mdb's 2013 Halloween Costume Contest Entry- Female Turian, Mass Effect

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Sr Member
I normally don't enter contests but hey, why not :)

This costume was a blend of two that I was working on this year and I am still debating on whether to keep the armour as it is or get the Blood Dragon painted on. And I also am not sure if I will make Nyreen, though the tunic option is kind of appealing right now after two weekends in a row of crowds and armour and a big gun....


This page is divided into the different componants:

mask / bodysuit / armour / weapon



I sculpted this all in grey plasticine on a foam wig head. I went through a few full head sculpts before finding the right balance between features and that also would fit over my own (there were a lot of.. calibrations). While these photos look much the same there was about a pound of clay removed and added each night to change the proportions. It went through a 'cat' like phase and a 'Planet of the Apes' type phase until I was finally happy with the general look.




After this point I then cut the pieces apart so that I could make the mask in 6 parts total to allow for some movement of the jaw and to allow for some airflow between layers (I've been glued in to asari headpieces and lekku and montral and it is a bit of a drain on health over time.) This was easily the toughest part to get over, as I would essentially destroy my sculpt if anything went wrong.

I cut the mandibles off first and transfered them to a flat sheet of plastic. Then the face was smoothed again and a new mouth line created. Then finally the jaw was removed and transfered to another wig head and reshaped.







Once the shapes were as I wanted I oiled and built walls on the clay ready to cast.




This was in Ultracal as it gels as it cures which means you can build 3D molds. I made sure the mold was at least an inch thick all over. Once the molds were cured I then removed the wig heads (destroying them in the process by the highly efficient method of stabbing with a large screwdriver and levering the polystryrene out.

Unfortunately the clay proved difficult to remove from the scalp mold- this is due to me wiping too much excess oil off. This necessitates the use of the screwdriver to remove as much clay as possible as well as finger nails (which proved the most effective if not the most painful method). Finally acetone and a toothbrush was used to remove the last of the residue of clay.







This was a tricky process! I needed to thicken the latex so that it would sta on the walls of the mold- slumping is a problem when trying to get a decent layer when the curing rate would vary day by day. If you do too thin a wall that layer will cure and shrink, then the next layer will cure and shrink further creating warping.

What made this task even more difficult was a bad batch of latex (cry! 5L of product wasted) due to it getting too cold either at the warehouse or shipping to NZ or by courier within NZ. I have no idea at what stage this was but I had it confirmed that this is a very big problem when buying the stuff in NZ. Freight often gets cold even before it reaches our shores.

What this resulted in was the latex gelling and not creating stretchy bonds- it cured and cracked as it shrank. I wound up buying pre-thickened latex and tinting it with acrylic. This worked well and I finally had a good cast.


Below are the bad casts showing warping and cracking.



Below are the paler tinted pieces I wound up with.



I used a base layer of a mix of Latona's and other alcohol activated paints. First a flat pale grey then a wash of maroon and another layer of white to define the lines and facets of the face.


I then misted a mix of yellow and raw sienna airbrush ink (acrylic) over the pieces.



The pieces need to be held in place somehow so I created a fabric hood that I latexed over which it was stretched on a form. The skull cap and facial pieces are then velcro dotted in place as the glue on the back of these bond extremely well with latex- I had to use alcohol to clean paint off the scull cap to allow the glue to adhere.


In the days before I debuted the costume I decided to make my pieces match the armour more- I had used an interference violet pigment powder to give an added element of light over the flat pieces of the armour (first colour in the first image below). So I used the interference green with pale yellow over the forehead and flanges of the face and mixed interference blue with a pale pink over the jaw, cheeks, mandibles skull cap and hood (neck). I then defined the bumps on the skull cap and the scales down the back with the same yellow mix.



This was first drawn out on a test suit with enough panels already cut and sewn to be able to cope with even more seams added. I wound up transfering the pattern to card then deciding to scrap it and try for a pattern that actually could be taken in easily as adding in the extra seams and thus seam allowances caused the pattern to get larger.


While the photos below show the final pattern they are on a low stretch silver vinyl- I discarded several fabrics while cretaing this suit before deciding to stick with stretch PVC as it has body and support and with seams it looks in world and practical rather than just super shiny ;)


I overlocked the seams by home machine then industrial. Until I broke a needle and decided to not replace it. Rimoldi make great machines but this one was not built with the user in mind- the screw for the needles requires an allen key and is difficult to get to. Rethreading is incredibly difficult too.


Finally I had to put elastic straps at the feet to hold the lower legs tight and to cover the top of the foot.



I first test drove a papercraft pattern available online but I made it too large and it was slightly asymmetric. I then would up using a few shapes as a guide (collars, back pack, shoulder points and knees) then using backing paper to pattern everything else by wrapping my mannequin in it and drawing over it. Then there were at least two card tests made before the final pattern was developed (all those pieces are in red).

In order to get a good pattern I first reshaped my mannequin...







