How To Build Your Dragon – Part 2 of 2 (Smaug’s Body)
How To Build a Smaug Costume
When Rin threw out the idea of going to Tolkien Day at McMenamin’s Kennedy School dressed as a 3 person Smaug, I said okay, sure – you get it started, and when I see that you’ve made something, I’ll get going on the sewing. I didn’t really want to invest my time, energy or money into a Smaug costume without knowing that Rin was going to do the goopy part (cuz I’ve also not done paper maché since the second grade, and what I made then was a rattle – not nearly as elaborate as a dragon head).
About 3 weeks out from the event, we decided we were going to go forward with it, and another friend of ours, laughed and said she’d believe it when she saw it, because with only three weeks to go, she didn’t think we could pull it off in time (don’t worry, we shunned her). But, I’m not gonna lie – with a week and a half to go, Rin had a major setback on the head, and even I didn’t think we were going to pull it off – which If I’m honest, I was okay with, because her success meant a lot of long nights and colorful vocabulary at the sewing machine for me.
So, while celebrating the end of 2015, and the beginning of 2016, at a cabin in the mountains and a proverbial TON of champagne (if you’ve never had a champagne fight in the snow at midnight on new years eve, I suggest you give it a try sometime… but only if you have a hot tub to jump in afterwards) I drunkenly stumbled across cell service one night, and found a slue of pictures of a mostly completed dragon head. Well crap; that meant come Sunday, I got home, unloaded the car, and then braved the ice storm to hit the fabric store. I picked up 4 different types of red fabric –
I started by cutting diamond shapes out of the gold fabric, folding it over in half so I would have two sides for each diamond. I left the two connected at the fold point, and then stitched the other 3 sides together with the sewing machine.
Once I had made no less than 25 of these (which was super fun since the fabric kept bunching up…) I flipped them right side out, and then stuffed them with diamond shaped card board cut outs which I had cut out to match the size. I had to bend the cardboard diamonds in half lengthwise to get them in, but that ended up being okay, because it made the scales stand up in just the right way.
After I was done churning out scales like a factory line, I took two yards of the body fabric and cut it down the middle length wise. I then took the red sparkly fabric and cut it in half lengthwise, and then cut it again in half, so I had a quarter strip of the material (long and thin). I stitched the scales to the long thin strip of sparkly fabric, thus closing the final side of each scale, and overlapping them slightly to hide the stitch line.
After they were attached, I then attached the two half pieces of burgundy fabric to either side of the sparkly fabric so that it was sandwiched between the two.
For the tail, I took the remaining two yards of the body fabric, and folding it in half, I cut it diagonally from one corner to the other, and then cut the piece with the fold down the fold like to create 4 triangular pieces. I then took the other quarter piece of the sparkly fabric and stitched it down the middle between the two pieces so as to continue where the outer piece left off. I did the same with the final two pieces, and stitched the two completed triangles together to make one really long tail.
I then took the bottom half of the tail, and pinned the edges inside out and stitched it so as to be able to stuff the bit that would drag-on (pun intended! :P) the floor, giving it a bit more pf a 3D effect.
For the neck, I took the remaining half of the two yards of the sparkly fabric, and cut a thin piece of the striped fabric so the stripes sat horizontally when I connected the two, making a rather long fabric hose. After taking the paper maché head and attaching it to a broom stick, I was able to pull the hose up, covering the pole, and most of the paper maché neck, pinning it in place just behind ol´ Smaugy’s horns. I attached the other end of the neck to the front of the body, lining the back ridge of scales and sparkly fabric up with the neck, and then took the remaining striped fabric and attached it in the front, making Smaug’s scaly chest.
After the body and neck were put together, I had to devise a way of giving it structure or ribs. We had thought up the genius idea of using hula-hoops in the underside of the body, which each person would hold up – one at the head, one at the wings, and another at the tail. After attempting this, I decided that it was a bit awkward and cumbersome with just the hula-hoops to hold on to, and I was also having trouble keeping the affixed fabric of the body from just sliding around the hoop.
So, I decided that I needed more hand holds on the hula-hoop and crabbed some branches from my fig tree (it really needed to be pruned anyways… >.>) which I then taped (I know, such high tech gadgetry…) them into a cross in the middle of the hula-hoop (except for the head hoop, I made that one into a big T so that when we later attached the head and neck, I would be able to use the hoop and the T as leverage to move the head around (The better to chase and eat little children with… hehe)).
After this bout of genius engineering, I used safety pins to put the body fabric in place where I wanted the hoops to sit. Once the hoops were in place, it was time to attach the wings. Since Smaug was already ginormously long, and I knew the halls where we would be going were not so wide, and would be crowded, we opted to have the wings be small, and not stick out so much. Taking some 3 pronged branches from the fig tree outside, we wrapped them in the remaining scraps of red sparkly fabric, and then tied them to the middle hoop (yes, we had to cut a hole in the body fabric to do this) and then draped the glittery sheer fabric that we had cut into sixths on each branch.
For our legs, which would be visible, we each picked up a pair of these lovely red scaly leggings to match out mighty red body. Ooh La La!
So, to recap:
$16 4 yards of silky burgundy fabric
$8 2 yards of red sparkly fabric
$10 2 yards of sheer fabric
$4 1 yard of striped fabric
$5 1 yard of gold fabric
$9 2 hula hoops
$0 (I already had one) 1 sewing machine
$0 (any branch would work) Fig tree branches
$0 (Not sure where they came from actually) A ton of safety pins
$0 (already had it) Tape
A week of my life that I won’t get back.
Total: $52. Though – If you count how much I value my time at, this was the most expensive costume in the history of ever
Stay tuned for some pics of the event, and to see how we fared in the costume contest!