For the 2006 San Francisco Fetish Ball, (click here to see my photos from there) I decided to make an entirely new outfit. Or rather, re-make one but using all latex. Maskara is an original character I created who first appeared in my 1997 Kostume Komic. She wore a purple and white lycra catsuit, my white Goth Girl mask, and white boots and wig. Sewing the catsuit was a simple as buying the two different colors of material and putting them together using my usual sewing pattern. Doing it in latex would prove a completely different challenge.
For starters, I wanted to create a one-piece bodysuit with an attached mask. Originally I wanted the gloves to be attached as well but like many proposed innovations, it would fall by the wayside as I proceeded to work on it.
The first step was to use my fiberglass bodymoulds and brushing in white latex to create a front and back half that would make up the suit. I had to modify the breasts with clay to eliminate the nipples (I just wanted nice smooth orbs) as well as fix a few cracks over the butt area. My plan was to glue the two halves together for a nice tight fit and then hope the seams wouldn't show or tear open. The edges were made very thin so they would blend. The trick was to gauge how many layers to make: too many and the suit would be thick and bulky; too few and it would be thin and tear easily. The perfect number: 13 coats.
Then began the operation to glue it together in a perfect fit. This required a lot of masking tape, putting it on and off and gluing small sections at a time. A portable table set up in front of the television made this tedious (and smelly) process a bit easier.
At the same time I was thinking about gloves, and actually purchased enough casting alginate so I could make a lifecast of a real hand. My plan was to create a plaster positive of a hand, then dip it in latex and hopefully be able to peel it off to have a working glove. I even wrote to the Chicago Latex Company asking for a sample of their latex to see if I could find one with more stretch than what I normally get from Burman Industries. I finally realized that I was trying to re-invent the wheel here and all this work might be for naught. Here's what I did instead....
On the left, ordinary dishwashing gloves. Turn them inside out and paint a stripe to match the costume... voila! Ready-to-wear latex gloves!
I wanted the mask to be somewhat different than any I had done before with some new innovations. One such experiment was to use glass eyes purchased from a taxidermy supply house. I ended up calling the Van Dyke Supply Company and speaking to someone in their eye division about having custom-made eyes done. In the end I spent $64 for a pair of brown and blue eyes (on left). Unfortunately, they didn't work. They were semi-circles rather than ovals, and the hole was too small and far away to make seeing through them practical. So that was Plan A. Plan B was to make my own, using plastic. I experimented with both cutting down cheap plastic balls into the necessary shape, and also purchasing a thick sheet of acrylic to attempt to give it sufficent curve to look like an eye. Trying to paint the inside of the plastic did not look effective (though I might have been able to refine the effect had I kept trying) but then I got the idea of using photographs of actual eyes (or, since they were handy, the glass eyes I had purchased) and creating copies on clear acetate that I could glue onto the inside of the eyes. This had promise except I was greatly concerned about that problem you always get with contacts: fogging up. I did not want to be at the Ball and not be able to see what was going on because of moisture inside the eyes. In the end, I abandoned the idea of using plastic, but still had the eyes on acetate that I could glue on my eyes (in lieu of painting them as I usually have done) with holes cut out in the center to correspond with the usual eyeholes in the mask so that clear vision could be achieved (see right for the final result). It was a bit of a compromise but in this case, form followed function: I had to be able to see clearly.
On the right, various failed experiments to create glass and plastic eyes.
Another innovation was to create a mould flange that would fit inside the mask and go between my teeth and gums. The idea was my breath would then be directly out the mouth of the mask and not build up inside (this was back when I was still toying with using glass eyes). This proved to be fairly simple and effective, I quickly sculpted something mouth-shaped in a piece of clay, cast it in plaster, and poured latex into it. What I got was something that resembles the mouth piece to a diving snorkel. I glued one in place using my original Goth Girl mask (which has since begun to yellow in the intervening 10 years since I originally made it). And it worked! This would be a feature on the Maskara costume.
