Gandalf the Grey Costume




About: I'm an indie game developer who enjoys making costumes, comics and cupcakes. I like video and board games, halloween, and laser dolphins.

"I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me!"

The big costume I made for Halloween this year was the top wizard himself, Gandalf. My Gandalf was based on his description in the book The Hobbit, with a little mix of Ian McKellen's portrayal, John Howe's paintings and my own spirit-guide drawing. It's not a very complicated costume but it's all about the little parts that sell it. With the facial hair, makeup and facial prosthetics, (along with changing my gait and voice) I had everyone thinking I was a man until I squeaked out some words in my regular voice. Halloween may be over, but there's still one last Hobbit movie to come out, so why not make your own wizard costume in celebration and/or protest.

Step 1: Gather Supplies

For the clothing you'll be making you will need:

  • Grey fabric - wool for a cloak (about 3 yards by 60") and linen or textured cotton for the robes. (About 5yards x 60")
  • Pattern - wizard robes are fairly simple but I used and altered Simplicity 4219 (along with looking at McCalls 4627 for reference.sizing)
  • Blue-grey fabric - wool, felt or even fleece (...if you're picky and can't find the right color in those other two fabrics)
  • Stiff buckram
  • Flexible measuring tape
  • 10 Eyelets
  • Cord
  • Thread, scissors, sewing machine (or needle and thimble) and a lot of pins

For the special effects makeup, you will need:

  • Sulfur-free clay/plasticine
  • Head armature
  • Ultra-cal 30
  • Vaseline
  • Cheesecloth
  • Latex
  • Castor sealer
  • Creme makeup skin-tone palette (I used)
  • Glue stick
  • Crepe wool; I got about 12ft to use for the beard, moustache, hair and eyebrows
  • Pros-Aid and/or spirit gum
  • Wide painters tape
  • Assortment of brushes and sponges
  • Powder for setting makeup

And for accessories you will need:

  • Long silver piece of fabric (or just a silver scarf)
  • Grey long sleeve shirt
  • Grey loose pants
  • Antique pipe
  • The Perfect Staff (mine was driftwood I delivered from the waters of Squamish)
  • Black (sword) belt
  • Big black boots
  • Old grey gloves (optional)
  • And a good sword too, especially if you're going to be fighting orcs

Step 2: Make the Cloak

Take a piece of grey (wool) fabric, about 3yards by 60inches, give or take. Wrap it around your shoulders, letting it drape over your arms. Your cloak is finished!

...So some of you may be going "Really? Really?! You didn't sew together a proper cloak!?" I currently already have 3 "proper" cloaks in my possession and felt no need to add another one, so this simple viking/anglo-saxon styled cloak (which is just a big piece of fabric, sometimes lined, and held in place with a ring pin) was the best option for me. I have reused it for my Tatterhood costume already as a cloak (adding a ring pin to it), blanket, pillow...oh the possibilities of long pieces of warm uncut fabric.

Step 3: Make the Robes

There are three main parts to Gandalf's robe; the pleated body, the yoke, and the sleeves, all of which I used the Simplicity pattern for as a base. In a nutshell, first make the pleated body, cut out the yoke, stitch the yoke and body together, add the sleeves, hem the body and cuffs and tack the pleats halfway down the body. If those brief words aren't enough, read the rest of this page! I'm not the greatest sewer in the world, I've never taken any classes, so this may not be the best way, but it's the way that worked for me!

Depending on how comfortable you are with sewing, you may just want to directly follow a pattern; there are wizard and monk robe patterns out there which are very suitable for pattern needs (however they do not have pleats like movie-Gandalf's robe). If I did this costume again, I'd be tempted to check out graduation gown patterns, as they have yokes and pleats. Since I didn't have that, I used Simplicity 4219 as a base. That pattern is for an 'older styled' shirt; the body itself is a primarily a rectangle shape, and the sleeves are also primarily rectangular. This is different from the monk pattern I had, as the sleeves and body were more modern. The older style shirt was better for me because it allowed me to pin and gather full sleeves, and easily adjust the body (I made it the correct length, and calculated in pleats!)

The longest ordeal of this part? Finding fabric I was actually happy with!! It looks more textured in person and over time I think I will age it.

Pleated body: After measuring yourself (including from the nape of your neck to the floor) select the appropriate front and back shirt pattern pieces, and lengthen them so they are 3" more than the neck-floor length - add at least 3" for hemming. You can do this with newspaper or make a note for when you're cutting to start at a certain length). The front and back shirt pieces will be the same width - measure the pattern width. Decide how many pleats you want on your robe (go with 8 or 9 for both the front and back). Using these numbers, you can calculate how much bigger you need to make your front and back pieces.

