(Click on thumbnails for bigger pictures over on photobucket.)
I swear these wings have some sort of camera curse on them – not only did I end up with only one teeny tiny blurry picture of me in costume the night I wore these at D*C, they’ve also proven to be extremely difficult to photograph at home, either on me or lying flat. I’m not quite sure what the deal is. ;P I’ve managed to assemble a couple of not too horrible pictures, hopefully enough to give you guys an idea of the look and construction behind the wings.
So the basic idea for these was to have really big iridescent fairy wings at DragonCon, big enough that they could easily be seen looking at me head-on. The biggest constraint to this was that I live in California and D*C is in Atlanta, so these had to be able to fit into my suitcase for the plane – specifically into the mesh section on the lid – while still being nice and big. I also wanted to avoid any sort of shoulder straps, and absolutely did not want any flowers or other objects covering up the brace in back.
With that in mind and my suitcase measurements in hand, I started looking at all the fairy pictures I could find, saving out ones with wings I liked. I found that the ones that caught my eye were multi-segmented, with complex shapes and no smooth edges. I started sketching based on what I liked, first defining the shape I wanted, and then later starting to decide where the veins would go. I decided on wings in three pieces: the large upper statement wings, tiny lower wings to hang down past my waist, and a middle pair that would add some depth and could also be worn alone (see icon).
Once I was happy with my design and vein placement, I bought a couple of big pieces of poster board and drew each individual wing out life-size. These acted as my pattern pieces, and helped me get the wings at least mostly symmetrical. For the construction, I used 18 gauge galvanized steel wire, one layer of iridescent cellophane, and two layers of lightweight clear vinyl, all held together with a glue stick, ironing, and floral tape on the back brace. The 18 gauge steel was lightweight, but generally strong enough to hold up the wings, and soft enough that I was able to bend everything into shape by hand, no tools other than wire cutters – this let me keep the steel naked inside the cello and vinyl, since there were no tool marks. I did the branching veins by carefully bending and re-bending the wire until the two pieces laid close to each other, right up until the split point, again with no adhesives or tools. The poster board patterns helped tons here.
The trickiest part of the design was definitely the back brace, where the wings came together in the middle. Because of my constraints – must fit in a suitcase, no shoulder straps, no objects to cover the back brace – I had to spend a long time on this part. What I ended up coming up with was the concept of wings that attach to the back band of my bra. I’m rather large chested (28J actually), so I had plenty of counter weight, but I think this would work for any C cup or larger, as long as you’re wearing the correct band size (ie, tight enough).
I constructed the middle set of wings first (and posted about it much earlier this year, here), since they did not have to be hinged (I’ll get to that below). The design for the back brace here was a straight bar connecting the two wings, with a U shaped part pointing downward to lie flat against my back and keep the wings from flopping around. The straight part is laid on top of the bra band, and then a piece of fabric is snapped around the bra and wing brace, holding them together. (This set is also small enough and light enough that I can just tuck them into the band of my bra and have them stay pretty well, unless I’ll doing serious dancing or something.) For this set, vein wires from one wing ran through the back brace (half going along the straight bar, half along the U shape) and into the other wing, for stability.
For the other two sets of wings, I did a hinged back brace, so that the wings could be folded in half and stuck in my suitcase. When all three sets are combined together, the hinges on the tiny set and the giant set are pressed open by the straight bar of the middle set, with everything held tight together by the fabric piece holding them to the bra band. At DragonCon I also ended up twist tying each of the three sets of U’s together so that they didn’t rotate independently of each other. The U was hidden under my dress and the straight bar part was hidden by the fabric snap cover (made from the same fabric as the dress), so you had to get up pretty close to see how they were attached. The straps you see in the pictures here are the straps for my bra and for my dress – none attached to the wings at all.
The finished wings have a wingspan of 40” and are 26” tall all together, while the smaller, stand-alone set has a wingspan of 22.5” and a height of 16”. I had originally planned to use floral tape to connect the largest set and the tiny below-the-waist set together, but found as I made them that they functioned just fine separately, and not attaching them allowed me to take a slightly smaller suitcase. All three sets of wings fit into the mesh section on the inside lid of the suitcase no problem, and travelled really well flat. Once I got there I bent the smaller set outwards and tweaked the other two, and then just folded them all flat again to go home. The wire handles being bent and re-bent quite well, and it adds interesting and realistic looking wrinkles to the cellophane, I think.
Despite how large they are, I actually didn’t have much trouble moving around in the crowds at DragonCon. Because the steel is so lightweight, I was able to grab the tips of the larger set of wings and pull them down around my shoulders to fit through tight spaces and keep people from running into them. And even with all the times people did run into them, they maintained their shape and didn’t get damaged at all. They were also extremely comfortable to wear, because of the way they’re connected and how lightweight they are, and I spent quite a bit of time just sitting and drinking in them, which worked well as long as I didn’t lean back. ;)
If I had these to do over again, the only things I would change would be to add a second wire along the top edge of the larger set, rather than having just one non-splitting vein there, and I would make the tiny below-the-waist set even bigger/longer, since I had tons of room in the suitcase for them, since they weren’t connected to the big piece. All in all I’m quite happy with how they turned out. I just wish I could have gotten more and better pictures of the whole outfit. Maybe at Halloween.
For next year, I’ve already started planning a Steampunk Tinkerbell costume, with hinged wings that can fit in a carry-on bag. ;)