Introduction: Six-armed Goddess Kali Costume
Who doesn't love a huge cumbersome Halloween Costume? I'm here to contribute my 2007 Halloween costume, Kali. Some of you may be familiar with my last year's costume; Headless Marie Antoinette from Make magazine's Halloween edition. I set the bar pretty high last year and I really wanted to challenge myself to the same standard this time around. I actually had this idea last year, but it lost out to the headless costume at the time.
I've always had great love and respect for the religious art and architecture from eastern cultures, but especially for the Hindu Shakti (divine mother) goddess'. There is one goddess; Kali (she has several manifestations and names) who I took special notice of. She is the representation of life through death. The frightening, deadly destroyer aspect of female nature. I decided to pay tribute to her this year by constructing an elaborate costume featuring realistic, movable arms.
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Step 1: Tools!
This is my arsenal of tools and supplies:
3m 77 spray adhesive
Various hot wire carving tools
White Latex primer
Spandex blue fabric
1/4 wooden dowel
drywall/ wood screws
old school packaged fake nails
Step 2: Arms, Arms, Arms!
It's all about the arms!
I made a decision to have three sets of arms even though true Hindu representations always have either two, four or eight sets of arms. I decided on three sets because I wanted the visual impact of many arms, but felt that I would loose my mind trying to wear any more. So my idea was to have a set above my actual arms and a set below.
I wanted arms with movable joints that would move and snap like they had tendons.
I've been working with blue foam lately. Mostly because I get a crazy supply for free. The only thing that is a concern is the toxic fumes released by the foam, so I've had to get used to wearing a gas mask. I should have been wearing one when working with aerosols all these years anyway.
So basically, I get a supply of blue foam sheets and glue them together with 3M Super 77 spray adhesive. This particular adhesive was included with the foam, I believe it's the only spay adhesive that doesn't eat it.
I use hot wire band saw to cut out the basic shape of the upper and lower arms Using a rough template based loosely on my own arm size.
I need to create a elbow joint, so I thought about action figures and toys and how they make movable joints. The idea is to create an interlocking joint held by a central pivot. The black lined areas on the foam indicate the negative space that needs to be cut out.
The lower arm needs to lose a significant section of foam above and below the section of the interlocking joint. This creates the perfect shape for them to fit together like a door hinge.
Once they fit together, I used a 1/4 inch circular drill bit to drill a hole through both pieces at once.
I used a short section of 1/4 wooden dowel, wrapped in wire to plug the hole. I used a long length of wire to wrap around the end of the dowel once it was thread to create a "stopper", so the wooden peg would stay put inside the hole. Now the arms swing freely at the elbow!
Now it's the fun part! I used my various hot wire carving tool to shape the arms in a more realistic manner. I didn't put a whole lot of care into making sure they were identical or even accurate - I know I'm covering them later. I just wanted them to be similar in shape and size to my own. Sand paper helps smooth down rough areas and gives a nice shape and texture.
Finally, I needed a way to simultaneously hold the arm in a bent position, and for it move around smoothly.
Elastic was the answer, I tried stapling a piece with the tension pulled tight, but it just popped out. This is when I discovered that you can treat the foam like wood. Not only can you cut and sand it, you can screw into it and it works great.
So just repeat 3 times and you have 4 completed arms.
Step 3: Accesories!
The great thing about Kali is that she is the queen of Bling. She has all sorts of gold and weapons and jewels. It was pretty fun to make all this stuff. One of the consistencies in all of the representation of her, it the appearance of a severed head. This is the head of a demon she has heroically slain. So I made him, rather than use a mannequin Styrofoam head, I wanted this to be awesome.
So basically, this was made using the same process as the arms. A rough shape cut out and carved down using various tools. My butane torch cane in handy to smooth down the grooves and areas where it's hard to sand. I also hollowed out the back of the head to reduce weight. He was primed and painted as well.
I modified a "mullet" wig to imitated his hairstyle with the ponytail on the top, added eyebrows and the moustache. I used spray foam at the base of the neck, with a little stub of wooden dowel for bone, to make the bloody entrails.
The crown, sword and trident were all the same. More detail was needed in the crown obviously. I think that if I was to recreate this headpiece I would go back to the casting methods I've used in the past to produce a flexible crown.
Queen of Hearts crown
Kali is usually blue or black with skirt of severed arms, and a garland of skulls or severed heads.
The skirt of severed arms was made from white fabric and gloves spray painted flesh coloured.
I cut the fabric into strips and sewed them into sleeves. I stuffed the gloves with cotton batting and hand sewed them to the sleeves. I covered the wrist seam with a cuff made from gold vinyl. I painted dead -style veins and bruises and fingernails on the gloves.
Step 4: Outfit!
Instead of painting my skin with make-up I decided to make a tight body suit from blue spandex. Bare skin in Winnipeg at Halloween is deal breaker!
I found a funny home-made blue spandex "majorette" costume at Value Village, and significantly modified it to have a shredded tiger skirt. These were attached together. My girl Tempie know how to make spandex tights so we whipped up a pair with some matching fabric i found. I used this fabric to make the sleeves for the arms as well. I was unhappy with the bright "superwoman" blue colour of the spandex - so I gave it a dusting of white spray paint to de-saturated the colour.
A really big deal for me was to make the costume practical. I knew I would have to get into a car at some point, and I had to work with that idea in mind.
I attached the arms to the back of outfit with Velcro. I screwed Velcro strips onto the base of the arms, and sewed corresponding strips onto the fabric. This alone was not enough to hold the arms on though. I made elastic edged pockets out of the same fabric that stretched over each arm and Velcro-ed securely to my back. I found this more than adequate. Even if I bumped into something, there was enough "give" to not affect it. I took these photos several days after I wore this costume twice. Luckily - I made this costume knowing that the entire back was covered with a huge wig. Any small imperfections were of out site and out of mind.
The arms moved around with me and I could individual move each one in a fairly real way. If you wanted more control, you could add small handles to move it like a puppet.
I had originally intended to have the arms attached together vertically, so I could control them together. As I started piecing it together (the night before I needed it) I realized that wasn't going to work. That would be the main addition I would make after wearing it. Thin sticks hanging from the forearm, disguised in gold.
Step 5: Party in Style!
There was quite a bit of detailing as well, that really helps to sell the effect. A lot of gold chains, nose ring, modified wig, ornamentation, and make-up. The identical gloves with the spray painted fake nails make it confusing to tell the arms apart.
I really love it when a project comes together in the end. This was a lot of work and a lot of trial and error. But the end result was different and fun. Most people thought I was Shiva, but quite a few girls actually recognized me as Kali. This costume worked great at the large social we went to, I was able to move around and dance with enough space.
A pretty obvious variation on this costume would be some sort of spider or insect. I think that would be cool to see. I realize being a Hindu Goddess may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I really enjoyed not being something super obvious. Basically everyone's reaction is "WTF?", and I like that.
Big ups to Andy Bart & Temperance McDonald, my go-to people.
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