Sunday, October 29, 2017

How to be an anemone

There is something magical about wearing a Halloween costume that people both recognize and appreciate. I think my Halloween costume this year may have been my greatest success to date. Turns out people love Nemo. Not only were most people able to guess what I was, there seemed to be a lot of entertainment value in the word itself:


Apparently everyone knows what it is, but no one can pronounce it!

I got my idea for a sea anemone costume shortly after Halloween last year, when I realized I'd had a clownfish-shaped Air Swimmer lying around in its box for over a year, and that I should use it for something. Imagine being a sea anemone for Halloween, with a real remote-controlled fish swimming around your tentacles!

So for the past year, I'd been contemplating how to create realistic-looking tentacles. At some point, I thought of that springy stuff that people sometimes use in their "raver wigs."  

This is what I meant by raver wigs, if you are not familiar with the concept.
I didn't even know what to call those wigs, let alone what that stuff was that made it up! So the first challenge of this costume was in trying to figure out how to call the material I wanted, so I could actually shop for it. I figured it out eventually, although I can no longer remember how. It's called tubular crin, or sometimes Cyberlox, and I discovered in September that I could obtain 90 yards of it for $12.40 on AliExpress

Learning to use AliExpress was the second challenge of this project, because I had a very hard time getting my account set up, getting back into my account after I got locked out, and getting the website to accept my credit card. Whatever—all in the name of discounted bulk purchasing! I ordered three colors—two shades of green and one neon pink, and waited. My tubular crin was on its way from China, and all I had to do was hope it arrived in time to actually make it into a costume.

While I was waiting, I happened across a pair of neon yellow-green pants on [referral link, ho!], and then a yellow tank top that looked amazingly similar to the pants. This decided me. I would be a green anemone, not a pink one, and I would wear these two items as my base.

The tubular crin arrived about two weeks before my big Halloween party. It was everything I could have imagined...except for one small issue. As it had been folded up and crammed into a box for several weeks, it was kinked and crimped in some spots, which caused it to bend at strange, un-tentacular ways. I looked online for techniques to un-crimp your tubular crin, but couldn't find any. So, Internet, allow me to teach you one!

How to straighten bent tubular crin

You will need the following:
  • Tubular crin, in any sad kinky condition
  • A hair dryer
  • A straight rod narrow enough to fit inside your tubular crin. I used a 3/8-inch dowel rod.
Take your sad, kinky tubular crin.

Insert the straight rod inside it to straighten the bent parts.

I tried just holding the tubular crin straight during this process, but I found that stretched it out too much (which makes it narrower), and caused it to flop around unhelpfully during the straightening process. So yes, use a rod. It is essential!

Using your hair dryer on high heat, slowly run the dryer up and down the length of the rod.

Remove the straightening rod. The bends in the crin should be much less pronounced, if not completely gone!

One thing the Internet was able to help me with was how to keep the ends of tubular crin from fraying. Essentially, you fold the raw ends inside. It took me a few tries to figure out an effective technique for this, but eventually I got it.

The next question was how to attach the tubular crin to myself, in order to make it convincingly reminiscent of an anemone's tentacles. I figured I would attach it to the shirt in some way.

I wanted each tentacle to kind of point upwards and then arch back down. In order to give it a certain amount of rigidity at its base (so it would stand up) as well as effectively halve the number of pieces I'd have to attach, I decided to fold each length of tubular crin in half so both open ends were facing the same direction.

Hot glue turned out to be my best friend for this project. For each tentacle, I simply folded it in half, pinched the two halves together as close to the fold as I could, and put a drop of hot glue over the join. It took a few seconds to dry, but eventually I made some U-shaped pieces of wire that neatly held the crin in place so I could put it down and work on the next one before the glue was hardened.

Originally I planned on sewing the tentacles to the shirt, so I could remove them after Halloween and still have an undamaged shirt to wear. Alas, after a few attempts at hand-stitching the floppy, uncooperative crin to an equally floppy shirt, I gave up and just used hot glue for this process as well.

Here's how it looked after I had attached one row of tentacles all the way around the shirt.

I thought I was done at this point, but then after looking at a few more photos of sea anemones, I decided I needed more tentacles! Good thing I had gotten 90 fricking yards of the stuff! I made some 14 more tentacles in record time, and attached them under or above the existing tentacles, wherever they fit best.

Woohoo! Body of the costume was basically done, but now there were new challenges.

In all the years that I'd owned it, I had never taken my flying clownfish out of its box. But 6 days before the party, I finally got around to it...and discovered to my intense dismay that it was  far too big! I had envisioned a fish maybe the length of my arm, but what I got was basically the length of my entire body! A clownfish that big could not take refuge in an anemone my size. My costume idea no longer made any sense! Furthermore, I didn't even know if the fish would fit anywhere! It would practically take up a whole room at the party! The flying fish was a no-go!

And so, a last-minute clownfish search ensued! Yes, I was trying to find Nemo.

I went to all the discount and dollar stores at my local mall, but came up empty. Then, reluctantly, I borrowed my boyfriend's Amazon Prime account and found a couple of stuffed clownfish toys that I thought would do a decent job. I take pride in making cheap Halloween costumes out of basically what I have lying around, so I was disappointed that I'd need to incur this extra expense, but we have to do what we have to do. An anemone without fish is like a summer without sunshine!

My clownfish came on Tuesday as the wrong address! I admit to having a meltdown at this point. All I was trying to do was make the coolest Halloween costume ever, and nothing was working out! Fortunately, this issue only took a day to rectify. My boyfriend's mom hand-delivered my box of fish the next day, leaving me plenty of time to find a way to work them into my costume.

They came with plastic hangers, so I hung one from the underside of my tentacles, and made a bracelet out of ribbon so I could carry the other one on my wrist and make it "swim."

As a finishing touch, something which had occurred to me the prior week, I had ordered some temporary tattoos with a clownfish motif. They were only a few cents each, but I had to pay three dollars for shipping. I cut them out (laboriously) and positioned them meticulously upon my cheeks.

With all these clownfish covering me, there should  be no question what my costume represented, so the rest was just details. I wore brown flat shoes (to resemble sand), wore a wavy blue headband, and put a lot of blue-green makeup on my eyes (to resemble water).

And lastly, since these things are important to me, some costs.
Tubular Crin:  12.40 (though I could probably get some of that back if I sell the leftovers)
Temporary Tattoos:  3.69
Pants: 2.40
Shirt: 2.70
Two clownfish: 9.68
Total: 30.87
In conclusion, while this is possibly my most successful Halloween costume to date, it is probably my most expensive one as well. It did, however, garner third prize in the costume contest, so I guess you lose some, you win some.

"Sea" you next year!

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