Costume Musings

Showgirl Headpiece Tutorial using Varaform and Worbla

Tutorial by Vickybunnyangel

Showgirl headpieces are traditionally created using a custom soldered wire frame to provide the skeletal structure that all those fantastic feathers, rhinestones and fabric attach to. I’m assuming Showgirls must have amazing neck and shoulder muscles, because the weight of these things could get ridiculous the more lavish they are. No wonder feathers are used very prominently since they are visually grand but are also very light. Instead of using a metal frame for my headpiece, I went with a  base of Varaform since it is very lightweight and easy to mold into shape. Plus not having to deal with metal wires, pliers, wire cutters, and soldering stuff was an added bonus.

I wanted to incorporate my love for Final Fantasy into this, so I based my design off of Rydia’s color scheme and look for an original “Showgirl Rydia” costume down the road.

Materials

Varaform – half Sheet
Black Worbla scraps
Headband
Rooster Feathers 14-16″ 8″ strand in lime
Rooster Feathers 8-10″ 1yd in lime
Acrylic Paints
Flexbond
Heat Gun
Scissors
Parchment paper
Hot Glue
Optional:
180 x Preciosa chaton rhinestones SS20 in peridot
70 x Preciosa chaton rhinestones SS16 in peridot
45 x Preciosa chaton rhinestones SS12 in peridot
E6000

Forming the base

I decided that the headpiece will be mounted on a headband so it will stay securely on the head. I’m using a cheap headband I had laying around but you may want to buy one that camouflages better with your hair color or matches your costume. I also wrapped my wig head in cling wrap to protect it from the stickiness of Varaform. I also trimmed my Varaform to clean up the edges. Once cooled those extra bits sticking out could’ve been very prickly!

One thing I like to do with Varaform is to heat it up on parchment paper, then fold the parchment paper with the Varaform still attached to create multiple layers and strengthen the Varaform. I want to minimize how much I touch the Varaform because it is very sticky! Once it has cooled, it is safe to peel the parchment paper off, reheat, and fold the other side. I folded to create a total of 3 layers. It is very durable at this point but still light as air!

My first strip of Varaform was attached directly to the headband. Because it is so sticky you don’t need any glue! This is now my base, and everything else will stick to it nicely.

I made several of these doubled to triple layered strips to build the tiers where my feathers will be attached to to create height. If you want your headpiece to have more height, just add more tiers!

While still flat, I finalized the design of my understructure and attached all the strips together with a bit of heat. You’ll notice I folded the feet up about an inch. This was in preparation to attach to the base headband. Since Varaform gets very floppy when it is warm I immediately put it into the freezer so that it would harden quicker.

After heating up just the feet of my vertical frame, I attached it to the headband. Unpainted it kind of looks like a very nice white lace!

Even though this will all be covered by feathers I still painted the Varaform green in case any of it accidentally peeks through. I didn’t have green spray paint or else that would’ve coated it more effectively, but do not spend too much time worrying about how perfect your base color is since it is getting covered up anyways.

Adding Feathers

Next I placed my feathers and glued them down. I put the long 14-16″ feathers in the front, and backed it with 2 tiers of shorter feathers to cheat the look of volume and length. Feathers get more expensive the larger you need them, so doing it this way instead of using all 14-16″ feathers saves a bit of money. I had enough feathers to completely conceal the Varaform base from behind too.

Creating the Crown

At this point I’ve shown you how to make a basic lightweight feathered headdress, and this next part is all up to personal design but this took up a lot more time than creating the headdress itself (That was about an hour’s worth of work). You can simplify things by gluing sequined fabric or foam shapes to decorate your headband. But we want to be fancy right? Yeah! Go big or go home.

The crown is formed out of Black Worbla. I made symmetrical earpieces that would attach to the headband on either side, and built sculpted details off of that by heating up scraps of Worbla and rolling them into noodles. Worbla sticks to itself when warm so again, no glue was needed here. When the Worbla crown pieces cooled and hardened, I heated up only the points that would come into contact with the Varaform base. I also applied a bit of heat to the Varaform as well to make it sticky and everything stuck together very well!

Decorating

I carefully wrapped the feathers in cling wrap first before coating the crown in paint so I wouldn’t accidentally get it on the feathers. I primed the crown with one coat of Flexbond to make it just a bit smoother before dry-brushing with antique gold paint. The advantages of using Black Worbla is that it’s already black! Which makes dry-brushing metallic colors very easy for those of us who are lazy since we don’t have to worry about shading in the crevices with black paint. I only had to dry-brush the areas that would be highlighted.

After the paint dried I went to town with a ton of rhinestones. E6000 is my preferred adhesive since it is viscous enough to hold the stones in place and I can still shift the placement and adjust things if necessary for a few seconds before letting it dry. I did wear a mask while using it though because it is a toxic substance with plenty of warning labels on it. If you are sensitive to the fumes of E6000 I recommend going with a glue like Gem-Tac. Don’t use hot glue for small rhinestones. You’ll just have a miserable time full of regret.

Additional tip: I did half of these by hand and it took forever, and then my Crystal Katana arrived and enabled me to do the rest of it in a fraction of the time! I definitely recommend a tool like that if you plan on doing a lot of rhinestone work. It has a pointed end made from wax that picks up the rhinestones, and adjustable tips for positioning stones.

Completed Piece

If you have any questions, or need something clarified please leave a comment below! Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 


Category: Cosplay, Tutorial, Varaform, Worbla | Tags: | 2 comments |

2 Comments

  1. Elaine Alton
    Posted November 30, 2017 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    This was so helpful. I have made headdresses before but with metal wires etc. I love to see other ways of creating stuff never stop learning. Also thank you so much for mentioning the Chrystal katana tool. I went and Googled it straight away and found a UK stockist. 😀

  2. Mary
    Posted November 30, 2017 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Love this idea, now I’ll have to design an outfit to go with a showgirl headpiece. I’ve never heard of Gem-Tac before, I’ll have to give it a try. I’m very sensitive to E-6000 and have passed up lovely pieces of jewelry made by other people due to the smell which never seems to dissipate. Also will have to look into Crystal Katana as I plan to start beading my corsets.

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