Toos, "Robots of Death" - Build Diary

The storm mine crew.Toos is second from left - and here is my finished costume.

3/28/14 - Half the costumes I take on are because I want to learn new skills. This one is going to be a corker. I've minimal experience with thermoplastics and absolutely zero in making headgear - guess what I've already identified as the most challenging aspect?

I must apologize for the quality of some of the screen shots. Because of technical issues when I started the build, I had to resort to snapping pix off the screen of my TV with my celphone. Over time, I'll endeavor to replace the fuzzy shots with something better. The "Seahorse" Hat and The Collar

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This last image clearly shows the location of the closures.

As the profile photo shows, the "cap" comes up from her head by a perceptible amount. I can't help thinking that might have been dictated by the structure of the crest, which seems to follow quite a different curve than the one describe by one's skull in profile. The crest looks like it's something pretty solid (aside from the cutouts), but very lightweight. Each "segment" seems to be very similar in width and height, suggesting that maybe the were all cut from the same template, but I can't be sure. I amsure thatthis hat is going to be the cause of some kind of breakdown.

As for the collar, my best guess is that it's gold lame' over thin foam (possibly over buckram) and wire. Closes in front with hooks and eyes. Pay attention to the screenshots that illustrate how far down the bottom part of the collar goes in the back as well as the front.

The Bodice And Accessories

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The bodysuit is a brown/tan stretch velour - confirmed by how it (apparently) changes color, depending on the angle of view. Depending on your size and fabric choices, the zipper up the back might be optional. If you watch the DVD closely in the first scene where everyone rushes to leave the mess hall (or whatever it's called), you'll see Toos pick up the gold collar and the "tunic" portion of her costume is clearly attached to it. Blink and you'll miss it.

The thing on her wrist is supposed to be a communicator, but many of the crews wore theirs on their chest, as per the medallion on Toos' catsuit. I don't know if what she's wearing on her wrist was a last minute addition upon realizing that having a character talk to her bosom would look ridiculous, or what. :)

You only get a glimpse of her boots a couple of times. These tiny images were the best I could grab, as she was in the background both times. If you don't mind the round toe and blockier heel, you could pick up costume "gogo" style boots from any Halloween supplier for about $40. For my part, I'm looking for used boots to paint.

The "tunic"

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Same fabric as the skirt (see below). It's a separate garment from the catsuit and cut like a sleeveless tunic. Possiblysome material is gathered at the shoulder seamto add fullness.

Various costume jewelry elements. As I'm planning to make the ensemble with the collar and hat, and the collar hides the embellishment on the top part of the catsuit, I'm not going to worry about them, so much. If I have the money and the time once the rest of the costume is done…

The Skirt

Image taken from an ebay auction when the original costume item was sold.

Note the bottom row and the inset running parallel to it. You can also see it in some of the screen shots where she's standing up.

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Detail of the skirt's waistband, also from the auction listing.Click through for larger image. See below for some caveats about that belt...

A friend of mine who is an expert in such things identified the primary fabric as velvet-embossed cupro. Cupro is a cellulose fabric, like rayon and tencel. The secondary fabric (the bottom 'ruffle' and contrast above it) looks like bog-standard poly satin, loosely gathered. However, I think that if you look for an 80s-style lurex fabric, you could use that. If your budget is significant and you don't mind running some risks, take a look for vintage cocktail dresses on Etsy that could be cut up and re-used.

The belt is a moderately sparkly gold lame' on top of something stiff, like buckram.Various paste jewels - rectangular cabochons and round faceted gems dominate -and bits offiligree. Note that the gems do not have any "crystal" "AB" or "jelly" type finish (popular among the Swarovski set), although the embellishments on the top of the bodice seemed to have an AB-type finish on them.

In some light, the "jewels" are a light-topaz sort of color. At another angle, the color reflects much darker, closer to the skirt of the fabric in shade.Opinions differ. I believe they're at the yellow/topaz end of the scale,foil-backedand reflect the darker fabric as chance occurs.

