I religiously play an online MUD called Dragonrealms. Not too many people dabble in text based games these days so its a really small community that relies heavily on the imagination. I play a barbarian and am always pimping her out in the goriest warrior equipment I can find. Grace Jones type of lady. Every year the company that runs Dragonrealms throws a convention and there's the usual nerd misbehavior and costume wearing. I decided this year that I really wanted to attempt to bring my barbarian character to life. So, I started from the basics by sketching. After a week or so of plotting and sketching I decided on making armor based loosely off a couple of my favorite characters from various animes. Mainly Sesshoumaru from Inuyasha and Guts from Berserk. You'll definitely detect their influence in the final product.
First off I had to buy a sheet of Wonderflex. For those of you who don't know what Wonderflex is, lemme just say its a godsend from cosplay heaven. Its a durable plastic material that starts off as a rolled up sheet. You can cut it to the shape you desire and under heat it is easy to mold to your desired shape. When it cools it retains the shape you molded it. Its sturdy, not brittle, and very light. Perfect for shaping my armor. Using an old form fitted shirt I made myself a loose pattern for the chest piece and cut out the shape from the sheet of Wonderflex. Using Xena my trusty mannequin I could heat the Wonderflex with a blowdryer and starting from the center, slowly shape it. When heated, Wonderflex is also adhesive and will stick to most surfaces, including more Wonderflex. (I made sure to sprinkle Xena with water before shaping the heated plastic around her to keep it from sticking.) This is very handy because while Wonderflex will stretch some while heated, it doesn't just shape like silly putty. To give the chest piece proper shape I used two additional half-moons to cover the entire boobies. Then with a pair of scissors I trimmed away excess parts to give it the shape in picture 2. For the shoulder armor I created a base support that looks very much like stripped down football shoulder pads. This gave a nice sturdy core for me to start building on. For the back armor I cut out seperate scales that could be attatched later. This "scaling" method will give the final armor the flexibility it needs since its not going to be on a stationary mannequin.
After I had the bustier in the desired shape I could then attatch the means of attatching it to my body. I used a pair of leather purse straps that I purchased at Joann's Fabrics. They were the perfect length to criss-cross my back and attatch to the bustier. Using a heated nail I burned holes where you see the straps attatched in the picture below and secured them with leather ties. The silver rings came already attatched to the straps so that part was easy. After being certain the straps would hold, I could start painting. I used several coats of black acrylic paint. After that dried I sealed it with a layer of "DuraClear varnish" from DecoArt. Lastly I trimmed away the excess leather from the ties and painted any visable leather black.
Now the real work begins. I took that sorry looking shoulder base and trimmed away until the individual shoulder plates came to three points. Using the blowdryer again I heated the plastic and pinched along the points to give it that dragon scale appearance like in Gut's berserker armor. I attatched additional scales with screws. The overall result was armor that could follow the movement of my body. The same rules apply for the scales attatched to the back. Then influenced by Sesshoumaru's armor, I wanted to make a half circle of spiked metal. Of course I didn't really want to work with metal since it would be extremely heavy and difficult to even get the equipment to do so. Back to the Wonderflex. Reinforced with two strands of metal wire I shaped layers of Wonderflex to make the base support. Then I coated the support with a few layers of Friendly Plastic. This took a lot of time reheating a smoothing, and was probably one of the most difficult tasks in this costume. I spent several days just on this part of the shoulder ring smoothing the Friendly Plastic layer. Finally after I had it at the desired shape I attatched it to the waiting armor. I painted the shoulder and back pieces black with the same technique on the bustier.
After painting the shoulder and back plates black it was time to go back to what I'll call the shoulder ring. I shaped little cones out of more Wonderflex and superglued them to the shoulder ring for the spikes. After that dried I took a hot glue gun and encircled each spike with hot glue. Hot glue itself doesn't provide that much support in holding the spikes in place, but it does protect the incredibly strong super glue. Once painted silver, it also gave the shoulder ring that forge welded look, as if it really was metal and I'd blowtorched the spikes on. In this case I did not use acrylic paint since metallic acrylic paints (at least in the case of silver) simply don't leave a convincing shade. Instead I used X-0 Rust Enamel and it really turned out well. After the 24 hour wait for the enamel to fully dry I dribbled red acrylic paint over the spikes. I also wanted there to be a "blood spatter" pattern of blood so I used a method I probably hadn't used since kindergarten. After carefully wetting one side of a plastic straw in the red paint blew through it over the shoulder ring. The paint ejected from the straw is that of a light sprinkling of red. I Yay gore!