Fairy wings

Just before Halloween, I managed to finish the last, and perhaps most important, part of my costume: the wings!

With Halloween only a day away when I started this project, I was worried that I’d run out of time and be stuck with either store-bought wings or no wings at all. But after browsing lots of costume and cosplay tutorials, I discovered that building your own wings is actually pretty simple and cost effective, if you have the right tools.

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The first step was to design my wings in Photoshop. I used photos of cicada wings for reference to help create some realistic-looking veining, and then printed the design on card stock and cut it out to make a template. Having a template made it easy to transfer exact copies of the veins onto black poster board, and then all I had to do was cut out both wings with an X-Acto knife.

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The tricky part was getting the cellophane to cooperate… it wrinkles and tears pretty easily, so I ended up using painter’s tape to secure it to a piece of cardboard to make it lie flat while I worked. I gave both the cellophane and the poster board veins each a light coat of spray adhesive before carefully placing the veins onto the cellophane, pressing lightly to ensure a good bond, and cutting them out.

Unfortunately, I did make the mistake of gluing both wings facing the same way – not an irreparable mistake, but if you’re trying this at home, be sure to glue your veins down correctly so that you have a left wing and a right wing, instead of two left ones. This way, the support wires will be facing the same way, and the finished wings will look a little nicer. Something to keep in mind for the next set of wings I make, I suppose!

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To give the wings support and structure, I shaped 14 gauge wire into a loop with two curved ends, which would get glued along the top of my poster board veins. The looped part will fit down the back of my dress and should keep the wings stable. If your hands are like mine in that they’re small and not very good at bending pieces of galvanized steel, you should be able to get away with using 16 gauge wire instead, which is thinner and easier to bend but will still offer the support you need to keep your wings up.

After hot gluing the support wire along the top vein, I used more spray adhesive to glue down a second layer of cellophane over the exposed poster board and wire, and then trimmed away the excess. I left a little more than a quarter of an inch of extra cellophane all the way around the veins, since the thickness of the poster board is just enough to keep the layers of cellophane from holding together along the edges of the veins… cut too close, and the cellophane could separate, which won’t look good on the finished wings.

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And that’s pretty much all there is to it!

My plan had been to make a pair hindwings, too, but I ended up not having enough time to do both, so I decided to save those for another project. I definitely feel that I have room for improvement where my wing-making skills are concerned, but for a first-time attempt, I’m still really pleased with how these turned out.

Click here to see photos of the finished costume!

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