This Homemade Dragon Costume was my most ambitious costume ever. I have always wanted to be a dragon since I love them, but they are really hard to translate to the human body. What I finally came up with was a nice compromise and is based on Smaug, the Dragon from the book The Hobbit. He is probably more humanoid than dragon..but that is costuming for you.
To begin with, I started with the mask, the hardest part. I used avian wire from the hardware store to build the upper and lower jaws of the dragon first. I did not wear gloves and suffered many cuts, so I recommend some slim leather gloves. I attached the upper and lower jaws with wire pieces. I then fashioned some ears and scales out of wire and attached them to each side. I also made sure to have indentations for where the horns would go. The large nostrils were then attached and shaped, a very important piece. I also made eye sockets and lids for later.
Once I had the basic frame of the head done, I attached it to a neck made of avian wire and supported by a frame of coat hangers and even a paint roller attachment for stability. I used whatever I could find around the house. It was fairly wobbly at this point, but I was hoping that several layers of paper mache would really make it solid. There were several coat hanger feet sticking out of the bottom of the neck, to be used almost like feet on chairs...to rest on the shoulders.
Once the basic headpiece was together I did the paper mache, which took a long time. I mixed flour, Elmer's glue, and water together for a slightly thick paste. I shredded small, odd shaped pieces of newspaper and laid them on the face. Smaller, torn pieces of newsprint in circular or triangular shapes seem to do better at sticking to angular shapes like faces and necks. They also tend to crease a lot less leading to a smoother finish. I did two layers on the head and neck, and then I was tired. I would recommend doing 3-4 layers for long term durability, and also use a blow dryer for quicker drying. Lay your first pieces on the flat surfaces first as you base.
I went to the thrift store and bought some cheap sun glasses to use for the eyes. I took the lenses out and painted them with craft acrylics. The lady at the thrift store was so much fun. She recommended I buy old plates and break them on the ground to get "teeth". We did this and got those beautiful white, sharp, triangular teeth. I used a hot glue gun to attach the teeth in between two strips of cardboard. I painted the cardboard pink for gums and glued these "dentures" into each side of the upper and lower jaws. I glued the lenses/eyes into the sockets I had made from the avian wire. Finally, I bought some of those Styrofoam cones and the craft store and whittled and sanded them down to make the horns. They did not come out as curved as I wanted...I used a blow dryer to try and melt and curve them. I then spray painted the head red, and used craft acrylics to paint the scales.
For the underside/chest, I used an old catcher's chest pad and painted that dragon yellow. I also attached a tail to that piece; It was made from sheets of felt hot glued together and then stuffed with newspaper. I added felt scales and decorations with the hot glue gun. For the shirt and sleeves, I used felt attached to a maroon velvet blouse. I covered the shirt in triangular felt scales with the glue gun again. For the legs, I took some old black sweat pants and hot glued more felt scales to them. I created toes and claws for feet by attaching cardboard claws to some soccer shin guards. I painted them red and added more felt scales. Lots of burns were received from the hot glue gun during the making of the clothes. The hands were store bought rubber claws.
With the mask on, the costume was over 7 feet tall and very imposing. I kept hitting my head on store signs downtown, so I needed my wife to guide me. Watching people react to this costume on the street was a total blast and a rush.