My Awesome Dalek Costume
***If you just want a summary and materials list without the long description, scroll down to the bottom***
I’m fairly new to the Doctor Who series. I’ve always known about the show, but I hadn’t seen any episodes until this past March, when I buckled down and watched all of the new series. I’m now all caught up and a huge fan. Even since I first saw the Daleks, I’ve been fascinated by them, so I decided I would be one for Halloween.
First step, research. I looked up everything I could about Daleks, people who had made Dalek costumes in the past, and costume making in general. I referenced a ton of great sites to get ideas for costume parts and execution (links at the bottom to my awesome inspirations).
Once I had gathered my materials [full list at the bottom], it was time to assemble the awesome.
The easiest part – spray paint the handle of a plunger silver. Done. I’m a pro.
The skirt involved a bit more critical thinking. My initial idea was that I would build a Dalek frame to stretch my skirt around, thereby increasing the look of paneled metal. When I realized I wouldn’t be able to really sit down, I scaled back my idea to just a thin bottom frame to sew into the hem of the skirt. Sitting was still problematic, but I wore legging and just hiked the skirt up to do so… You know, like a lady. Using plans I bought off the Project Dalek website, I drew up a frame schematic and figured out what kind of angles I would need to create the desired shape. I decided to drop two panels from the Dalek and decrease its size by half to make a more manageable skirt. After using math I hadn’t seen in years, I brought out some wooden dowels (size 5/16″) and began cutting. Not having any sort of power tools, I used the handsaw on my own Swiss Army Knife. Let me begin by saying that I don’t have a degree in woodworking. I mostly just eyeballed the angles by matching up the dowels to a life-sized shape I’d drawn out on several pieces of paper taped together. Once I had my dowels mostly matching the shape in my head, I glued them all together to make the frame.
The skirt itself was really simple! I’d never sewn before this project, so I found a tutorial for a really easy skirt. This site has some amazing tutorials, and it was perfect for my skirt. I took 2 yards of my taffeta and got to sewing. I’m such a sewing n00b, but it worked out fine! Next, I hand-sewed the frame into the bottom of the skirt, keeping the fabric really close to the dowel to create a structured look. Then I took fillable plastic Christmas ornaments and cut off the plastic loops on the top of each one by scoring the bases with my knife and breaking them off by hand. Once they were smooth, I spray painted all 48 halves with a few coats of Rust-Oleum Copper Hammered spray paint. These balls went right onto my costume with some hot glue (4 to a panel). Although I did a little miscalculation with the number of half spheres, so I was missing a few. The skirt was done.
The shirt was the next task. I wanted to make the simplest tank top I possibly could, so I took a favorite one that I already own and laid it out on the fabric. I traced around it and left a lot of space on all sides I was going to sew. I sewed it up each side and on the top of the straps. Once I tried it on, I realized the front was a little weird and pooched out, so I took my sewing to the next level. I pinned in some of the fabric and hand-sewed darts to make the top fit a little better.
I had made a top, but it looked a little rough, so I sewed bias tape on all the top edges to create a finished look. It wasn’t that hard either, I used this tutorial to learn about the process and did one side hand stitched and the front side machine stitched. Next I made gold panels on my lamé fabric to add detail to the shirt. I cut these out carefully and hand-sewed buttons that look like screws onto the panels. These I glued onto my top using Aleene’s Tacky Glue. I was going to stitch them on, but due to an injury sustained making the eye stalk, I could not. More on that later. Top done.
The helmet. This piece consists of two components – the actual helmet and the eye stalk coming out of it. The helmet itself I found in an army kit at JoAnn’s. I took a plastic box, reinforced with masking tape, and cut it to the shape of the Dalek’s dome cowl (the piece where the eye stalk originates). On the helmet front, I hot glued a styrofoam ball so the stalk would have somewhere to sit. I then hot glued the plastic cowl over the Styrofoam and filled the open corners with hot glue. I spray painted this entire helmet piece with Rust-Oleum Copper Hammered spray paint. For the dome lights, I spray painted two mini Lock-Up containers with Frosted Glass spray paint and glued the twist top part onto the helmet. This allows me to get in and out of the dome lights. For each light, I taped two white LEDs to a battery. It’s as simple as that. Just get the right side of the LED to the right side of the battery and they light up. TUTORIAL. I put two LEDs in each container and screwed them shut.
