Learn skills to make custom costumes and individualized armor

ARMOR ALL: An example of custom made armor from Organic Armor.
ARMOR ALL: An example of custom made armor from Organic Armor. Photo courtesy of Organic Armor

Sometimes you just want to get dressed up, but not necessarily to the nines. From armor to costumes, there are ways you can indulge your desire to don different or unique duds.

Jennifer Murphy, co-owner of Asheville-based Organic Armor, says there are no limits to what people can make once they learn the basics of constructing armor. Her company offers an introductory course, in-person or online, that specifically teaches participants how to craft their own armor and costume accessories using various fibers, acrylics and liquid latex. “I want to emphasize that costumes made in this way are comfortable to wear. You can dance all night in a headdress made of this stuff. You won’t take anyone’s eye out and it lasts for years,” she says.

Murphy says anyone can learn the basics, noting her company has taught the fundamentals of armor making to elementary school kids. She says once you get going it’s all about building on your skills and maximizing your creativity, although she urges students to progress on a logical scale. “We encourage students to start with the armbands and work their way up to more complex pieces. That being said, we have one student in the course who thinks on a grand scale, and her first project was a corset.” Murphy says those accessories and costumes are great for everything from creating festival outfits to cosplay. Organic Armor is hosting an introductory workshop Saturday and Sunday, April 16 and 17.

If you’re more interested in traditional costume skills, the Asheville Community Theatre uses volunteers to help with its costume making. Chanda Calentine, ACT’s program director, says volunteers get one-on-one time with ACT’s costume designer to learn basic- and advanced-costuming skills. “The types of costumes can range from creating storybook characters for Seussical to focusing on period costuming for The Man Who Came to Dinner,” she says. A new volunteer orientation session will be held on Monday, May 23.

ACT also hosts its Tanglewood Youth Theatre summer camps, an immersive experience that exposes kids to all aspects of the theater, including making costumes. “The students are extremely excited to understand what goes into costume making, especially how it helps develop a character,” Calentine says. “We only offer this class as part of our advanced camp, which is a summer two-week intensive ending with a final performance of a play.” The camps run June 13-24 and July 11-22.

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About Dan Hesse
I grew up outside of Atlanta and moved to WNC in 2001 to attend Montreat College. After college, I worked at NewsRadio 570 WWNC as an anchor/reporter and covered Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners starting in 2004. During that time I also completed WCU's Master of Public Administration program. You can reach me at dhesse@mountainx.com.

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One thought on “Learn skills to make custom costumes and individualized armor

  1. boatrocker

    Cool- big fan of theater type stuff as it pushes boundaries. Good luck with all those endeavors- maybe I could find an aspiring costume to make me a Boba Fett outfit for date night? Kidding- I think.

    Or perhaps these costumers could branch out to include materials like kevlar in order to save the lives of loved ones in a state that lets people carry guns into bars and homegrown terrorists from here murder innocents outside of Planned Parenthood clinics while screaming “no more baby parts” which is not a thing?

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