A Note on The Scale of the Waistband

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When I had only the ebay listing photos to refer to, I thought the waistband was three and a half, maybe four inches wide. Then I looked at the skirt while it was worn by the actor. Notice that it's nearly twice as wide as her fist resting above it. When she stands, the top of the waistband is at the high hip, and the bottom edge is below her full hip. That's a lot of space. Check out my mockups to see the difference between something that's 3.75" wide and 6" wide.

Other Pictures

Build Progress


I'm at the "Swatch like crazy" stage. I've gone through over a dozen fabrics and give copious thanks to the online sellers who offer swatches at reasonable prices. Under consideration for the skirt and tunicis everything from hand-embossed silk velvet (muggins here will be doing the embossing, oy!) to a metallic-striped poly chiffon which sounds all wrong when you see it in writingbut, with a matched lining behind it, actually reads quite well from a distance. I'm expecting what I hope will be the final round of swatches next week, by which point I should be able to make a decision for the skirt/drape and the bodice. (I spoke too soon re: bodice. I was swatching spandex and it's not! It's velour!)

Given the emphasis on sparkly, light-catching fabrics for all of the crew's costumes, I'm inclined to suggest that fellow cosplayers look into lurex and such like when creating their own versions.

Because I wanted to start on something easy and cheap, I doodled out a 1:1 scale mockup of the belt and ran smack into a conflict between my perception and the reality. See below.

My first attempt at a mockup for the waistband. I put it together working only from the ebay photo, which offered noscale and Idecided on a height of 3.75". The rectangles are 9mm x 17mm, and the "flowers" (the clustered crystals) are approximately 21mm at their widest point.The result isobviously far too crowded.

Then I took I finally located my Robots of Death DVD and took a look at the garment as worn, and noticed how much wider it was than I had assumed.

Second mockup, with a piece of filligree that will probably be the basis of the center-front of the waistband. Overall, it's 6" tall, now. The rectangles are 30mm x 11mm and the "flowers" are approximately 35mm at their widest point. I think it might be a bit too wide, now, but if I decide to do another mockup, I probably won't knock off more than half an inch, and adjust the other elements, accordingly. The white bits you see are stencils I cut out from styrene and used to speed up the doodling-out process.


I finally stopped dithering and made up my mind re: the round stones on the belt.

These are pressed glass flatbacks, sold under the name "Rauten Rose", in "iris brown". I dithered between 11mm and 13mm diameter, before deciding on 11mm. They're more gold than brown, but fell within my range for "good enough". My eagle-eyed boyfriend pointed out that the original items are not cut flat across the top (as Swarovskis are) which is another reason (along with cost) to choose the Rauten Rose.

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A test of both sizes compared to some test resin bits I created for the oblong element.The stones on the right are 13mm in diameter.

Unfortunately, even at far-less-than-Swarovski prices, I'll have to spread out the purchase of the 100+ I'll need over a couple of paychecks, so progress on the belt is stalled for the moment. I also need time to pour the 70+ resin cabochons as I only have molds for five at a time. (Open EVERY window when using polyurethane resin, kids!). I'm not 100% happy with the rectangular cabs (my guess is the original item actually used 3D sequins) but it's what I've got and I don't have the skill to make something in wax and strike a bunch of molds off that. You gotta pick your battles.

Browsing on ebay suggests that I might best use some costume jewelry earrings for part of the central belt element and the "medallion" that goes on the chest of the bodysuit. More on that, another time.

Next, I turned to the gold collar and making a mockup for that. Step one: paper.

This is the bottom portion of the collar. Note that the portion over the shoulders doesnotcome to a point, unlike the front and back. I am an idiot and am currently redrafting this piece. Yes, the collardoescome to a point over the shoulder.

The top half of the collar is giving me grief. I thought it was just a simple triangle, but it's not giving me the right line. I'm going back to the DVD this weekend before trying again.

Finally, I found some fabric that will suffice for the tunic and skirt.

Described on as "hatchi sparkle knit", the yardage was a much lighter brown than my monitor led me to believe.

