I like cosplay and have actually done it occasionally for as long as I've been attending conventions and taking photos. My first cosplay was Rumina Asagi from an anime called Tokyo Underground that I wore at Ohayocon 2003. It was a simple cosplay that I assembled from pieces I found locally and online. The only homemade item for that costume was the long headband. Most of my costumes have been from pieces I find and then apply simple modifications to.
I just recently acquired a Zentai style (full body) Spiderman suit. What better costume would a photographer use? Peter Parker is probably one of the most well known photographers in the comic universe, so it was an easy decision.
The suits are around $50 shipped on Ebay, which was the absolute limit I was willing to risk on my idea. It turns out the costume isn't too bad for the price. The only thing I didn't like much was the eye mesh and lack of a clean finish to the cut-outs. The mesh was much too see-through, so I knew photos would turn out bad.
First, I tried just using sunglasses under the costume and that didn't work out too well. As the costume shifted, parts of my skin would be visible.
Next, I also tried sewing some white fabric on the inside to cover up the corners and other areas my skin would generally show through. It worked relatively well, but just wasn't enough and looked a bit odd. I wanted something better looking.
Finally, I broke down and bought some one-way mirrored film from Home Depot (Gila 3 ft. x 15 ft. Mirrored Privacy Control Window Film). The negative was it only comes in a massive quantity compared to what I needed, but was still a reasonable price and I could see it being useful for other projects (if you want to buy some or the rest of it from me and are around northern Illinois, let me know! haha).
As you can see from the photo above, I had a pretty simple construction process to follow.
- I cleaned up the eye sockets by removing small bits of fabric where the manufacture didn't properly cut things. This helped improve the visual look in general.
- I applied the privacy film to flexible plastic. In my case I randomly found 60 cent pencil cases at Walmart while I was looking for mirror film. One side of the case was usable and enough for both eyes.
- I applied the window film to the plastic with Windex and a credit card type object. I let that dry for a day compressed under a heavy object like a book. This step probably wasn't necessary and I think I could have used the film by itself because it already had a thin plastic backing to it. The one benefit is that it straightens out the film because it comes naturally curved from the store.
- I drew outlines on baggy plastic from the costume eyes because they are not exactly the same size. I then traced that onto the window film/plastic combination... making sure to have a large amount of extra around the eye for sewing.
- I sewed the eye pieces to the back inside of the costume, making sure I had it facing the proper direction. I decided on the inside because I wanted to keep the existing mesh and black outlining fabric. I think the mesh plus the mirror finish looks really good together. The mesh softens out the super reflectivity of the film.
- Sewing was the most difficult part for me. I have not spent the time to learn proper technique, so I've developed a method over the years that is basically extreme overkill. I sew and knot the string a large number of times around the eye holes. It looks messy in the back, but I really don't expect it to come undone ever. The key thing to do when sewing them on is to use pins to hold the eyepieces to the fabric. If you don't do that you will end up with a bad result. The pins keep it in position and free up both hands to handle the needle. Otherwise, I found it almost impossible to get the thing attached until I had that duh moment... "So that's what pins are for...." I also trimmed and rounded the eyepieces after sewing them so it wouldn't poke my face.
Below is the final result as a self portrait. I used full add-on flash. As you can see, the mirror film works great, not allowing my eyes to be seen at all. The film works best when there is no back-light, and in this situation with the mask, it works perfectly as designed. The mesh covering the film helps to give it a natural glow.
Visibility through the film and mesh together is good. I can easily see this being usable enough for me to do photography while wearing the costume, which was my main intention. I have yet to wear the costume at a convention, but I'm looking forward to it! I plan on wearing dress pants and collared shirt as to be a mixture of Peter Parker and his alter ego with, of course, one or two DSLR cameras and a camera bag to go along for the ride.