Dawn's Costume Guide

Make a Fancy Mask

These are the fancy masks you see costumed revellers wearing in the expensive "period" movies about the 17th and 18th centuries. They are reasonably simple to make, and can add a fun touch to an otherwise ordinary outfit or become the grand finale to your Masquerade Ball costume. Give yourself two days to make one of these, as the glue needs to dry thoroughly.

What you need:

    a plastic "domino" mask (like the Lone Ranger wears) If you are going to use white or light fabric, try to get a light mask, otherwise it doesn't matter much what color it is.
    lightweight fabric to cover the mask, about an 8" square (polyester satin works well)
    matching felt for the back
    fabric glue or white glue (like Elmers)
    an 18" length of 1/4" wood dowel
    ribbon, beads, lace, glitter, feathers, artificial flowers, etc. for trim

Begin by laying out the trims you have selected and determining how you want to place them. Choose an arrangement that pleases you, and that does not stress any of the trimmings. You don't want them falling off because they are too heavy or don't have enough contact with the mask to stay glued.

Place the mask down on the felt and trace a rough template around it. This will give you and idea of how much to cut later.

If you want to keep the elastic so you can wear the mask over your head, you will need to pull it out of the way as you wrap the fabric over the front. If you do not want to wear the mask later, go ahead and remove the elastic now.

Cover the front of your plastic mask with glue, in an even thin layer, being sure to get the edges and around the eyes.

Position your fabric over the mask so the grain of the fabric is on the bias, or diagonal. Your square should be a diamond. This helps the fabric stretch over the curves better. Carefully smooth the fabric so it covers all the curves as well as you can make it, and sticks to all of the mask surface. You may get some glue squishing through the fabric, but if it is white glue it will dry invisible. Try not to get it on your fingers or the top of the fabric as you work, because too much of it will give you a messy, dirty look.

Leave it to dry completely.

When it has dried, trim around the mask so you have between 1/2 and one inch of extra fabric to fold under. Carefully slit the fabric over the eyeholes and snip the curves so you can fold the fabric back through them. Crease the fabric with your fingers to help it fold better. Snip the curves around the outside of the mask so it can fold back smoothly.

Apply glue to the back of the mask along the edges and around the eyeholes. Carefully fold the fabric to the back and glue it down. Try to keep your hands as clean as possible.

Cut out the felt shape you traced earlier, giving yourself an extra 1/2 to one inch "safety margin" all the way around. You will trim the exact shape later.

Apply glue to the rest of the back of the mask, including the fabric you just glued down. Place the felt on the plastic and smooth it into place. Push the felt until it stretches to cover the nose cavity. You may want to use spring clothespins to hold the fabric and the felt edges down, but be careful there isn't so much glue the clothespins get stuck there!

When it is dry, carefully trim the felt to the edge of the mask. Slit the eyeholes and trim them. Your mask is now ready to decorate.

For ribbon streamers, cut multiple 24" lengths of 1/8" ribbon, and knot them as a bunch in the middle. Glue the knot at the sides of the mask.

If you are going to use feathers across the top, arrange them so that a strip of ribbon or lace or something covers the pointy tips. Be prepared to glue the feathers down first, and the ribbon afterward.

Ruffled lace will fit around the curve of the mask better than flat lace or ribbon. Craft pearls or rhinestones can be used to add sparkle to the lace.

A striking method of using glitter is to cover one half of the mask and leave the other plain. Draw an imaginary line diagonally from above one eye to under the other, and only apply glitter to one side.

Make sure that any large items, such as artificial flowers, don't block the mask-wearer's field of view.

Finally, when the mask is decorated to suit, apply glue to the top inch of the dowel and stick it down to either the right or left back side of the mask, about 1/4 inch in from the edge. It's a good idea to clamp the dowel to hold it in place, use a clothespin or a binder clip. Leave it overnight to dry. This is the single longest drying part of the whole project, and if it isn't good and dry before you take off for the party, it will come undone. You may want to glue it at the same time you put the felt on, but it must be completely dry before you start handling the mask to decorate it.

All text and artwork copyright 1990 - 2000 D. Duperault. NOTHING on this site may be reproduced or distributed by any means without my written permission. This information offered in good faith, and worth only what you paid for it.
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