My final year project at National Institute of Dramatic Arts [NIDA] in 2013

Designer & Head Cutter Robyn Murphy

Male Modelled by Joel Jackson
Female Modelled – Emily Eskell
Makeup by Samara Gildea
Photography by Deerstalker Pictures
male_sketch01_finalfemale_sketch ◊ Original Concept Renderings

 Video Footage of Costumes

The criteria of the project was to research a personal medium and present the findings in a physical or academic presentation. Coming from a very science fiction and fantasy background I chose to make two costumes that implemented materials and techniques I had never worked with as well as new styles of pattern constructions.

This project began in February 2013, starting with researching and sourcing of materials and designing the outfits of both models.

Using the inspirations from my favourite genres I created my designs to represent very form fitted and sleek characters. The original concept designs are slightly varied to the final piece but were merely a starting block for my inspiration.

Male Make

His design was to be of a very athletic and strong persona. To represent this I used a very form fitting suit with design lines emphasising the muscular structure of the male figure. His outfit is made of predominately leather products, blended in with vinyl materials. Starting with the jacket, it was originally drafted out as a standard men’s suit jacket. Once the first fitting of the standard block was achieved the pattern was then completely re-designed by drawing in the more complex design lines that I was after. I wanted a very non-linear design, with natural curves to follow the muscular structure of the human body. So from the simple 6 pieces of the standard jacket, I transformed them into 54 pieces. I then did the same process for the sleeves and the trousers. In total, his entire suit is made up of 126 pieces.

Each piece of the suit was hand stitched together before being machine sewn. Leather is a very difficult fabric to work with as a single misguided stitch can permanently scar the material which is why tacking the seams together before machining was required to avoid mistakes. The gold and silver piping have all been hand cut and sewn to match the palette of the costumes. Each piping was inserted and chevroned to emphasise particular curves and points in the suit. To help build up the muscular design structure; I implemented the technique of cording into particular sections of the suit. The cording in the chest, shoulders, sleeves and trouser waist were each individually sewn into the leather or vinyl. I used three thicknesses in the cording to create a subtle gradual incline or decline of widths to help emphasise those sections of the body. The jacket was then fully lined and zips inserted at centre front and at the sleeve cuffs for a snug fit.

Female Make

The look I was after for my female costume was that of a sleek, agile and speedy character. Similar to the male design, I used the lines of the female muscle structure to guide the design lines. To portray the look of her persona I chose to use latex and an assortment of stretch fabrics. Starting from the first layer to her outfit, her body suit, I used a material known as sheet latex. I prototyped the body suit in spandex to get the overall fit of the garment before using the latex. As I was unable to obtain enough latex to make a full suit, I problem solved the situation by concentrating on getting all the visible pieces of the body suit cut in latex and having the unseen part, the torso, of the suit made in an alternate material of cotton spandex. I then bonded the bodice section to the latex using brush latex. The leotard then goes over the cotton section to hide the joins between the two different fabrics. The bodysuit is made up of 38 pieces as well as 14 inserts of hand-made stretch piping, as opposed to the standard bodysuit which is made up of 3 pieces.

The leotard is made up of 36 pieces, it is constructed from a black, gold and purple 4-way stretch vinyl, a green textured mesh fabric which is then backed onto a silk lycra as well as the use of a textured neoprene inserted on the back shoulder blades and custom made stretch gold piping. Again, similar to the male I wanted to have lines that flowed through the body with non-linear seams at the side and shoulders. Once all the pieces were sewn together the whole leotard was then faced out with 2mm neoprene, which is a fabric most commonly used in swimsuits. The use of the neoprene was to give the leotard more body and to strengthen its structure.

The shoulder pieces have been constructed from leather and a metallic ringed fabric. The pattern was designed from custom drawn shapes to create the spiked shoulder-look. The leather was individually pin tucked to create a 3-dimensional look. The silver fabric was then backed with a heavy plastic mesh to help stiffen the fabric and hold out the shape of the spikes. The pieces were then sewn together, then wired to help hold out its shape. Finally, the shoulders are finished off with hand stitched gold strips to emphasise the edges.


The armour that is seen on both costumes is made from a thermoplastic known as Worbla. To shape this material it must be heated and then moulded over a shape, or it can be sculpted by hand. This process was used to create all the pieces of armour.

From there I airbrushed the thermoplastic, starting with a block colour then adding shading and texture to give the thermoplastic added dimension.

And finally, the lit up pieces in the costumes. To make these pieces I originally drew out the designs on card. I then scanned and re-drew them digitally in Adobe Illustrator. They were then laser cut and etched in clear acrylic. Once cut, the acrylic was then hand moulded with heat to create a curve to follow the shape of the head and the arm. The pieces were then inserted into the armour and I then soldered LED’s to the edges to create the glowing effect of the screens.

Progress Pictures



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