Introduction: Vyvyan Basterd (The Young Ones) Costume
If you were a child of the 80s in Britain, you already know this, but for the uninitiated, Vyvyan Basterd "is a psychopathic punk metal medical student. He has orange-dyed & spiked hair and four metal stars seemingly embedded into his forehead".
At various times he has:
- Accidentally cut off his own finger while performing a magic trick
- Eaten a television
- Survived a pickaxe through the head
- Perfected "a cure for not being a psychopathic axe-wielding maniac"
- Been decapitated
- Reattached his own head
I'm going to go through every step I took to create my costume. The most important element of the costume and the most labour intensive* is the customised sleeveless denim jacket which I begin describing in Step 4. I've included all the other elements of the costume for completeness, but the jacket is definitely the most important.
*(However, because of my bass-ackwards approach, I also had to put some work into his chain necklace and nose ring.)
Rough Shopping List
What you will need:
- Blue denim jacket (eBay/TradeMe/Google)
- 50+ pyramid studs (I made do with 50, but the more the better, for authenticity you can get some round studs too) (eBay/TradeMe/Google)
- 4 star-shaped studs (eBay/TradeMe/Google/ Crustpunks (US))
- Orange hair dye/temporary hair colour spray
- Hair gel/wax/product
- Tipp-Ex/Liquid Paper (preferably a pen)
- Black & Blue permanent markers
- Super glue
- Spirit Gum (What I used to affix the studs to my forehead) (Google/Cosume shop)
- A length of chain (DIY store)
- A padlock
- A black "heavy metal" T-shirt
- Blue denim jeans
- Black leather boots
- Black leather belt with pyramid studs
- A nose-ring (See Step 2)
- Paper clips (x50 or so)
Step 1: The Chain Necklace
Vyvyan has a distinctive "necklace" which is, in fact, a length of chain, joined in the front with a padlock. In the series, the chain is wrapped once around his neck, before the ends are padlocked together in front. If you can't visualise this, you can sort of see it in the introductory picture.
If you are young or simple, I should point out that wrapping a length of chain round your neck like that is a bloody stupid thing to do. A slip or fall could see you gasping for breath on the floor with a crushed trachea.
With this in mind, my version won't be wrapped round my neck like that. It may have been possible to safely stop the chain from tightening and causing damage in the event of an accident, but I like to err on the side of caution.
I was planning on going to the DIY store to get a length of chain, but while looking for other elements of the costume in the $2 store, I found two dog "choke" chains going cheap. As it turns out, this worked out perfectly, as you'll see later on. If you want to get a length cut for you at the DIY store, you can skip this step as it involves modifying the choke chains for our purpose.
One chain on its own would have been just a bit too short for the right look, but two was too long. So, here comes the Dremel! I don't have action pictures of the cutting process, but there's nothing to it.
As you'll see in picture 2, I marked the links in each chain that I was going to cut with yellow insulation tape. This worked well to give me a little purchase with the cutting disc while I was getting it started.
I had the Dremel on the slowest setting and applied just enough pressure to cut. If you apply too much pressure you risk the disc shattering, and throwing hot bits of it into your eyes or other soft bits.
Picture 3 shows one of the cut links. Since the join would be under my collar, I decided just to cover the cuts with some black duct tape. Also, I felt it might be handy to have a way to take it off without having to keep the keys with me to unlock the padlock at the front. I did clean the cuts up a lot with a grinding bit, just in case, but the duct tape offers adequate protection from all but the worst sharp jagged bits if you didn't have one.
The padlock also came from the $2 store. I'm not sure it would hold up against a burglar, but it's perfect for this. Any padlock will do, but a keyed lock would probably look better than a combination lock.
If you use a single length of chain and you're worried about not being able to get the padlock unlocked, make the chain long enough to slip it over your head.
Step 2: The Nose Ring
What I was looking for in the $2 store, where I found the choke chains for Step 1, was something to use/re-purpose as a nose-ring. Once I had made the chain-padlock necklace, I was left with two short lengths of chain, each with a ring at the end. Perfect!
If you have access to a magnetic nose-ring, or already have your septum pierced, you could skip this step. However, most of the "real" nose rings that I've seen are, as Vyvyan would say "a bit on the tentative side".
Once again, I wrapped a small piece of insulation tape round the ring where I wanted to cut, and went to work with the Dremel, applying just enough pressure to cut. I made first one cut, then another, a little further along, leaving a gap that I supposed would be big enough to fit on my nose.