Then the eye stalk. This is where things get painful for me. I cut down a 7/16” dowel to the appropriate length (the shorter the better) and sprayed it silver. I took 5 plastic halves from a make your own button kit, cut them to various sizes, and made a 7/16” hole in the middle of each one using my Swiss Army Knife and an Exacto knife. Once completed, I spray painted these with Frosted Glass spray paint. I attached the discs to the dowel with hot glue, equally spacing them apart. Next, I used a wooden knob from JoAnn’s for the eye casing. I needed to hollow it out and I used a combination of the hand saw and knife from my trusty Swiss army knife. Everything was going well. Until I decided to hollow out a tiny hole on the back of the knob to give the dowel a more secure place to live. This is when my steadfast knife decides to turn on me. I was almost done with this back divet when disaster struck. My knife slipped and I almost cut off my thumb. A trip to the ER and ten stitches later, I was down a finger and still had more work to do on my costume. Some of you may call it crazy, but I call it dedication. My friend Heather came over and helped me finish my skirt and top in time for Halloween. Without her, I would have had a very sad half-Dalek indeed. Anyway, once the eye casing was done, I spray painted it black and used the same LED technique as before. I shortened 3 Blue LEDs and taped them to one battery, placing that into the casing. To make sure they didn’t fall out, I used clear packing tape across the casing rim. I glued the silver dowel into the divet in my black casing. Pushed the other end of the silver dowel into the Styrofoam then removed it to create a hole. Glued the silver dowel into this hole. At this point, I was afraid the eye stalk might be a little heavy for the foam, so I reinforced it with some bronze thread tied tightly around the plastic. The helmet was still top heavy, but it was awesome.
TL;DR Made a Dalek costume. Took a lot of time and effort. Almost cut my thumb off. I have an awesome friend Heather. Totally worth it. Materials list below.
***MATERIALS AND INSPIRATIONS***
A lot of the costume tutorials I pored over had partial lists of materials used, but I was still left to guess at what some parts were made out of. This is why I have compiled an exhaustive list of every material I used in order to help future costume builders in assembling their own Daleks. Obviously you can use other components, but the ones listed here are the ones I used to make this exact costume.
1 Holiday Inspirations Army Helmet kit (JoAnn’s)
1 Plastic Box for eye stalk holder (mine came from the packaging for Christmas gift boxes)
1 styrofoam ball 2” (JoAnn’s)
1 Rust-Oleum 210849 Hammered Metal Finish Spray, Copper, 12-Ounce (Home Depot)
2 mini Lock-Up storage containers [1.5 ounce] (JoAnn’s)
4 white LEDs (Radio Shack – cheaper online)
2 CR2032 3V Lithium Batteries (Radio Shack – cheaper online)
1 Darice 2.5” Unfinished Wooden Knob (JoAnn’s) [http://www.joann.com/joann/catalog/productdetail.jsp?pageName=search&flag=true&PRODID=xprd75130]
1 wooden dowel 7/16”x36” cut down to size (JoAnn’s)
1 Design-A-Button 2-1/2″-Clear Plastic 12/Pkg (Amazon)
3 Blue LEDs (Radio Shack – cheaper online)
1 CR2032 3V Lithium Battery (Radio Shack – cheaper online)
1 Roll packaging tape
1 pkg Wrights Double Fold Bias Tape- 1/2”W x 3yds – GOLDENROD (Joann’s)
1 yd. bronze taffeta fabric (local fabric store)
½ yd. gold lame fabric (local fabric store)
16 La Mode Buttons No 24705 (Joann’s)
4 La Mode Buttons No 24706 (Joann’s)
Wooden Dowels 5/16”x36” cut to size (JoAnn’s)
2 Pkg of 12 – 70mm Clear Plastic Acrylic Fillable Ball Ornaments (Amazon)
2 yd. bronze taffeta fabric (local fabric store)
1 plunger (Home Depot) – mine had a screwable handle so I was able to spray paint it separately
SPRAY PAINTS USED
2 Rust-Oleum 210849 Hammered Metal Finish Spray, COPPER (Home Depot)
1 Rust-Oleum 1903830 Frosted Glass Spray, FROSTED GLASS (Home Depot)
1 Rust-Oleum 1905830 Lacquer BLACK (Home Depot)
1 Rust-Oleum 1915830 Metallic SILVER (Home Depot)
1 Swiss Army Knife (Switzerland)
1 Metal Protractor (Home Depot)
1 Ruler (Target)
1 Hot glue gun + Hot Glue
1 bottle Aleen’s Tacky glue (JoAnn’s)
1 Sewing Machine
1 spool Coats & Clark Metallic Thread – COPPER (JoAnn’s)