Posts in Category: Techniques

How to Make a Mystique Belt

I have been cosplaying as Mystique since college. Pretty much before I was even aware of the term “cosplay.” I’m not the biggest fan of costume recycles, but when I do, I like to try to at least improve them every time. Last Halloween, per usual, we had not managed to scrape anything together for costumes. I decided to recycle my Mystique costume, but I had some ideas on how it should be improved. Namely, I needed a belt upgrade. Previously, I had made a belt using Crayola Model Magic. It was very time-consuming, but I didn’t really know a faster way at the time. Because I hot glued the skulls on, they kept falling off and worst of all, after a couple months, the paint somehow oxidized and turned green. It was a failure.


Lucky for me, I married an artist, and he knew how to cast stuff in resin. He used sculpey and tin foil to sculpt a badass skull. He used tin foil as something to bulk up the skull so he wouldn’t have to waste a ton of sculpey. Then he baked it so that it could be used as our template. You can see it on the bottom right of this picture.


Once we had the template, he used resin putty to make the mold for it. That’s the yellow thing in the picture. Once he made the mold, I went to work making about 15-17 of these bad boys. We used resin that we bought on I would recommend buying it there versus Michael’s or any other brick and mortar store because it’s so much cheaper. In order to make the resin stretch further, we added packing peanuts to the mixture. They pretty much immediately dissolve in the resin. The packing peanuts also had an added bonus of making the skulls a lot lighter, which is helpful. The belt is over 5 pounds using packing peanuts, I can’t image how heavy it would be with just straight resin. We ended up using approximately 3 boxes of resin for this.


Once all the skulls cooled off, Andy painted the eyes and nose cavity black, waited for them to dry, and taped them off so he could spray paint them an antique gold all over.


After that, he drilled holes in the back, so we could later screw them all to a belt. You can see the bubbly bits on the back are where the packing peanut foam was rising to the top. If you’re going to use packing peanuts with resin, I would recommend layering the resin and the peanuts. Resin first on the bottom of your mold where all the details are, then add packing peanuts, then more resin. It’ll take some trial and error, but you’ll get it.


Once the antique gold dried, Andy went over the raised areas with a lighter gold and a paint brush and screwed them all to a leather belt blank.


Here’s the finished product! I think the belt is a huge upgrade and really makes the costume. What is your favorite cosplay to recycle?

Distress Your Hardware in 5 Easy Steps!

You’ve probably heard plenty of tried and true methods for distressing costuming. Cheese grater. Coffee grounds. Roll around in the dirt. Run it over with your car. Whatever. There are plenty of creative methods for making newly made costumes look pretty torn up and old. What’s not commonly explored is how to distress the hardware on costuming pieces. Nothing is quite so jarring on a nicely distressed costume piece as pristine out-of-the-bag hardware. This post will explore how you can distress nickel silver hardware in a few simple steps.


  • White Vinegar

  • Chicken wire

  • Stock pot with lid

  • Stove


1. Scrub the factory finish off of the hardware with hot soap and water and an abrasive surface (steel wool). You won’t really feel it come off, but it will be slightly less shiny. If you keep the finish, the hardware won’t oxidize, it will just leave the finish all gummy on it. 

2. Pour 2 inches of vinegar into your stock pot.

3. Bend your chicken wire into a three sided square platform – like a table. Place this in the pot.


4. Place your hardware on the chicken wire platform and cover the pot.


5. Put the flame on low and let it sit for an hour or until the vinegar fumes tarnish the silver hardware.


The picture above shows distressed rivets alongside shiny new rivets (on the right). There are many ways to tarnish and distress hardware. This is our preferred method for nickel silver. What do you think?

What are your favorite distressing methods?

Gum Tragacanth

This is a post all about why you should use gum tragacanth to finish or burnish the edges of your veg-tan leather projects. After researching its origins and practical uses, it has become quite apparent that this is some sort of miracle plant. The Internet wouldn’t lie to me, right? Either way, knowing a little bit about where products come from and how they are used is never a bad idea.

Tragacanth is an evergreen shrub found in the Middle East growing mostly in dry sub-alpine slopes and valleys. Many people are familiar with the other gums (arabic, guar), and this has similar food applications. Wikipedia tells me its not as widely available because it comes from a more tumultuous area of the world. While I cannot scientifically verify any of the information (though some of it did come from WebMD), the tragacanth plant has been known to have the following applications:

  • Used for diarrhea and constipation
  • a food thickener
  • modeling paste for cake decorating
  • It is also an ingredient in: vaginal creams, toothpaste, hand lotions, denture adhesives

I even found some sites stating that it was used as a topical treatment for burns and has shown evidence of shrinking tumors. So the message you should be receiving here is: in the event of an apocalypse, this is your medicinal and artistic panacea. Stock up, kids.

So let’s talk about why we care about it. Simple. It makes our stuff look awesome. When we started using this stuff, it took our work to the next level. It felt like the first time I used a serger sewing machine. Pretty much life changing. If you read leather forums they say that saliva and elbow grease will do the trick, but first of all: Gross. Secondly: not true, this stuff is way better.

gum tragInstructions: Shake well. Apply a thin coat to edge of leather. Rub edge very briskly with edge slicker. Repeat until desired burnish is achieved. Clean up with soap and water.

Simple enough. Put it on, rub it with a burnishing tool til it looks good. Done. What’s a burnishing tool? It’s basically a little plastic tool that saves your hands from a whole lot of unnecessary friction. You place the leather edge in the circle groove and rub away. It can come in other shapes and sizes in order to help you slick those edges in hard to access places and corners. I should probably mention that we both think that it smells amazing, too. Though oddly when we purchased the 4oz bottle, it smells way better than the 32oz bottle.

Let’s talk about the results! Here is a photograph where I took a long scrap piece of dyed leather and cut it in half. On the top piece, I used the gum with a burnishing tool and the bottom I did not. See all those fuzzies? Blech. No good. Click on the image to enlarge.


Another thing we will sometimes use the gum for is to smooth down the flesh side or under side of the piece if it is going to have any contact with skin. This makes the piece far more comfortable to the wearer and really provides value to the client since there is little risk of skin irritation. Or, you know, we could also chug it for medical reasons.*

*Savagepunk Studio does not suggest, endorse, or recommend that you ingest this product and doing so is at your own risk.