Saturday, 25 April 2015

Mummy Boy

For my last year of school I take 3 subjects for A Level: Textiles, Drama and Sociology. In Drama we had to come up with a devised piece, made up entirely by ourselves which is then performed. The rest of my class was marked for their performance, but I of course chose to make the costumes instead. Our group decided to use Tim Burton's 'Mummy Boy' poem as a basis for our devised piece. The actors needed a Mummy Boy costume each as they were multi-roleing, a virgin sacrifice costume, something fit for a mexican, beetle costumes and a mummy dog. 

 I made the 2 Mummy Boy costumes and the Virgin Sacrifice costume which I'll talk about in a later blog post. The key factor in Mummy Boy’s costume was that it needed to be removed easily, as the actor sheds the costume to become a beetle. Both actors needed a Mummy Boy costume as they multi-role as Mummy Boy throughout the play. With this in mind, I ordered 2 all in one non-woven suits that zipped up the front which could be covered in bandages. These could be easily taken off by the actors.  For the bandages, I did some researching on breaking down costumes to make them look old and worn and the answer seemed to be tea. So I dug around in the linen closet for some old white sheets and dunked them in boiling water (in a bucket) with about a dozen tea bags for a couple of hours. 
My tea-stained sheets worked out pretty well, but they didn't look disgusting enough for a mummy. Remember, mummy's have to wear their bandages for thousands of years, so they must get pretty mucky. The solution to this was to paint random brown streaks all over the sheets, to liven them up a bit. I had to do quite a few sets of sheets, and it was definitely easier to paint them whole, and then rip them up into bandages.
Then, the bandage ripping commenced. I started ripping quite narrow stripes, then realised that the narrower the strips were, the more I was going to have to sew on, so I made the bandages quite a bit wider after that. After all of the bandages were ripped, it was time to sew them onto the overalls. This meant a lot, and I mean a lot of hand sewing. 
Ta-da, the suit was pretty much entirely covered in bandages! Of course, I had to try it on to see how flexible it was. I found that wrapping the strips, then sewing them on made the suit tighter so for the second Mummy Boy suit I sewed each strip at a time. This took much longer, but did the job properly. After this one was finished, I had to start all over again for the second one!
The zip on the second Mummy Boy costume broke and was replaced with adhesive Velcro. This was also done with the first suit as the actor found it was easier to get on and off. However, the sound of Velcro ripping is clearly heard when changing costumes. There was an incident in rehearsal which resulted in all of the Velcro ripping off the suit so both sides of the Velcro were better secured to ensure that it did not happen again. My machine did not like sewing on the stick on velcro atall. The needle and underplate got all gummed up and disgusting and I had to scrape all the sticky residue off. Never again. Next time I will just buy sew-in velcro. 
I kept finding gaps to fill in rehearsals, and crotches kept ripping, so I was sewing bandages on pretty much up to the day of the performance. The overalls were only a couple of pounds so the quality was rubbish and they ripped really easily. Next time I'd do for something something more stable. Another way to do things would be to sew a huge sheet of bandages to make bandage fabric, and then cut overall pieces out of that and sew them together, but I think it might have lost the 3-D effect.
To secure the bandages I did a prick stitch on the right side and a long running stitch on the wrong side. The issue was that the long running stitch caught easily when the actors put the costume on, so the stitches ripped easily. If I made the running stitches shorter on the wrong side it would just be too time consuming. When the strips had been handsewn to the overalls, I sewed the bandages down in key areas by machine in a matching thread, that shouldn’t be visible to the audience to make the bandages as secure as possible. The overalls were very tricky to manoeuvre around the sewing machine.
Mummy dog was just a puppet wrapped in bandages. For our set, we covered everything in bandages, including the audience. 
I'm really proud of my Mummy Boy costumes, because they took a lot of time, effort and perserverance to make. And on the plus side at least I have something to wear for halloween next year!
Thank you to Emma and Katherine for wearing my costumes so well, and to Emma and Katie for taking pictures during the performance. I hope you enjoyed reading about something a little different than my usual floral dresses!
Lauren xx


  1. The costumes look great. I've read that the Royal Shakespeare Company use industrial strength magnets in their costumes to avoid the problems you mention with zips & velcro. It's interesting to read about a different type of sewing & the different things you need to consider

    1. Thank you! There are so many different things to think about when costume designing and sewing!

  2. These are great costumes. Love it. I used to teach drama and theatre studies and always loved it when students chose set design or costume for their practical. Looks like your piece was really exciting, love the idea of bandaging the audience too!

    1. Thank you! I'm the only one at school whose ever done costumes instead of acting.

  3. Your costumes are fabulous! I really love how the bandages look messy and random! Your distressing is perfect and you were very smart to distress BEFORE ripping into strips! =)

    Because everything in costuming is a learning experience and "how can I make this easier/better if I have to do it again", here are a couple of my thoughts if I had to tackle something like this:

    * Sometimes it helps to sew velcro on with a zigzag stitch. (And definitely don't try to sew the sticky kind - ick!) I think whopper poppers or junior whopper sized snaps would have been better in this situation though.
    * Tea dyeing the jumpsuits to match the bandages would have helped with the appearance of gaps between the strips and you might have been able to use fewer strips.
    * Sometimes it's actually easier to build everything, but in situations where you really don't have time to build the under layers, you can still speed it up a little. I would have ripped open the entire leg/crotch inseam and sleeve seams on the jumpsuits to spread the legs & sleeves flat. That way you could attach all the strips to something flat by machine and even sewing on the body would have been easier to access by machine. After all the bandages where attached, you could stitch the inseams and sleeves back up.

    You are going to have so much fun getting your costuming degree! I'm so impressed by your ability already - you definitely have the natural problem solving & planning ahead skills all good costumers have!

    1. Brooke, thank you so much for all of the feedback! It really is so useful. I can't believe that I didn't tea-dye the jumpsuits. It all seems so obvious now!

  4. These look so great and I love how you solved so many of the problems by just thinking it through and going step by step. That's really good.
    Brooke's advice is fabulous, it's so lovely she drops in to give such great insights, I think we all learn from them!

  5. Your costumes turned out great! I like the comments about alternate fasteners and opening the jumpsuit seams. My thought for speed enhancement is to apply bandages with hot glue, white glue, or fusible web, any of which would be much faster than hand sewing. Oh, and I just had a vision of a jumpsuit stuffed with wadded newspaper (or whatever) prior to gluing bandages on; no idea if it'd work, but the mental image is fun. LOL