First off, Thank you Jeremy Andrew (Costume 17) for the inspiration of making a Homemade Jack Skellington Nightmare Before Christmas Costume. As he mentioned in his tutorial, this is a very long and tedious process, so be forewarned. And, unlike him, I took a slightly cheaper route. I also asked a co-worker, who happens to be an excellently creative and crafty person, for her opinion. She recommended I go with paper mache if I wanted to keep it cheap. She suggested I paper mache over a punching balloon.
As far as the paper mache, I initially used a mix of flour, water and salt (approximately 4 cups of flour, 2 cups of water and 2 spoonfuls of salt). Basic stuff people, and cheap. I mixed it in a pretty good sized mixing bowl until it was at a consistency of a slightly runny pancake mix (btw, the salt is to keep it from molding). Before I mixed the paste, I cut up several strips of newspaper (about 1″ wide by 5″ long). I then completely dipped each strip into the paste, pulling the strip through my index and middle finger to wipe off the excess paste and placed it on the balloon. No particular pattern, I just started at the top and worked clockwise, adding strips as I moved down. You do have to move pretty quick as the paste tends to dry up relatively quickly.
Once I finished that first layer, I let it sit overnight. The next morning I made another batch of paste and added another layer and let that sit for about 8 hours. I then made another batch, but this time added an entire bottle of Elmer’s glue (small to medium sized bottle) to the mix. Again, another layer of strips. This timer however, I used thicker paper as opposed to the newspaper (not sure if this is important or not, I just had thick scrap paper sitting around). I let this sit overnight.
The next day, I drew eyes and cut them out. I then added vinyl spackling to the entire mask (yeah, this sounded kinda weird to me too. I was going to use Plaster of Paris but the dude at Lowe’s said vinyl spackling would be easier & quicker because I wouldn’t have to prepare it). I wasn’t too concerned with making it look too good since I was going to sand it.
After a few hours of dry time, I sanded it, wiped off the dust as best as I could and spray painted it white (I know it was already white, but I just wanted it to look a little cleaner and whiter, I guess). After a couple of more hours, I painted the nose and mouth with black acrylic paint and let that dry. I then gave it a few coats with a clear semi-gloss sealant spray, waiting about 15 minutes between coats.
I then got some mesh (from a fabric store) and taped it, from the inside, to the mask. I also hot glued foam to the top and sides for comfort and stability.
The costume was made from a mismatched black suit I purchased at a thrift store. My wife Googled Jack and “made up” a pattern for it. Meaning, she was pretty much guessing on the cutting and sewing. She also took in the legs and the arms to give the suit a thinner look. The white lines were painted by hand using white acrylic paint.
The tie was hand drawn onto a piece of vinyl (my company throws out yards of extra vinyl that are either mismatched or have a bad print on them). I cut this out and traced the cut out piece onto another piece of vinyl. I hot-glued wire in between the vinyl pieces to allow the tie to bend, hot-glued the two pieces of vinyl together, spray painted it black, let that dry for a bit and painted the “veins” with white acrylic paint.
It was a lot of work, but well worth it.