Creating a Costume of Skyrim’s “First Dragon Born”

It is never too early to think about Halloween.  I know it is only April, but I enjoy Halloween very much and love to create costumes.  Sometimes gathering the materials and building a costume can take a lot of time, and maybe this post will be helpful for someone planning ahead or going to some sort of event?  So, here I am posting in spring about the ensemble that I made for my husband in the fall of 2013.

first dragonborn side First Dragonborn first dragonborn back

He is an avid gamer, and for a while he was thinking of little besides the Skyrim video game.  Every year I’d dress up for Halloween, but he’d stick to his usual black t-shirt and cargo pants.  That fall I asked him if he could think of anything that he’d be comfortable dressing as, and he showed me images of The First Dragon Born from Skyrim.

inspirtation 1 skyrim first dragonborninspiration 2 skyrim

Challenge accepted!

He really didn’t seem to think that it was doable, but I had some ideas brewing.  I went to a few art supply stores in Manhattan, browsed for hours, and brought home bags full of materials that had potential.  While Blick and Utrecht had some very neat materials I also bought some kiddie type sculpting foam (Model Magic) from AC Moore and also some cheap props from Ricky’s.  Off the top of my head I had: black gesso; a wood carving knife; the Model Magic; Balsa Foam; sheets of black craft foam; strips of black leather; metallic paint made with stainless steelplaster of paris gauze strips; black, pewter, and silver glitter fabric paints; a thrift store belt; a plastic sword, a child’s sized craft foam shield, and a ghoul mask; coarse and fine black linen fabrics; brushes; leather work gloves; Gorilla and wood glues; and blue battery operated LED lights.  I already had certain supplies such as black grommets and aluminium foil.

paint and gesso skyrim supplies foam shield

I do want to advise against the Model Magic although it worked pretty well to start, because I found that it is far to fragile to be worn and also shrinks and cracks during long term storage.  😦  I’d use something like paper clay if I’d have known better.  This past Halloween he re-used the costume, and although it was stored safely I had to make many repairs to the mask, shoulder pieces, and sword.

I began with the mask.  It seemed best to use a very cheap plastic one as a base, so I chose the cheapest one with a good shape then cut all of the gauze off of it.  The First Dragon Born helmet is rather angular, so carving and gluing Balsa Foam would work out well to form the planes and angles, I thought.  I began by sketching out a rough outline of the mouth shape and began to carve.  Next I cut two side pieces into shape.

building mask

It is quite easy to carve the Balsa Foam, but it is brittle, so you must take care.  Gorilla glue held things together perfectly.  Once there was a foam frame to work on I began to sculpt with Model Magic and even aluminium foil.  Foil is cheaper than the other stuff, and it gave a neat, organic, bonelike look to the horns too.  The Model Magic happened to be white, but it was kind of fun working on it with the two-tone look.  It also wasn’t possible to smooth it as I wished, so I topped some areas with craft foam to give it a hard edged, smooth metal appearance.  Then I highlighted places to keep in mind while painting to create the illusion that they’d been sculpted.

building mask 2 sculpted mask

Meanwhile, I began sculpting Model Magic into scales of armour.  This was very simple and worked out well except that I’d use another medium next time due to a lack of durability.  They fared alright, but if starting from scratch why not use something better suited?  Anyway, they took only a few minutes.  I draped them over jars and cans to dry with a rounded shape suitable for wearing on arms.  Sculpting the shoulder pieces was far more difficult, (and I practically remade them with Paper Clay for last Halloween.)  Then I began the sword by crumpling up more foil and hot glueing it to the plastic prop from Ricky’s.  After that I wrapped it with plaster of paris gauze strips.  When that was dry I sculpted again with the Model Magic.  *Insert the same warning to use another material here.  😉  The child’s craft foam shield was embossed and perfect to cut up for a belt buckle.

sculpting armour scales

sword sculpting

At this point I painted the leather work gloves black and cut little holes into the palms.  The idea was to thread the LED lights through so that there would be a blue glow like in the inspiration image, but the wires broke easily.  I didn’t think it important enough a detail to try anything else.

wiring the glove lights

The next step once everything was dry was to gesso them.  Luckily they sell black gesso, so there weren’t extra steps.  The most fun part was carefully applying the metallic paint to make the pieces look like blackened metal.  I really loved this part!  It felt like the pieces were transforming and becoming real after planning them in my head.

painting the sculpted skyrim pieces gessoed mask

gesso sword and arm pieces belt sword

metallic paint skyrim

I don’t believe that I took photos of the sewing portion of the costume.  All I did was draft simple patterns for a simple wrap tunic and drawstring pants, cut them of the rougher linen, and sew them.  The neckline of the tunic was bound with a wide bias strip cut of the finer linen.  The hemlines were “finished” by attacking them with scissors and pinking shears to look artfully tattered.  That was nice since hemming is boring.  😀  Then I painted the bound edge with fabric paint in rough zigzags loosely calling to mind the inspiration images.

The arm pieces were simply two layers of foam, with the scales hot glued on, cut into rounded oblongs with holes to lace them up with leather strips.  The set on the upper arm were pointed to the tunic through grommets in the border there (which was inspired by 16th century European clothing.)  Actually, I was lazy and attached the sleeves that way too, I believe.  (Pointed simply means tied on, btw.)  The hood was a quick thing too.  I just folded a fairly narrow strip of the linen, tucked a corner to round it to fit over the back of a head, sewed that seam, folded over and hot glued the front to cover the edge of the mask, and tattered the bottom.  The front below the mask edges was bound and painted like the tunic.  It just gets pinned under the chin, and likewise the tunic pins closed before being belted.

pointed on shoulder armour closeup

Here it is again:

upper closeup first dragonborn First Dragonborn

Also, here are a couple of shots from this past fall when I repaired the damaged portions:

broken patching

I have to say that I am really proud of how this costume turned out.  My husband received a lot of attention and compliments while wearing it although only a handful of people knew who the character was.  (Most assumed it was a demon or devil but still thought it was done well.)  🙂

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