Sunday, November 3, 2013

Two-Face Costume

We've talked a little bit about cheap options for robots and superheroes, but what if you want to go a little further? This year I was interested in a costume that involved some sewing and a decent makeup project, on a somewhat more limited budget than most years. From there, I started brainstorming a concept and made my way over to Jet Black from Cowboy Bebop or Two-Face from Batman's rogues gallery. I decided the choice would be made based on finding a light colored suit vs. a blue jumpsuit. One light gray suit later, there we have it. That's practically a coin toss, right?

You'll Need (for the Suit):
  • Light colored or white suit, natural fiber (wool, cotton, linen)
  • Two dress shirts, contrasting colors. Both should fit you.
  • 2 bottles of Rit Die for color of choice (in this case, Scarlett)
  • Thread and buttons for matching the new suit color
  • Sewing machine, scissors, usual sewing stuff
  • (Optional) Serger
...and for the Makeup:
  • Liquid Latex
  • Facial Tissue or other thin paper
  • Makeup in your skin tone, plus highlight and shadow a few shades up and down from there
  • Baby powder (not makeup powder, you'll need lots)
  • Hairspray
  • (Optional) Hair color, spray or bottled

Let's start by saying I don't own the rights to Two-Face and make no claim to the character, nor am I affiliated with the people who do. (Though I gladly would be, so email me, 'kay?)

The Costume
Finding the suit was the hard part. That took a few weeks of combing thrift shops throughout the city. And while we're on the topic, whose idea was it to start separating the pants from the jackets at thrift shops? Anyway, suit and some dress shirts in hand, it was time to pose for a mock-up. I buttoned the shirts together, clipped the collars at the back with a binder clip, and took some pictures. A little bit later in GIMP and we had the following:

It would be cool if I had thought to get this pose in the makeup later.
This looked about right, so the next part got scary: unsewing the suit. My suit had a seam right up the middle of the back, so I ripped the whole thing with a seam ripper, careful not to cut up the suit halves. The liner was less lucky and got snipped up the middle with scissors. Pants got the same deal, being careful to leave the entire zipper on one half of the pants after carefully taking pictures of how it went together the first time. I cannot emphasize enough how much it helps to have reference photos partway through taking something apart and putting it back together what good pictures can do.

After cutting it in half, I stitched the liner to the back seam of the jacket to that there would be no frayed nightmare after they got dyed and washed. While there was some substantial damage done to the suit by the process to come, none of it occurred along that seam, so that works well enough in theory.

Now that you have a suit 50% off, time to get it the right color. For me that was Scarlet Rit dye to the rescue. We don't own the place we're staying, so that means the porcelain tub and sinks were right out, and limited the "just do it in the washing machine" method that I'm sure works really, really well. So it was a large plastic tub filled with the 120* water from the hot end of the tap, raised up toward the 160* that Rit prefers by boiling a few liters at a time in A's automatic tea boiler thing. I then filled the rest of the tub with the hottest water I could get from the tap to help insulate the tub from the surrounding environment, but not so full that the plastic tub floated away. I checked it regularly with our candy thermometer and we got close-ish, so I went with it. The stirring was provided by an extra PVC pipe from foam sword making.

Prepare the Rit dye according to the manufacturer's specs. for my suit, in wool and for as dark as I wanted, that meant a few gallons of very hot water with two bottles of Rit dye and some vinegar. You might need something different.

It's for Halloween, officer. Why do you ask?
After the time limit, there was a harrowing process of dragging the tub filled with deep red dye down the hall to the stainless steel sink in the kitchen. Fun! After transferring the suit to the sink without spilling anything (via magic! And steady hands) comes the hour of rinsing and squeezing and rinsing and squeezing. Then into the washing machine to remove the last bit and set the dye. I would caution at this point to avoid the dryer. It will take longer, but the surface of my suit felted/pilled up a little and the lining was totally shot by all the vigorous flapping around.

Once dry, it was a matter of snipping and replacing all the buttons in black and stitching the suit back together. If you were expecting instructions on how to put it back together, I'm really sorry, as it will be unique to your suit. Maybe you shouldn't cut stuff in half without an exit strategy next time, okay?

