How to make movable costume wings

Written by caprice castano
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How to make movable costume wings
Movable costume wings are the crowning piece to any realistic winged costume. (Asian girl with angel wing flying image by visi.stock from

Costume wings are a nice detail to making a realistic costume, whether it be angel, fairy, bat or dragon. A highly realistic costume would consist of movable wings that operate as they would if they were real. Constructing the wings and a mechanism to make them appear to flap is not as difficult as it sounds, and requires only basic costume-making skills. Whatever the costume or use, your movable costume wings are sure to make a lasting impression.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Wire hangers
  • 1 pair of panyhose -- any colour you desire to coordinate your costume
  • Wire cutters
  • Needlenose pliers
  • Fabric glue
  • Thick felt in a colour to match the wings and costume
  • 1/2 inch wide elastic
  • Nylon web strapping
  • Thin flexible wire
  • String

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  1. 1

    Draw a rough sketch of the wings you wish to create to get a visual of the shape and size you want.

  2. 2

    Open the twisted ends of the wire hangers with the needle nose pliers. You can also just cut off the hook end of the hanger with the wire cutters and remove it. Straighten the hanger's corner angles, and mould them into the shape of the wing you wish to end up with. If you want a larger wing, you can twist two or even three hangers together in a thicker frame, and add length by alternating additional hangers into the twist to add length. The shape of your wing depends on your design, but whatever the shape or size make a back edge to the wings that will rest against the shoulder blades for support, that is at least four -- six inches long. The bigger the wing, the longer this section should be. Continue twisting and bending the wires until you have the desired shape, then close off the ends by twisting them together.

  3. 3

    Cut off the legs of the pantyhose. Stretch them over the wire frames to cover the wings. If your wings are extra large and the nylons do not accommodate the size you can glue tulle over the frame to cover it. Add a line of fabric glue to the pantyhose at the outside edge of the frame to secure the material to the wings. Use a thin line, and the glue will dry clear and transparent. Now cut two pieces of felt and fold it over the back edge of the wings and glue in place.

  1. 1

    Wrap a piece of the nylon web strapping around your shoulder and back to the front in a solid loop. Add two inches to this, and cut two pieces the same length. Overlap the ends so the fit is snug but not binding on your shoulders, and glue the ends together.

  2. 2

    Cut a large piece of the felt that fits the centre of your back, and is large enough to attach the nylon web straps to. Doubling a piece of felt or layering and gluing two pieces together will give you more padding and strength for larger wings. Glue the straps to the felt pad.

  3. 3

    Lay an additional piece of felt over the top of the straps and felt pad and glue in place so the straps are sandwiched between them. Before gluing or before it dries, cut two small slits on the top piece of felt, at the points there the top and bottom of the back edge of the wing will rest on it. Slip a piece of the flexible wire through this pocket on each side to attach the wings to the pad.

  1. 1

    Wrap a piece of the flexible wire around the back edge of each of the wings by twisting it around the wire hanger frame. You can poke it in and out of the nylons or tulle as you wrap it, being careful not to snag the material. Leave at least three inches of wire at the top and bottom of each wing.

  2. 2

    Attach the wings to the pad by twisting the wires on the pad you put through the pockets, and the wires twisted around the back edge of the wing frame together at the top and bottom. Bend these pieces inward and tuck them inside the felt pocket.

  3. 3

    Attach the piece of elastic between the two wings by gluing in place.

  4. 4

    Poke a small hole in the centre of the felt that covers the back edge of each wing. Insert a piece of string, knot on the inside and pull taut. Bring the string around to the front of your body, measure what is a comfortable length for you to use to operate the wings, and cut. Repeat for both sides. These strings can be threaded through the sleeves of your costume to hide them, or left loose and tucked into a belt or waist band to keep them from trailing.

  5. 5

    Put the wings on and test them. Pull the strings gently to bring them forward, and allow the elastic to pull them back to finish the flapping motion. If you practice this move you will be able to accomplish it with minimal movement and it will appear that the wings are flapping on their own.

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