Faerie Friday: Feathers and Harpies!

April 10, 2015 in blog posts, faerie fridays

harpy edit

These are pictures from the Disco II World Science Fiction Convention, held in Washington DC in 1972. This is my infamous Harpy costume.

I am told there was a poster of this costume made at one point. Classically, harpies are always portrayed topless.

The man next to me is the late Jim Rollhauser, who portrayed Groucho as a separate entry, but because he followed after me on stage, he pulled out a net and chased after me.

Three things I learned:

  1. When you make an uncomfortable costume piece, be prepared to pay for it, especially if the Masquerade runs for five and a half hours! I was very proud of having accomplished the effect of wings on a nude body, which meant that the harness was very small and tight. This meant by the end of that very long evening, I had blood running down my back!
  2. Gluing feathers and real copper straight onto your skin not only is hard to get remove later, but it takes a very long time, even if you have four friends helping!
  3. Finally, think through your makeup. Back in the day, I was embarrassed of this costume, not because of it being scandalous, but because that night I had chosen to do a ravenous kind of makeup, something sort of monstrous and evil. Later, I wished I had gone glamorous instead. That is often the problem when portraying characters: choosing between what your soul says is the right thing to do, and what your ego would rather have you do instead!

Here are three different methods of applying feathers to costumes:

  1. When applying to fabric, use a fabric with a good texture, such as velvet or sweatshirt material, that will let the glue really grip. Smear contact adhesive on the fabric, then paint some down the quill of each feather. After waiting a few minutes, press the feathers onto the prepared fabric, where it will bond and become very strong. I learned this method from a friend who made Native American headdresses and regalia.
  2. To stick faster, you can use hot glue, again running a bead of glue down the quill. However, this doesn’t last very long and is not as strong. A better method is to put some tacky glue on the quill, leaving at least two spaces on the feather bare. Then put dots of hot glue on both of those spaces and press it onto your fabric. This way, the feather will be clamped down until the stronger white glue can dry.
  3. When I have had to apply lots of feathers quickly and durability doesn’t matter as much, I have resorted to using vinyl or plastic as the base and then using tape, such as packing tape or duct tape, to tape each feather down. Make sure you put the feathers thick enough to cover up what you have done if you use this method!