There are a lot of fictional characters that I love, a lot of characters who resonate with me, but none quite like Jean Grey of the X-Men. this is my Jean Grey from X-Men Costume. I have been making my own Halloween costumes for years and I always love the opportunity to spend time exploring more deeply the intricacies of the different characters I have loved and that have meant a lot to me: I’ve successfully pulled off She-Ra, Wonder Woman, Christine Daae (from Phantom of the Opera), and have won a few costume contests. But when I decided to give Jean Grey/the Phoenix a try, it was like the ultimate project.
That being said, most of the work I put into this costume involved the thought that went into it beforehand, and searching for solutions to various problems I encountered along the way. I spent a long, long time staring at pictures of Jean Grey as the Phoenix. I found pictures from every comic book inception of her character I could find, photos from the movies (particularly the 3rd movie), and looked at pictures from Comicons of costumes other people had made for inspiration.
I wanted to pull together what I felt were the core elements of her style, and create a costume that somehow captured all of the fantastic elements from the comic while somehow still looking as realistic as possible. It also took me a long time to decide whether to be the Phoenix (green) or the Dark Phoenix (red). Originally, I purchased both green and red fabric, with the idea that I would make two versions of the costume, and I would start out as the Phoenix and then switch halfway through the night to the Dark Phoenix. That was before I ran into some of the problems mentioned below. Once I got through making one costume that idea had long since been scrapped and I ended up with Dark Phoenix. I made the whole thing myself, fire wings and all. Here’s how:
I started with the jumpsuit. I tried to find a full body leotard online but there was nothing in the color I needed and most have a scoop neck (I needed a turtleneck). So I bought some stretchy burgundy fabric and made my own. I basically laid out a shirt and a pair of leggings that fit me tightly over the fabric and traced an outline based on that, adding an inch or two all the way around for the seams and a little extra at the bust and hips for a bit of hourglass give. I cut out two pieces, sewed them together and turned them inside out. Then I cut a slit down the back and sewed in a zipper so that I could get into the thing.
The armgloves and boot/leggings were the real logistical challenge. I definitely didn’t want to just incorporate yellow fabric like a lot of the costumes I’d seen because I felt these elements were meant more as metallic protective gear and I wanted to convey that as accurately as possible. In the past, for both my Wonder Woman and She-Ra outfits, I have cut to shape and painted pleather bootcovers you can get at the Halloween stores, tied them tightly at the bottom over high heel shoes, with the heel covered/painted to match, so that it all looks like one high heel boot. Then I would create the matching armbands out of extra painted and cut pieces of pleather that I attached using Velcro strips so that I could get them on and off easily. This technique works great, is relatively simple, and I recommend it for either of those characters, or any character with knee high, high heel boots and wrist/armbands.
However, this costume called for GLOVES that went up PAST the elbow, and THIGH-high boots. Sigh. I looked everywhere I could think of, but couldn’t find any golden gloves that were long enough OR bootcovers I could paint that were high enough. I certainly didn’t have the money to actually buy boots like that. So I bought this gold metallic fabric from the fabric store. I actually tried to make gloves out of it initially, but that’s like advanced sewing technique and I couldn’t make it work. So I settled for armbands. They were easy to make, I just cut out a triangular rectangle shape to the measurements of my arms, folded it over, sewed it up inside out, and turned it. The fabric was stretchy so I was able to just pull them on and they were kind of tight so they pretty much stayed in place (although you can see they had an annoying tendency to “roll” down a little bit at the top…grrr that drove me nuts).
Then I basically made my own bootcovers out of the same fabric, which was an extraordinary challenge. Because they were going over my knees, I had to figure out how to measure it so that it would look tight when I had my leg straight, but so that I could still bend my knees. I have no really good advice about this but trial and error, and good luck. In the end it still came out more wrinkly than I would have preferred, but it worked. Also, because the fabric was thin, they weren’t going to stay up all by themselves like normal bootcovers would. I had to figure out a way to make them stay, so I ended up gluing the tops to the legs of jumpsuit with fabric glue, which worked out. I used an old pair of high heel shoes and glued an extra piece of gold fabric to the back of the heels, and then once I got them on, I tied the “bootcover” leggings around the bottom of the shoes so they were tight around my feet and toes and it looked like one high-heeled boot.
I drew out the Phoenix symbol to the size I needed on the computer (to make sure I had my lines and angles straight), then printed it out on cardstock and cut it out to create a stencil. I traced it onto the gold fabric, cut it out and glued it onto the front of the jumpsuit with fabric glue. For the “buckle” on the sash, I traced a slightly smaller symbol on a piece of sturdy cardboard and cut it out. Before covering it, I punched two holes in the center of the cardboard and tied an elastic hairband through it so that I could use that to attach it to the sash. Then I cut out a symbol of the same size from a piece of the gold fabric but with “tabs” on the outside so that I could stretched it into place around the cardboard and glue it tight.
The “wings” were my favorite part of all. They were so fun to make. Dark Phoenix has literally wings of fire. It took me a little while to figure out how to pull off that effect. I got the feathers from Michaels. I bought about 15 of the large red ones, a multi-pack of brown, orange, red, and yellow mid-sized feathers, and then a pack of small fuzzy red and yellow “filler” feathers. I also bought a large piece of that thick Styrofoam poster board. I cut out a general wing-like shape from the board. The large red feathers I punched through the edges of the board at the very top. Then I filled in the gaps punching through and gluing on several mid-sized and smaller feathers to both the front and back all the way up and down the edges. On the very top/inside of the wings I glued the filler red and yellow “younger looking” feathers.
The other major challenge of making this Jean Grey from X-Men Costume was figuring out how to attach the wings. I didn’t want it to be obvious with the hangar around the shoulders thing that most people do with costume wings. So here’s what I did: I cut out the straight part of a couple of clothes hangars, bent “ends” on them, and punched them through the back of the wings, making two “bars” across the inside of the wings, one in the middle and towards the bottom, that together would hold the wings sturdy to my back. Then I cut two small holes in the back of the jumpsuit. I tied long pieces of extra fabric from the jumpsuit around my chest and shoulders (underneath the jumpsuit) with the loose ends hanging out the holes in the back of the jumpsuit. Someone else then had to help me weave the pieces through the bars and tie securely so they were held tight to my back. I loved that you couldn’t tell how the wings were tied on from the back, that was my favorite part.
Oh yea, and my hair, well….I bleached my hair and dyed it red (used the Manic Panic color “Flaming”). I was looking for a good excuse to do that anyway.
It was a great costume, I was really proud of it and got a lot of compliments. However I ended up losing the costume contest to a guy in a blue cardboard box with six plastic blue cups taped to the front of it. He was a lego. So that might be a better way to go. Also, it was quite a challenge to actually get into this costume. After that going to the bathroom was a major undertaking in and of itself…definitely a two-person effort. Fortunately my best friend Daran (shown next to me dressed as the sexy/deranged cop) was with me the whole night, because I couldn’t get the thing unzipped myself and had to have someone hold the wings while I hovered over the toilet. Made for some hilariously good times though. It was totally worth it.
Estimated cost: $30