Dark elves, also known as drow, are really messed up. If you’ve bothered to look into their history and psychological mindset, you would agree with me on that.
From the 5th Edition Monster Manual:
The Drow worship Lolth, a deity who resides in the Abyss. Known as the Spider Queen or the Demon Queen of Spiders, she is the figure around which the dark elves have built their subterranean civilization. Whatever she demands, the drow do.
How does this relate to costumes?
The latest project I am tackling stems from tabletop roleplaying’s most feared elf subtype with a twist. This costume is of my original character Minma ee’Loth, a faun raised by the dark elves in their noble courts.
Minma had been bitten by a poisonous spider that normally kills anyone it injects venom into but instead, she was put into a death-like coma. Her tribe thought her to be a corpse and tossed her into a ceremonial death pit. It led into the bowls of the Underdark, where a drow raiding party had come across her. Her fur had started to become black with spiderweb-like patterns on it, and instead of killing her they raised her as one of their own.
Her picture is to the left hand side there. Her class is a Druid, by the way, and she is fabulous.
I am making this character come to life for the upcoming convention season around where I live, and over winter I’ve managed to get a good portion of it done. And you are all going to see it done in steps.
Step 1: Planning
I don’t just go head-first into a project because I need a solid idea for something that has no basis in real life. How many faun-dark elf hybrids do you see walking around on the streets?
A good sketch of what I want is made, and this has gone under numerous changes as I went along. Here, I plan that I definitely want some kind of head piece, her trademark odd legs, and some very elaborate leather armor on her torso. Later on, I re-drew this to include some shoulder armor pieces made of “deep dragon scales”. The armor will be dyed black with silver or white designs on it.
Step 2: Belt piece
It was the first part of this that I really tackled since it was the easiest. I took a spare wooden Christmas ornament that was undercoated and painted the smiling face of Lolth upon it. This is going to go on a belt-like piece around my waist. Lots of testing with purple shades to get the right color that worked the best was done. I still have yet to coat it in a sealant that keeps it from being damaged from both water and sun but that can be done at a much later point in time.
Awww, she’s smiling! I don’t think that’s a good thing at all.
Step 3: Dragon Scale Armor
This process took me to places that I have not gone with my crafting before. Using an old 5 dollar yoga mat. I hacked that up and with a hair dryer on high, formed it to the shape of each of my shoulders. Yoga mats are made of EVA foam, a material that bends with heat and is great for bases on cosplay. It may take you a couple of times to heat it up correctly, because you need to heat it on the inside side of what you are forming: the smooth side with no texture is going to be the part you want facing outwards to the world.
Once they both were bent, I then went and, very slowly, cut out individual scales to glue on them out of normal crafting foam. Be careful when doing this, because hot glue will not work perfectly or you will have to apply A LOT. Super glue works better but you need to hold it down in place longer to make it stay. It’s a long process to put them all down by hand but the effect looks really nice at the end.
Sometimes glue is going to leak out from the edges. Try to not overflow the pieces with too much of it otherwise its going to make some ugly portions. I made that mistake on the one to the right as you can see. After that process, sand the pieces down to get a more smooth surface for painting.
Painting at times can be just as frustrating as the construction process as well! With trial and error, I mixed up paint that was similar to the color I used on my belt piece but with slightly more grey in it. After applying that over a base of black for maybe 5 or 6 different layers, I took varying shades of the same color and dry brushed it over only to top it off very quickly with dry brushing silver. Deep, or pit dragons as Underdark inhabitants call them, are dark purple with a faint silver sheen but they’re complexity unknown to surface races. Because in the darkness, they’re confused with chromatic Black Dragons. There’s a difference, people! Not shown is me punching four holes in each, two on each side, where leather will be threaded through so I can tie them around my arms.
Step 4: Head Piece
The hardest part so far that I have had to do was the head piece of the same deep dragon. I used a high quality cosplay material called Worbla, which is a thermoplastic that one can mold with lots of heat and pressure. For this I had a base already from a project that never saw completion: a bird face shaped mask served to get the general form of the piece and for the longest time I struggled with getting the right shape down.
After I had done that, I made fins for the side of the head since it felt like something was missing. That was made of crafting foam sandwiched between Worbla and attached by molding it onto the form while both pieces were still hot.
Did I mention that a medium sized sheet of Worbla is close to 40 dollars?! The great part is that you can heat up scraps and re-form them into pieces to use, meaning there’s little to no wasted product. It can be hard to work with at times but I can see why more skilled craftspeople use it so much.
Once that’s all done with, I heat up each side of the piece and punch holes in it. This is where my leather cording will go in so I can actually wear it. After some adjusting, I find where the best placement is and take it for a test-wear. I don’t want it to cover up all of my face, and just lightly obscure it. It’s not supposed to be a mask but more like the trophy from a tribal hunt. If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m going more druid and less Underdark-drow by this stage, as you will soon see in the next picture.
Speaking of which! With a long, arduous process of paint, I finally begin to make it more and more like some kind of scary skull. Layers of white, cream and red-browns help make it look aged and weather-worn. With some spare foam I have, I make some kind of symbol, glue it onto the forehead and paint that as well. It’s complete! There’s more to this then is currently listed but that will be done in Part 2! Stay tuned for more updates!