First, a toast to my inspiration and rooting section, 7-year-old C. This is Pokemon Halloween 2.0, less complex than last year's Kyogre, but a new structural challenge. How to make a ghostly ball shape that's big enough and light enough for a small boy's body? My first thoughts of using foam all around were immediately scrapped as being too expensive. Large paper mache was going to be too heavy. Enter Chicken Wire: light, flexible, and just the right size! And bless Gengar for being defined in large part by his eyes and smile--so no matter the success of the body, no Pokemon enthusiast would mistake him. Dad, however, was skeptical; not another bulky costume to take up space in the house....
Step 1: Assemble Tools and Materials.
Nothing too crazy on the list, though I'm newly fond of spray glue (clearly a gateway adhesive...).
1/2" foam - could be as little as a yard and a half; more means more spikes & longer tail
Purple stretch velveteen, about 6 yds, I think. 60" wide. I had substantial remnants.
6" x 6" piece of black netting
Felt: white, red, and black
Black permanent marker
Step 2: Make Wire Tube and Crimp Into Sphere.
Taking chicken wire we had in the garage, I made a cylinder that seemed about the right proportion and tried it on my supervisor. Twisted the ends of the chicken wires together and covered the twists with duct tape.
Using my hands, crimped the top edge every few inches to round out the shape. Made kind of pleats in the wire that I flattened against each other. Then threaded very flexible aluminum wire through this edge to hold it.
Did a similar crimp around the bottom edge but didn't run wire through so it would expand over head and shoulders for installation/removal.
Step 3: Make 'ear' Spikes and Attach.
After a few false starts I eventually remembered that a half-circle is the best shape for making a cone. Sprayed glue on the edges and pressed them together. Let dry 15 minutes or so. So satisfyingly sturdy.
To attach I cut several 3-inch pieces of aluminum wire, poked them through the edges of the cones and twisted them around the chicken wire frame. This also provided a surprisingly sturdy result. Two wires worked for every cone I did; I added more for greater durability (a few of the aluminum wires eventually broke after several vigorous dance-filled party wearings).
Step 4: Make Shoulder Straps.
Using duct tape stuck to itself I made a modified H or ladder with two rungs for the shoulder straps. The space between the rungs needs to b big enough to get a head through, and the distance between the rails needs to be narrow enough to rest on a 7-year-old's shoulders. The length of the rails clearly needs to be at least twice the radius of the sphere, plus enough to be attached.
We tested the strap location at several places using clothespins before finding the ideal spot, one of the exercises that checks your intuitive sense of where a body fits in a space. Helps to not have the top of the sphere resting on the human's head. And having the sphere slightly higher made it easier to walk (and dance!).
Once aligned, straps were wrapped around several wires and fastened with more duct tape.
Step 5: Sew, Attach Fabric Cover.
So here I rolled the chicken wire sphere on the fabric and marked where it overlapped. I cut the fabric a half inch beyond and sewed a straight seam, right sides together. I wanted it to fit well, but didn't want to crush the sphere, so tried to get the measurement pretty close. That said, the give in the fabric allowed for the insertion of spikes underneath it later.
Once sewn, I slipped it over the sphere with extra at both top and bottom.
At the top, I began to drape the extra fabric over the ears, and might even have 'tied' a few spots down with aluminum wire ties, but didn't worry too much about it at this point. The fabric was eventually readjusted anyway when I added the addition spikes near the end.
Step 6: Make Arms.
I eyeballed the size of the arm/hands but had explicit instructions from the supervisor to have three points at the end. Sketched this with chalk on the wrong side of the fabric.
The end piece was 2-dimensional though the arm itself was a cylinder.
After sewing the arm, I cut the seam allowances and used it to cut the foam for the fingers.
Guessed a bit on the size of the arm cylinder, trying and adjusting before using spray glue to seal the edges together. Made the cylinder insert shorter than the fabric so there'd be extra to both attach to the body and tuck over the ends. Wanted to have the cylinder's circumference just big enough to stretch the fabric and keep it smooth.
Used short bits of wire to attach the arms. Again, even just two points seemed sufficiently stable, but added two more to account for vigorous handshakes and potential doorway encounters.
Step 7: Make, Attach Tail.
This is essentially another spike, made with foam I'd saved for it. I covered it separately with fabric and attached it like the arms, with small pieces of aluminum wire poked through foam and fabric, twisted around the chicken wire base. This too was reinforced to account for doorway encounters.
Step 8: Cut, Glue and Attach Face.
O spray glue, my spray glue...
Ultimately the mouth looked even better with a thicker outline around it. I'm sure there's some marker that's even better for felt, but we didn't have one in the house. Went over the lines several times.
Step 9: Make and Attach Various Other Head Spikes.
Back to cutting half circles (or cutting whole circles in half), I made as many spikes as I could manage from the remaining foam.
Attached them as they best fit between the 'ears' and tucked them down the back, draping fabric over and pinning it down with the wire.
This was the loosest piece of the setup, in that I left some opening so we could see down into the human space and let some light in (before the netting peep hole innovation at the end). Imagine you could be much more thorough than I was.
Step 10: Make the Peep Hole.
Although the scene of Gengar bumping into walls and doorways was a hilarious introduction to the costume's effectiveness, it was clear this wasn't going to make trick or treating very easy. So I had my supe try it on, felt for his eyes and marked the spot.
With costume off I cut a U-shaped flap in the fabric and placed a square of screen door fabric (cloth, not wire) under it, attaching again with wire bits. Eventually we folded the flap out of the way for constant visibility. I was surprised by how little it detracted from the overall effect, although in bright indoor lighting it was pretty apparent. Outside it seemed to disappear.
Step 11: Dress Mom Up As Jessie From Team Rocket and Go Trick or Treating!
A resounding success at school, in town and through the neighborhood. The fabric around the spikes could have been more secure, and could have really glued/tied the sleeve cover fabric down at the body join, but overall, a pretty satisfying effect. Good for mock-scaring younger siblings and entertaining adults at family dance parties. Not surprisingly, a bit of a mystery to the non-Pokemon-initiated, but still pretty cute. Even Dad agrees it's not a terrible thing to have taking up space in the garage...
Runner Up in the