Get Ren Faire Ready with Papier Mache Armor

Before I begin, I have a confession to make: I did not come up with this craft idea on my own. I saw the pattern on Pinterest, which originally came from Blogspot user, Chrix. She created cardboard armor, which she dubbed “Dragon Armor.” While I love her design, I wish she did have a little more instructions as to how it was constructed. What she did have in the way of instructions I used for creating my armor bodice.

When I was creating my piece, I used her pictures for reference, but tweaked the materials and appearance. I wanted to create armor that looked more like traditional armor. So, I present to you my interpretation of Chrix’s design.

Materials:

2 balloons

1 sheet of poster board

Newspaper

Flour

1 bottle of Elmer’s glue

1 bottle of matte Mod Podge

1 can of spray paint in hammered silver

Eyelets (a.k.a. grommets)

1 spool of ribbon (I bought silver)

1 sheet of white craft foam

Glue gun and glue sticks

Gold acrylic paint

Optional: Silver Leaf Rub n’ Buff

Step 1: Blow up balloons to about the size of your own bust.

Step 2: Prepare the papier mache by tearing strips of newspaper or magazine pages. Then mix the glue; I followed the recipe of 1 part water, 1 part flour, and a generous drizzle of Elmer’s glue (1 part = 2/3 cup).IMG_3437

Step 3: Begin the process of wrapping the balloons in the papier mache. Don’t cover the entire balloon. Go at least halfway in wrapping. Make 2-3 layers in this stage of the process. Set aside to dry. IMG_3443

Step 4: The glue will take a while to dry—I waited a full 24 hours before I added any more layers to the balloons. If the glue is not fully dry when you add more layers, then it will take longer to dry. The #1 priority during this part of the process is to make sure that the papier mache does not collapse.

Step 5: Once the papier mache has completely dried, cut off the excess. I made the cups to fit over my bra, as I will be wearing it over that and a shirt.IMG_3452

Step 6: Take a piece of poster board and create the outline of what will be the bodice. I cut the piece of poster board in half and used my own bra to outline the cup spacing. Cut to fit around the abdomen and chest.IMG_3458

Step 7: Tape on the cups to the poster board and make sure they’re secure.IMG_3461

Step 8: Secure the ends together and begin to papier mache the outside of the bodice. Be careful to prop up the sagging parts in the middle as you work, and work in small sections. The poster board will buckle a bit. If you can, put the bodice outside to help the glue dry.IMG_3480

Step 9: When it’s dry, papier mache the inside of the bodice for extra strength. This is also a great opportunity to reshape the bodice if it’s become a little lopsided during the previous step. Repeat this process as you see fit. Let dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Step 10: Cut small x’s for the eyelets in the back of the bodice with an X-Acto knife. This is where you’ll be securing the bodice to your body a la corset style. I did a row of six on each end of the bodice.IMG_3504

Step 11: Papier mache one layer over the x’s for durability. Once it’s dry, cut through this layer with the X-Acto knife. Secure the eyelets into the x’s and fasten them with either pliers or an eyelet tool.

Step 12: To make sure the mache didn’t crack, I covered the entire bodice in matte Mod Podge. Let dry completely. Add more as necessary.

Step 13: I added some scrollwork to the front of the bodice using hot glue. If you would like to do this as well, I suggest finding a pattern that isn’t too difficult to execute. Sketch the pattern out onto the bodice. Then, with a heated glue gun, add the 3D scrollwork onto the bodice.IMG_3511 IMG_3512

Step 14: Paint! Using Rust-O-Leum Hammered spray paint in metallic silver, I covered the entire surface. Spray on a few layers to make sure the coat was even and covered the whole surface.IMG_3513 IMG_3514

Optional Item Step: Much to my disappointment, the hammered effect did not come out at all. This is where the Silver Leaf Rub n’ Buff comes in. Rub n’ Buff is a mixture of actual silver leaf, wax, and mineral oil, which is applied by lightly rubbing it onto surfaces. I added the Rub n’ Buff all over the bodice, which gave it a better metallic quality. I’m calling this an optional step because I had to buy this item on the fly after I painted the bodice.

Step 15: After the paint has dried completely, add a small border of white foam with hot glue along the top edge of the bodice.IMG_3521

Step 16: Using the gold acrylic paint, accent the scrollwork and foam border. The gold paint I bought was a darker, antiqued hue. The foam border will take two to three coats because it soaks up so much of the paint’s moisture.IMG_3532

Step 17: Add and secure the eyelets into the x’s cut earlier. Be sure that they hold on tight to the bodice!

Step 18: Taking a considerable length of silver ribbon, begin to lace it through the eyelets in a criss-cross, corset-style pattern. To make this process easier, tape the ends so that they glide through the eyelets.IMG_3527

Finished Product:IMG_3529 IMG_3531

That’s it! You now have your very own armor bodice! In total, this piece took me about 4 weeks to create, and the various materials cost about $30. This cost may increase or decrease for you depending on which supplies you already own. The newspaper, flour, and balloons were free for me, and I already owned a glue gun. The rest of the supplies were ones I had to buy, so the cost for me went up. But hey, at least it was way cheaper than Worbla armor!

I’ll be wearing this piece, along with the DIY Epaulette Shirt, this weekend when my friends and I go to our local Renaissance Faire! This will be my first year going with a costume, and my second year in total. If you would like to make one of these for yourself, you can customize it how you see fit (like I did from the original design I found). I think this model will be great to make a Wonder Woman bodice to complete a cosplay. You can also use the same papier mache method to create wrist gauntlets—something I considered creating. Either way, go nuts with it! I hope it was helpful. And, if I ever get the opportunity to use this same practice to create a more realistic armor breastplate (i.e. minus the breasts), I definitely will!

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