As it turned out...I was wrong, so I had to nibble further and further along until I could get it on. Between cutting with the disc, which left sharp edges, I used a grinding disc to make it bearable, just while I was testing it. It's important that it is big enough, but if it the gap is too big, it would end up falling out all night...which would not be conducive to having a fun time at the party.
A Good Fit
If it requires a lot of wiggling to get on and is painless while wearing you've done well. If it can also be pulled off painlessly with one big tug, it's perfect.
Once I'd got it so that it was just wide enough to fit on my septum, I set about making it a little more comfortable. My favourite material at the moment is Sugru, and it's perfect for this little job, capping the two ends with little black blobs to cushion my delicate nostrils. There are other Instructables that cover the basics/best-practices of working with Sugru so I won't go into too much depth here.
Roll small amounts of Sugru into balls and push onto the ends, but not so far that they would be visible when they're up your nose. You should also make sure that they don't close the gap by too much so you can't get the ends on. I wouldn't recommend putting the uncured Sugru up your nose to test it.
One alternative to Sugru might be Blu-Tak, though it would be less permanent and if a pal told you a good joke at the party you might end up inhaling it with an over-zealous chortle, so choose wisely. If you are careful, and ground them down nicely, you might even get away with leaving the ends bare.
If you have taken off a little bit too much with one of your nibbling cuts, you can close the gap a small amount without ruining the shape of the ring by squeezing either side of the ring in a pair of pliers. Don't rely on this technique to correct large mistakes however or you'll end up with a funny looking ovoid "ring".
Or, if you are using Sugru, or some other curing/hardening modelling substance you may be able to just fudge it with this.
If you have applied too much sugru and the gap is closed by too much, you could either put your pliers through the ring and open them, if they'll fit, thereby pulling the gap apart.
Or, if it really is only a small adjustment, you might be able to shave off enough sugru with a Stanley/Craft knife, without exposing the metal.
Step 3: Ready-made Elements. T-shirt, Jeans, Belt
- Blue Jeans, turned up to expose a little calf..
- A black leather pyramid studded belt
- A Heavy Metal T-shirt \m/
(I've seen people elsewhere say that these were Dr. Marten's boots but after examining them closely on the Series 1 DVD, they appear to be more like military boots)
Likewise with boots: beg, steal, borrow or buy a pair of black leather boots if you don't have some already.
The belt was another buy, because I didn't fancy adding studs to a belt myself and it was just cheaper in terms of time and effort just to buy it.
You can take some amount of artistic license with the "heavy metal" t-shirt (I did!). Through the first series, Vyv wears a few different t-shirts. The ones I caught were Rush(?) and Saxon. I decided that, of the T-shirts available to me, Motörhead, would be most fitting, as they actually appeared on The Young Ones in the second series. But if you already have a more modern shirt, for example, a Megadeth or Pantera T-shirt, I'm sure Vyvyan would abide.
The pictures show the build up of the ready-made elements of the costume (minus the boots).
Step 4: The Jacket, Part 1: Slogans, Take 1
I bought a second-hand Levi's denim jacket from TradeMe (the New Zealand eBay) for about NZ$15. It's a perfect match...apart from the low-down pockets, and it fits just right.
There are several elements to the jacket which make it "Vyvyan-esque":
The marker & Tipp-Ex/Liquid Paper slogans, namely:
- "HURT YOUR DOG"
- "LOVE YOU DEAD"
- "U.R. DEAD" and, of course,
- "VERY METAL"
- Metal studs
- The chains of paper-clips across the back of the jacket*
Removing the Sleeves
I stupidly didn't take any pictures of this step, but I just cut the sleeves off with a regular pair of scissors, as close as I could to the shoulder seam. Snip, snip, done.
In this step and the next, I'll cover how I did the slogans. What complicates this step is that the "Liquid Paper" I bought, in pen form, was very runny, and soaked through the denim.
Luckily, I'd already anticipated that some of the ink/fluid might soak through, so I'd inserted a piece of cardboard beneath the section I was working on.
Firstly, I wrote out the slogans on pieces of paper, laid over the parts of the jacket where they would be on, to get an idea of the scale. I then wrote out the slogans onto the jacket itself, very very lightly with a biro. Then I went over the outlines (partly) with a permanent blue marker. (Picture 2)
Problems, Or: How NOT to write on denim with correction fluid...
Once I had the permanent marker on there, I went over the elements that required it with the liquid paper pen. What I hadn't counted on was just how runny it would be...damn! Pictures 4 and 5 should make it clear what a problem it was. The fluid soaked/wicked through the denim. Definitely not the right look...
