The Shredder Costume from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Once October came, I originally decided to be Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn from Major League, but after seeing his jersey was over $150 on eBay, I went to plan B: Operation Cheaper Costume. I figured I’d try a DIY, and the total cost of this costume was right around $100. I wanted to be a character who was widely recognized, but not overdone. I thought about cool/funny characters from my childhood, and my thoughts finally landed on “The Shredder” from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
After browsing the internet for Shredder costumes, I noticed most people made it themselves. Honestly, I felt only a few did a really good job, so I took it upon myself to go above and beyond to give one of my favorite childhood villains the prestige he deserved. I took the basic cartoon concept and put my own twist to it.
One thing that made it easier/more interesting was the fact that there were dozens of different versions of the costume, so I felt like I couldn’t go wrong if I chose to make my own version of the helmet, and likewise with the different blade shapes or shoulder armor.
Initially, I figured I could just buy some sports equipment, cut out a few cardboard blades and glue them on, spray paint it silver, and be done with it. Seemed simple enough. Little did I know it would take nearly 30 hours(!) to complete. I wasn’t even sure what the exact designs I wanted to go for were. I’m no pro, and this was the first time being this detailed on a DIY. I thought it’d be wise to do a few drawings of what I wanted the final result to look like, so concept art and prototypes probably accounted for half of the hours. But once I got the ball rolling, I kept impressing myself (and others apparently) along the way. With each piece made, I would send pictures to my friends to see what they thought, and received support and constructive criticism.
- Gauntlets: I first made the decision to buy as much already-made material in order to expedite the process. I believe I could have made the gauntlets completely from scratch, but came across some youth soccer shin guards for $5 a pair at Walmart. Luckily, I’m only 5’6, so to use youth shin guards on my wrists was perfect. The other pair was for my actual shins, but I realized I would need to make some sort of extension for that, which I used flexible foam sheets from Michael’s for 99 cents per sheet, as seen on my knees. In addition, I thought it’d be cool to add some Japanese characters (Shredder is Japanese, after all). I googled some fitting words, chose “battle” and “warrior”, then drew them onto the sheets.
- Blades: For the (main) blades, I used cuttable foam board from Michael’s. I started out with a shark fin kind of pattern, but it seemed boring, and thought it needed something more aggressive. I drew a few different types on paper until I found one I liked, which reminded me of a snake about to strike. There’s actually about four different kinds of blade patterns throughout the costume for variety. On my prototypes, I taped the blades on the shin guards first to see if it looked good, and after I was satisfied, I proceeded to glue them down with contact adhesive. I actually kept them taped down as a backup plan if they break off while wearing the costume, and I did indeed have wardrobe malfunctions on both nights I went out. I even kept a tape dispenser in my pocket for emergencies, which I had at least about a dozen.
- Helmet: The second piece of actual equipment I bought was a bike helmet for $20, also at Walmart. It was a bit of an impulse buy, because I wanted to start on the costume right away, but I was later informed that I could’ve bought one from the Goodwill for as little as $3. Oh well. I first tried making the shroud around the helmet with construction paper, but it wasn’t very flexible, and even paper cut my shoulders while trying on the prototype. I figured I needed something soft and flexible, then came across foam sheets from Michael’s. I even used some of those foam sheets as elastic bands for the hand blades, which were the easiest part of the costume to make. The main part of Shredder’s helmet, and most noticeable, is the triangular ornament he has on there. Most costumes I googled didn’t have a super-detailed pattern, except for a few. And one in particular was very jagged like a saw blade. Since I thought that idea was super cool, I went with it and put my own twist on it. As time went on, I added little details to the helmet here and there, such as the extra borders and mini blades on the very back as seen on the picture of my back.
- Mask: That was made totally out of the same cuttable foam that the blades were made out of. It was tough to wrap my brain around how to make this, but I got what I wanted eventually. It may have been slightly bigger than I wanted, but with the mesh screen I put inside it, it still looked pretty good. It held onto my face on its own, but I reinforced the staying power with small pieces of velcro that attached to the inside of the helmet. That worked out so well (…until the velcro came off at one point.) Luckily, it was tight enough to fit on my face anyway.
- Shoulder armor: These were the last pieces I made from scratch. That’s also entirely made out of the cuttable foam. I thought a lobster-like overlapping pattern would be cool. I cut them out, rounded them out, overlapped them, and glued them together. That’s also attached to my gray shirt by velcro, since I didn’t want to sew or glue that to my shirt.
- Spray paint: I spray-painted all those pieces with chrome spray paint. And I must say, that paint really sold the costume. It made everything look like it was actual metal and turned it into a real eye-catcher. Chrome paint catches light so well, and I’m glad I used that instead of a regular silver.
- Fabric: Lastly, the actual fabric and clothing was all my own. I just happened to have the perfect workout shirt, workout pants, belt, and boots. Except for the cape, which I bought two yards of purple polyester from Joann’s. That took a little bit of measuring and cutting, but I got that to where I wanted it. Then added a jagged pattern to the sides for extra detail. I also used velcro so it could be attached to the front and back of my neck in order for it to stay in place and not flop around.
The first reactions I got were from friends. They seemed very impressed with my initial designs, but I believed they were just being supportive, and not as thrilled as they came off. After receiving a good amount of likes on an Instagram post of the helmet and gauntlet’s initial stages, I could feel it was going to be a hit, and couldn’t wait to finish the rest of it. A house party of 75 people was my first stop the day before Halloween, and I’ll cut right to the chase – I won the first place prize of the costume contest with a rousing applause.
While it seemed to get a ton of attention at the party with questions about how I made it, and comments such as “that costume is on point”, it didn’t compare to Halloween night. My friend and I casino-hopped around Las Vegas and with each stop, I almost felt like a celebrity. People were stopping me seemingly every 10-15 minutes with either an enthusiastic comment or asking to take a picture with me. I should’ve perfected my poses in the mirror beforehand, but did have the go-to “boxer pose” with the simple fist up, as seen on one of my submitted photos. I kind of wasn’t ready for this much attention, haha.
A little tidbit I want to add is the fact that I adopted (the cartoon) Shredder’s deep, menacing voice with never-ending insults. It was fun saying stuff like “Where are those mutant morons Bebop and Rocksteady?” and “Curse that wretched rat and those blasted turtles!”
This nearly month-long project was worth all the time I put into it. With each passing day, I was reminded how much I loved art back in grade school. I hadn’t done anything artsy in a long while. I’ve also been encouraged to enter contests (such as this one) and have been told that costume-making or arts and crafts in general could be my calling.
After my two-day Halloween weekend was over, I decided I would perfect this costume even more over the next year since it was so well-liked. I’m thinking about some cool accessories to get an even better reaction or using actual metal and welding the pieces so I won’t have any wardrobe malfunctions!
Lastly, I wanted to explain the green screen photos. Upon discovering this online contest, my friend (Tony Stark) thought it’d be fun to incorporate a few (obviously amateur) green screen effects. I thought they came out pretty awesome! Well, except for the dojo one.