Pandora: Costume progress – Tentacles!

For the May 2013 London MCM Expo I’m working on an original character costume and I have need of four alien tentacles.  This isn’t a prop I’ve worked with before, and I’m still pretty new to cosplaying, so I’m learning as I go.

My first step was to work out what I wanted from them. Obviously they had to be tubular, but they also had to have some flexibility, fit into my suitcase and be durable enough to survive Expo! My original ideas and designs all featured a wire support running through the centre, with some sort of padding and covering. But after lots of visits to craft, sewing and DIY centres and websites I was at a loss for the padding side of things.

Thankfully I stumbled upon polythene pipe insulation! If you are not familiar with the stuff, it’s an expanded plastic foam shaped into hollow tubes. It’s tough by design, but also really flexible, and easy to cut into shape. With the support and structure it gives, I won’t need the wire armature, and a stretchy fabric cover can be pulled over the top.

Hand holding polythene pipe insulation

That’s the stuff!

Once I knew the properties of my materials I was able to start doodling. I sketched a bunch of different layouts for them; looked on Wikipedia for octopus, squid, and other tentacles; and scribbled some designs for the tentacles themselves, and the tips. I’ve settled on a smooth plain look, and a rounded tip. Suckers and pads could be nifty, but would limit my options for moving them around and swapping them about on the day.

I’m currently at the stage of getting the tubes into shape. For the simpler tentacles I can just bend them. The plastic responds well to folding, and retains a shape reasonably well. But for the curvier, exploratory tentacles, I need to do some work.

Pipe lagging with notches cut out

My work in progress

I laid the tubes out on the floor this evening and bent them into the shapes I wanted taking note of where the foam deformed as it bent. I then snipped out wedges from the foam (as seen in the picture above). I’m going to flex the tube and glue the edges of the wedges together to create a sharper bend. I may also tape around the joints to give them more support. But this will have to wait until I can get some impact adhesive, and we get a day with reasonable weather – you need good ventiliation working with adhesives, and it’s been a bit damp to work outside or open the windows!

I’ll post up some more pictures when they are fixed in place, and explain a little more about how I’m going to wear them.

UPDATE: I have abandoned the glue for something better: Twist Ties! Designed to secure things to roof racks, these are about a metre of flexible wire, coated with rubber and capped with a rounded plastic bung. They are firmer than the pipe lagging and fit nicely inside. All I need to do is cut my notches and bend. With the added advantage of being able to vary the bends, or move them around during the day.

Next step: the fabric covering!

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