Without a doubt, the dividing line between a great costume and an "ARE YOU NUTS?" costume is the helmet. In addition, it's quite useful if you haven't completely lost your sense of shame and you don't want people recognizing you on the street.

The helmets I have made have been constructed of paper maché. My basic formula is as follows:

  1. Cut about 30 long strips of heavy construction paper.
  2. Arrange 16 of the strips in a circular pattern where the center of all strips coincide. (See the picture on the left.)
  3. Lock down the center by any means possible.
  4. Pull the ends of the paper strips down to form a dome.
  5. Use the remaining paper strips to form a cross-hatch pattern. This creates the helmet structure. (See the picture on the right.)
  6. Cut up a handful of newspaper strips. (Sunday comic pages are often heavier than ordinary newspaper stock.)
  7. Dip in a solution of water and wall-paper paste.
  8. Cover the helmet with newspaper strips.
  9. When dry, fill in any indentations and cover again.

After you are satisfied with the basic shape, you can cut the eye/nose/mouth holes and then add the extra touches. To the right are some of the designs I've experimented with. I'm sure you can think of others.

9/3/98 Update: An additional technique I've found that works great is using speckling paste (the indoor plaster for filling in holes) to smooth out the helmet. You end up with a very smooth, very strong accessory -- it just looks fantastic. (Compare the pictures of the new helmet at the right with the others.)


Shoulder pads usually give armor a less geometric appearance. For example, if you are making the 1-part or 3-part body, the breastplate tends to be somewhat boxy; adding pads can break up this look. The key for good shoulder pads is to keep it from extending too far from the body. If you want more coverage, make sure it extends down somewhat. (Having things dangle down works nicely.)


Belts are rather easy and should be implemented whenever possible. Note, you should wear a real belt to keep your outfit together; however, you then cover it with a faux belt for show. My preference are embelished boxing title-belts (er...aren't they all?). In addition to the belt, you can also hang various plates onto it to add an extra zing.


Greaves make up the final piece of the armor. Unfortunately, greaves can be uncomfortable; they tend to irritate the wrists and ankles so you may elect not to use them. Otherwise, they are even easier than belts. The pictures on the right show the basic idea -- cut cardboard to the length of your forearm/leg and the width of 125% of the arm/leg diameter. Then add some velcro straps and you are set.

You may elect for more complicated greaves as shown to the left. In these designs, you are cutting two halves of a greave and then strapping them together. Note the one to the closer right has extra embelishments.


For an extra bit of flourish, you can add a cape to your outfit. All you have to do is cut a piece of cloth long enough and wide enough and voila. (I'd say WIDTH = 150% of your shoulder width, HEIGHT = shoulder to your calf.) Just try to use a good color combination -- for example, tie-dye cape with pink armor.

There are certainly more cape options available than solid cloth. For example, if you wanted some like what Sinister (from the X-Men) wears, you'd attach strips of ribbon as showing to the right. This can get expensive though as you will be buying by yardage and you need plenty of it. (I must have spent roughly $60 on my ribbon cape.)

Now the true psychopath would create retractable wings! The diagram on the left shows a rough design I hacked away at. The backbone is a 2-piece construction -- pivots not only hold the pieces together at the top & bottom but also allow the wings to fold inside. The wings consist of 4 triangles spread apart by offsetting wing edges of wing centers with an elastic cord. Separate cords connecting the tip and the top of the wing allows retraction with a pulling motion. (What? You don't understand what I just said? Well, join the club -- I have no idea either.)


The only problem with shields their inconvenience. While they are readily feasible, it may become awkward carrying the shield around for long periods.


Finally, no soldier is complete without a weapon. You can create a short-sword with three pieces of cardboard and some paper maché to hold it together. Make sure you reverse the grain of the middle cardboard to give it strength it both directions. (Long-swords probably won't be able to handle the stress -- you'll have to use stronger materials for that.)

Or if you want to do a mace or morningstar, you can attach a sponge/nerf ball to a handle or chain. Since the object is not to hurt people, you probably should make the chain out of light material, like a series of ribbon loops sewn together.


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