For Halloween this year I wanted to pay tribute to one of my favorite movies as a kid, Popeye. I was trying to go for the same style as Robin Williams, so I chose the white middy and blue trousers rather than the navy blue/light blue or all white outfits commonly seen in the cartoon.
Parts of the Popeye Costume:
The uniform – This was the key element and the first piece of the Popeye Costume that I started searching for. I managed to find a vintage WWI shirt online that fit the part and was the right size. I only had to get all the stains out, roll the sleeves, and cinch up the neck opening with a safety pin. With the shirt in hand I was able to continue with the rest. The pants are standard navy bottoms from the 1970’s that I was able to find at a military surplus store.
The hat – In the movie, Robin Williams wears a captain’s hat with a navy blue band. I again had to search online. Luckily I found an all-white hat clearance from a site that required little alteration and was constructed of the same chino fabric as the shirt. I removed all the accessories first.
The hat was pretty bright so I dulled it by running it through some muddy water, then sun faded it, and laundered it numerous times. Once the hat matched the shirt, I sewed a strip of navy blue wool that I got from an old jacket around the rim and it was done.
The boots – I wanted the clown shoe look here but they are very expensive so I took an old pair of leather steel-toed boots and applied some spray foam to the toe portion (pretty difficult).
Once a flexible skin formed on the exterior of the foam I was able to poke the end of the spray nozzle inside and fill it like a balloon. This created the good “bumped up” look to the boot. I then carved them to shape, filled the holes with wood filler, sanded them smooth, and painted them a flat dark chocolate color.
The pipe and spinach can – I found an old Missouri Meacham corn cob pipe in a thrift store. In the movie, the pipe looks very much home-made so I sanded the finish off the entire pipe to give it a natural appearance. The corn cob portion was tapered so I had to shape the pipe with a knife and sand paper to give it a barrel look.
For the spinach, I took a can of fruit that was just the right size to tightly fit a can cozy into and removed the label. I then glued some canned spinach to it after I had dried it for a couple of days.
Costume accessories were done.
… and, of course, the arms – I started with a white spandex shirt and sixteen 6 inch foam rubber blocks that you find in a gymnastics pit. I used eight foam blocks per arm. I first glued two blocks together 8 different times using spray adhesive to create the quarters for each arm. I then carved the outside dimensions of my forearms from one corner of each of the quarter blocks that would become the inside space that my arms fit into.
Once the shape was right, I glued the quarters into halves. After cutting the sleeves from the spandex shirt at the shoulder, I put the sleeves on my arms and then glued my arms to the cavity in the halves. I then glued the other half to the other side of my arm and the other foam block. Once the glue cured, I slipped my arm from each block leaving the sleeve glued inside. I then designed a shape for each forearm and carved it from the blocks.
Once the shape was right, I glued some quarter-inch plastic tubing in to create protruding veins. I then mixed liquid latex with flesh colored acrylic paint and applied 4-5 coats. I designed anchor tattoos to size, traced and carved them from a folder, and spray painted the pattern on the forearms in the appropriate location and then covered the arm with a very thin layer of latex to give it a real tattoo look.
The last step was to fasten some of my actual arm hair to the outside of the forearm using spray adhesive.
On the night I wore the Popeye Costume, I painted the back of my hands a flesh tone that matched the forearms to help blend the appearance. Balow-me-down, I oughta busk ya right in the mush!