(fabric.comphoto) (on my desk)

The stuff was on clearance so I couldn't swatch it before making a commitment. But for only $3/yd, I'm okay with that. With a dark brown lining behind it (it's quite sheer) it'll read a darker brown than it does on its own. There's a lot more gold in it than the pix lead you to believe, but that's an effect I think I could only capture on video. Short of buying every 1970s brown lurex cocktail dress I could find on Etsy (a move I was starting to contemplate) this will do. It's brown and sparkly. Good enough!

If you watch the DVD closely enough, you'll notice that the original fabric was quite sheer. There are several moments where you can see Toos' belt through the fabric of the tunic.

Slowly but surely, things are coming together. I'm going to try to crack the collar question over the weekend but, after that, it'll probably be a few weeks before a fresh entry goes online - see 'pouring resin' and 'installment purchases', above...


I got the collar pattern done, finally!

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The bottom part of the collar is on the left, the top part is one the right. I find it's easier to draft patterns "on the fold", even if I'm going to copy it over, manually, twice on the fabric, as I did on the buckram (you don't want to fold that stuff, it's feisty!).

This pattern is for the buckram portion. I'll be adding seam allowance when cutting the fabric. I almost made the mistake of cutting the buckram as I would the fabric and, oops, you can't ease buckram into, um, anything. The buckram portion will lay flat when sewn on to the collar. The fabric portion will have extended "tabs" in order to meet at the center front. The buckram does NOT close at center front, lest one end up looking like Ming the Merciless.

The wired mockup (but no buckram as I didn't want to faff with it).

I actually knocked an inch off the upper part of the collar after making this, but didn't think it was worth taking a photo of. But I'm finally at the point where, when the budget allows, I can pick up the fabric for it and put it together. It'll be nice to have ONE component actually done!

I also found something to modify into the chest medallion. Acquired from The Steampunk Supply Store on Etsy for $3. I just need to find a button or pre-made round cab to modify and glue into place.

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Build progress will be a bit slower over the next couple of months because the cashflow situation in my household is pretty dire. That said, I've got various bits in place that I can work on in the meantime. For example: the boots!

before... and after

As ever, there was a learning curve. I used Jacquard's Lumiere fabric paint in "True Gold" and a 1" foam brush. What I didn't anticipate is that even with a foam brush, you can get brush strokes and so you have to lay down a lot ofthincoats - varying your painting direction - to ensure that the final result looks smooth. If you get right up close to the boots, you can see some brush strokes from the final coat (I was getting impatient) but they're good enough under the "Ten Foot Rule"

If you follow a similar route, remember to clean the surface of your boots with acetone or rubbing alcohol (depending on the material)and be prepared to invest a lot more time than you expected. In all, the boots required about fourteen coats and most of an entire 2.25oz jar of paint. With the coats being thin, they dried pretty quickly and I got both boots done in a single weekend. Remember to wash out your brushes after every use! (d'oh!)


I finally finished the "accessories" that have been cluttering up my craft desk for the past few weeks

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The chest medallion and the wrist communicator.

Both pieces feature a large glass cabochon (found on ebay), covered with some gold mesh fabric I had in my stash. I dry-brushed the brass stamping with some gold paint to tone down the 'brassiness' and glued on the grey glass half-domes. I also attached two butterfly-clutch pin backs in order to anchor it firmly to the bodysuit when the time comes.

The 'petals' on the wrist-comm are exactly that: petals from a fake flower I bought at Michael's and painted over a few times with Jacquard's "True Gold" fabric paint. An unhealthy amount of glue was required to stick 'em on to the back. Eventually, I'll attach it to a wristband made from the bodysuit velour.

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This will be the central motif on the waistband of the skirt. Filigree, glass Swarovoski "pearls" and square sequins from General Bead in San Francisco, all attached with nylon beading cord. I found filigrees that were a better match in terms of look (crinkly edges, rather than smooth), but they were far too small. If I happen to find something better in the next few months, it'll be easy enough to rebuild.

April - August 2018

A lot of life happened in the past four years. I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that the realization that WorldCon was coming up in my (relative) backyard spurred me into picking up the project again. But it meant practically starting over with this build diary. I will add pictures as I dig them up off my phone...