On to Step 5 for The Answer!
Step 5: The Jacket, Part 2: Slogans, Take 2
Not to be deterred, I took one of the sleeves that I'd snikked off and did some experimentation. Having had some small experience of getting superglue on clothes, I tried something...
I drew two lines of permanent marker. On one I drew a line of superglue. On both I drew a line with the Liquid Paper pen.
Pictures 1 & 2 show the difference between the two methods. Even with a second line of Liquid Paper on the naked permanent marker it wasn't as bright and white as the line primed with superglue.
So, the process is this:
- Write the slogan on with permanent marker
- Trace over the slogan with superglue. (which dries incredibly quickly, perfect for my short attention span)
- Trace over the slogan with the Liquid Paper pen, squeezing it to get a good coating.
Picture 3 shows the "LOVE YOU DEAD" slogan completed. Repeat the process, to add the "HURT YOUR DOG" motif to the right hand side.
Back of The Jacket
On the back, on the "waistband" of the jacket is "U.R. DEAD" in plain permanent marker.
In the centre of the jacket's main back panel is "VERY METAL". To get the scale of the letters right, I wrote the words out on paper before-hand and kept them close-by during. I wrote it out in simple block capitals first, then fleshed out the letters. (pictures 5 & 6)
If you're following along, don't worry if the letters are a little wonky, the original wasn't perfect. If yours looks like it was printed by a machine and sold at GAP then you're Doing It Wrong.
Step 6: The Jacket, Part 3: the Studs
In describing my method, I'll use my own jargon.
When I talk about the "stud body", I mean the part of the stud that is visible when it is fitted.
The "prongs" are the parts of the stud that are pushed through the fabric and bent over.
When I talk about bending the prongs into "the back of the stud" I mean the hollow part of the stud, when viewed from behind.
Now, before I begin, I'll say that I have never put metal studs on anything before. If my method is bunk, or even just less than perfect, feel free to mock me in the comments and point others toward more correct instructions. I'm aware of the existence of "stud setting" tools, but I didn't want to burn money unnecessarily.
I had my Stanley knife out ready to make holes, but the studs I have slipped easily through the denim on their own with just a little pressure.
Through some trial and error, I came up with a basic procedure, which is this:
- Move the stud about above the jacket and find where you want it...duh :)
- Keeping the material relatively taut by pulling it slightly with the fingers of each hand:
- Push the stud down with your thumbs, being careful not to move it from the position you picked
- Maintain pressure on the stud to stop it slipping back out and turn over the material
- Almost wrap the material round the front of the stud, maintaining pressure. Wrapping the material will make it easier to maintain pressure with just one hand.
- With the other hand, grab something metal/heavy/flat, I used the outside of a pair of pliers
- Push one prong sideways toward the centre of the stud. You should find it folds over easy enough. Don't worry about flattening it further until you have repeated the process with the other prong
- With both prongs pretty much level with the base of the stud, I decided to go "belt and braces" and fold them into the back of the stud. The pliers I used, and the size of studs I used, allowed me to push both prongs into the back of the stud with one push using the end of my closed pliers.
Another Warning: The Very Wrong Way
When I first started, I just naturally assumed that I'd have to bend the prongs over by gripping them with pliers/cutters. If you look at Picture 7, it shows the first stud I did. The prongs aren't bent over very well. By simply pushing the prong toward the centre of the stud with a flat surface, it will bend naturally, and well. Picture 6 shows what the stud should look like after bending the prongs over, but before they are pushed into the back.
Step 7: The Jacket, Final Embellishments
The last element on the back of the jacket is to attach the chains of paper-clips to the back. Hopefully you haven't just gone crazy with the studs before reading this, because, as you'll see in Picture 1, we've left a gap just below the horizontal seam on the back of the jacket.
The stud that goes here will trap a paper-clip on one prong, between the stud and the jacket. Look at the pictures to see what I mean. There are four anchor points for paper-clips in all. Two on either side of the back of the jacket in the vertical stud rows running up the back and two more above the horizontal seam, above the first two studs. The pictures should clarify what I mean by this.
Once these anchor points are in place, you can then build your chain of paper-clips and attach them only when you're on your way out. This avoids catching the chains unnecessarily on things when you're moving it around.
Step 8: Forehead Studs
Unfortunately, for the authenticity of my costume that is, I emigrated to New Zealand recently. Finding star shaped studs was incredibly hard, and so I ordered some from China, though they still haven't arrived yet. It doesn't help that searching for "star studs" on the internet returns a lot of irrelevant (and some fairly...unsavoury) results.
