At Intercon M, the annual LARPing convention, I played the pharaoh Hatshepsut in a theater LARP called Osiris’ Gate. I created a pinterest board for inspiration. While searching for reference images of ancient pharaohs, gods and goddesses, I spotted various versions of a vulture headdress, and decided to include one in my costume. (Elizabeth Taylor wore one as Cleopatra.)
I never found any decent instructions online, so my process was pretty much made up as I went along, with a lot of trial and error. I imagine it can be altered pretty easily to create a headdress of other birds or animals, depending on the symbolism of your LARP’s religions and cultures. The materials are extremely cheap, so there’s no real reason not to experiment.
- A sturdy headband
I bought mine at a dollar store, where they had a bunch of random options. Try a few on, see which one seems the sturdiest and stays on your head the best- the flimsier ones might slide back or forward if you add too much weight. I liked the ones with teeth. Also, broad/flat hairbands are better than the skinny ones- more surface for the hot glue.
- A sheet or two of craft foam
I made the mistake of purchasing my first sheet in white foam. Buy one in the color closest to the color you plan to paint it. (In my case, the closest color to gold was tan.) If the spray paint misses a spot in the cracks or on the edges, it shows a lot less. The sheets of foam were only 69 cents at the crafts store.
- hot glue gun and sticks of hot glue
I like the lower temp hot glue guns- they’re somewhat better for clumsy people like me.
- gold spray paint
Or whatever color, really. They sell mini-cans at Michael’s for under $4.
- scissors (or an exacto knife)
I used scissors, but I suspect an exacto knife would have been easier. Either is probably ok.
- Measuring tape
This is not strictly necessary. It’s fine to make a general guess on how big you want the base to be, just err on the side of too big. Then hold it up to your head, and trim it down if you like.
- Optional: nail polish. I used a dark blue polish to paint on eyes.
1. Use the measuring tape to decide how big you want the headdress. I measured from the right corner of my jaw and over my head to the left corner of my jaw, then added a couple inches for good measure. This was the length of the banana-shaped base for the wings.
2. Cut the shapes of the vulture (or whatever bird or animal or shape you like) out of the foam. (I did this all by trial and error and guessing as I went, so don’t be afraid to experiment with proportions and shapes.) The shapes I cut were:
- Two large banana shapes (bases for the wings), one slightly larger than the other. The smaller one gets cut into triangles, then the bases of the triangles get rounded off.
- two half-circles, with rounded edges. (One for the shoulders and a larger one for the body of the vulture. Neither is exactly half a circle.)
- one elongated teardrop (for the head)
- lots of little rectangles with one side rounded off (I made about 30 for feathers.)
- 5 little teardrops (for the tail)
3. Test the spray paint on a small scrap of foam, then spray paint all the pieces, and let them dry. Be sure to get the sides and bottoms.
I glued my headdress together first, then spray painted the whole thing gold. This made it very hard to get color in all the little cracks and gaps, which is why I suggest spray painting the pieces before gluing them together. I spray paint outdoors, with the object being painted in a big cardboard box. And remember to test the paint on a small scrap of your foam before spraying the real thing! I once accidentally ruined a project (an astrolabe prop) made out of very soft foam because the spray paint actually damaged it.
4. Hot glue the pieces of foam together:
Glue feathers along the outside of the large banana, starting from the tips, and overlapping them as you go.
Glue feathers to the body, starting from the bottom, overlapping them as you glue. The final pattern looks a bit like fish scales.
Glue the pieces of the smaller banana to the larger banana. The bottom, rounded off tips should cover the tops of the feathers along the base of the outer banana.
Glue the shoulders onto the top of the wings.
Glue the head onto the shoulders so the point- the beak- points out over your forehead. Curve the tip of the beak down a bit if you like.
Glue the tail pieces to the underside of the body.
5. Hot glue the whole foam bird to the headband. I started by hot gluing the middle of the bottom to the center of the headband, letting it dry, then gently but firmly curving the foam and hot gluing it down the sides of the headband. Hold the foam to the headband while it cools and dries. But don’t burn your fingers.
7. For the last step, I painted two tiny eyes onto the head with blue nail polish. Totally optional.
Some Tips for an Ancient Egyptian Costume:
- For my shirt and skirt, I didn’t use a pattern and experimented a lot. The result was a holy mess held together with a lot of safety pins. I don’t recommend this if you’re a beginner sewer like me. A saner option (that anyone can do without ever having sewn before or needing a sewing machine!) is to create a chiton- two long rectangles pinned at the shoulders and draped over the body. Then tie a sash around your waist. (The chiton is technically Greek, but Egyptians wore a lot of loose white linen, so the look is pretty close. Plus some of the later pharaohs, like Cleopatra, were actually of Greek descent, so their fashion had Greek influence.)
- My collar was bought on ebay- search for “Egyptian beaded collars.” (Amazon has some as well.) Any tribal looking costume jewelry will work well, especially cuff bracelets. And snake armbands, of course.
- Some important ancient Egyptians wore leopard skins draped over one shoulder. I bought a piece of leopard print fake fur at a fabric store, then pinned it to the shoulder of my friend who played the pharaoh Khufu. If you’re feeling creative, you can even try to cut it in the basic shape of a pelt (with a head, limbs, and a tail.)
- For my makeup, I searched for “Egyptian makeup tutorial” and “Cleopatra makeup tutorial” on youtube and watched a few videos. (Men also wore makeup in ancient Egypt.) For the LARP, I outlined both of my eyes in liquid black eyeliner (and drew long lines from the outer corners of my eyes), then outlined that with liquid gold eyeliner. I also found a gold-ish colored lipstick, which I wore both on my lips and my eyelids.
- For shoes, sandals work well, of course, as do flip-flops. Some LARPers went barefoot. I wore little gold ballet flats.
- Some of the other LARPers found striped fabric, cut it like a very large bandanna, and tied it around their head, with the knot beneath the back of the handkerchief, instead of on top. It strongly resembled a nemes.