So. The fabrics. Oh my god, the fabric selections kept changing as I agonized about trying to find a good match and which compromises would be acceptable. At first, I foolishly thought that I could find vintage yardage that would be a good match – the 80s weren't that long ago and everyone was making lurex knit cocktail dresses back then. Turns out that while that might have been the case, no-one was selling leftover yardage and buying an armload of dresses to cut up was too expensive – even assuming that the different fabrics would all match.

I found some pre-pleated taffeta that I thought would save me some aggravation when it came to the skirt, but I'm pretty sure that fabric will be waiting for me in hell, when the time comes.

Finding the velour that's used in the bodysuit and the hat was strangely challenging. Everyone wants gold velour for their ST:TOS cosplay, but there's surprisingly little demand (and supply) for light-brown velour – and too often, I'd click on an image that looked kinda-sorta right on my monitor, only to realize it was some iteration of gold/mustard on the sales listening. Eventually, I found a supplier on Etsy that let me buy a swatch before I committed. Always swatch when you can!

The Skirt

Not gonna lie, this was a pain to build. I've never pieced together something with sharp corners, never mind the fact that one of the two fabrics was a loose, sheer knit.

I made a mockup with some satin and a metallic knit that I had bought on assurance that it was brown and gold – it was not – and had been taking up space in my stash ever since. That helped me a LOT when it came to identifying potential pitfalls in assembly, hoboy. It also convinced me that I wanted to use some kind of pre-pleated fabric for the taffeta contrasty bits, as trying to put pleats in the satin for the mockup took years off my life and they didn't look so hot. To be honest, if my budget would have allowed, I would have assembled everything from perfectly flat fabric, and then sent it to a pleating service. In the end, I found a pre-pleated taffeta on sale from a pleating company (quelle surprise) in NYC and invested in a yard of same.

Fusible tricot saved my butt, throughout. Pellon offers a variety with a two-way stretch, so I cut and fused strips to all seam allowances, using the non-stretching direction to best effect. I also fused all of the pieces used for the middle inset row (between the two rows of pleated taffeta), as that was quicker and easier than fiddling about with individual strips. Unfortunately, I think it added a little too much body to the knit fabric, but it made it MUCH easier to sew. I tried sewing the knit without it and it was terrible. A person might have been able to manage it with tear-away stabilizer, but I didn't have any of that in my stash and I was too grumpy to go buy some.

Another challenge was scaling the skirt down to my size. I'm shorter than Pamela Salem AND I have disproportionately short legs for my height – I have the legs of someone 4' 10" on the torso of someone 5' 6". A skirt made to the same length as that worn by Ms. Salem would have literally dragged on the ground when put on me. So I had to rescale everything so that wouldn't happen by eyeballing the obvious "landmarks" – how far down the leg is the bottom hem, what proportion of the overall length seems to be taken up by each row of trim? How wide is the belt compared to the size of the actor's fist when she stands arms akimbo? Screenshots were very much my friend. By dint of lots of trial and error, I managed to put together some workable patterns for the skirt body and the three rows of "trim" – the zig-zags running along the bottom.

I almost came a cropper with that pre-pleated taffeta. It had a zig-zag pattern embossed on it and I thought I'd use that as my guideline for the shape of the zig-zags. Then I realized that the item on screen has six points to it, and given that the jersey hem was 120”, well, that wasn't going to work as that would have been a dozen “points” of the already-embossed pattern. I cut the taffeta to match the hemline on screen, as that's what would make me happiest.

(In hindsight, I cut the skirt far too full, but whaddyagonnado?)

The taffeta, once cut – see picture – had a great profile. Another attack of hindsight, I should have cut my jersey to match that line. But I had already cut it as show, above and, welp, I had to make it work because my budget was already blown and I was damned if I was ordering more fabric. I'm always willing to make compromises when my budget is shot.

I cut the bottom three rows (two of taffeta, one of knit) as a stack of individual vees, and then stitched them together, one atop the other. I could have probably done three "W"s instead of six vees, but they were easier for me to handle as "vees" and with my ADD-brain always keen to complicate things, I always try for the simplest approach. I stacked one each of the narrow, medium and widest trim and stitched them together. Then I took the six composite "vees" and attached them into one, 120" monstrosity, which I then attached to the bottom of the skirt. My lack of experience in piecing shows in the lack of super-sharp corners (I bet a quilter would have considered it all a doddle) but I was happy to simply get it done.

