, which keeps the leather straps tight. Considering the less than ideal circumstances under which I made them, the spats are amazingly successful!
Step 6: Purpler Than Leather
To finish the bandolier, I was going to need to make some decisions about which tools would be displayed and where, because I needed to attach them (permanently or otherwise). So I laid out my prizes and began to arrange them. I used more of the dyed leather strips, as well as scraps cut from the jacket leather, to secure the implements.
Since many of the tools would not be removable once they were attached, I needed to finalize their appearance first! I spread them on a plastic drop cloth. In a teacup, I mixed paint with glossy varnish and began to decorate the stuff. My hope was that the finished product would look like dried juice. I allowed the glaze to pool and dry undisturbed, but occasionally added a little more if it looked like it was getting too thin. Eventually I let it alone and it finished drying overnight.
Among the tools I collected was an enormous spoon. Metal. Sixteen inches long. Kinda rusty. It was a lovely piece of menace but not the sort of thing you can comfortably dangle from a belt. To solve that problem, and give a bit of character to the back of the costume, I used the lapels of the jacket to make a scabbard which I attached to the rear of the bandolier. Now the spoon handle protrudes up above the shoulder like a sword grip! I finished the scabbard by punching the leather every half inch or so all the way around. I wove the juice-dyed leather in a spiral pattern through the holes and it looked awesome.
The chef coat was pretty great, but needed some modification. The tag on the pocket was easy to remove with a seam ripper, and the piping only took a quick coat of paint. But the turned-up cuffs were lined with that houndstooth pattern so common in chef uniforms. That was unacceptable!
I cut the cuff liners out of the chef coat, which I used to trace replacements out of purple leather. These were carefully glued into place with the contact cement (and I mean carefully. Using contact cement to glue something in a circle is no laughing matter. Don't start unless you have some time and are ready to see it all through to the end.) I finished those in the same fashion as the scabbard.
Step 7: The Gore
I wasn't sure how to go about making the chef coat look like it had been splattered with juice. The cloth is pretty dark on its own, but I wanted to try before I started gluing stuff to it. I started with the same mixture I had used on everything else, gloss varnish with diox purple and magenta. That didn't really work. Besides the fabric being a little bit absorbent, it was just too dark. So I darkened my mixture with a bit of mars black and tried again, with slightly better results (but still not very intense.)
But I couldn't wait any longer to begin attaching the blueberries. Not because I was running out of time (I wasn't), I just mean that I lacked the fortitude to wait any longer. It was an exciting step and I was eager to dive in.
I started with the sleeves, which would receive the most concentrated sprays of blueberries. The berries were attached using the contact cement. I splattered them with more of the "juice," which was effective on the leather cuffs but made no difference on the sleeves. Then it occurred to me that I might get a grimy 'wet' look on the cloth by using simple vegetable oil, so I began to apply it with an eyedropper! I dripped it next to the berries, and streaked it here and there, and the stain spread. It's not exactly what I had imagined but it actually looks good and nasty.
With a paintbrush and the same juice solution, watered down slightly, I made a violent spray pattern on the rubber apron. I was going to let it dry naturally but that would have taken a long time, so I ended up taking a blow dryer to it. But that blew it around, of course, completely changing the pattern, so I had to be careful. The important thing was to make sure it came out all spidery and repellent.
The chef's coat was well underway, so I put on the bandolier and started selecting good spots for berries on there. I tried not to get carried away; the bandolier is pretty cluttered anyway, I just needed some accent fruit! Finally I started to add the bits of pie crust I had made, a little on the bandolier, some on the sleeves and chest, and a couple on the apron. And more juice. Always more juice!
For the toque (it's what us fancy-pantses call a chef's hat) I kept it fairly simple. Five blueberries, mostly on the right. I dipped my fingers into some flour and rubbed it into the band near the berries, and flicked a little bit elsewhere. Then I sprayed that down with a fixative (the same thing I use on my watercolor paintings.) It doesn't exactly glue it down, but it makes the flour smudge-resistant and helps it to stay put. Finally, I dripped on some clear nail polish in that area, which stays a bit shiny and gives the impression of wet juice.
Since the apron was quite dry by this time, I put that on, floured my hands and wiped them on the front and sides. I sprayed that with fixative as well, which not only helped to stabilize the flour but gave a sort of greasy look to the apron too. Then I added a few berries and a piece of crust to the bottom half, to complete the mess.
At this point I decided to make an overt reference to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre by inscribing "The Spoon is Family" on my spoon-handle. This delights me, even though the spoon will be in a scabbard on my back and quite invisible.
Then, being unable to resist any longer, I put on the whole getup again to check it out. I was pretty thrilled with the results.
Finally I added some flour-smear to the coat and sprayed it down, meaning the costume is now basically... done? Can that be right? With thirteen days still left before Halloween?
Step 8: Stuck in the Middle (with Pie)
Then I made a video.
To be clear: I did not make this video because I finished my costume early. In fact, I started talking about the video a couple of weeks before that, but it wasn't something I could really pursue before the costume was ready.
I'm not sure how the notion sprang into my head, but the vision was pretty clear. I would recreate that scene from Reservoir Dogs where Mr. Blonde tortures the cop while Stealer's Wheel plays on the radio (if you've never seen the movie, you can at least watch the scene in question here!) I would be decked out in my full costume, wielding a pie server, and do the shuffly little dance that Michael Madsen performed in the movie. Instead of the cop, duct taped and squirming in terror, I would use shots of a completely static (but contextually terrified!) pie.
Is that hilarious? To me it is!
I don't have access to a lovely warehouse, so I made a little murder set in the basement of my mom's house while she was out of town and had no say in the matter. Somehow, I convinced my boyfriend to be my cameraman, even though he has never seen Reservoir Dogs and didn't completely understand the joke I was making.
On the Saturday before Halloween, we went to the grocery store to buy pumpkins for carving, and also a pie for my little video shoot. Then we drove to my mom's house, where I quickly discovered that I had left the pie on the roof of the truck in the parking lot. So we drove back to the grocery store, where I doubled the production cost for my movie. On the plus side, it was extremely frustrating, perhaps lending authenticity to my performance as I brutally tortured that pie!
Things went pretty smoothly, and after downloading a trial version of some video editing software I think I more or less succeeded in telling my ridiculous joke. The circumstances were not ideal, but it gets the point across! I'm only sad that nobody will be able to tell that at the end, when the camera looks up and away from the violence, the two sheets of paper taped in the back of the frame are old comic book pages in which Marvel super heroes are shilling for Hostess fruit pies.
Happy Halloween, everybody! I will post some more pictures after the big night.
Step 9: Win!
Bill and I got decked out in our costumes and headed to a local venue for the annual Halloween bash and costume contest! We entered via different doors a few minutes apart, generally stayed away from each other and never removed our masks.
We remained in character all night, never speaking and creeping out as many people as possible. Eventually one of the staff figured out who Bill was, though, so when it came time for the big announcement we took first place together!
The prize was awarded to "The creepy clown and that pie-faced killer!" He then added "I know who you are!" but didn't give it away. We accepted our award and then departed without removing our masks!