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No-Theft-Needed Neighborhood Watch Burglar Costume

The artist, Eldritch, is wearing the costume. The idea came to its brain one dark night drive around his small town. When he spotted the sign, it thought of a childhood full of such signs, and how he’d never even seen anyone who remotely looked like this ‘suspicious person’ everyone was on watch for. So it thought, OMG I COULD TOTALLY BE HIM. As halloween is its absolute favorite holiday, it was so excited and makes designs and plans that day-even though the spooky season was months away.

So here we are!

The Trench Coat

At first, I was anxious about how I would get at least 5 square yards of fabric for the trench coat. After scouring my local thrift stores and my fabric stash (that giant box of scraps is practically Narnia!), I was blessed by a garage sale in my neighborhood one early October day. I didn’t even notice the box of free stuff in the yard at first, but after buying some super cheap and now beloved pieces, it caught my eye on the way out. I saw a black fabric black something, and I practically floated over to it. A whole king-size black bedsheet! I was ecstatic—I totally scored.

It was the perfect amount and feel, and I got to tracing a trench coat I made a few years back for a pattern right away. If you have a nice fall jacket that fits just right, you can totally make a pattern from it—just don’t forget seam allowance!

I eyeballed the additions of the cuffs, collar, and closure in the front, but making a paper pattern really helps to get the fit right. Here’s where I spent that $4: a thrift store in my area had poster fabric that would stiffen the trench coat perfectly, so I bought it, and yup, it was perfect.

The Staff

My endless store of craft material yielded these trashed metal shelving rods. They were bent and a little battered, but I wrestled my brother’s pliers from him and used them to bend the ends back into place and click the mechanisms together (thank you, tall shelf, for having connectable pieces!).

My father’s workplace always had a dry toner printer, a type of printer that, through absolute magic and definitely not science, produces high-quality, vibrant prints. I used free images from the net and sent them to him.

He then came back with the tiniest prints of them. Yes, okay, they were super cute, and I’ll be putting them in my personal journal—but they were not what I needed. Patting him on the back, I reassured him that I would figure out the issue. After some digging, I did! The issue was that the printer rejected any size changes and would only print the images relative to each other—some were bigger pixel sizes, and others weren’t.

So, I simply used a photo editing app to match them all up and to a bigger size. The next print, there was no need for reassuring back pats—they were perfect. So, I cut them out and pasted them on leftover poster board I had. They turned out perfect, and I had to hold myself back from biting them as I have a habit of biting things I like—it’s a neurodivergent thing.

Keeping my mouth closed, I then grabbed the Dremel I keep in my room, and with the rod, signs, a filtering mask, and glasses in hand, I headed outside. I marked the places I wanted to rough up—roughing a smooth surface helps glue take hold better, giving it a grip surface to hold onto.

I’ll admit, using the Dremel is a bit nerve-wracking, but I braved the sound and power and was able to sufficiently damage the surface. I then armed myself with a caulk gun loaded with construction glue and applied that glue. I let it sit for one day, then I brought it outside again. Tragedy struck: my sweet dog Noki got excited and ended up knocking it off the wall it was laid against.

The top sign was ripped from the rod, and I had only one more day until my chosen deadline. After reassuring my siblings I was not angry at them (they were at the scene of the crime), I screamed my anger to the sky. I believe in feeling feelings.

But all was well: I reapplied glue and set it in a safer place. A day later, it was dry and perfect!

The Hat

Days before my deadline (self-imposed), I was having a bad time mentally and texted a friend to hang out. So, that day I hung out at their apartment with their cats and a comfy environment. I talked with them about some life updates and mentioned my costume, how I wasn’t sure how I’d have time to construct the hat.

They, being the whimsical person they are, casually just went—”Well, pick one from my collection.” I love my friends. So, that day I scored a mental break and a hat on which I built the finished result. I used a new technique that I could only hope would work, and it did! I made a frame out of poster paper and then stretched the bedsheet fabric over it, stitching at the edges to lock it all in. It’s one of the most sharp and solid pieces in my collection of homemade props. All around great guy.

The Mask

I’ve made papier-mâché creations before—specifically masks with special features. So, using my collection of paper scraps, I cut strips to size. I then used clay to sculpt a new nose on the mannequin. After covering it with a sheet of plastic wrap, I began laying down strips of paper. There was a lot of waiting, but three layers later, I was satisfied and painted it black.

I once again summoned that box of fabric scraps, knowing I had some good elastic pieces in there. I used a wide piece to form the back and a thinner piece to connect back to the top of the mask. I then realized that I hadn’t fully planned out how I’d even see out of this mask. No matter, I cut out pupils and added white, shifty eyes. The eyes may be side-eyeing everyone, but I can see perfectly out of them! That is, once I used cardboard to lift the skin-tight mask off my face a bit.

When my mom finally walked into my chaotic room of creative frenzy and I showed her the costume, she absolutely loved it. She was so excited, exclaiming how clever and well-done it was! (I did post it on my Instagram account @eldritchscreatorium.)

I’m a person who adores all things spooky and cryptic, so this costume is definitely one of my favorite things I’ve ever created. It’s always fun to express yourself through creativity, and this costume was a great way to do that!

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