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Incidentally, when that little voice says "Maybe I should had baste this to that", LISTEN TO THAT VOICE. I hand basted the 120" monstrosity to the skirt body and I think that saved me a fair bit of heartache along the way. Especially as the pleated taffeta kept wanting to stretch out and I wanted the opposite effect – easing the jersey down to the same length as the "relaxed" state of the cut taffeta. It, er, mostly worked, I think.

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Unfortunately, I didn't account for the bulk that the tricot would add to the seam where the top of the skirt meets the waistband. I've done my best to press it into submission and, in hindsight, I wonder if I couldn't have gotten away with a 2:1 gather instead of 3:1, but that will have to remain a mystery for the ages. As it was, a cold press with a bone-folder on an hard surface, followed by a medium-hot iron and a press cloth took most of the fight out of the fabric. Ditto for the seam allowances on the inset rows.

The waistband had to be stiff enough to hold its shape and support heavy embellishment, yet not so stiff that I couldn't wrap it around my hips. I tried a heavy buckram as a base, but it was too stiff. Fabric alone – even denim – was too floppy. In the end, I used a lightweight buckram (that's what Pellon called it, but I wouldn't), covered with a thin layer of twill to cover any sharp edges and then I covered that with two layers of a fabulous vintage lurex fabric I found via Etsy. I wanted to get away with only one layer but the fabric was, again, light to the point of being see-through. Afterwards, of course, I thought of a different approach that would have let me manage that without seriously bulking up the back of the belt (see photo) but that's the way of things, sometimes. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough of that vintage yardage left to re-cut and re-do the belt, else I would have cheerfully done so.

About a year ago, I learned that the original skirt is on sale at some auction site for 2500GBP (!) and that yielded some extremely useful detailed photos which confirmed a couple of things: most of the embellishments are sequins that you can't find for blood or money, now (and I tried!) and the belt was covered in some crinkly, lurex-y fabric, on top of a canvas base.

I found some vintage sequins that are a good match for the rectangular ones on the belt, which got me out of doing arcane things with tinted resin – thank heavens. The sequins were sewn on by machine with a metallic gold thread and the glass flatbacks were attached with a LOT of Aileen's "Jewel-It" glue. The latter is great stuff. It holds like a demon and dries clear. The directions are NOT kidding when they say to use enough glue to allow a "rim" of it to come up around the base of your embellishment and yes, it really does dry clear, even when it's quite thick!

The Bodysuit

Design notes: high neckline, long sleeves, stretch velvet (aka velour). There are decorative nailheads on the bodysuit that match the ones on the belt, but they're only visible when you're not wearing the tunic/collar combo, so it's up to you if you want to bother replicating that element. The original bodysuit had a zipper up the back.

This was the easiest bit of the entire costume, if you ask me. I found a print-on-demand pattern for bodysuit that had the right neckline and sleeves and – this was a big selling point for me – snaps at the crotch, so I could go to the bathroom without having to completely disrobe. I generally try to avoid all liquids starting about two hours before I get into a costume because of bathroom woes, but when you gotta go, you gotta go…

The pattern came together easily enough and I sweated far more about gluing the flat-backs on to it than anything else. I cut up an old shipping box to the approximate size and shape of the upper part of the bodysuit when lying flat, and put that inside, so it soaked up excess glue. And good thing I did, too, because – you guessed it – the glue soaked through. It also worked like a charm - Aileen's “Jewel It” - more about that in the discussion of the skirt.

The Collar

Design points of note: It's about "three fingers" wider than Toos' shoulder, and about one head long, in back. It's short enough in front that it doesn't' obscure the "communicator" on the bodysuit. It closes with several hooks and eyes in the front – you can just see them in a couple of shots. The back sticks out just because it can't help but do that when worn. I suspect – but I can't be certain – that the original might have a wire running in the channel between the top-stitching and the outer edge, to help shape it. More about that, below.

