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 |

Fake Boobs with Varaform

Tutorial by Vickybunnyangel


If you need to make fake boobs for whatever reason, we wrote up a tutorial using Varaform. You can alter the length/shape of the breast form to suit your costuming needs. I settled on an open chest with a high neck for costumes like Dragon Sorceress Zyra (League of Legends) and Night Elves (World of Warcraft).

Varaform takes complex shapes and curves very well which has made it popular for creating large-scale hollow shapes for theater and movies. Are you familiar with that trapped heat/sweaty feeling from wearing Worbla armor all day? The Varaform mesh allows for better air circulation and lets your skin breathe more. I wanted to showcase how Varaform can be used to duplicate a form, and we happened to have a mannequin around, so I made fake boobs!

Materials

1x 13″ x 19″ sheet of Varaform
Heat Gun
Bowl of water
Parchment Paper
Felt
4-way stretch Spandex close to the skin color you want
Hot glue
Fabric-Tac/Spray Adhesive/Rubber cement
Paint

Preparing your Positive Mold

Wrap your mannequin with cling wrap with tape to hold it in place. Varaform is covered in sticky glue, and this makes it easy to take off of the mannequin once cooled. Use tape strategically to get the cling wrap to stick to the curves and crevices as close as possible.

Forming the boobs

Heat the sheet of Varaform on parchment paper. It will stick to the paper initially but you can peel it off easily. While it’s still on the parchment paper you can press it onto the mannequin just to get it to stick. Loosely stick the Varaform to the mannequin and peel off the paper. Then use your hands to carefully stretch it over the form. Make sure you wet your hands before touching the Varaform directly!

Take your time to stretch or compress the mesh as needed to get it to take on the shape of the boobs. You can always reheat areas with a heat gun if it cools before you can finetune the fit. Varaform is very forgiving. If you accidentally bunch up too much you can squish and flatten it down. No need to cut darts. Let that cool completely before removing it from the mannequin.

Draw your cutting lines while it is still on the mannequin. Think about what makes sense in terms of hiding the seam lines with your costume. When you’re happy with the shape, you can take it off the mannequin and cut away the excess Varaform.

Covering the Varaform

Carefully cover the Varaform frame with 2 layers of felt. I used a hot glue gun because it was quick. Felt can stretch over curves to some degree, but you will need to dart it at the side to get it completely smooth. With a single layer of felt the mesh texture was still visible underneath, but a second layer of felt covered it completely. The felt will also give your boobs a soft plush texture like skin.

Estimate how much spandex you will need to stretch over the boobs and use a good adhesive to bond the spandex to the felt. I use Fabri-Tac because it stretches well and can be spread thinly. You don’t want to use a hot glue gun because the hard glue trail it leaves behind can be seen under the spandex. If you have rubber cement, or want to to use tacky spray adhesive that will probably work well too. Starting from the middle, carefully stretch and pull the spandex to cover the boobs. Make sure you cover every inch in glue to keep the stretch fabric down!

Painting the Boobs

If you have an airbrush, this part will go by much smoother! You can get an even coverage and do subtle shading without any visible brushstrokes. The nude spandex was no where near my actual skin color so I had to get creative with the acrylic paints I had to make something close to my skintone. You can also buy airbrush paint that’s already a match for your skin, but I was on a budget so I used regular acrylic paint and Airbrush Medium to create my airbrush paint.

Mixing tips: You can see from the swatches that I struggled a bit before I got a color I was happy with. Everyone’s skintone is different so I can’t tell you how to mix for your skin but I used a combination of cream, brown, red, peach, and green to achieve mine. Green neutralizes the redness in paint very well and actually was the secret ingredient to getting something close enough to my skin. Make sure you mix up a lighter shade and a darker shade for contouring/highlighting as well.

Painting tip: airbrush different layers. I started with a more pinkish base because my skin has a slight pinkish undertone to it, and then I layered the more tannish cream color on top. This variation in color makes it look more skin like.

The finished boobs above! You can see that I added highlight and shadows to exaggerate the shape more and give them dimension.

P.S. I am very small chested so this is all held up entirely by the rigid under-structure of the Varaform.

Attaching the Boobs

Depending on your needs you can sew shoulder straps, or create a halter neck strap to hold the boobs in place. You can also cut up an old bra band and use that to attach the boobs around the back.