The shirt was an interesting twist on this theme, as dress shirts lack a center seam. Which is good because the dress shirts I got were a 16.5/34-35 and a 17.5/36-37. (Hey, at least men's sizes sort of refer to something. Don't look at me like that.) Minor variation, but some key measurements were the same, namely the button spacing, depth of collar, that sort of thing. I measured both shirts, averaged the measurements, added a 1/4" seam allowance, and cut them in half, just off center of the midline in the back. Make double sure before you cut that you've added the seam allowance the right direction and make sure that you have the correct left and right sides of your shirt. I then pinned them together and serged the seam on A's serger. I got overzealous the first time and serged the whole length, including collar which left it inside out at the top. So I seam ripped back to where the shirt turned directions and folded it the other way. After some careful work to line the cuts up again, it was back the serger for what might now be one of my favorite shirts for going out:

The Makeup
Clothes make the man, but it's the two faces that make this guy something special. I nixed the headcast and sculpting route for two reasons: One, I didn't want my first trip down that road to be something so ambitious, and because none of that sentence comes cheaply. As such, it means building it right onto my face. I had intended to shave (and usually do for cosplay Halloweens) but decided at the last minute to keep the facial hair. It made some parts harder, but that's to be expected. Upside? Still have facial hair for travel and interviews and whatnot.

First step, Hair. Having it in the way for this is an issue and blowing around loosely during the makeup application would be bad. For Two-Face, that means one side slicked back and the other tall and crazy. AquaNet is your friend now just as it was to 80's rockers.

Could you at least look excited?
Hair done, it was time to scar up my face. I knew from the beginning that I was going to avoid the animated series or Schumacher version in lieu of something a little more natural, in keeping with his comic book origin. I did some research on acid burns and got bummed out for the rest of the day. Seriously, it's upsetting. But folks documenting their struggles with whatever accident they faced make it easier to find that information. What I found was surprising on two levels: First, that acid burns are very, very smooth scars after the fact, with a glossy, almost plastic sheen. That would be very difficult to reproduce. Secondly, the coloration of acid burns are almost precisely the skin tone of the individual before the burn. Good news and bad news. I decided to deviate from nature and go for the rougher appearance he seems to favor in print media with a more natural color palette. That means latex wrinkles and fissures.

First up was spirit gum around my eyebrow and a patch cut from plastic bag over it. Latex, once cured, does not willingly leave hair and that would be not easy to get out of my eyes.

I'm a fashion-forward trendsetter.
After the eyebrow was stuck on and dried with a blow dryer on low heat, it was time to exaggerate the wrinkling of my face. Stippling on a light layer of latex, I puffed up my cheeks, scrunched down my eyebrows, and craned my next to give myself the most stretch possible on my skin. A single ply of facial tissue with ragged, torn edges was applied and any excess that didn't stick in the latex layer was torn away. Over the top, more latex, careful to blend the edges into either my bare skin or the other tissues. I avoided hair (mostly) but there were casualties. Layer upon layer built up, with various facial contortions involved at each step. Once the latex is blown dry, it holds the surface area of the stretched skin, which sags on its own when the tension is released. Very little of the texture below is sculpted in. A little latex-soaked tissue to build up the nostril and we are good.

The eyebrow patch didn't blend in as well as I had hoped, but another few layers would have gotten it. As it stood, our party was going to start in a few minutes and time was of the essence. As you go, generously apply baby powder. It will stick to the latex and keep your eyelids from freezing open. Like mine did. If anything sticks where it isn't supposed to, gently roll the surfaces apart, save what you can of the makeup, and apply powder immediately.

Doubtful Harvey is doubtful.
Once the texture is in, it's time for color. I went with a natural tone for me just on the light side of healthy. This was applied all over to ease the textured side into the healthy side. A little dark under the eyes for villainousness, accentuate some deep wrinkles with a brush, and a light wipe of the lightest shade over the surface of the wrinkles, similar to drybrushing, to bring them out.

Makeup by me. Crooked nose courtesy of my high school girlfriend.
Coloring the hair was the last step. Spray color goes the distance, just cover your makeup job if you don't want overspray. To get the edge of the hair line, spray the color into its own cap over the sink and use an old toothbrush or eyebrow brush to comb the color into your temples, eyebrows, and facial hair, if any. As it is a hairspray, you can also spike up your hair with it and muss your eyebrows or facial hair for a wilder appearance. I advise brushing it in against the grain of your hair for better coverage anyway.

A light powdering with a neutral powder followed by a thoroughly blast of hairspray all over everything that got makeup will help keep you from wiping it off throughout the night. You will rub off on stuff with enough effort, so be careful about snuggling, okay?

The logic doesn't hold up that he'd have facial hair if the eyebrow burned off, but... Comic books?
Toss on the suit, grab a two-tone tie and get to the party! The addition of a dollar coin to help decide if you will be doing more shots is up to you.

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