This year I set out with the goal of outdoing my last year’s Halloween costume, which was quite the undertaking! Last year I wanted a costume I would be able to wear to the premier of the final Hobbit movie, so I decided to try my hand at building Thranduil’s costume from “The Desolation of Smaug.” Little did I know how involved that would be…but the efforts were well worth it. Halloween was killer, and at the premier I had my picture taken so many times – it was awesome!
So, this year, I was stuck on Thranduil again, only I decided to go with his Battle of the Five Armies look because I thought it would be a fun adventure to attempt his armor. What an adventure it was. I began patterning the armor and tunic in early August and finished the costume about 15 minutes before I went out on Halloween night. It was my first foray into the world of costume armor making, and I decided to also try it out of a material I had never worked with (makes sense, right?). I used a thermoplastic called Worbla and we fought (bitterly at times) but became friends by the end. I discovered that sewing about 12 yards of leather piping takes a very long time, but is totally worth it in the end.
The hardest piece was the shoulder pauldron, which there are two of, which each are comprised of 7 overlapping pieces. I cried about 5 times in one night trying to shape the rounded piece that sat right on top of my shoulder! The other most time consuming pieces were the wings. They look simple enough, right? Wrong. Oh so wrong! This “easy” step (or so I thought) ended up being one of the most time-consuming parts. Live and learn. I hand stitched the sleeves into the tunic as well, and there was a moment, a very embarrassing and infuriating moment, when I had just finished sewing in a sleeve and turned the tunic outside-right only to discover the sleeve wasn’t there. I truly thought I’d gone insane. Upon closer inspection, I realized I had sewn it on inside out and the proceeded to scream and terrify all my neighbors. I can laugh now, but that was the saddest of moments. All in all, it was so fun to build this costume! The finishing touches were the elf ear tips and blue contacts I wore with everything.
Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth has been, for more than a decade now, a place I can always go to to escape. It’s a world of sacrifice and magic and in many ways feels like a history that I wish I could have been a part of. Making this costume and getting to wear it was an awesome experience. I felt some of the magic of the Elves as people stared slack-jawed and asked for pictures! No, I didn’t win any contests, but the satisfaction of wearing this thing that took so much time and dedication was all the satisfaction I could have asked for. Until next time!
Worbla baby, Worlbla baby, Worbla baby, Worbla!
As I mentioned, the armor is made of worbla, a thermoplastic. I first patterned all the armor out of posterboard, then cut the pieces out of worbla. I sandwhiched a thin layer of craft foam between two pieces of worbla for each piece of armor– this made it very sturdy, but was still lightweight.
After the pieces were all sandwhiched, I re-heated the pieces to shape them. The hand pieces were the most difficult to shape, followed closely by the shoulder piece of each pauldron (the rounded “2nd” piece).
Once everything was shaped, I applied the detailing by rolling long lines of clay and gluing them to the Worbla surface and allowing it to dry. I then primed the armor with Plasti-dip spray plastic (so that the paint would remain flexible and not crack if I ever dropped the pieces).
After priming, I sprayed the armor silver and glued elastic straps with sewn-on snaps as the rigging. Boom! Armor is done.
Total: there are 2 hand pieces, two forearm pieces, two leg pieces and each shoulder “piece” which is comprised of 7 individual, overlapping pieces.
The Tunic of Tunics
This tunic is a variation of the floor-length silver tunic Thranduil wears in the second Hobbit film. The only real difference is that it only falls to just below the knee, and is split to the waist at center front and center back (to allow him to ride his elk).
Each half of the front is made of 11 individual panels with leather piping bordering each panel. The top panel is continuous with the stand collar.
I was afraid of not being able to move in the completed costume, so I added gussets to the sleeves for extra arm flexibility. It closes in front via zipper, the top of which is conveniently hidded by the brooch. The tunic has a lining as well.
The Wings of the King
Somewhat hard to see in the film, Thranduil’s battle look includes two wings which hang down his back from underneath the pauldrons. I patterned a series of 19 feathers for eah wing. They are made of fabric and sewn to two shoulder “pads” which velcro to the underside of the pauldrons.
I then went back and glued hundreds of tiny black squares along the edges of the feathers to give them texture and definition. Pain in the butt, but they ended up looking pretty nifty!
The Belt of the Elven King
The belt was one of the simplest (though still time-consuming) pieces of the costume. I cut the belt as a solid piece, then cut the smaller piece for center front which has the raised detailing appplied to it. I then sewed this piece to the solid belt piece and added two grommets in the back to tie it on.
The raised detailing is made of several tiny Worbla pieces which I painted and then applied to the center piece. Worbla is fantastic stuff!
I made this crown from two cut-up replicas of Lord Elrond’s crown. The bulk of Thranduil’s crown is in the back, so I just turned the Elrond crowns backwards, and glued both centre pieces together, stacked. I then used slippings to build a holder for the jewel at the center of his forehead, which I made out of worbla. Then I spray painted it blue with white along the edges.