Mother of Metalwork

I gave you a taste of our next set of Custom Wig Company cosplays in Meredith as Margaery 1, now here’s the first part of my costume.

As soon as we decided on Game of Thrones characters for our next cosplay set, I knew I wanted to do Daenerys. I love her as a character: the young woman who begins the story as a manipulated and controlled object, valued only for her usefulness as a bargaining chip in her brother’s quest to regain the throne of Westeros. Instead of remaining his docile tool, however, she uses her newfound power as a Khaleesi to turn the tables. Throughout the show, though Dany is stubborn, often angry, and makes many mistakes, she is driven by a very strong moral compass. Terrible things have happened to her, but they have forged her into a woman of Valyrian steel. She is a wonderfully layered character who shows that being a good person does not necessarily mean you make good decisions.

We already have wonderful images of our work on a Season 5-style Daenerys wig thanks to JediManda and Benjamin Marcum Photography, so we decided that I should go in a very different direction. I chose one of the gowns that Daenerys wears in Qarth in Season 2. It’s a popular look among cosplayers, but it is such an interesting piece to make that I decided I wanted to try my hand at it.

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This costume is very simple in shape, but full of interesting and tricky details that make an enormous difference in the final appearance: the great volume of the skirt, the pleating in the fabric, the gold pattern, and, of course, the metal belt and shoulder pieces.

Now, in case you haven’t picked up on it from some of my other projects, I’m slightly a little bit insane, so I decided,”Hey, why not make those pieces, not out of craft foam like a sensible costumer, but out of actual metal, wouldn’t that be neat?” So I set out, with no prior metalworking experience, to create those pieces from scratch.

I started with the shoulder pieces, since that way if I gave up partway through, it wouldn’t be too much work wasted.

I copied as much of the design from what is visible in different shots as I could, but the shoulder pieces are usually covered by hair, so a lot of the design had to be made up. I measured on my shoulder about how large the piece needed to be, then drew the design within that rectangle and cut it out with an X-acto knife so that it could be used as a stencil.

The shoulders pieces started life as a sheet of .01 brass from Tower Hobbies. I taped the stencil down and spray-painted over it to transfer the design; any part of the metal that was turquoise had to go.

I cut the brass using the smallest center punch and the smallest chisel from this set of metal punches and chisels from from Northern Tool. I bought the whole set since I didn’t know exactly what I would need, but only ended up using those two.

I clamped the brass to the work bench over a piece of particleboard. I used the center punch to perforate each shape at the various corners, then drove the chisel between the holes with a rubber mallet. I was pretty discouraged with how ragged the holes came out, but a friend of mine who repairs band instruments told me to get a set of jewelry files, so I did. I knocked off the jagged bits that way, and it helped a lot.

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The difference is most obvious in silhouette. The left side has been filed, the right has not.

I still wasn’t entirely satisfied with the look however, and that’s when Brandon had a great idea: to bend down the edges with tiny needle-nose pliers to give everything a nice, finished look. It seemed crazy and time-consuming at first, but once you got started, it went a long pretty quickly. I did end up with a bruise on the palm of my hand from squeezing the pliers, though. In the final image below, the bottom piece is all bent down, and the top is only filed.

Brandon and I sanded the shoulders with several grits of sandpaper form 220 to 800. They didn’t have to have a perfect mirror finish–the pieces on the show have more of a dull shine, but the sanding made a huge difference in the quality of their appearance, and took off most of the excess blue.IMG_1377.jpg

I used the handle of my rubber mallet as a mold to carefully curve the shoulder pieces into their permanent shape.

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In order to protect both my skin and the fabric of the gown from any remaining sharp edges (and the cold!) I filled the troughs created by bending down the metal edges with hot glue.

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The belt is made in exactly the same way. I started by measuring and drawing an outline for size, then filling it in with the actual design–as much of it as possible what is visible in the show. It is much easier to copy exactly with the belt than the shoulders because much more of it shows. I only had to draw one half of the design, with a line of symmetry at the center front. The belt isn’t completely straight across, but curves up from a central point, with more curve at the bottom than the top, before straightening out where it goes around to the back of the body. I realized later that I could have curved it up even more at the hips, but it’s a tricky thing to maintain the proportions as much as possible on a different body, and I’m really happy with how the finished belt fits me.

My instrument-fixing friend also gave me a good source for getting a brass sheet big enough to make the belt. It is slightly thicker than the sheet for the shoulder pieces, but that was the thinnest they had in this size. I had the cutting process down to a T by this point, and I got through the belt cutting about four inches per night.

I didn’t do much filing on the belt because we realized that most of the problems could be taken care of by bending up the edges, clipping off any really egregious jagged edges, and filling the troughs with hot glue. This saved a lot of time.

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Halfway through bending down the edges.

Here I am checking the fit of the belt before sanding. Not that there’s anything I could do to fix it at this point if there was something wrong. Don’t mind the awkward closeup of my torso.

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I’m going to leave it here. I was going to go out and do all the sanding, but it turns out (surprise, surprise) that it’s way more exhausting to sand an entire 26 inch long belt than a 6 inch long shoulder piece, so I’m taking a break from that. We’ll just say that this way the finished belt is a fun surprise for later.

I’ll see you next week with (hopefully) the completed costume!
Wish me luck!

Hannah

 

 

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