The Phoenix Costume Process




Introduction: The Phoenix Costume Process

About: I'm a graphic designer, costume creator, body painter, and ballroom dancer...and not always in that order.

My Halloween costume was a mythological phoenix, the colorful red and gold bird that bursts into flames and is reborn from its own ashes. This costume consumed all my free time in September and October, but I'm really pleased with the result!

To make a phoenix costume:
- 1 white full body unitard (Bal Togs brand)
- Jaquard brand fabric paints - 2.25fl oz size
     - Lumiere line (2 crimson, 2 gold, 2 burgundy, 1 burnt orange)
     - Neopaque line (2 yellow, 2 gold yellow, 2 red, 1 black)
- paint brushes
- 1 iron (for heat setting)
- 1 mannequin to hold your bodysuit's shape
Plan out your design, then start painting! This design took me at least 40 hours to complete. Having a mannequin is crucial for holding the body suit in the stretched position. The body suit is made primarily from nylon, so I chose Jaquard paints because they were one of the few that list nylon as a suitable base. If your body suit is made from a different fabric, you may want to investigate a different brand of paint or do a test sample.  After the body suit is dry, flip it all inside out and iron it with the correct setting for the fabric. I placed towels in the legs and arms so the designs weren't pressed together under the heat.

Bird Feet Boots:
- 1 pair of boots
- 1 inch thick green high-density foam (sold a fabric stores for seat cushions)
- white craft glue
- scissors
- 6 fake bear claws
- black or brown acrylic paint
- 16oz liquid latex
- foam brushes
- fabric paints for painting the boots to match (leftover from body suit)
- paint brushes
- Hot glue and gun OR Liquid Nails perfect glue
Using craft glue, stick together pieces of foam so that they are wide enough for a toe (about 3 inches wide). Shape the foam with scissors so that it is rounded and toe-like (repeat 5 more times). Cut out an insert for the claw, but don't glue the claw in yet. Paint the green foam with acrylic paint so it matches the boots. Using the foam brushes, paint the toes and boots with liquid latex. Be sure to follow the instructions on the liquid latex. Once the latex is dry, glue in the claws. Then paint the boots to match your costume. I used fabric paints since they would match the body suit even though they're not the perfect paint for sticking to latex (and I'm not sure what is).

- 2 4'x4' pieces of polyethylene foam
- hot glue and gun
- 1 red and 1 gold spray paint
- 2-3 sheets of kids thin craft foam
- acrylic and fabric paints (leftover from body suit)
- paint brushes
How to:
Create paper patterns of each spiral piece and cut them out of polyethylene foam. Glue the pieces together with hot glue so that the flat sides are together and there's a space for your head. It's almost like making a helmet. Cut out pieces of the thin craft foam for the beak and side "feathers" and glue on with hot glue. Give the entire headpiece a base coat with spray paint, then add accents of color with acrylic paint and any leftover fabric paint.

- 1 pair of Isis belly dance wings
Available online

- Face and body paint - Paradise, FAB, and Kryolan water-based cakes
- paint brushes
With water-based face/body paints, dip your brush in water and rub it on the surface of the dry cake until the paint is a smooth and creamy consistency. Now paint your face however you wish! I don't have any process photos of this part, so you get to be creative!

Halloween Epic Costumes Contest

Finalist in the
Halloween Epic Costumes Contest



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    31 Discussions

    This is amazing!! I am not very crafty. Any interest in selling yours or me paying you to make just the bodysuit?

    Hello! I was wondering where you got the bear claws from!

    Jaw-droppingly gorgeous and enchanting!! Thank you for sharing this. What a wonderful artist you are - the phoenix bodysuit is a work of art.

    Haha, that's a good idea! I should probably create an Instructable about all the variations of bird-like creatures one can create with wings and bird feet boots :)

    could you let me know how much it cost you to paint and do the body suite? please and thanks :) love it you did a amazing job :)

    Unbelievable!!! I hope you took first place at ANY costume party, you would have deserved it!!

    This is incredible. You are very talented. Thanks for sharing!

    Even though the body suit took longer to paint than skin, it was actually much easier in the long run. I wanted to wear this costume a few times so the body suit allowed me to get ready quickly yet still "look" like my skin was painted. Plus it was nice that all my work didn't just wash down the drain at the end of the night :)

    Sorry for such a delay in responding, just now saw this! I'll send you a private message with more info.

    Nice work on the instructable Breanna - I've seen the boots close up in their third incarnation as the Raven, wonderful work! Glad to have met you in person, we will have to get you on haunTopic radio for sure!

    1 reply

    Thank you for the compliments! Glad to have met you too! Those poor boots have gone through many more incarnations than I ever intended...but they sure are fun :)

    Very nice... the basics are simple... the painting and makeup transform it into something absolutely stunning!

    1 reply

    Oh man! This is a really beautiful costume. I remember seeing this on the Chipotle Boorito thing and thinking it was neat, wondering how it was made. Lo and behold I find it on Instructables. Nice Job!