Cutting and tooling

I traced around the pattern pieces in black ink and then cut each piece out with a swivel knife, beveling tool and scissors. The leather was damp as if were tooling (just enough to change the colour of the surface permanently but not wet) and then details were likewise tooled with swivel knife and beveling tool. The texture was added using a texture tool and also a wire wastebasket hammered into the surface.

The pieces were then soaked in cold water for at least 24 hours and shaped over PVC pipe and other forms.











I used a water based contact adhesive to laminate the formed pieces to another vege tanned leather (cured so not able to be shaped- instead I added darts and seams where needed.) The shoes were additionally held together with Shoe Goo.



Dyeing and finishing

I dyed the outside and inside of each piece with Feibing dye, which is alcohol diluted. To both seal and condition the leather I used Rub 'n' Buff in Silver Leaf to polish the outside of all pieces. This whole suit used two and a half tubes. I squeezed the polish in to a shallow dish and applied the polish with some faux suede- this allowed a wide surface area to be applied at a time.

To properly seal the leather I also used Resolene. I applied it plain over the mesh texture and then mixed in interference violet pigment powder to seal the smooth surfaces. This creates a shifting purple glow over some pieces, adding extra interest.




I used rivets of varying depths to create articulated joints and wide textured elastic to hold the hips, thighs and upper arms in place. It also is used on the knee pieces. I also cut slits in the armour harness and threaded non roll elastic through with suspender clasps on the ends to grip to the shoulder pieces and keep them in place. I also used satchel latches to hold the front chest to the back. Velcro was also used to hold this in place as well as the greaves. The gauntlets were riveted to the elbow cops and a width of leather holds the upper inside in place. The rigidity of the leather keeps the lower part of the gauntlets in place.


Black Widow rifle

This was fibreglass over foam core card stock- as used by architects et al.I used cardboard tubes and pvc pip for the interior of the scope and rifle ends. The stock and butt are made from laminated foam core carved to shape and fibreglassed.





And finally:
Bad camera photo is bad.. but I really need an extra set of hands to get in to the costume and yet another to take the photo! My new hipster glasses, and obligatory cat who helps as all cats help, and the last remnants of pink hair....

And more progress on my site:
turian « Search Results « The Plain Jane Costume Chronicles
So I started this November 8/9 last year!

nyreen « Search Results « The Plain Jane Costume Chronicles
(For some reason these results in particular are out of order.....)

blood dragon « Search Results « The Plain Jane Costume Chronicles
femshep « Search Results « The Plain Jane Costume Chronicles

And the two threads here:
(armour, bodysuit and gun)
(I started making Nyreen, got distracted and will paint up another set from my molds to be Nyreen)

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Sr Member
It really is a lot of work! but the results are freaking amazing. So definitely worth it :) I think it took 10 minutes just to tool the outlines of each upper hip and there is something like...

Over 60 pieces in the main body of the armour plus extra pieces for the shoes and calve claws that were not tooled (another 24 pieces) All I know is I have very blurred memories of lots of wet leather and hammering and not seeing much daylight...

The armour was also first joined by cutting strips of thin leather and using contact cement to stick to the back- like taping from the reverse but trickier because it's contact cement...
And I used two large tubs of the stuff, so about 1kg all up (2 1/4 pounds) to laminate the leather and make sit sturdy enough to genuinely act as armour- at least for contact sports! And of course not anywhere where it doesn't cover!

The bodysuit has 27 pieces for the body and 6 for each arm so 29 plus collar plus zip ;) And the gloves are three fingered (I keep thinking of The Penguin!).

The gun was great once I got the right board and managed to get the tissue to lie flat. There was still dozens of hours of sanding. I wish I'd gotten more photos towards the end of the build as I got creaive with the barrel support: I used foam to make the raised detail on the laser site and then pinned the struts through the board in to the foam before using epoxy and glass tissue to stabilise and build up the shape. It's extremely strong as it survived international travel and being bumped around for two shows!

And the mask... yeah... I may need to try and do a proper diary of that because it was several days of sculpting (like 60 hours total) and trying to work from a handful of small gifs online even before the game came out! And then the casting was over three different days due to the size and effort to make the encapsulating molds.

So thank you :) This armour pretty much does not work in reality- the hip pieces and shoulders and how they are rigged) but I did manage to get it to be able to be sat in and easy to walk in and that has a lot to do with the leather. Hey it's used for shoes for this very reason- as it ages it wears well.

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Sr Member
Thanks :) Sorry for the terribad phone photo :) I may also have to get the armour out in the sun as the interference overlay is so much more effective in person :)


Sr Member
Your costumes always look so amazing, but to see the step by step process you go through is really jaw -dropping. SO much work...

Beautiful execution...


Sr Member
Thank you Guri :)

I do plan on doing a good old fashioned dress diary as the time stamps help tell the story pretty well ;) It's a year long anyway ;)

The most comfortable armour I have made and it holds up to some really severe knocks (I din't know what it is but I was rammed a few times by people staring directly ahead but aiming right for me-well my shoulder in each case- I suspect part of the whole playing games with costumers thing).

I will eventually get the Dragon on but it'll be at a time of less stress (I was under a lot of pressure, a lot that weekend to the point I wore my costume sans Turian pieces for all of two hours and with it for slightly) I even wound up sleeping through the second day and sleeping through the 501st/RL dinner I was just that tired and sore.)

