Medusa headdress

My Halloween costume this year was inspired by a Medusa headband I found at a yard sale. It is pretty basic, but I thought it had potential.

I found some rubber snakes on Amazon–a dozen 11-inch rubber ones and another dozen smaller, but more realistic ones–for a total of about $14.00. I wanted to have a variety of sizes and shapes to work with.

I bought some gold spray paint and added a coat to each side of the snakes and to the headband. The headband was already gold, but I wanted everything to match. When the paint dried, I threaded the rubber snakes through the plastic headdress until I was satisfied with the look. I saw some Medusa headdress tutorials that suggested hot gluing the snakes together, but I wanted to be able to change them or use them for another project someday. I did tie a few in place using embroidery thread so they could move around a little. After I had the shape I wanted, I added another couple coats of spray paint.

I originally intended to paint the snake eyes black and the tongues and mouths red, but I couldn’t find my acrylic paints. I experimented with Sharpie and nail polish but found the whole process too tedious and abandoned that idea.

For the costume, I wore a white Greek tunic that I made years ago and added a long black skirt underneath. For Medusa’s wings, I bought a gold metallic wing cape on Amazon. I also bought a set of face paint–I saw a lot of Medusa makeup tutorials online and originally envisioned a green face. However, since my costume was pretty much gold, black, and white, I wanted to stick to a more neutral palette. I mixed some tinted moisturizer with metallic loose pigment and some white face paint. On top of this, I added some black details with a little hint of green. I put a fishnet wig cap over my face and used a brush to apply more metallic powder for a snakeskin effect. It didn’t show up super well, so I used black and gold eyeliner pencils to increase the effect. I brushed metallic gold powder liberally over my face, lined my lips in black eyeliner and filled them in with face paint, added some details to my nose and eyes, and that was about it. There was some green metallic body glitter in the face paint kit (’90s flashback!), so I used some of that, too.

I put my hair into a wig cap leftover from a previous year’s costume, put on the headdress and arranged it so the snakes looked good, dusted some more gold on my hairline, and that was it.

The costume looked great from the front but less so from the back and sides–if I wear this again, I will definitely get some more snakes to fill out the back and distribute the weight more evenly. I had a pretty killer headache by the end of the night.

Oh, and there was one little coral snake I couldn’t bring myself to spray paint, so I threaded it through my treat basket.

Project costs:

Headdress (yard sale): $2
Snakes: $14.12
Spray paint: $4.99
Face paint kit: $16.42
Additional makeup: $0 (already had)
Wings: $15.50
Dowel for wings: $1.49
Tunic: $0 (left over from another costume)
Black maxi skirt: $0 (from my closet)
Total: $54.53 

Not too bad considering I will get a lot of use out of the face paint and the wings. I’m already envisioning the wings in an Egyptian goddess costume.


Halloween part II: The complete Nefertiti ensemble

After making the headdress, I got to work on the dress. Fortunately I had cut out the pieces three years ago when I started the costume, so all I had to do was sew it up. I used my favorite shift dress pattern, SImplicity 9175 from 1970, previously seen here. To make the dress look more like an Egyptian one, I lengthened it and made the skirt straight rather than A-line. When I bought the fabric I must have been thinking about the very fine, somewhat sheer linen that wealthy Egyptians wore, but it definitely looks costumey. Since this is just a one-time-wear costume, I didn’t bother with facings or a decent hem.

I was a bit unhappy with how the headdress wasn’t holding its rounded shape very well. I made some braces from cardboard and hot glued them in place, which made a huge difference. On the front, I added a huge gold brooch that used to be my grandmother’s–while it isn’t particularly Egyptian looking, I thought it was a decent substitute for the snake, as it added a large and shiny focal point to the front while covering the fold of the band.


cardboard braces and the awful unfinished edge of the headdress

All that was needed to complete the ensemble was a necklace. I had originally planned to make my own, but time was running out, so I ordered this one on Amazon. I was really happy with it-the quality was better than I expected for the price. I had also planned to paint a pair of sandals gold, but I didn’t get to it. I just wore white sandals.

