3 Nov 2011

Step by Step: My Klingon Halloween Costume

Phot by Neville Gawley

As regular readers will know I'm a massive fan of Halloween(see last year and the year before), I think I even prefer it to Christmas. I get so excited about making my costume, I usually plan it months in advance(in my head), then leave it to the last minute to actually make it. Well last minute to me is only having three days of blood sweat and tears to make it, but I love every minute of it. Our friends are all really into it too, and each year we go to Micky Martins pub where everyone makes a massive effort and the standard of costume is really high. Have a look at the facebook album here and you'll see what I mean!

As you can see this year I dressed as a Klingon, most people don't know that I'm a big Star Trek fan and I've watched it since I was a kid. After the party last year I started thinking about what could beat my Queenly costumes and a Klingon popped into mind, but to be honest I never thought I could pull it off, due to the facial prosthetics. It was definitely the most challenging costume I've ever made, and there were moments in the wee hours that I questioned my own sanity!

I started out with a plain white a-line skirt, a plain grey t-shirt, some really ugly silver trimming, mounting board, a red knitted scarf, red oil cloth, about 100m of gaffer tape,and latex(thanks to Dee Coughlan and Neville Gawley for getting it at the last minute for me!).

I put my skirt on my mannequin and taped over the whole surface of the skirt, leaving a gap for the zip, which I taped over on the night of the party. If for any reason you have to do this for a costume you should be warned that it makes the skirt tighter as it takes away the flexibility, after a little shimmying I was able to get into it. I took the above photo above before I started sewing, my machine lasted about a minute and then decided it was allergic to gaffer tape, so I ended up stapling the ugly trimming on instead.

I made panels for the skirt by gaffer taping some strips of felt, I wanted them to be stiffer than material but not made out of card(so I could still go to the loo). I then stapled more trimming down the middle of each panel. I thought I would have been able to sew these panels on but my needle wouldn't go through that much tape, so again gaffer came to the rescue. I just taped them length ways at the top on the front and back, surprisingly they all stayed on all night!

Here comes the magic bit, I found this make your own body form tutorial through Pinterest, and thought it would be perfect for making a corset for my costume. My friend Ruth Madida called over and we went mad with the gaffer tape. In the tutorial they are making a body form so it's more about the shape you really are, whereas with this I wanted it tight and supportive, upward taping around the bust seemed to do the job perfectly. 

 As you can see I'm delighted with the result!

My friend Ruth then cut a straight line up the back so I could get out of the top. I then got out my trusty cropadile and put rivets into both sides all the way up the back, this is time consuming but much more secure than re-taping me back into it on the night.

I then made sleeves out of a red wool scarf I got in Oxfam for €2. I cut it into four quarters and then did a double layered over-locking stitch on my machine to stop it from running, sewing two pieces together for each sleeve. I then had to painstakingly hand stitch through gaffer tape to attach them to the bodice.

No warrior Klingon is complete without a Bat'leth, which is a type of a kick ass axe/sword. I drew it out on mounting card and the covered it with gaffer tape. Any nerds looking at this will know that there is meant to be three hand spaces, but hey my card just wasn't big enough!

Now came the really tricky bit, the forehead! I put a plastic bag on my head and used half PVA, half water to make a paste, I then paper mache some tissue onto my head making the ridged Klingon foreheadmade the piece higher than my hairline. I let this dry for a couple of days.To help attach the piece to my head I bought a swimming cap in a sports shop and cut a hole in the top of it. On the night of the party I was ready to see if I could actually pull off this costume off without a hitch! I pulled my hair through the hole in the cap, then used latex to attach the paper mache forehead to the swimming cap, then I put a tonne of latex on top aswell so it had the texture of skin not paper. It took a couple of hours for this to dry. I then got John to cut away more of the swimming cap so very little of it was visible,only just a band around the bottom to hold it on. I then used brown, black, and light skin tone face paints to add definition and to blend in with my own face. Because of all my allergies I was really concerned about putting latex on my face, so that's where the swimming cap came in handy, there was only a tiny bit at the sides touching my skin and I had no reaction to it thankfully!

Then it was just a case of making all the accessories like the shoulder piece, which is card covered in tape, with panels of mounting card under the tape to make the ridges. The neck piece was a bit of a bitch to make, I had to make it so it was somewhat flexible, still look structured, but comfortable to wear. In the end I made it out of red oil cloth with tape on the inside, and there is a small paintbrush taped into the inside of the front to give a little bit of stability. On the morning of the party I made my gauntlets while working at the market, again I used what tape I had left(you can see how I used 100m of tape!!) and some oil cloth and card. I lined them with grey leg warmers so they would be comfortable to wear. As you can see from the picture above I plaited my hair so it would be crimped, after lots of back combing and tonnes of hairspray it looked suitably Klingon like.

My inspiration; The Duras Sisters
I loved doing it, and on the night we had an absolute blast! Next year I might take a little break though and go for something simpler and a bit more comfortable. Dancing in a suit of armour made of gaffer tape is about the sweatiest thing I've ever done!


  1. Brilliant work Ruth! Thanks for sharing how you made it.

  2. Holy crap; that's an AMAZING costume!!!!

  3. Thanks!!! It was a complete labour of love


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