How to Make a Swampthing Halloween Costume

Admit it: You’ve always wanted to go to a Halloween costume ball dressed as Hydrilla the Invasive Aquatic Witch.  No? What about Swampthing? Designing original—and often, obscure—Halloween costumes is a specialty of mine. Growing up in haunted houses with a childhood phobia of rubber masks has made it a big deal for me to venture out to any Halloween event. But I have over-compensated by turning the fear factor into a challenge:  the fun of coming up with an original costume that will surely win points in a costume contest.  Readers may remember my Ode to Swampthing in which it was revealed that the original Swampthing’s costume was made of heavy thick rubber. That’s not very realistic for the average Trick-or-Treater, or costume party-attendee. Here’s a Strange Wetlands take on the Swampy costume, or if you prefer,Creature of the Black Lagoon, or Black Lagoon Lady. Images are from others’ take on it.

Wetland professionals probably have most of the necessary materials for a Swampthingcostume. If not, it would be easy enough to assemble some of these things to augment what you don’t already own. Pull together the following things:

  1. An old wet suit (already torn, or one that can be cut)—or, waders/rubber boots
  2. Old rubber gloves, preferably green – as many pairs (up to 10 pairs) as possible
  3. Netting – e.g. fishnet stockings, fishing net that can be altered and stained green or black
  4. Dark green wig, or dye a light-colored wig dark green, or buytemporary green hair spray
  5. Green plastic bath loofa sponge (or a couple of them)
  6. Real or fake vegetation (houseplant cuttings, weeds from the garden, wrack, or artificial green vines, plastic flowers) Or, cut strips of green cords, or gift wrapping ribbon
  7. Elmer’s glue and green body paint, green, black and brown Halloween make-up, or real mud—to create scales; optionally, colored glitter
  8. Green bathing suit/tank top/tights/short dress (for women) or green shorts/pants and tee shirt/tank top (men) Last resort, green sweat/work pants will suffice.
  9. Small clean sponges for applying green body paint or make-up (to create scale effect)
  10. Paper plates (preferably green, at least 10 paper plates)

While there are many variations on how to create the underlying “Swampthing” costume, which ranges from wearing parts of an old wet suit to green clothing and rubber boots—to a full-bodied foam suit spray-painted with two shades of green, the main challenge is to create an aquatic look, without dripping all over the dance floor.  The degree of difficulty varies from costume to costume.

Step 1. To make gills, cut paper plates into pie-shaped triangles with the scalloped edges included.  Layer three pieces of paper plate, fan out the shape and glue the points together.  Fasten twosets of “gills” on either side of a hair band, or pin them into the wig/hair to hide your real ears.

Step 2. To create webbed fingers, use glue and green body paint to add a thin layer between fingers, or stretch an old pair of green tights over your hands, cutting the nylon to make fingerless gloves.  As an alternative, wear green rubber gloves and glue fake green fingernails onto the fingertips of the gloves to create monster claws. (See also, Martha Stewart photo). Alternatively, use an old pair of gardening gloves and add strips of green tissue paper to the fingers to create a scraggly look.

Step 3. Create a scales effect. Stretch fishnet stockings (or fishing net) over arms, parts of the neck and face, and apply green body paint or make-up over the netting to create a patterned effect that looks like scales; remove the fish netting to reveal the pattern. 

Optionally, apply body glitter here and there to create a wet, sparkling—fresh from the swamp look! A little goes a long way.

Step 4. Fake a supernatural aquatic look. Create the look of water bubbles sticking to skin or fake “scales” by squeezing a soapy sponge or plastic bath loofa in a few places, leaving suds behind to dry. Apply green/yellow/brown costume make-up to face and neck in clumpy dabs to create the appearance of bumpy, scaly skin. Or, if you want a more appealing version, use green make-up, eye shadows and lipstick.  For full supernatural effect, make an aquatic-looking Swampthing nose and ears with fimo polymer clay or soft nose putty, fastened to an altered animal nose worn around the head on an elastic string, or simply apply make-up artistically to distort facial features. Alternatively, glue bits of moss or fake moss (as found with model train sets) onto face, neck and arms.  A Google search can show several ideas for costume make-up.

Step 5 (optional). Make it scary. Use toilet paper and glue, applied to the face with a papier mâché method, to create a scary aquatic look. See this video for a quick how-to (an alternative to wearing a store-bought rubber mask—warning, this look is frightful): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iemwLymV0uk

Step 6. Assume a “vegetated” state.Assemble what you plan to use for weeds, vines and leaves—and it’s up to you whether to use a combination of real and fake vegetation.  Keep in mind:  don’t trail invasive weeds to someone’s Halloween party. Garden supply stores, craft stores and flower shops carry silk flowers and plastic plants, often with vines, cattails and weedy choices. Alternatively, use strips of green cloth.

Here are some other alternatives to using real vegetation:  Unravel green bath loofas and sponge dark green paint onto parts of the loofa netting and leave it to dry for a while.  After the loofas are dry, loosely wrap the long netted parts of the unraveled loofas around arms and waist to create a vegetated look. Or, curl green, black and yellow/gold ribbon and hang this from a belt, tank top strap, pin onto a tee shirt, and/or fasten into a messy looking green/black wig. Instead, if preferable, wear a hunter’s camouflage hat with the fake tree litter attached to it and wear camouflage netting. Create the look of leaves using real leaves and wax paper—the same way kids seal fall foliage in wax paper—but with green leaves. Cut out the leaves, keeping a wax paper border to prevent them from falling out, and glue to various parts of your costume.
The wax paper will make the leaves look wet.

Step 7. Walk like a swamp creature. (Optional) Decorate a pair of diving fins with washable green paint, glitter and/or molding clay. The ideal look to achieve is along the lines of webbed feet, or “Creature from the Black Lagoon” alligator feet.

Alternate articles with other ideas on designing a swamp-themed Halloween costume:

Here’s a guy who went all out for his Swampthing Halloweencostume and tested it in this video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MwSlNJIuNc

Martha Stewart’s silk leaf swamp costume—a more conservative option (for men and women):http://www.marthastewart.com/274774/no-sew-halloween-costumes/@center/276965/halloween#268517

A variation on Swampthing costume (totally covered in weeds):http://www.halloween-online.com/costumes/swamp-thing-halloween-costume.html

How to make a Swampthing or sea creature costume (intended for kids): http://www.ehow.com/how_2316666_make-swamp-thing-halloween-costume.html

Swamp Monster make-up and costume how-to video (for teens and adults):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WXJsslkR6I

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