The photo on the left shows the inside of the mask with nose tubes and the mouth flange (originally cast in flesh tinted latex, I painted the inside of it black to match the mouth).
Still paranoid about my seams, I dremeled them down, brushed latex along the entire lengths, both inside and outside, and then dremeled that again, as well as rubbing it with smelly paint thinner. While perhaps not as nice as you would find on nice latex clothing, it was good enough for the suit and would not be coming apart (indeed, in all the abuse the suit has suffered since then, not one inch of the seams has come apart).
Independently, I worked on the mask, basically an all-white Klassic Kerry mask. I installed the zipper in the back of the suit, leaving the part that would later attach to the back of the mask. The zipper was put in so I could unzip it from the top down, in effect being able to pull the mask off without taking the suit off first. But before I could attach the mask, I would need to paint the suit.
In hindsight, I forgot that the suit is nearly 75% purple, perhaps it might have made more sense to have used purple-tinted latex completely and then painted white over that, but it seemed more logical to do it the other way, even though it would be more work. I bought some purple acrylic paint and mixed it with some red to approximate the shade on the original lycra costume. I then mixed it with some prosthetic adhesive I had lying around to theoretically make "PAX," the kind of paint used in Hollywood to paint latex appliances. I loaded this first batch in my airbrush and painted the inner flap of the crotch zipper and the collar and waited for it to dry. Now to test if it would stick or not. It wouldn't. It began to flake off. Disaster. Not only that but it really was completely the wrong shade. This would result in a lot of scraping, cleaning with paint thinner, dremeling and more brushing on of white latex to replace the damaged areas. Needless to say, I had to get the formula right before tackling the entire suit. Another batch (this time on the lower leg where I wouldn't do any seen damage) also resulted in flaking paint. What to do? I needed to paint the suit somehow! I finally spoke to a guy at my local costume shop and he told me that prosthetic adhesive needs to be fresh, it goes off quickly. I was using an old bottle, plus it had been kept in a cupboard on an outside wall and nearly frozen. Using fresh prosthetic adhesive and mixing it carefully (measuring it this time) 50/50 with paint, this time it held! I had to put masking tape over all the areas I wanted to remain white, suspend the suit in my painting area and do two coats over two days to build up enough paint.
On the left, the unpainted suit. Center, just painted with masking
tape covering the white sections. On right, with the masking tape removed.
It was time to test the suit and attach the mask. Each time I put the suit on I would develop stress points under the arms which required repairs afterwards. Considering how much stretching both the suit and my arms had to do to fit inside it (the zipper goes down only about 12" in the back from the neck, as you can see in the photo on left), I'm amazed I never tore it when putting it on or off.
When wearing it, paint continued to rub off in areas, particularly around the knees where the top of the boots rubbed against them, sections of the arms, and a few other trouble areas. This required mixing up more PAX and using small makeup sponges to do touch-ups all over that hopefully would blend in with the rest of the airbrushed paint. (If you were to examine the suit closely you would see all this patches, but I figured to the naked eye in a dark club I could pretty much get away with murder).
It was very exciting putting the entire ensemble on a week before leaving town so I could check for any last-minute things I needed to fix, plus get some photographs while the suit was still in mint condition. What surprised me most about wearing it was it was very comfortable and I hardly sweated at all! I always though latex suits would be very hot and produce much sweat, but apparently the thinness and skintight nature of the suit dissipated the heat, and even after a few hours I hardly had a drop of sweat on me.
To pack the suit in a suitcase for the trip, I made sure to powder the painted areas carefully so they wouldn't stick to each other. I made up an emergency fix-it kit with all the glue, tape and paint I would need to make on-the-spot repairs if necessary (as it turned out, I only used the glue to attach the gloves to the suit after I put them on in my hotel room). Once I got to my hotel in San Francisco I mounted the suit on a light stand I brought with me and stored it in the closet (as seen on right).
See photos of me at the Fetish Ball