I thought that I'd have that sucker thrown together in a weekend, once the pattern was sorted. HAHAHAHAHA. No.

Cutting the buckram and marrying the upper and lower portions went just fine. I used two layers of heavyweight buckram for the lower part of the collar, to give those pointy wings a chance to stand out without drooping, but only a single layer for the upper part. I tried two layers for the upper portion, but it was too stiff to curl back in on itself. I covered the upper and lower parts with some lightweight cotton (thrift store sheets are awesome) to smooth out the sharp edges and hide the buckram's texture. That all went quite well. Covering it, on the other hand…

It turns out that when you cover a curved buckram shape with a non-stretch fabric, you need to add a LOT of ease. So much ease that I gave up trying and ended up using spandex, instead. I was unhappy about that, as the original is clearly some sort of tissue lame, but I'd wasted two weekends and two different yardages of fabric trying to make it work with a non-stretch fabric. It took about thirty hours in all, which was ridiculous for such a small item.

Matters were further complicated when I realized that the metallic spandex I had kept in storage since 2014 had aged badly and the metallic finish wore off while I was handling it – a fact that wasn't apparent until I was almost done with covering the buckram frame. So off it came and I had to buy yet MORE spandex and re-do the cover. Even the new yardage quickly showed signs of wear, so I would suggest making another fabric work for you, if at all possible.

Note: you might be tempted to wire the edge of the upper part of the collar to help shape it. It's not necessary and makes covering it a lot harder than it needs to be. Guess how I know this? I ended up tossing the wired form out and re-making it, during which I refined the overall shape a bit, too. I top stitched it in order to keep everything in place and because I noticed that the original was also top-stitched, probably for the same reason.

And then, THEN, when it was all done, the damn thing sprung away from my body like whoa. It was ludicrous. "No problem," I thought. "I'll put it on my dress form and steam it with my travel steamer and that'll re-shape it." Which would have been a dandy plan had it not become apparent that the metallic spandex was extremely water resistant. In the end, I had to lie it down on soaking-wet towels, with another wet towel on top, and leave it that way for about half an hour, in order for the water to penetrate it and get to the buckram. Once it was wet, I pinned it to my dress form in the desired shape and walked away. There was a heatwave going on at the time, so it was dry in less than two days and, hooray, the correct shape. The buckram feels MUCH stiffer underhand, now, but it's nothing that's visible to the naked eye.

The Tunic

Design points of note: there's a lot of material in the front – look at the gathering at the shoulder. The tunic is long enough to cover the bottom of the waistband of the skirt when Toos is standing up. It has a straight hem at the bottom. It's permanently attached to the collar. There's a scene where the crew are relaxing in the mess, and you see Toos pick up her collar as she's leaving, and the tunic can be seen, hanging from it, clearly of a piece.

I used the same lurex knit fabric as the skirt and, as per the skirt, the "wrong" side of the fabric was used. At first, I thought I could zen my way through just, y'know, cutting three rectangles and bodging them together, two in front, one in back. But that little voice said "You have lots of scrap fabric, make a mockup" and, as usual, that little voice was right. Long story short, I ended up finding a 1960s pattern for an open vest – very hippy-dippy - and that gave me a much better starting point. I had to convert a bust dart to a shoulder gather, and move a dark in the back of the neck to the armhole, but those weren't difficult adjustments to make. I then slashed-and-spread the front – and ONLY the front – by about four inches to increase the amount of fabric gathered up at the shoulder – look at the screenshot to see what I'm referring to – and altered the front opening just a tad, so that it hangs straight down from where my neck meets my shoulder.

The Hat

Oh god, the hat. Or, as it was quickly christened "That Damn Hat".

(In hindsight, this was definitely a bit ambitious for a first hat project!)

Design notes: the hat can be broken down into three parts: the crest, the crown and the headband.

The crest is seven identical segments, each segment encompassing 30 degrees. It's a brown/gold-green, with gold pinstriping along the "spines" and where it attaches to the crown. I suspect this hides some molding/junction marks. Each segment is slightly more than the distance from the wearer's chin to their eyebrows. There's that proportional measuring, again! The crest is circular in cross section. This matters because our skulls aren't, and that's why the crest mounted on to the crown and not directly on to Salem's head. The very front edge of the crest – the leading "spine" is not quite straight. I think this might have been to move it towards the edge of the wearer's field of vision. I can attest that it's a damn distracting hat to wear.