Getting the headdress to cover my hair was more difficult than I imagined. I put it into a topknot and generously hairsprayed it, but I still ended up with some hair sticking out. Since it fits quite snugly, it would push some stray strands of hair down when I put it on. I ultimately used a stretchy handband, which mostly held things in place, and carefully maneuvered the headdress over the topknot and adjusted it gently. I think it would have worked better to do this with damp hair.


The last step was recreating Nefertiti’s makeup, which was not too difficult–I just put on some heavy black eyeliner and reddish lipstick and darkened my eyebrows a bit. Unfortunately, due to my desire for anonymity, you can’t see it in the photo below, but I’m sure you get the idea.


This came out a bit creepier than I intended.

The costume came together pretty well; better, in fact, than I was expecting. If I were to do it again, I would probably use something sturdier than the interfacing for the headdress, perhaps cardboard, though the braces inside really helped. I would also use actual linen, or something similar, for the dress–the shiny fabric just isn’t doing it for me. Mostly, I would not wait until the last minute.


Halloween part I: Nefertiti headdress

This year I finally finished the Nefertiti costume I started three years ago. My inspiration was the famous bust of Nefertiti.

I began with the headdress, since this was the most important part of the costume and would be the most difficult to create. Three years ago, I bought some thick interfacing and navy and gold satin to make the hat. I began my making a template of newspaper, which I played around with until the shape and size seemed right. Then I traced the newspaper pattern onto the interfacing.


I cut out the interfacing and made a few adjustments for shape and fit. Then I traced the interfacing onto my navy satin with chalk, leaving about half an inch extra on all sides. This step was plagued with difficulty.


Aside from the cat issue, I also remembered that satin isn’t very fun to work with due to its slipperiness.

My original idea was to create a top for the headdress, so I also cut out an oval by tracing the open end of the interfacing understructure onto the satin. Unfortunately, I just could not get it to work. I sewed it on twice, but the oval was not exactly the right size and shape, and the interfacing wasn’t sturdy enough to pull it nice and tight. I decided to forgo the top and just have an open headdress–I’m only wearing the costume to give candy to the trick-or-treaters, so I think it’s okay to have the top unfinished. When I had made the satin cover, I ironed it onto the interfacing. This worked really well, though, while I was careful not to crush the headdress during ironing, it did get a bit flattened in some spots.

Next I got to work on the band that wraps around the headdress horizontally. I planned to make this out of the gold satin, but it was a pain to make that long and narrow of a band with the fabric, so I used ivory blanket binding instead. I painted colored rectangles on the binding using metallic acrylic paint. (I know the colors aren’t quite the same as those in the original, but I was working with what I had on hand.) I left it to dry overnight. At this stage, I also made the gold forehead band and sewed it to the headdress.


To make the band look better and more interesting, I decided to sew gold ribbon along its edges. I experimented with several types of gold ribbon and some gold seam binding.


The seam binding (on the bottom in the photo above) looked great and would have worked really well, but there wasn’t enough of it. I ultimately went with a ribbon that was a good match for the gold satin on the forehead band. It was a bit wide, so I had to fold it so that only about two-thirds of it showed. It is that cheap, papery sort of ribbon, but it worked fine for this purpose. I also found some green ribbon of the same material and decided to place it between my red and blue painted rectangles.


I basically made a ladder of ribbon and clipped it to the blanket binding. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to sew it together nicely–in fact, I was pretty skeptical.


However, to my surprise, it went together like a dream. The result looked much better than with the paint alone. The only problem was that it was pretty stiff and the blanket binding was wider that the band really should have been. When I tried to attach it to the hat, I ended up having to fold it in the center front to make it curve downward. At this point I was getting tired (it was the night before Halloween) and I decided to just hot glue the band to the headdress.


I planned to attach a big gold brooch to the front to cover the ugly fold. I also decided not to make the snake on the front, since I was already pretty rushed.

The back was a bit trickier–the stiffness of the band made it difficult to maneuver it into the proper shape. I think it came out fine, if a bit messy.


Phew–one Nefertiti headdress finished. Tomorrow: the complete costume.