Saturday, August 9, 2014

Otakon 2014: How to Build a Monster

"I want to be Gossamer."

My son Ian's favorite cartoon character has always been Gossamer, the big orange furry monster from Looney Tunes.

So when he told me that's what he wanted to cosplay for Otakon 2014, I was a bit taken aback. That's not an intimidating request at all. Nope.

I mean, it's not like McCalls makes a pattern for it, right? So I was totally on my own.

I did a lot of planning and strategizing for the costume. It would be heavy; how would it be supported? How would he see out? How would he get in and out of it?

After much thought, I figured that using backpack frames would be best for the supportive structure. One backpack wasn't tall enough, so I used two frames fastened together.

Now that I knew how tall the frame was, I could think about how to support the "head," and how tall it would ultimately be. I used a piece of thick rigid foam insulation to make a sort of "platform" that was fastened to the top of the frame, and on that I attached two rough "pillows" to form the twin lumps of his head. Once I had those shapes roughed out, I laid the whole assembly on the floor on a piece of drapery lining (as muslin) and drew a rough outline around the frame that looked to be the right shape for the monster. I then sewed it up and Ian tried it on.

Okay, not bad for a first try. The legs were too skinny and the arms weren't the right shape, but the basic idea was there. As to how he would get it on and off, there were zippers in the inseams. You can just see them in this picture, as well as the insulation board and the two cushions. You can also see where his eyes were, which was important as I would need to be able to position the monster's eyes in the correct position so he would have at least a bit of vision. You can also get an idea of the scale of the monster, as Ian is over six feet tall himself, so the monster was over seven feet tall.

I don't have any pictures of the construction process, as I was too busy trying to get it done on time. But here's the final costume, as photographed at Otakon:

The response to the costume was so gratifying!! He was photographed at almost every step.

One last technical note: The eyes were made of thin craft foam, glued into place (after the fur had been shaved away). The pupils were black scrim, so he could see out. The hands were made of work gloves stuffed with polyfil and glued into place. There were slits in the wrists so he could get his real hand out to hold onto railings. The nails were made of Fimo and glued onto the gloves.

The only drawback of the costume was that it was terribly hot inside it. Even though Ian had a battery powered fan and a cooling neck wrap, he could only endure wearing the costume for about twenty minutes, and would then need a ten minute break to cool off. In the end, he was only able to wear it for a few hours on Friday morning, after which he was simply too overheated to want to wear it any more. Still, he was very happy with the reception it got, and so was I!


  1. Another successful labor of love! It looks like a great Halloween costume if you're where the weather is cold, but to wear that in summer takes the cake! Lovely! How many bags of fur did it shed in your sewing room?

    1. Surprisingly little, actually. I cut the fur from the back side with a razor blade, which minimized the shedding that way. The only real issue was when I shaved the fur away from where his eyes would be glued.

  2. Wow are you ever good. I love that you can figure out how to make just about anything. Your son's costume came out great. And what costume did you make for yourself?

  3. Welmoed - your middle name must be Fabulous! How very clever, and how very brave of your son to wear that much fur in summer! I hope the photos taken by others go viral - your work is amazing. -jo


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