Say your front shirt piece was 20" wide and you want 8 pleats; to make them fit, you will need to make each finished pleat 2.5". To actually make each pleat, you need 7.5" of fabric. The pleats are formed by folding the fabric back on itself, then folded again forward (see crudely drawn diagram). So you need 7.5" of fabric x 8 pleats = you will need fabric 60" wide. (20"x3). If you don't have wide enough fabric, you may have to sew giant pieces together - you should be able to hide the seams within the pleats!

Measure out your pleats, fold them, pin them, iron them and stitch along the top line of your fabric. Repeat for the back - and you should have 2 giant pleated sheets of fabric!

Yoke: Going back to your original front and back pattern pieces, note where the sleeves would be added/where the armpit is indicated on the pattern with a symbol. Measure from that mark up to the neck/top of the pattern. Take that number and add 3-5 inches to it; let's say that total number ends up being 8. So down the center-line of the front and back patterns, measure down 8 inches. Cut out the front and back yoke pieces, which should go from the top of the pattern piece, down 8 inches, up diagonally to the armpit and back up to the top. (Check drawing for shape reference). You will need to cut a slit down the center of the front piece - cut 3" for starters. Attach the big pleated body pieces to the yoke; don't try to make the sides even, just trim away the excess pleated fabric after you've attached the two. Sew the front and back together at the shoulders and try the robe on; at this point you may not be able to get it over your head, so snip the neck slit a little bit more and retry until you can comfortable fit it over your noggin.

Sleeves: These are easy enough to modify; just had to change the rectangle to more of trapezoid shape. Lengthen the sleeves by at least 3.5 inches as the hem on the sleeve cuffs will be quite large. Then add the sleeves to the body!

Finishings: Right around where you will wear a belt, stitch down each pleat individually (to help keep that pleated shape!). Hem the sleeves and robe. Finish the collar (I just turned down the edges of my neck) and add the eyelets down the neck slit. Run the cord through the eyelets. Take a plain grey shirt and layer it under the robes. Tack the elbows of the robe to the elbows of the shirt (so when you are waving and casting spells your sleeves will never reveal your pasty wizardly arms)

Step 4: Make the Hat

There are SO many Gandalf/wizard hat tutorials out there! So. Many. So many. So how did I make the hat? Welp. I looked at those tutorials, and then made the hat...

There's really not much more I can say that has already been said! So I will just "sum up".

Draw a circle a few inches bigger than your head (I used a pot lid that had a radius a few inches larger). Draw another circle outside of that about 6-8 inches large. Cut out the big circle, cut the little circle out of that, cut out a wedge shape to get a flare. Tack that in place, see how it fits, make adjustments, then repeat the stesps above with both your fabric (two times) and buckram (1-2 times depending how heavy it is). Cut out a cone that is at least 22" inches high with a base at least a few inches bigger than your circumference.

Sew all the circles up along their wedge openings (so they are "whole kinda circles" again). Sew the two fabric circles (right sides) together along their big circle line. Turn that right-side out, stuff the buckram circle inside those circles, stitch up the small circle. Sew the cone, stitch it to the small circle (or brim I guess I can say at this point!). Stuff the cone with a bit of stuffing - you may separate your stuffing out a bit to get some nice bends and creases in the cone. You can also tack folds in place!

Step 5: Make the Hair

Take the wool crepe hair braids and unravel each one. Soak each one in hot water to remove the kinks and hang them up to dry; the wet weight of the wool will help straighten out the waves. After the wool is dry, put aside half. Cut the wool sections into the length you want for your hair; it will start from the inside of your hat and should go down to at least your shoulders. Start separating the strands of wool, carefully pulling the fibers apart. The wool that you set aside will be used later for your beard and eyebrows. You can also cut it and pry the fibers apart at this time too. (I mean, you're already making a hairy mess...)

Try on your hat and mark where you want your hair to start (behind the eye, before the ears). Measure from one point to another around the inside of the hat. Lay down some painters tape that is this length. Spread your wool hair out over the tape, going 1" beyond the length of the tape. Once you have covered the area, apply another piece of tape over top. Take this to your sewing machine and stitch over the 1" of wool that pokes out from the tape.

Now, you can make several of these hair wefts or you can tempt fate and make a massive one (but you may loose some hairs while wearing!).

Carefully remove the tape (or not; depends on how far up you're placing the weft inside the hat) and stitch the hair piece to the inside of the cone/brim.

Step 6: (Optional) Tweak the Gloves and Scarf

I wanted to apply some old-age makeup to my hands but I ran out of time! The simple solution was to take some old grey gloves and cut the fingers off of them.

The scarf was a cheap little sparkly thing I picked up (after getting frustrated with not being able to find the 'right' silver fabric'). It was one of those 'endless' scarves-cowl-thingies, so I unstitched the ends and then snipped the bottoms to get those nice scarfy-dangles.

You could also just buy fingerless gloves and a proper scarf. But making things - even making adjustments or tweaks to things - is so much better.