Speaking of which, I'm not shy about saying it but I have an autoimmune disease and the more visible symptom is random symmetric arthritis but the less visible is the complete mess it makes of ability to fight bugs and also it can cause inflammation of organs. I had a double flare this year so I not only had to stop and start due to pain but I also had to stop and start so I wouldn't associate the pain with the costume- I don't know if that makes sense to anyone,

But on the upside this very old technique (leather armour is real) is actually doable for those of us who find it too painful to use knives on foam (I filleted myself- the blade dulled enough to not cut and then was able to slice my finger) or hand sand/wield heavy sanders etc for fibreglass or can't push down when vacforming.

When damp the leather is wonderfully plastic and even I can stamp designs and use a swivel knife. I highly recommend it :) I'm using my left over maerial to make Cersei's corset from Game of Thrones. So I may be able to get better photos and videos of that :) The only issue is the thicker the pice the more tension needed to shape it over forms. I am limited to .15-1.2mm but it laminates extremely well so it's not that much of an issue :)


New Member
I had the pleasure of seeing this amazing costume in person - the paint job is just fantastic, and I love how the jaw is articulated, very cool :) So many techniques used together, you looked stunning! :)


Sr Member
Thank you :) And the Panda eyes after was extra special ;) The armour not only has no place for a pouch but no armour to handily put a card or small mirror or whatever... so once the cowl comes off it's hair net and black eye galore ;)

And this is why my FemSheps never wear make up to battle.

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Sr Member
I though I might just see if I can do a materials and tool list.... And approximate amounts.

8kg plasticine (18lgs)
2 polystyrene foam wig heads (destroyed, two more to paint over)
15kg ultracal for molding (38lbs)
600ml latex each mask (takes about three full casts to get a good set) (over two metric cups, not sure about US cups)
alcohol activated body paint, acrylic ink, Pearlex powders
20 velcro dots approx
1/2m/yard textured knit (for cowl)
invisible zip (for cowl)
isopropyl alcohol (clay clean up on sculpt and to thin paints)
acetone (clay clean up)
15cm metal ruler (scraping flat planes on the face)
tooth brushes (clean up and texture- tooth brushes clipped and shaped)
clay tools
air brush
latex sponges
fine paint brushes
coarse paintbrushes (to lay thickened latex in the molds)

Bodysuit, gloves:
3m of stretch PVC from MJ Trends
invisible zip
1/2" wide elastic (for foot stirrups)
key chain ring and cord as zip pull.
industrial overlocker
home overlocker
stretch stitch sewing machine
sharp shears

1 1/2 hides of 12-15mm russet
several third grade vegetanned hides (for lining and covered turian armour additions)
leather skirt and trousers (cut into strips for joining armour panels and lining smaller pieces
1L waterbased contact cement (Quick Grip Advanced)
600ml black dye
two tubes Rub n Buff in silver leaf
250ml Resolene
more Pearlex than I should have.. I wasted a bit, so most of a pot...
two part rivets in three lengths
wide elastic (by the length and also repurposed dollar store belts)
elastic and suspender clasps to hold shoulders in place
narrow elastic for hand plates
satchel clasps to hold front chest plate to back
velcro for everything! (except the bracers which are glued closed at the top and the firmness of the leathers holds the wrists closed)
Wedge sneakers in white canvas (covered in dye and leather bits)
Fuelite (to clean and to remove glue residue from shoes etc.)
box cutter and blades (I filleted my left finger beveling the turian greave shapes... so safety first!)
sharp shears (weird purple and green coating- these were cheap but i've seen the same on expensive shears)
Swivel knife
Beveling tool (compresses the edge, not cuts)
mesh wastepaper basket cut open (texture tool)
texture tool with a fine waffle ground- for trapezoid shapes on outer thigh pieces)
flat synthetic brushes (gluing)
terry cloth for clean up
faux suede polishing cloth
rivet setter (two piece dished ends make a huge difference)
rubber mallet head (held in hand to hammer rivets and tool details)
PVC pipe, mannequin and styrene foam cone to shape the leather
bucket- to soak the leather in

large sheet black foam core board
baking paper
epoxy resin
fairing powder
glass tissue
styrene sheet (to make internal support)
cardboard tube (for barrel and interior support, also resin coated, another for the scope)
pvc tube
toy binoculars (one half cut up to make ends of scope)
random tube ends (house rebuilders left them all over the underfloor area)
contact adhesive
epoxy glue
matte enamel spray paint
small amount of Rub n Buff (basically what was on my polishing cloth, to highlight edges)
sandpaper in 220, 120 and 100 grit
rare earth magnets to hold barrel to laser sight- didn't work wound up using elastic looped over!)
box cutter (to cut and bevel and carve the foam core to shape)
flat synthetic paintbrushes
plastic shot glasses (to measure small amounts of resin)
paper cups (to measure large amounts of resin!)
plastic trays (to mix the resin)

I suspect I have forgotten a few things...

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