Halloween – Wakanda fool am I?


Superheroes keeping the neighborhood safe from too much chocolate

Not having got the whole of Wakandan universe out of my system, I decided to challenge myself to make the Dora Milaje costume.  Out of t-shirts.  Challenge accepted.


It all starts with a drawing and a list 

Every creative undertaking starts with a drawing and a list.  And a timeline.  For a creative person I have some really rigid  tendencies.  After all, I was trying to approximate this:

Without the Hollywood budget.  After mentally toying around with using pleather or vinyl to create the Dora Milaje harness, I wondered if I could modify a T-shirt with some strategic cutting.  From there I figured another T-shirt would do for the skirt.  After that it was a case of that creative hamster on a wheel that comes up with all the ideas, which resulted in this drawing and list:


Preliminary list. Shut the Front Door means on top of all this I have to decorate the front door, too, dammit.

Harness and top – try it on again, and again and again . . .

Part of the beauty of this idea was I already had a red long sleeved t-shirt, which had already looked upon a previous Halloween as Wonder Woman.  I purchased a brown T-shirt, a man’s medium.  At the last minute I opted not to go for a snug fitting shirt because what if it was too snug?  It’s easier to take something in.  Using my own fitted T-shirt as a guide, I traced its outline with chalk on the wrong side of the brown shirt.  I sewed along the chalk a tried it on for fit.  Satisfied, I used chalk to outline the areas to cut out, referring to the picture of Okoye.  The one mistake I made was outlining the bust too generously.  It made my upper story look too big.  I guess if it were an actual comic book that would be ok but that’s not really my aesthetic.  I eventually had to add back material to the areas I cut so if I could do this over again I would cut conservatively first.  Also, it was going to be dark so no one would see the rough areas.  Since this was T-shirt material and stretchy, I also added interfacing along the bust line for some structure.  Along the way I kept checking fit and I ultimately had to tack some areas to get the harness to fit snugly in the right places.  The harness was my miners canary – if it didn’t work out I was going to stop right there.  However, I was satisfied with how it turned out.

Adding the skirt

I next bought an XL women’s mustard yellow tank top and cut it right below the arm pit to maximize the amount of material I had to work with.  The hem was rounded and high low, so that was favorable.  I took it in a little bit around the waist as if I was fitting a skirt.  After comparing against the picture, I cut away the front of the skirt at an angle and sewed it to the harness.  Believe it or not due to my screwed up brain I had such a hard time figuring out how to pin which side to which side to sew it correctly.  Easy stuff like this confuses me, or rice krispy treats, or jello squares.  Anyway, after 10 billion tries I figured it out.

Tasseled choker

Although the skirt and harness were the most difficult to construct (or destruct in the case of the harness since it was a lot of cutting), I was really stumped on the choker.  There was no way I was going to attempt to garrote myself with a bunch of actual wire. That would be super uncomfortable.  At the fabric store I found some crushed gold material in the fancy section I never shop in, that looked like wires.  Next I found some gold tassels, which in another time would have looked fantastic on some Victorian drapery.  I cut a piece to fit my neck and backed it with muslin to give it some structure then added Velcro to the ends to secure it.  After that it was a simple matter of attaching the tassels to the gold material, and the choker was done.

Bracelets and epaulets

I ended up using the choker material to make bracelets, too.  I intended to use spray painted vinyl but I cut it wrong, and the choker material was quicker to make and stretchier and therefore easier to put on.  However, the vinyl did work well for epaulets.  I cut four trapezoids (two for each arm) from some leftover vinyl I had, and spray painted them gold.  I opted not to hot glue Velcro to the vinyl but instead stapled it.  Not really up to my standards but I know nothing about sewing vinyl and this was not the time to break my machine.  I added Velcro to the brown T-shirt to line up with the epaulets.  In retrospect I should have cut six epaulets and added elastic to go around my bicep on the last one but . . . Next Black Panther movie I guess.

