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Make a Zombie Costume

Home > Everywhere > Cheap | Halloween | Party Ideas
by Shannon Norfolk (subscribe)
Set and Costume Designer, Theatre Creator, creative crafty type.....
Published September 16th 2012
Zombie Apocalypse - How to blend in
Making a Zombie Costume

October is Zombie month in Adelaide with the Zombie Walk in the first week (October 6 for 2012) and, of course, Halloween on Oct 31. But a Zombie can be a great option for any horror or film theme party.

Now, if you haven't heard of the Zombie Walk, pop over here and here, get excited, and jump back, ready to prepare for an awesome night out.

Really, there is only 2 things you need for your Zombie garb - a costume or clothing of some sort, and fake blood.

There are no hard and fast rules for a Zombie costume, anyone can be infected with the virus. Characters from movies, TV and fairytales, any occupation and time period can be involved in an outbreak. Your everyday clothes are fine, provided you are happy to destroy them. If you have a specific character in mind, it is best to buy your costume as becoming a Zombie usually involves tearing and blood and you probably won't get your bond back if you do hire. There are plenty of costume stores in Adelaide, plus all the online ones and then Ebay so you should find what you are looking for. While you are there don't forget to pick up some fake blood and liquid latex for your make up.

Op shops can be another great option for getting your costume even if you are just going for the 'everyday' look (plus you get double karma points for supporting another charity). They are also great if you have no idea, just head in with an open mind and a sense of humour. On a recent visit to my locals I spotted some, um, lovely 80's outfits that should be taken out of circulation, there was plenty of options for zombie grannies, formal/prom wear is always plentiful and I also spotted a few ski suits which I thought would make great zombie attire. Don't forget "accessories make the outfit", being a kiddie zombie in Pj's - you'll need a (zombified) teddy bear, going for the 80's power suit - you'll need a slick handbag or brief case. Don't know where your nearest op shop is - now you do!

The beginning of the Zombification


Distressing Your Costume

Now for 'distressing' your outfit, no need for sewing scissors or other speciality tools, you will have what you need to do this. You also don't have to do all of the things suggested, often just a couple of elements of distress on your outfit will look better then all the techniques used on every piece of clothing.
The simplest way of making clothing look worn in is to give it a good stretch especially around the neckline and hemlines. Seriously just pull as hard as you can, it really won't matter if you do tear it.

Use an old tea towel or rag to protect your hands when grating.


Hems and the edges of clothing is usually what gets torn and tatty first. Hacking into them with scissors is one option, but can often look too deliberate, you can try softening your cuts a bit by rubbing and pulling at the threads to get the material to fray. However, 'knit' material, which most t-shirts are made of, won't fray like jeans will, but you should still be able to pull out some loose threads. For a more natural tattered look, grab the cheese grater and give the edges of clothing a good rub. You can also use a serrated edge knife and drag along the clothing to get some nice fine tears (best to have a chopping board underneath). The grater can also work well on the knees of pants and even elbows of tops. Another option is to use sandpaper to wear away at knees and edges, or if the print on your outfit looks too 'new' give it a rub to help wear it down.

Knife effects - beware of what you are cutting underneath


Slashes are also popular and fun to do. Usually the most realistic looking slashes are actually done in a realistic manner. Hang your items on the clothes line and stab at it with a knife. A pointy end knife with a serrated edge will give a good rugged slash. If you want to be less violent, just poke in your scissors and cut, for jagged edges bunch the material before cutting. When slashing away at your costume, be aware of 'where' you are slashing, a great big slash down the front may look good until you put it on realise it's exposing your underwear (or lack of...). If you do make a slash or tear that is a little too much, use safety pins through the back to help keep it together.

Bunching will give a jagged edge, more natural looking then a straight cut.


Staining Your Costume

Now for some colour! Coffee and tea are your best friends right now, so make yourself a cup and then make an extra strong one for your costume, best done in a bucket or ice cream container. If you don't like the straight line dipping in creates, use a spoon to pour and splash to make an uneven line. Tatters can be dip in to different levels to create a more natural look. And of course, just have some fun flicking the coffee over your clothes (best to be outside or some where very easy to clean). To get really dark patches, put coffee granules on the clothes and spray or pour a little water on them and leave to dry. So your stains aren't all the some colour mix up some different strengths of coffee/tea or add in some fake blood or just a drop or two of food colouring. To prevent your stains from seeping through lay a plastic shopping bag or a few layers of newspaper inside your clothes, if using newspaper keep checking on it so it doesn't get too soggy.

And I have left the best until last, playing with blood! The blood can be applied in lots of different ways, using your fingers (may want to consider having gloves on), dripping straight from the bottle, cotton tips or brushes, an old toothbrush can be great for applying blood, dragging your finger across the bristles makes some lovely splatter effects. Watery blood is good for staining and splatter, but you will need thicker (but still fluid) blood for drips around the neck line. If your blood is too thick (it will be good for make up) just add some water to it and mix. Pour some runny blood on the edges of each slash or wound mark in your costume as this is where it would have naturally seeped through. Zombies love flesh and brains so lots of blood dribbled down the front as Zombies are not delicate eaters. This is best done hanging on the clothes line, protective bag pegged in between and pouring the blood down the top to get nice, natural drips. Like with the coffee, have some fun flicking over your clothes. Even with the blood, less can be more, so don't be afraid to step back and say that's enough, not every Zombie has to be completely blood soaked!

Tranzmog FX has some of the best blood available and it's made by local FX wiz Zaen Ghast!

Delicious, dribbling blood!


Now it's time to just let everything dry and wait for the Zombie Apocalypse.

If you are wanting to use your costume for more then one occasion mix textile medium (available at Art and Craft stores - it basically turns paints into fabric paints) in with your coffee and blood, and follow the instructions for heat setting. I would recommend only hand washing your costume as tearing and stretching destabilises the garment and you may end up with unwearable rags if put through a washer.
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Why? There WILL be a Zombie Apocalypse but in the meantime there is Zombie Walk, Halloween and horror parties
When: Now, Oct 6, Oct 31, whenever
Where: Starting at your house then on to the event
Cost: Blood $5 - $10, Clothing $5 and up
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