I think a lot of you have probably seen the Poirot costume I made for this year's Halloween, but I thought I'd share with you the behind the scenes work that went into it, and how I made the different components.
It took me several months to create the whole costume bit by bit, and I started planning it pretty much straight after the Halloween before.
I bent some wire I had left over from making Tiny Hannah
into the correct shape using reference photos.
I then cut a shorter length to go across the top of the glasses,
and created a loop to attach the cord with a thinner wire by
twisting around several times and bending the end into a loop.
I secured the wire together and added nose cushions and other details
with Sugru - a plasticine-like glue substance that dries like rubber.
I spray painted the whole lot gold with some spray
paint I had left over from another project.
I added some spare thin ribbon from my trimmings stash for the cord.
Poirot has a couple of cane options but I thought the silver swan swan was the most iconic.
My parents had to take an old broken clothing rail to the tip,
but I saved one of the short black poles from it as it was a good
width and length for a cane.
I created a disc of Sugru and stuck it on the bottom to stop the cane
scratching the floor and to act as the grip.
Using tin foil, I crumpled it into the basic swan shape,
and stuck it to the top of the pole with a glue gun.
I covered the whole thing in air dry clay that I had in my art stores
from a different project, and, using reference photos, shaped
and carved the clay as close as I could to the original.
(I realised halfway through that doing it with old clay was a
mistake because it was quite difficult to work with, but... ah well.)
When the clay was partway dry I rubbed over the
whole surface with a plastic tool to smooth it out.
I covered the bottom of the pole with masking
tape, and spray painted the swan silver.
The moustache is something that I really wanted to get as realistic as possible, so I watched a few YouTube tutorials on wig making to learn how to make lace front wigs.
I bought lace, and a wig making needle from eBay,
and pinned it to the mannequin head I'd bought to work on the wig.
I used left over hair from the wig to lace the moustache.
(Lacing wigs is weirdly soothing, but extremely frustrating
to do with very cheap synthetic hair in poor lighting.
If you do it I'd recommend better quality hair, and a good lamp.)
Once it was laced, I parted the tash in the middle, held it with bobby pins
and gently heated the strands with my heat embossing tool
to reset them into the direction I wanted.
(If you do this be very, very careful. Synthetic hair can burn
or melt completely into an unusable mess, so go slowly.)
I coated the moustache in a layer of pomade, and pinned it into the shape I wanted.
I then used the heat tool to reset the fibres into the new shape.
I finished off by giving the ends and any fly-aways with a layer
of clear PVA glue to smooth it, and trimmed the excess lace
away so it was ready to be worn.
The wig was by far the most time consuming and difficult part of the costume.
Balding wigs are really difficult to come by, and the decent ones
are very, very expensive, so I started off with a black crazy professor
wig from eBay that cost about £3.
It did not look good.
Look at this mess.
Using a tangle teezer I attempted to brush
through it to get rid of any knots.
I then modelled it like the badass I am.
Section by section I straightened the entire wig
using my hair straighteners. And praying.
It was still a bit terrifying but no longer quite so awful.
I cut it using my hair dressing scissors and thinning scissors I use for my own hair.
I sewed extra hair in layers onto the wig net,
as the cheap wig didn't have lower layers.
Starting from the back, I worked section by section and slicked the hair back into an approximation of Poirot's hairstyle using PVA, hair gel, and heat.
It took aaaaaaaages.
But looked so much better than when I started.
Unfortunately at this point I realised that a. the head I was using is
much smaller than mine, and b. I have a truly ridiculous amount of hair.
The wig went on my head, but not over the entirety of it,
leaving a line all the way around the back uncovered,
and the lower part of the hair at the front visible as well.
I had a short swearing session.
Then I ordered an extra cheap hair weft from eBay, and cut a black
felt shape from my felt stash that would hook over my ears to create
sideburns and carry on round the back of my neck to cover the rest
of my hair as much as possible.
Using the sewing machine and a zig zag stitch I sewed layers of
hair to cover the felt, with larger section at the
sides to slick back over my ears.
I applied leftover lace to the very front and
created a more natural edge with lacing.
This hair piece then got the same PVA/gel/heat treatment as the other wig.
As I had spare hair left over from the wig alterations I decided to root some
baby hairs into the vinyl to make the balding look more realistic.
This is achieved by using a felt needle (yes, I also have those laying
about), and stabbing it to the vinyl through a lock of hair
to push it through to the other side.
Thanks again to the University of YouTube for showing me how.
Below you can see the harsh original edge on the left,
and the feathered edge on the right.
I added more and more hair, using reference photos to get
it as close as I could to David Suchet's Poirot.
I then secured the hair in place by gluing it with a hot glue gun.
I added lace along the front to help anchor it in place whilst it was being worn.
In hindsight this was probably a mistake because it made the
edge messier, but I was concerned about my hair proving
too much for it, even with the added hair piece.
I'd never made makeup prosthetics before but I knew I'd
struggle to mimic David Suchet's nose with makeup, because mine
is such a different shape to his.
After researching online (YouTube and Reddit both get a mention here)
I decided to make a hollow liquid latex application.
The other options were too time consuming and/or expensive.
Using plasticine I first started building onto the mannequin head.
I create a new nose that was as close to my own as I could get it.
Most people would just make a cast of their face to skip this
step but I couldn't afford it, and it seemed quite energy draining.
I then made a practice nose to try with the liquid latex I'd ordered.
It worked! But I also realised from this not to use heat in
between coats, and to sponge on the latex rather than using a
brush or spatula.
Once I was happy it was going to work I started building
on the nose I had made to make Poirot's nose.
I then sponged on layers of latex, let it dry,
powdered it and peeled it off.
It was then coloured with a mix of acrylic paint
mixed with liquid latex and face paint.
Special mention: Spats
Technically I didn't make these, but I'm bringing them up because Mum found me original 1920's spats at a flea market for £4, and that's worth mentioning.
The final application:
In the morning I started by changing my eyebrow shape and colour with makeup.
I then tried to make my eyes look more hooded and added crow's feet.
Then it was nap time.
After lunch Mum helped me apply the wig.
First we stuck the lower piece on using spirit gum, and then we pinned
(and stuck) the upper piece.
I started adding foundation and contouring my face to match Suchet's,
leaving the nose and upper lip blank.
I also stippled a wash of grey eyeshadow to my jaw to simulate a shaved face.
I stuck the nose on and sponged a layer of latex along the edges
of the nose and front lace, and across the bald patch of the wig to make
the texture more like skin.
I followed with a layer of the acrylic/latex mix I saved in an airtight
container to blend the colours and cover the latex I'd applied.
(This also made the colour of the bald patch more realistic.)
Finally, I applied the moustache with more spirit gum.
I had another rest before suiting up and was joined by
Captain Hastings and Miss Lemon.
After about five minutes of photos I was knackered
so I took it all off an went to bed!
Mum had to help get all the makeup off while I lay down!
I'm still pretty exhausted, but it was totally worth it.