I hope you found this tutorial useful! There’s many other ways of course to create a breast form but we thought it would be fun to try it with Varaform.
If you have more questions or like seeing more cosplay tips and tricks! Follow my page on Facebook [Vickybunnyangel Cosplay] or Twitter [@Vickybunnyangel]

Category: Cosplay, Tutorial, Varaform | Tags: | leave comment |

Magnetic Wings Tutorial featuring Varaform

Tutorial by Vickybunnyangel

As someone who travels a lot and works at various events as a cosplayer, it’s important for me to create things to be durable and lightweight. The ability of fitting into a suitcase, and also causing the least amount of strain on my body after a long day of wear, are the main reasons I decided to test out Varaform to create a set of magnetic wings. The particular character these wings are for is Star Guardian Soraka from League of Legends (the most weird part is they attach down by the butt, instead of the back), but you can easily adapt this tutorial to suit your needs!

What is Varaform?

 

Varaform is a lightweight thermoplastic extruded into mesh form. Unlike Wonderflex or Worbla’s Mesh Art, it does not actually have any fabric in it. It is purely plastic. When heated, it becomes soft and pliable like a sticky fabric mesh. To see a full explanation of Varaform, please refer to this post: Potential new product: Varaform.

Wing Base

Materials:
Half sheet of Varaform Heavy
Quarter sheet of Varaform Light (Optional. It can all be made from Varaform Heavy)
Scissors
Heat Gun
Water
Parchment Paper

 

I covered my workspace with parchment paper and had a bowl of water on hand. Varaform is incredibly sticky when heated, and it will stick to almost everything. It can be easily peeled off of parchment paper once cooled, and you will need to constantly wet your fingers while working with it to avoid it sticking to you. An alternative method of heating up Varaform is in a bath of hot water, but I prefer using a heat-gun so my entire workspace doesn’t get wet.

  

I cut my Varaform into 6″ wide strips before rolling it into “bones”. Pro-tip: wear long sleeves when cutting the Varaform because the plastic mesh can be prickly on the skin. It’s not nearly as bad as trying to cut and work with chicken wire though.

Varaform’s lightweight quality is tied to it’s low density compared to other plastics. While this is great for making certain items like masks, for a set of 6 feet wide wings I needed my bone structure to be dense and durable. The middle image above shows a rolled piece of Varaform that has air pockets throughout inside. It felt nearly weightless. That thickness is not strong enough and will snap under pressure. In the third image above you can see my skeletal structure ended up being 4-5x that thickness and I also squeezed the varaform as I rolled it to make it as dense as possible. The trade off of course is weight and my wings ended up weighing about 2lbs, which is still reasonable.

After heating up my thick rolls of Varaform, I shaped them to create the main bone structure of the wing. I recommend looking at diagrams of real wings to get a sense of where the joints should be to make them look more realistic.

Using Varaform Light, I cut out rough feather shapes to create a base to glue my feathers on. I heat the feathers with a heat gun and stuck them onto the skeleton. Unlike Worbla, Varaform only requires one surface to be heated to stick. During this step I also shaped the 3D curvature of the wings. The curvature is much more noticeable in pictures later on after I’ve covered the mesh with feathers.

Residue from the glue in Varaform is to be expected. It looks kind of gross but once it is dried you can just rub it off your hands into a trashcan.

Covering the Wings & Harness

Materials:
5x 8×11 sheets of White Felt
36x packs of White Turkey Feathers
12x packs of White Goose Feathers
20x 1″ diameter Rare Earth Magnets (magnetic strength of 30lbs)
Scissors
Hot Glue
Medium sheet of Worbla’s Mesh Art
2x D Rings
Waistband Elastic
Velcro (optional)

 

I used 2 layers of Worbla’s Mesh Art to create a rigid base board the magnets would adhere to. Worbla adheres really well to the Varaform! This is great to know so you can get the best of both worlds by combining the materials together in a single build. I chose Mesh Art specifically because it is the strongest of the Worbla products and is very resistant to tearing thanks to the mesh embedded inside.

Then I covered the wings in felt to mask the texture of the Varaform mesh. Why? Because feathers (especially white) are actually a bit translucent when held up against light. The felt acts as a diffuser and prevents you from seeing that grid texture. I also made sure my lines were jagged and feathery looking because it blends better rather than looking like a solid straight line. If you ever buy those mass produced Halloween wings that are made with a base of cardboard or foam, you will notice the solid opaque outline of the base when you hold it up to light.