Hangy thing/tabard

I don’t even know what a tabard is, and I refuse to use a word I don’t know.  But hangy thing down the front with beads on it clearly makes me sound … well not like a 44 year old woman who knows what she’s doing.  Nevertheless, I busted out some fabric paint to start making the beaded designs.  Before I added the paint, I did add interfacing to give it some structure and make it hang appropriately, otherwise no one would know it was a hangy thing.  I dotted paint in chevron designs and cut a belt buckle out of gold card stock which ultimately did not make it on the costume.  Uhh, someone, I’m not gonna say who, forgot.  Also, FYI tabard is not what I thought it was but I’m just going to leave it there.

Spear, pants, boots, make up and hair – should I shave my skull?

If you’ve read my Black Panther post, you know making a spear ain’t no thang.  A cardboard blade affixed to a slit in a cardboard tube and spray painted silver.  I found some leggings that had some detail that ultimately could not be seen, but made me feel authentic.  I added my rain boots and all costume articles were ready.

Now what to do with the face?  The Dora Milaje are pretty well made up, so I couldn’t go in all naked face, even if it was dark outside.  I did way more eye make up than usual/ever, with some vibranium purple eyeliner and shadow.  I followed that up with a dark lip color to accentuate all of Africa that is housed above my chin and below my nose.

And the hair.  The one time in my life when naturally curly, frizzy, African American hair was a plus.  Just a tad too short to really give that African emphasis.  First I went the Nakia in Korea route and I started looking like Mr. Glass in Unbreakable.  Uh, no.  Shave my head like a real Dora Milaje?  Noooo, I don’t think so.  Bantu knots?  “Knot” enough hair.  Afraux-hawk?  Nope.  I finally did some Afro-punk meets 1940s (just thought that up now, but if I could dress myself the rest of my life according to that mantra I totally freaking would) with three roll ups, like curling the hair minus the rollers, across my crown, and two rows of twist corn rows on the sides.

How’d it go?


Post trick or treat glory, ready to use my spear on some Almond Joy’s.

The best part was walking around the neighborhood trick or treating like a badass and waiting at the end of each walkway like a bodyguard while the boys hit up the neighbors for candy.  Granted, it didn’t seem like many people knew what I was but I was channeling the two women at the beginning of the film who stroll in and eyeball everyone like don’t F with me.  I forgot to mention as an introvert I NEVER look strangers in the eye, I am strictly “hey, look at that interesting object on the ground.”  So that was a lot of fun.  The best was these two older boys with wolf masks passed that were kind of being obnoxious, and I stared them down until they said “Wakanda Forever” and part of me was like yeah keep walking wolves, and another part was all giddy I finally got some recognition.
So long answer to short question, you can make a Dora Milaje costume out of two t-shirts.  Challenge accepted.  And won.

The Wakanda Skirt

As I mentioned on my Black Panther party post (God help me every time I say “Black Panther party” I think of Forrest Gump apologizing for having a fight “at your Black Pantha party”), I was inspired to make an African print skirt to wear.  I typically steer away from sewing clothing unless it’s converting t-shirts into skirts.  I’ve made a few of those and got pretty comfortable with that concept so I figured I could maybe make this happen.


Foolish Forever! Black Panther Birthday



It’s been so long since I last blogged I have a new job and new co-workers.  And that co-worker keeps asking me to blog.  So this one’s for you Irene!


Irene is not smaller than me, I just have a bigger skull apparently. Just a little light protest against sexual assault on our break.

So way back in February I and 50 other black people I did not know lived in my neighborhood sat down in the theater to watch Black Panther.  I think it was the movie I have waited my whole black life for.  Where TF was this movie when I was 12???  So I was delighted when Geoffrey asked for a Black Panther birthday.  I brought the full power of my vibranium cranium to the table.


The Invite



Silver acrylic paint on black velvet – noice!


Yes, I could have done a easy silver stencil on black card stock and been done a lot quicker.  But this was for Wakanda.  As Okoye would say, “Black card stock.  So primitive.”  I decided to overcomplicate it and stencil black velvet with the Black Panther mask and then glue it to card stock.   On the reverse side I took nerdy pleasure in wittily calling Geoffrey “G’Challa”.  I had the luck to listen to an NPR piece about the costume design for the movie so one thing I was looking to do was try to incorporate the same geometric shapes.  Very happy with how the invite turned out.