Step 7: Make the Nose

I already had a head cast of myself, so I sculpted my nose on that. (You can make your own, or even just do a nose cast). Using surfer-free clay, sculpt a nice big ol' wizard nose on your armature. When you have finished sculpting a nose, cover it in a release agent (Vaseline is my product of choice) and apply layers of Ultra-Cal 30 and squares of cheesecloth to make a mold. When the mold cures, remove it from the clay and clean it out. Splash a thin coating of latex into the nose and presto, wizard nose! I made several, experimenting with various thicknesses.

I talk a lot about sculpting and molding in my other tutorials (and they have far better pictures) so if this part of the Instructable leaves you a little lost, please check them out (or ask me if you have any questions).

Step 8: Apply the Beard, Eyebrows and Face Makeup

The fun part. And the *really* messy part. First, put away/cover up anything you don't want covered in hair.

Pin back your hair, clean your face and put on your robe.

Apply the nose with spirit-gum/pros-aid. I used pros-aid - which seams to be the adhesive of choice nowadays - but I used spirit gum for the beard; it's what worked best for me. When the nose is completely glued on, begin adding layers of latex over the edges to help conceal them. When you are satisfied, cover the nose in Castor Sealer, powder, apply creme makeup and powder again.

While all of this is going on you can begin coating your eyebrows with a gluestick. Run the gluestick over your eyebrows in the direction of the hair growth. Let it dry, and repeat 3-5 times. This will become a barrier for when you apply fake wool over your eyebrows (so you won't rip them over when you later remove the wool!)

AND in between all of these steps, you can begin applying your beard! Starting far back on your face/neck, apply spirit-gum/pros-aid to a small section of skin. Let the adhesive get tacky, then apply a small section of hair to your face. Do this all along your jaw line, then go back and do a row of hair above the first one. Do this again. You should have a nice layered beard!

After all three of those steps are completed, add the moustache, using even smaller amounts of hair applied above your lip. Create eyebrows in the same way (working from the outside of your eyebrow and going inward). All that's left is the old-age makeup. Create wrinkles by stretching skin and dabbing latex onto the area. Dry it with a hairdryer (on the cool setting!) and you'll get instant wrinkly skin! Create more wrinkles and shadows by taking makeup a few shades darker than your natural skin and marking lines under your eyes, by your eyes and down your cheeks. Add a few old-age spots too! Remember to always set your makeup with powder after you've applied everything.

Step 9: Finishing Touches

Put on your wide grey pants and big black boots and (sword) belt. Carry your staff (use it in your old-wizardly walk!) and your pipe (don't use it - smoking isn't good for you kids). Meet up with dwarves, elves, wizards and maybe a hobbit or two, and go on an adventure.

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17 Discussions


5 months ago

This is awesome. Thanks for sharing. However, I do have a suggestion.... the above pictures really do look like an old man, UNTIL one sees the pretty, young, female hands...I'd suggest gloves? I am totally impressed with the face though. I will definitely check out those posts you suggested. I always refused to let the kids buy those horrid masks, but this is a really cool option. Thanks again.


2 years ago

Thank you. I am going to have to give the hat a go. My little boy wants to be Gandalf for World Book Day but I cannot find a blue hat anywhere and I am too much of a nerd to settle for grey.


2 years ago

Just curious how much crepe hair you had to buy..

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

About 12ft; a mix of greys and some white.

Chris Bilton

3 years ago

looks great, well done !


3 years ago

I had no idea there was a woman under there, fantastic job!


3 years ago

any thoughts on applying the crepe hair over an existing beard? I obviously wouldn't use the spirit gum but what about the glue stick?

3 replies

Reply 3 years ago

Not knowing the current texture/fluffiness of your beard, hard to say. I was able to run a glue stick over my eyebrows and apply crepe hair over them (and not loose eyebrows afterwards!) so that may work on a beard too! You can get spirit gum out of hair (without pulling it out/loosing a beard) it'll just require a lot of baby-oil/spirit gum remover. What about a lace-"front" beard or putting a bald cap over the real beard...?

There's always the drastic measure of shaving and then applying the crepe beard, but this should be considered only if all else fails. (Seriously. Save don't shave beards. Beards are face kittens. Why would you kill a face kitten?)


Reply 3 years ago

Shaving is never an option. I'll try the glue stick and if it doesn't work out I'll have to be Gimli.

Awesome :D I plan to go as Gandalf for Halloween this year and bloor doorways while yelling You shall not pass! at random people XD

last year was Bat Girl (much to my friends' chagrin) but like you I fooled everyone till I spoke XD


4 years ago

Thank you for sharing this


4 years ago

Thank you for sharing this


4 years ago on Introduction

Magnificent embodiment of a representative of hope !


4 years ago on Introduction

this is hilarious. I'm favoriting. Lord of the rings was my favorite until I watched it too many times :)


4 years ago on Introduction

You make a great Gandalf! The photo on transit is especially funny.