The crown exists as the connection between the crest and the wearer's head. It seems to be covered in the same fabric as the bodysuit – or else painted to match - and embellished with variable gold stripes.

The headband is the hardest to guess at the full shape, as you really only see the front and a tiny bit of the side. After trial, error and help from friends, I decided it had to be semi-rigid in front, but elasticated in the back, to hold the hold thing steady on the wearer's head. The headband is made from the same fabric as the bodysuit.

Where the crown meets the headband, there is leather piping between the two. The same piping outlines the cutouts on the crown.

I'm not going to bore you with the tales of what I tried that didn't work. And, to be honest, if I could start it over again, I'd invest the time and money in learning how to make things with fiberglass and/or EVA foam and do it that way. (Since writing this, learning EVA fabrication has become my top priority).

The crest, I made mine from two sheets of Wonderflex, fused together with some dowels in between (later removed, which was a mistake) and the holes cut out, afterwards. “Flanges” on the inside curve of the crest created an attachment point to the crown. I gave the crest it's texture by sponging on extra-heavy gesso and built up the body of the spines with Magic Sculpt (a two-part epoxy resin from TAP Plastics, it's not cheap but it's very easy to use and can be sanded and painted once dry.)

The crown was an adventure in make-it-up-as-you-go-along. I took two 8” diameter brass rings (macramé supplies) cut about a third out of them, leaving me with two metal not-quite-circles. Using my wig form and some helpful advice from Evil Ted's YouTube channel, I made a partial coverage skullcap from Wonderflex, the long edges of which, I overlapped on to the cut metal rings. The metal meant I couldn't accidentally distort the crown while handling or wearing it. These metal rings were also my guide will drafting the pattern for the crest. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES: don't draw the pattern for your crown to the outer-circumference of your macramé rings and the pattern for your crest to the inner circumference. It turns out the difference between the two REALLY MATTERS – especially when you do it that way. I ended up adding extra “tips” to the spines to restore height that I lost trying to fix the issue.

I built up the crown with Magic Sculpt so that it would have the proper circular profile to accommodate the crest. I should have added more to the noggin to get a better profile when viewing from the front but see “I won't bore you with my mistakes”, above. Eventually, the crest was attached with JB's PlasticBond (NOT PlasticWeld) and even more Magic Sculpt to fill in the gaps. And quite a lot of superglue and baking soda to fill in the visible lines where the two sheets of Wonderflex met.

This is when I realized that the crest was crooked. I shouldn't have removed those dowels. And I should have paid closer attention to it when sticking it to the crown. Oh well.

I painted the crest with an awful lot of Jacquard Lumiere's “Old Bronze” mostly because it was what I had in my stash and I liked it. The gold detailing on the spines was 1/8” automotive pinstriping tape, cut in half lengthwise and, after a few frustrating experiences, attached with 3M Super 77 adhesive. (Spray the back of the tape one piece at a time and well away from anything you don't want rendered sticky until the end of time, then attach.)

Using the pattern I created to build the crown, I devised a fabric cover for it that did NOT have a seam in the front. I cut it first from cotton – to help hide any lingering bumps post-sanding-of-the-Magic-Sculpt - and then from the same velour as the bodysuit. Careful application of hot glue put them where they needed to be.

The gold stripes are two types of craft ribbon, hot-glued down and clipped where necessary to get around curves.

I had planned to use home-made piping (crafted from faux vinyl) but there were issues with that – it added bulk where I didn't want it and was simultaneously NOT bulky enough for the unexpectedly thick edge of the crown. I ended up splitting the difference, so to speak, and glued 3mm rattail cord (aka “satin cord”) where the piping would go. In that case, I used FabriTac rather than hot glue, as I wanted the increased working time.