Birthday Banner and Tablescape

I decided to use the colors of the ancestral plain at dusk for the sign, so purple, blue, violet, and black paint were used.  For the “10” in the sign I drew a shortened vibranium spear and a shield.  The shield ended up being a tad overworked for my taste but at a certain point I was trying to cover up mistakes so I finally had to stop adding stuff to it.  Overall I still liked it so much I had a hard time throwing it away afterwards.  Like for three weeks I’d just pass by it in the hall, unable to return it to paper’s ancestral plain, er recycle bin.



Enter a caption

The tablescape may have been the thing I was most excited about.  I had a really fantastic idea for the purple flower which ultimately did not work out but it still came out awesome.  I digress.  I started with about 4 yards of muslin, because it’s cheap.  I wanted to cover the hideous table the party venue provided and I didn’t think a Party City table cloth would be long enough.  Eh, I just wanted to make my own, who are we kidding.  I used the invite stencil to spray paint a pattern along the edge, then decided to add some color using geometric sponge stamps.  Unfortunately two things happened.  One I got paint on the driveway which has not faded (sorry HOA).  Second, the triangles I put around the mask looked like clown hair, like T’Challa and Pennywise switched DNA.  So I had to go back and add more paint/stencils and finally stop, much like the banner.


Next were the runners.  They were supposed to be tapestries but I found out I couldn’t tape anything to the walls of the venue.  In any case, I took some black burlap and taped off geometric shapes with masking tape and spray painted them silver.  Done.  Good enough for T’Challa’s throne room at least.

My new coworkers know me so well that when Pepsi saw some large foam circles by the recycle bin, well . . . He immediate thought of me and said, I think you can do something with these.  I sat on them for months and then it was time to make them into a shield.  Since the masking tape stencil worked so well on the runners, I replicated it here after gluing brown craft paper to the foam so I could spray paint.  Since this was a Dora Milaje shield that doesn’t exist in the movie, I felt free to paint it red.  I made two spears from tightly rolled craft paper and added a cardboard blade to a slit at the top of the tube, and then spray painted of course.  My neighbors are so used to the sight, smell and sound of me spray painting.  I added an image I saw on Pinterest with the Wakanda salute to the shield and that was good to go.



You might be thinking this is more than enough by now.  Nah-uh.  Nope.  I wanted glowing purple flowers in a mortar and pestle.  Who doesn’t?  My idea was to dip a wax calla lily in purple glow stick juice but I could only find silk flowers.  I tried to waterproof them with paint and modge podge but it did not work too well.  Additionally, dipping them in glow juice did not work.  I refused to let this idea go.  I had gone to the thrift store to find wooden bowls and scored big time.  After toying with purple aquarium sand, purple glass stones and ultimately dismissing them as too expensive, I bought some artificial ivy type leaves and filled the bowls with those.  I filled the bottom of the bowls with a crap ton of purple glow sticks and an LED tea light for good measure, as well as inserting a glow stick inside the flower for some extra oomph.  A final touch were some large banana-type leaves under each bowl.  I was really, really pleased with how this turned out.


Goody bags

Ok this time I did go with the simple stencil on a black bag.  I was either out of ideas or time or both.  I wanted to make claw necklaces, but that was more complicated than I had time for.  I did make some kimoyo beads by you guessed it, spray painting!  some wooden beads and then adding a blue communication dot.  I wanted to put all the little designs on them but it did not show up well and it was really hard on a curved surface.   I threaded elastic string through them and tied it off.  Kids loved them.  Next were some purple vibranium coins, aka chocolate.  I wanted to put some grape juice so the kids could drink the powers of the Black Panther but ultimately opted not to.  I didn’t know what else to put in when I came up with Wakanda salutes, which are pretzel twists that I thought looked like the crossed arm salute.  I thought that was kind of inspired.  Desperate, whatever.


Well, that was about it for the party.  The venue took care of everything else.  There was no Black Panther design at the bakery, so I did add some elements (shhh – I took a party napkin and glued a “10” cutout to cardboard and toothpicks), but nothing fancy.  All in all it was a successful party, and I swaggered around like Okoye and Nakia wrapped up in one.  Actually this movie inspired me so much to get in touch with my African roots I made what I call an African skirt to wear to the party and ultimately a Halloween costume.  But that’s another post.  Wakanda Forever!