A couple months ago, my friend Rhawnie mentioned she would be playing Queen Titania at the new Fantasy Faire in San Jose. She was designing her costume but couldn’t decide if she needed wings & if so, how to make them. Oh, this conversation was happening at a meadery over pints of hard cider, which may or may not have affected the outcome. Anyway, I piped up & said, hey, I’ve made a wings before! They’re easy & fun. Hey, I could totally make fairy wings for you! Titania totally should have wings. And thus, a new project was born.
Decades previously, I’d learned wing-construction techniques at a GBACG workshop using wire to create closed-cell structures that evoke natural insect-wing patterns. I had a ton of heavy-gauge millinery wire in The Stash, so I used that. You use any heavy-gauge wire (& I have) — the thread-wrapping of millinery wire has pros & cons. You can paint it easily to match or coordinate or create interesting effects, but the thread also shreds a lot at joints & makes a mess. Painting bare wire is also possible, but a smidge more difficult.
Using my fingers plus needle-nose pliers, I bent the wire into two large wing shapes with lots of short struts in between for strength & to create interest. I carefully avoided symmetry & any obvious patterns — I wanted a wild, organic look because I think that suits fairies. Rhawnie gave me the fabric she wanted for the wings — it was shimmery, sheer blue & green. So I painted the wire structures in blue so the “veins” would blend in.
Then I used a ton of E-6000 glue to affix the fabric to the wire structure. I’ve used hot-glue in the past, & I’m not sure which one works best. Hot-glue can be brittle & the fabric can pop off the wire easily. But E-6000 really adheres best when clamped or, in this case, pressed down for a few minutes. Which is next to impossible to do on sheer fabric because the glue seeps through immediately & sticks to your fingers! Plus E-6000 needs to dry overnight, so I had to wait one night for the first side (blue fabric) to dry, then attach the other side (green fabric), & then do the same for the second wing because I wanted to make sure the first wing looked good in case I didn’t like it. Yeah, a lot of sitting around waiting for glue to dry! Oh & toxic fumes from E-6000. I think I might stick with hot-glue (no pun intended). It’s not like fairy wings are meant to last forever.
Next up, attaching the two wings together. I wired 5 short metal corset bones into a small grid, then wired this to the center-back of the wings. The purpose of the boned grid was to give the wings a little bit of stability as they rest on the wearer’s back. If the two wings were wired directly together, they’d be super-floppy. I mean, these aren’t hugely solid anyway, but every little bit helps. Lastly, this grid is where I attached ribbons that tie around the wearer’s arms.
To finish the wing edges, I singed the fabric all the way around with a lighter. Since the fabric is synthetic, it melted together in places & curled up in others, adding to the rough, organic look. And along the top edge of each wing, I sewed a scattering of blue, green, & gold glass beads to frame the fairy queen’s face (this might have been the part that took the longest to actually do, not counting glue-drying). The very last step was to spray the wings with silver microglitter paint all over for an ethereal touch.