The headband pattern was derived from some draping on my wig form (it's worth buying the type that comes in standard hat sizes, not S/M/L) and after two attempts that didn't go well for reasons I won't iterate, I ended up with the pattern below. I made it from buckram and, like the gold collar, I covered it with a thin layer of cotton and then with the final fabric (more velour).

It turns out that lots of little darts from the edge of the forehead towards the crown are key for creating something that will fit close to the wearer's forehead AND fit the crown with minimal gaps. And I needed that close fit for both screen accuracy and so I can hide the bangs from my wig behind it – I didn't want to cut them off, as that would limit the wig's use in other costumes.

Note: once you've stitched your little darts into place, go ahead and steam the life out of it on your headform. It'll smooth out the pointy ends of the dart (to a certain degree) and smooth the surface of the buckram a bit. For a highly visible piece like the front of the hat, as smooth an appearance as possible is desirable!

The headband looks a little funky from the side, so let me explain. It extends about three-quarters of the way around the skull, with the final part being 1” elastic, stretching for all its worth, and that's how the whole mess is kept on my head. The headband is glued in at the front, to the crown, all the way to the side of the cutouts, and then it hangs free from there. The hat is donned in a slightly fiddly way, so that the headband can rest wrapped around the back of the skull, under the tail end of the crest. My wig hides pretty much the entire thing, except the forehead.

During construction, I discovered that too much elastic can make it too hard to pull the headband down over one's skull, so keep that in mind. Also keep in mind how much room your wig (if any) will take up and adjust your plans for hat construction accordingly. I didn't and that led to a late night's cursing and sweaty-palmed application of the Dremel to discreetly reduce some dimensions that I had thought were laid down in stone and cemented accordingly.

To my surprise, the entire mess rests pretty well on my head, even without the headband in place. I'm not saying I'll go dancing in it, but I'm less worried about it falling off my head than I was. The two challenges in wearing it are 1) it's very warm, especially with a wig and 2) I take up a lot more space coming and going than I'm used to. I have to be careful not to sit too close to a wall, or get too close to a person in front of me.

And here I am on stage at WorldCon76. Lacking a snappy idea for a memorable presentation, I simply called it "Storm Mine Survivor" and strutted out on stage. I hadn't intended to look QUITE so stern, but the hat was hurting my head because I hadn't put it on JUST right. Oof. Still, I'm glad with how it turned out! I received an award for "Attention to detail" as well as for stage presence. 

Update, 2019: Despite a MUCH sillier presentation at Gallifrey One, I won best in class for workmanship and an honorable mention for presentation. Very pleased. And now I have to totally rebuild the hat because part of the crown ripped while I was wearing it, AUGH! (I can hide it with the wig, but I *should* rebuild it to address some fit issues).

Having fun with VOC at Gallifrey One.

Did you know the best lighting at Gallifrey One is in the elevators?

Sources for Materials

Spandex World - swatches for the catsuit (before I realized I needed velour)
Vogue Fabrics Store - various fabric swatches for skirt/bodice
Fabric.Com - various swatches for, um, everything
Fabric Outlet - great overstock fabric store at 16th & Mission in San Francisco
Silk Baron - gorgeous silk fabrics: velvet, dupioni, taffeta, etc
Sy Fabrics- retail store in Los Angeles that also sells online. Slightly cheaper than Silk Baron for silk velvet, but the selection is different.

Rhinestone Guy - Source of the "Rauten Rose" flatbacks. Great customer service!
All Star Co - Rhinestones and associated fixings. Good place for acrylic knockoffs of Swarovski.
Fire Mountain Gems - First place to go to look for Swarovski crystals, which I can't afford, but lust afternonetheless.
General Bead - retail storefront in San Francisco, but I believe they run an Etsy shop, too. Source for many small bits and pieces used in creating the accessories (sequins, glass beads, pin backs, etc)

Other Bits
Reynolds' Advanced Materials - Body casting materials andveryhelpful tutorials.
Douglas & Sturgess - San Francisco retailer for body casting materials. Also offers classes.
Sassy Shoes - a place to learn about the pitfalls of upcycling your shoes (and other things) with paint, glitter and embellishments. Fabulous examples of their work, too!
Other Costumes I've Made

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