 

The most time consuming part of this build was hands down prepping the turkey feathers. After separating out feathers into left and right curvatures (this matters!), I shaped each one individually. This improves the overall look of the feathers and makes them look more like anime/fantasy wings.

It’s also advisable to categorize your feathers according to length as you tip them. It will make placing them much more efficient later on.

 

Cover the wings with feathers front and back. I did 2 rows of turkey feathers on each side.

 

This part is optional. To make the wings more compact for travel, the tips containing the longest feathers are removable. I glued these feathers to a scrap piece of white plastic (you can use Worbla, Sintra, styrene, piece of a plastic bucket etc.), then attached it to the wings with velcro. I slip it in under the feathers so it hides the separation point and looks blended. These feathers are generally the most fragile on wings because they stick out the most, so doing it this way allows me to continually replace them if needed.

 

Depending on how lazy or on a budget you are, this next part is also optional if you think the turkey feathers alone look good, but for me I like to cover my wings in a layer of goose plummage to soften the edges and hide where the turkey feathers are glued. It makes the wings look more polished and luxurious. Layer them front and back, and on the top. The felt should not be visible after you are done. You can see what this looks like in the photos at the end of the finished wings.

To attach the wings magnetically I used 1″ diameter rare earth magnets that have a rated pull strength of 30lbs. I had used smaller magnets previously with a strength of 9lbs, but found they were too weak to keep the wings up. Since the wings are not attached at their natural center of balance, and 3 feet of wing span has to be supported on such a small point, I decided the larger magnets were best. I would rather overkill with strength and know that the wings won’t fall off my back board.

I glued the magnets to the wings first, then used a slow drying paint to mark off their position. I pressed my backpiece into the paint so I had a perfect transfer of each magnet’s position to attach to the other side (as you can see in the picture above). The magnets are strong enough to rip each other off of the glue, so on my backpiece the magnets are then encased in a layer of Mesh Art.

The backboard is made from craft foam encased in 4 sheets of Worbla’s Mesh Art. I needed it to be rigid and hard as wood, because this piece is what supports the wings and holds them out at a 90 degree angle. Warping or breaking would be bad. You don’t have to do what I did. I just used what I had on hand, but wood or something that is rigid and strong will do the trick too.

I’m holding it up by gripping the back piece alone to show how strong the magnets are.

 

The magnetic back board is then attached to a curved piece so it sits on the contours of my bum better. The curved back piece if made from craft foam sandwiched between 2 pieces of Mesh Art. I attached D-Rings on either side with pieces of Mesh Art then tied elastic to it since we don’t have a sewing machine at the studio or else I would’ve sewn it properly to make it look cleaner. I heated the curved piece and the magnetic back board and attached them together. Mesh Art is very adhesive so no glue was required.

Finished!

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

Potential new product: Varaform

Want to win some Worbla? Then read this post and answer the questions to be entered in our draw!

Here at Cosplay Supplies we’re always looking for new products we think might be helpful for the community. Sometimes we do private testing, sometimes we just dive in and carry something – and sometimes we need your input!

Which brings us to: Varaform!

Varaform is a thermoplastic that comes in 2 main forms – a light mesh and a heavy mesh. (There’s also a thin gauze sheet we’re not looking at for now.)

Varaform Heavy and Varaform Light

Varaform is used in the medical community as an alternative to plaster bandages for casts, and it’s been used for stage costuming for years to create large, lightweight costume pieces, especially under-structures for mascots and monsters.

Varaform Installation art

(Psssst: I have it on good authority Varaform is being used on the new Dark Crystal costumes!)

It activates at 160°F (71° C) and can be activated with warm water or a heat gun. It’s self adhesive, can be reheated endlessly, and incredibly lightweight: Varaform light is about 1/2 the weight of Black Worbla, and Varaform Heavy is about 2/3 the weight of Black Worbla.

Skeksis head made from Varaform and buckram. By Lydia Hanchett

What do we think it would be good for?

Mascot builders. Seriously – imagine being able to shape a head over a clay or foam base and then remove all that insulating foam? It gives you more space to cool and circulate air and removes a lot of the weight.

Varaform head covered with paper mache

Wings: When you need to build lightweight wings, and straight foam and wire alone won’t be enough, or when every ounce of weight counts, we think this material may be a huge help.


