Saturday, August 7, 2010

Duct tape suit

A friend of mine had an "Anything But Clothes" party recently to celebrate a birthday and her moving on from Amsterdam to pastures new (I'd like to say right now; good luck to her and thanks for a great party!). This posed a problem for me as fancy dress has not exactly been my thing up to now, but through age, or what have you, I am becoming more open minded about these things. Maybe the turning point was wearing lederhosen at last year's Oktoberfest in Munich (an outfit that made a reprise at this year's Carnivale).

Anyway, I had to think of something to wear. Togas and bin bag outfits were presented as options but really this seemed hardly enough effort for such an occasion and I really wanted to come up with something more challenging and/or original.

Some conversations with friends later it was mentioned that duct tape suits were all the rage at american prom nights these days (still original though here in the Netherlands I think).
This is not me or my suit by the way!!
Fantastic idea, not only can i make an awesome costume but I get to play with duct tape (and as it turns out, lumber and powertools too)!

Now, it seems that multi coloured duct tape is not so easy to get hold of here in the Netherlands, so whatever I made would be limited to black and silver. After some deliberation, and for reasons best not gone into here, the choice was made to go for a stripey prison suit - how hard can that be, it's not as if prison tailoring is up to Saville Row standards :)

So a little research later (very little as it turns out) I come across this guide:

Naturally, I ignore the bit about getting measured and acquiring a pattern (I'll deal with those problems later) and skip right to the section on making duct tape fabric.

Yay, powertools! First thing to do is construct a large wooden frame on which to layout the duct tape. So off to the wood shop i go to get some 120cm lengths of 2x4 (or the dutch equivalent there of), a new vice and some screws :)
Constructing a frame
As you can see I lack a workshop so the kitchen table has to do. Unfortunately it turns out that my cheap ass drill has kind of worn out (battery won't hold a charge for long) so after one corner I have to switch to making pilot holes and fixing the screws by hand - hard work, boo!! But soon it's done.
Completed frame
Now I need some duct tape. Like I said only black and silver available to me here so I get 4 rolls of each (turns out I only needed just over 2 of each but it doesn't hurt to have extra duct tape lying around).

So, next up taping strips of the duct tape across the frame. To make the stripes I laid down 2 lines of silver and then 2 lines of black, etc. Importantly, I start overlapping the end of the frame a good inch and each line overlaps the last by about half an inch.
Tape, tape and more tape
Once i have completely covered one side of the frame it's time to flip it over and lay tape across the back to complete the fabric as 2 layers of duct tape. Beware! Sticky sides of duct tape stick together very fast and are not easy to reposition (nigh on impossible in fact). My instructions suggested that i did not need to overlap the frame with this second side - this may be true but ignore that advice. I found it easiest to start high up on the frame and get my tape aligned correctly before getting to the sticky surface - I did however take the advice about cutting my lengths of duct tape for this side before laying them down. This I did by cutting lengths that were just more than the complete width of the frame (thus providing the necessary overrun to start off the sticky stuff).
Double siding!
Eventually i'm finished with this (took a lot longer than building the frame) and I can cut the piece free and start again - I am going to need at least 2 pieces.
Completed piece
2 completed pieces!
At this point I made a major design decision. After doing some measuring against some old jeans and checking weather reports I decided that the best option would be to make short trousers and a short sleeved jacket - I did not want to make a 3rd piece of fabric!! (seriously my back was starting to hurt).

Time to make some shorts and a jacket. As I said earlier, I eschewed the option of getting measured properly and getting a real pattern. Instead I grabbed an old pair of shorts, folded one piece of fabric into 4 and cut out the front and back pieces for my prison shorts.
Makeshift pattern
Cut out bits of shorts (don't let the perspective fool you, they are identical)
Now to stick the shorts together using what else but duct tape - I used the black duct tape for all the sticking together and so ended up using quite a bit more of the black by the time I'd finished.
Yay, shorts - but how do I get in them?
I need a fly for my shorts so I can get in and out of them! Luckily I also bought some sticky backed velcro when I was shopping for hardware :) So out come the scissors to make a fly et voila...
Velcro for the win!
You may also note that I stuck on an extra belt type bit of duct tape fabric with more velcro to keep the shorts on tighter (this probably has a name in tailoring circles but i don't know what it is).

Now for the jacket. A t-shirt provided the template for this (you see no measuring required when you use your own clothes as templates). Again the second piece of fabric was folded in 4 and back and front sections were cut out without sleeves.
Back and front jacket sections
More black duct tape to stick these together.
Not quite right :s

Again we need a way to get into this thing - and that head hole looks way too small! Out come the scissors and velcro again. Another piece of fabric is stuck on to provide something to overlap the velcro.
Ooh, starting to look like a jacket
Now the sleeves, again the t-shirt is used as a pattern and black tape used to stick them on.
Not quite done yet. The neck still needs to be cut out a bit and really pockets would be useful. On top of this I need a prisoner number and of course a matching hat!!
Complete suit but where's the number?!
Oh there it is - sticky label and letter stencil to the rescue
So that's it - ready to party! And what do you know I win first prize too (as well as being called a show off :)

But seriously apart from the work (around 10 or 12 hours altogether) there is suffering involved - duct tape is not breathable!

And here's a bonus photo from the night...
In action via blackberry
Now, as I write this the Amsterdam Gay Pride Parade is seriously kicking off on the canal outside so I think I may just have to go and bear witness to some other folk's insanity :)

Happy gay day!

(no i'm not wearing this again today as some had suggested)

1 comment:

  1. Impressive, though I would have gone for duct tape speedos (more breathable and all) :)