I like the fantasy medieval world for my films. I like the look of environments and characters that would fit in a D&D style world. This makes for an interesting film, but means I have to create almost every single thing from scratch. So, we have a sword for the goblin, now let’s get a costume for the goblin.
I have had this goblin character for several years now and have used him in a few films. Every year I add something to his costume to make it a little better. Let’s look at how it progressed.
I started out at the thrift store to find a pair of pants and a shirt as a starting point. I looked for something that didn’t look modern. I found this shirt.
It is actually a lady’s shirt, but in xxl size it hangs on me kinda odd, and doesn’t look like a modern style shirt at all. The photo above is after I aged it and distressed it. I will talk about that later. After that I found a pair of plain gray pants. It really helps if you can get some basic pieces from the thrift store because pants and shirts are the hardest things to sew or create from scratch. We will cover that later as well.
I took some fabric from the shirt and made a hood, so that involved some sewing. But above you can see the shirt, the hood, and the pants. I wanted them to kinda disappear so you would focus more on the armor and the face. So, the shirt and pants were super cheap, pre-made which saved me a lot of money and labor. So, you will notice I have on real chainmail which I made. I will make a blog post on chainmail later. And there is some leather armor which we will also discuss later. This shows the accessories without the goblin shirt and hood.
Those are all the fancy accessories that really make your costume. So, I started with some basic elements and built up from there. Notice also the shoes. I looked really hard at the thrift stores to find shoes that didn’t look modern. This aren’t horrible but not great either.
Here is a sneak peek of the chainmail by itself.
My first film with this goblin, I actually cut ears out of cushion foam and glued them on with liquid latex. They actually worked pretty well.
I used off-the-shelf Halloween witch nose and chin for the makeup. These did not work very well at all for me. The latex did not hold them in place, I sweated them off and they needed to be constantly re-applied. But I did make a whole film with this setup.
This is me on set in the woods.
So many people stopped us and asked us what we were doing that it really hindered our progress. This is what the mostly finished costume looked like back then:
If you notice, the shirt and pants are still very clean. In fact everything is still way too clean. See how fake it looks? It looks like a guy in a costume. All of this needs a ton of distressing and aging. So, after the first film with all the parts falling off, I made a latex mask for the face. This is what I have been using for all the recent films. I will discuss that later. In the below photo, you can also see my green screen setup in my front yard, and notice that the costume is more aged now and more distressed.
More accessories. A little tip on your costumes is the more layers you have the better it looks and the more you can get away with. Once you add more layers, in case the chainmail, the leather armor, the pouches, the bags, etc. you get more of an overall picture or image of goblin and less of a man in a costume. The eye doesn’t really stop on one point for too long. Which also means it doesn’t pick it apart so much so your costume can have some defects or weaknesses but the audience won’t see it as quickly. The photo below is what the basic goblin costume looks like today. It has a latex mask, the clothes are well worn, dirty and aged. The shoes have been upgraded to a hand made set of leather boots. So, the mask made a big difference, the dirt added a lot, and the shoes really kicked it up a notch. I will talk about shoes later. I can add accessories as I wish to this basic character as I feel necessary. I can go from super poor homeless cave goblin all the way up to wealthy well-armed goblin adventurer by adding parts to this basic outfit. It gives me tons of options.
So, start with some basic clothes, then add layers and accessories to build up a costume. Shop at thrift stores to get some of the basics, then you can spend more time or money building the fancy add-ons. Make sure your costumes are aged appropriately for the character. Find a character you like, and build on it year by year to end up with a really cool character and a more complete costume. It would be nice if somewhere in the costume you have a focal point to catch the viewer’s attention, if the character is a main character. If it is a background character maybe you would prefer it not to stand out.
Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.