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Cosplaying with Duct Tape

by Kevin "Norumu" Casper, Nov 11th 2007



About the Author: Kevin “Norumu” Casper is best known for creating his elaborate costumes entirely with duct tape and cardboard.



Cosplay... the ultimate tribute to fandom and excitement. It's probably the geekiest thing someone could do for their love of a character or of a series, but that's what's so cool about it. I discovered lots of love in the hobby of cosplay. I see it not only as a great way to express your interests, but an even better way to find those who have the same interest. That's where you get to the conventions, where most cosplay is seen and shown. Cosplay is an art for people to recreate their character upon themselves, and then allow their peers to enjoy the character as being visually alive. Though, once called an art, it suddenly becomes something with a bit of a challenge, requiring effort and struggle to get the details to fit well and look even better.

Why duct tape?

Anime and video games often defy physics, as many of us know. Thus, we need materials that can be crafted to look just like the astonishing worlds of our series. One could use all sorts of things, most found at any local craft shop. This goes for different foams, WonderFlex, hot glue, and many assorted fabrics. These materials are relatively easy to find and thanks to plenty of tutorials and instruction manuals, probably even easier to work with. I'm a bit of a specialist, though. I don't use any of those materials. I've never worked with WonderFlex or hot glue. I've only once tried to sew a costume together, doing a terrible job at it, as I lack a sewing machine and the interest in investing in one. I found a different medium to work with, one that works somewhat like fabric, holds itself together, and is resilient to earth, fire, wind, and water. It's duct tape.

Some time ago, I had a school sponsored dance to attend, with a theme of “Make Believe.” Well, my mind went straight to making a suit of armor for it, so I needed to think of a material that would be easy to find, work with, and look kind of like metal. Silver duct tape was my answer, and it just grew from there. I became first known by a few people as the Duct Tape Samurai, especially once I had color on the costume, thanks to the discovery of colored duct tape. Since then, I've made Lu Bu from Dynasty Warriors 4, the Grunt creature from the Halo series, Gordon Freeman from the Half Life series, and an original comic style arch-villain for the City of Villains Halloween release costume contest. For 2007, I'm in the making WonderChef from Tales of Symphonia, Gilgamesh from the Final Fantasy series, and a Happy Happyist from the classic game Earthbound. I also went to my senior high school prom in all duct tape, as did my date, where I made both outfits, each having a big green dragon shooting flames all over the place on them. All of the above mentioned are made of duct tape and cardboard, with cardboard serving as large structural support.

Working with duct tape

Duct tape and cardboard is both really easy and incredibly difficult to work with. The first objective is to find the materials, considering you know what you want to make a costume of. My easy source for many colors of duct tape is through Wal-Mart, which carries the Duck brand color assortment, which is one of the best looking brands of duct tape in my opinion. My other main source is ordered online from DuctTapeFashion.com, a great source for huge rolls of somewhat obscure colors, like burgundy and olive! Cardboard is incredibly easy to find; you can use the packages you may receive in your home. You can also go behind different stores, and they should have heaps of cardboard in piles back there; just make sure they're somewhat clean, as you want them to be solid.

Now, you need the tools to manipulate this material. All I use are a pair of utility scissors and a utility knife, both of which can be found at any hardware store. Just recently, I got myself a fabric cutting board so I'd have a surface to slice designs on without destroying my desk or some other tabletop. Also, having at least four fingers is rather useful too.

The final step is to put your plan into action! There's no sewing, gluing, or painting. You just take your layers and stick them together until you get the shape and colors that you need. At least, that's how I approach all of my work. I don't draw out any plans or anything. I just keep putting on tape and cutting pieces off until it looks like what it's supposed to be. The best way I do it is use the normal gray duct tape to make a base and shape the costume piece I'm working on. This is because gray duct tape is extremely common and usually cheaper than colors for the amount you can get it in. Also, it's perfect for holding pieces of cardboard together, smoothing out surfaces, and simply forming that shape that you need. Then you just apply a layer or two of the color over it, which not only colors it, but also solidifies the hold that much more.

Things to keep in mind

There's nothing to fear about making the costume, just make sure you line the inside with a non-sticky side of tape. Basically, when making the base of your costume, just tape two separate pieces together, sticky sides together, so your costume doesn't stick to you and so you can reuse it! Further cautions for a duct tape costume is that duct tape was made to be rather strong, so it can be somewhat stiff as a fabric, especially when you have four or more layers of tape. Duct tape doesn't breathe either, one way or the other. Refreshing and circulated air will not come through it, and your body heat will not leave through the duct tape, so sweat will happen, and the material is also waterproof, so it won't go through the tape either. Rather gross details, but it happens, just be sure you stay cool.

I just keep in mind what I consider to be the number one golden rule of cosplay, and that's “For the sake of Cosplay.” It means that you'll give up your time, money, and comfort so that you can look good and feel great as your character whenever you wear that costume. So for some final tips, I'd just say smile, work hard, and keep yourself friendly.

If any of you want any personal notes, tips, or ideas, send me a message on Cosplay.com. I'll be more than happy to get right back to you!


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