Therefore, I've set aside 4 of the pyramid studs that I bought for the jacket. I will demonstrate here the process I've used to prepare them for attachment to my forehead. The process should be transferrable to the star-shaped studs if you can get them, although, having 4/5 prongs, it will obviously be slightly different for them.
Preparing the Studs
Basically, I followed the same procedure for attaching the studs to the jacket, but I did so on one of the sleeves I had cut off, and as close to the cut edge as I could. (Bending the prongs of the stud over is 100% easier once the stud is pushed into the fabric.)
However, instead of performing the final coup de grace, that is, bending the pins into the back of the stud, try and make them level with the back of the stud. The reason why will become clear soon. Once the pins are bent over level with the back of the stud, wiggle the fabric off of the stud.
Do this 4 times and you'll end up with 4 studs as shown in picture 5. Attaching the studs to your forehead without bending the prongs like this and hammering them in, while totally brilliant, would probably not be entirely advisable...medically speaking.
Affixing the Studs
To affix the studs to my forehead, I used Spirit Gum. I bought this in small quantities from an online costume shop, but you could probably find it on eBay, or from a bricks and mortar costume/theatrical shop.
The key, I found, to this was to pick the spots where I wanted the studs, and paint on the Spirit Gum in patches large enough to accommodate them. After 30-60 seconds, the Spirit Gum became more tacky, I then grabbed a stud, and placed it firmly on, pushing hard. After less than a second, I could take pressure off, and it was stuck. Hard. They stayed on all night and needed a good tug to remove.
Removing the Studs
Removing the studs was actually pretty simple. When I bought the Spirit Gum, I noticed something called "Spirit Gum Remover". "Hah!", I thought, "I won't need that!"....and I was right. Holding the studs at opposite sides and lifting one side was enough to break the bond and get them off. To remove the Spirit Gum, I just rubbed at it with my finger tips and a little soapy water. (It's similar to removing a barcode/price label from the front of a CD.)
If you were going to be using Spirit Gum often, especially on the same area every time and especially somewhere sensitive, like on your face...you may want to invest in Spirit Gum Remover, just to minimise the amount of rubbing you need to do.
Step 9: The Hair
Vyvyan has very distinctive hair. It's bright orange and styled into..a semi "tri-hawk"? There are three main ridges running front to back on his head, one on top and one on each side.
Fortunately my hair was the perfect length to do this. To create the style, I used my normal hair wax, but in much much greater quantities. Just make sure you've got plenty of product on there and form the ridges with your hands. It's hard to go wrong.
If you're using temporary colour spray like I did, you need to do the shaping first.
I did consider dying my hair bright orange permanently, but my wife overruled me for some reason. So I bought a can of bright orange "temporary" hair colour. In a can. What an age we live in, eh?
The colour is powdery and will blow and drift, so you will want to do this outside, and I would not recommend applying it yourself. Far better to get someone to help you. In my case a hairdresser extraordinaire and friend of my wife was able to help me out. She did an amazing job turning my wife into Peggy Bundy and when she was done, she sprayed my hair orange for me. (And turned her hand orange in the process).
If you're not careful, you can also turn your head, ears and clothes orange. Which may be great for an Oompaloompa, but not for Vyvyan. The easiest way to avoid this is for you/the person applying the colour to use a hand, or piece of paper to mask your face/ear/clothes.
Because, the colour is fairly powdery, and because it's temporary, it will rub off on clothes and skin if you're not careful. For this reason, you'll want to get your t-shirt on before you do your hair. And you will definitely want to jump in the shower and wash your hair when you get home. Or face an orange pillow in the morning.
To try and mitigate the the problem of colour rubbing off on clothes, we sprayed all over the top of the colour with regular hair-spray in an attempt to fix the colour a little better, but success was limited.
If you don't want to turn your hair orange, even temporarily, or if your hair length/style doesn't suit the Classic Vyvyan look, there are alternatives.
There is an episode of the Young Ones in the first series, "Interesting", where Vyv drinks anti-freeze, prompting his hair to spontaneously fall out. I'm not recommending that you drink anti-freeze, but you could wear a bald cap...
In "Oil" Vyv becomes lieutenant to Mike's El Presidente and dons a black crash-helmet and sports an old cricket bat for meting out "justice" upon the oppressed workers of the house (Rick and Neil). He also wears black body-armour over the top of his jacket, but covering that up would make the costume less recognisably Vyvyan.
Levett made it!