Vickybunnyangel used Varaform for these Star Guardian Soraka wings. The wings are covered in felt and feathers to hide the Varaform understructure. The wings weigh 2lbs on their own (which includes magnets), and are attached magnetically to a backboard made from Worbla’s Mesh Art, foam, and 1″ diameter rare earth magnets.

Horns: If they have to be big and quick! Casting your own horns does give you some of the best results, but if you don’t have time for curing, you can build an under structure quickly that can be wrapped in fabric Maleficent style or quick coated with an air-dry clay.

Build a base from tape and paper, wrap in cellophane.

Cover in strips of Varaform. Let cool, remove form.

Make a skullcap by wrapping your head in plastic and then having a friend help cast your head with Varaform strips. Don’t wear makeup on project day and hide face with something silly. Attach horns with strips of Varaform.

Wrap with straps of stretch faux leather. Glue lightly at overlap. Larger pieces used to cover the skullcap.

Time: 3hours total. Weight 13oz (0.8lb).
Ability to headbang: Yes.

A post shared by Amanda (@elementalsight) on

If you need a more organic horn, you can skip the fabric step and instead cover with an apoxie clay or air dry clay. We used Smooth-On’s Free Form Air which was a learning experience. It dries quicker than we expected and is more toxic than other clay we have used, so the skullcap was not quite finished smooth.

Time: 4.5 hours, not including cure time or paint drying. Weight: 1.6lb (27oz)

(Note: Yes, the horns are lopsided. This is the result of building fast, not careful. At least the clay method did help even it out 😛 )

One thing to note about the clay method is that you want to make sure you don’t push the clay through the mesh too far or it will shrink your headpiece. This happened with these horns and while I could fix it with some dremmel sanding, Free Form Air requires a proper respirator to sand and we don’t have one on hand at the office.

The clay through the mesh of the Varaform, especially at the edges of the skullcap, shrunk it juuuust enough to no longer fit.

Wigs and Hats: Similar to the horns idea, but if you needed to make a large wig, we’re thinking Varaform could be very useful for building the base to sculpt wigs onto for the ultimate in lightweight structure that won’t just be insulating and top-heavy. Varaform might also work well in areas where buckram or foam would be used in large headpieces to avoid relying on wire to provide stability. Gallery below is some examples of things we think Varaform might work well in.

Differences between Light and Heavy:

The wings and Horns were made with mostly Varaform Light, with the Heavy being used along the spine of the wing and for some reinforcement of the skullcap of the horns. I do think we could have used Light for both without issue, but for large things such as mascot heads or complex shapes where you don’t want a lot of overlapping areas, the Heavy might be the better choice, as the light will need more overlap to achieve the same strength as Heavy.

What we’re not sure about:

While we think this has potential, that doesn’t mean it’s without some disadvantages. We can think the pros outweigh the cons, but what we really need to know if you folks do. So, some considerations:

While it’s flexible, It’s about as brittle as Worbla. if someone were to crash into you/sit on your costume, it could break.

The Varaform Heavy mesh is harder to cut: if you have difficulties cutting hard plastics, you might need a friend or a lot of breaks if you’re cutting through a lot of this.

Varaform is messy. The adhesive is a bit reminiscent of white glue and plaster of Paris combined: it leaves a white powder over your work surface and hands, and needs to be cleaned up with water. Clean up is easy, but it’s a consideration to make.

Scraps are less recyclable than Worbla: because it’s a mesh, the scraps can be used to patch areas and smooth joins, but can’t be as easily repurposed as Worbla can be.

It needs to be worked over a form. Varaform is really really floppy when activated – you aren’t going to be able to shape this easily by hand for any complex shape. It’s going to require a form, whether that’s made from packing tape and paper, foam, clay, your body, or something else.

Price: Varaform is sold to us by the roll, and is roughly 40in/100cm tall. We’re estimating price (including shipping) to be around:
Varaform Light 40inx60in = $70
Varaform Heavy 40inx60in = $90

We’ll be offering smaller cuts as well, the Varaform Light should be close to Worbla’s Finest Art in pricing with Heavy around 30% more.

So what we would like to know is your honest opinion:


You can find our questionnaire here! Fill it out and you’ll be entered to win a medium sheet of Worbla – your choice of type! Draw will be held October 2nd!

Category: Cosplay, News, Varaform | Tags: | 19 comments |