Let’s Talk About Feathered Armor

This post originally appeared on the GlitzParty Cosplay Facebook in 2017. It has been preserved for posterity to aid other cosplayers here!

This week’s #TechniqueTuesday is a throwback to the two versions of Anders we made from Dragon Age. When we planned out our first two DA costumes, we had extra time and money to put into learning some new skills. After doing a fair amount of squinting at references, we decided that leather would be accurate for the setting and type of attire. We also thought we could try some cool stuff to make all the shoulder fluff.

Since the Renegade Coat is such an old costume, we don’t have many good refs of what we did, but we started with the basic shape of the bolero in thick leather and added slashed sleeves made of garment leather. From there, the technique was the same as for the pauldrons, which we thankfully have better WIPs of.

Once the base was made, we took an awl and made channels at 30°-45° angles into the leather. Using thick leather is necessary for this so you don’t punch all the way through. Even then, it’s very easy to do and great care should be taken to not stab yourself while routing.

In general, you’ll want a lot of coverage around your top and bottom edges. It gives a fullness and weight to your piece around the lower edges, and around the top it helps to hide the shafts where they come out of the leather. When approaching an edge, make sure the holes turn to face toward where you want the direction of the feathers to go. Approaching the top edge, however, you’ll want to stay going in the direction the bulk of your feathers will be going, otherwise you’ll end up with a really awkward feather explosion going up into your face (unless that’s what you want, of course!) You can route as you go or you can pre-route all of your piece before you start the fun part.

We used Shoe GOO to keep our feathers in place. After opening the tube, we dipped the shaft into the punched hole just enough to coat the portion we intended to sink into the leather. Then we oriented the feather and carefully pushed it into the hole. Some of the shafts were too brittle and either bent or broke, and we had to pull them back out and use different feathers. Sometimes the shafts were too thick and we’d have to run the awl back into the hole to flare it a bit more or shave it down with a utility knife. It takes a little practice but it’s really cathartic once you get the hang of it!

We used a mixture of different types of feathers for our pieces to give them visual interest. On the Renegade Coat, we used a combination of schlappen feathers in two lengths (medium and long) and some cheap craft store feathers. The cheap feathers were used to help bulk out the coverage and we made sure to layer the nicer feathers over them so it stayed well mixed. The long feathers were used to get coverage over the shoulders since we couldn’t continue this technique down the sleeves. With the nicer feathers layered around them, it looked really nice and pretty seamless! Tiny feathers and broken bits of feathers were used at the top edge of the feathered areas to disguise the shafts of the medium sized feathers. Don’t throw those out!

On the pauldrons, we used the same schlappen feathers as on the coat but also ordered them in gold to replicate the highlights in our references. We also mixed in some saddle feathers to give the overall look more a more rugged, wild vibe. We didn’t bulk out the pauldrons with any craft store feathers, so they are very shiny and consistent!

Overall, it’s a great technique with great results. The feathers are very secure when done this way but can still be pulled and replaced as needed when they eventually get bent or broken. This technique replicates the way bird feathers come out, so as long as the coverage is good, they can move seamlessly across any curve or plane. We highly recommend it!

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