This costume was inspired by H.R. Giger's Alien from the movie Alien. It was designed for a child, but could be scaled up or down.
My son was able to work on many of the steps, but I intervened for the cutting of the chicken wire and coat hangers which tended to produce dauntingly sharp edges.
Step 1: Making the Head
The head is a coat-hanger wire frame. It was coarsely modelled over a set of views of the Alien's head enlarged to the right width and height (about 4x). Chicken wire is overlaid onto the top of the wireframe. A jaw is fashioned from a coat hanger wire and hinged into the interior structure. Duct tape to loft between open sections.
Warning! Chicken-wire and cut coat hangers can have sharp edges.
Inside the head a duct-taped foam 'hat' insert is placed.
The head is paper-mache'd. To get it extra smooth, lightweight spackle is put on top, then sanded down (use a mask!) when dry.
Cardboard with the outer layer removed forms the corrugated sculptures on the side. You need to peel the outer later of once side off to reveal the corrugation. Dryer hose, cut down the middle, forms the 'hoses'. These structures are hot-glued onto the side of the mask.
The jaw is pulled shut with a rubber band that is tied in much the same place the muscle that closes your own jaw connect to the skull. Experiment with the tension. The jaw is opened by snaking a thin string downward the wearer can pull downward on. (see animation on next page).
The inside of the head has a Lego motor animated tongue that extends in and out. It is covered in black stretchy cloth that is attach to the end and base of the tongue.
The teeth are cut out plastic, spray painted white, then hot-glued into the head.
The entire structure is painted with black glossy paint.
This is a shot of the Lego motor that extends the tongue in and out. It is based upon a rack and pinion to move it back and forth using a Lego geared motor from a Mindstorms set. It is controlled with a 6v lego handheld motor from a technics set.
This was the most difficult part of the costume, finding a mechanism to extend the tongue. I tried and rejected many alternate mechanisms. It is mounted inside the mouth. Take care to mount it such that someone that reaches forward to push on it can't accidentally push it into the face of the wearer.
I was so enthusiastic that it worked that I didn't take as many 'in-process' shots as I should have!
Step 3: Making the Body
The body is a t-shirt, covered in gummed paper packing tape. Once rigid, it is sliced down the sides and velcro is inserted along the cuts as a way to reseal it. This is a good general method to construct a wearable suit and I recommend it for other types of costumes.
The head hole needs to be enlarged.
Over this body, black duct tape with chicken wire structures go on the spine. The ends are splayed, then zip-tied through the body.
On the front, corrugated wire tubing is cut and zip-tied through the t-shirt. The wire tubing is meant to simulate the Alien's exoskeleton. If you can find smaller plastic wire wrapping corrugated tubes, that will likely be considerably easier to work with.
This structure makes it fairly rigid, but still flexible enough to take on and off.
The whole thing is spray painted black.
Step 4: Making the Tail
The tail is a two pieces of chicken wire rolled into nested conical tubes. This allows it to be bent or folded and still be rigid. I was very pleased that the tail worked so well, I thought this was going to be difficult.
The splayed ends at the base were pop riveted between two Masonite pieces for rigidity.
It is covered in black duct tape.
Black duct tape spines are added.
Step 5: Complete
The costume was a bit hit and my son took center stage at several events that evening, not to mention scaring trick or treaters!
Materials & Tools
- Something that can cut a wire coat-hanger (bolt cutter)
- Hot Glue Gun
- Kraft Paper Gummed Tape
- Black Duct Tape
- Your favorite paper mache mix (flour, water, a little glue, salt) and newspaper/brown paper
- Corrugated & tubes hoses in various sizes (about 10 feet) and/or flexible electrical conduit
- Zip ties
- Corrugated paper or box for texture.
- Lego motor and Technics battery pack for tongue
- Black flexible cloth (an old stocking perhaps)
- Some thin flexible plastic for the teeth
- Black jump suit from some other old costume
- Lightweight spackle
- Pop riveter
- Black gloss paint