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Xena Costume

In a time of ancient gods, warlords and kings, a land in turmoil cried out for a hero.

Or, to rephrase, last Halloween I made a Xena costume - here's how I did it!

This tutorial will talk about making a warrior princess dress and armour/accessories
(but not her weapons - I talk about that on the last step). As of the published date for
this Instructables, there are two months until Halloween - which is PLENTY of time
for you to go make your own!


Whatever you end up deciding to do - be it follow this tutorial to a T, or hand-stitch a

leather dress and take up black-smithing to make armour, or make a duct-tape dress
with the breastplate drawn on with a sharpie - I hope that you can use the following
attached pdfs.

These are some patterns I made based on Xena patterns/blueprints from the show (as I
found on Swords and Sandals). As they are, for pattern pieces that are spread out over
multiple pages, there is about a half an inch overlap. They are 'not-to-size' and you
will likely have to enlarge pieces (like the armbands) or shrink pieces (like the
medallion) or draft your own pattern based off of them (like the dress/corset pattern -
for my own dress I redrafted the pattern to work with my measurements). The corset
pattern does not include a modesty panel or a lacing panel (both which would be
rectangles, based around your measurements)


For making the armour you will need:

sulfur-free oil-based clay (plasticine)

rubbing alcohol
sculpting tools
reference images
body form/mannequin
fencing cups
duct tape
craft foam
ultra-cal 30
burlap or cheesecloth
silicone brush
latex or vinyl gloves, eye-goggles, dust-mask
RD-407 Latex/Slush Latex/Mask-Making Latex
PAX paint (base)
gold and black acrylic paints

For making the dress you will need:

corset pattern
measuring tape
test/mock-up fabric
dark brown pleather
underwire for brassiere
fabric scissors
sewing machine
needle and thimble
spots (or rivets)
cord (for lacing corset)
4 O-rings
eyelets (and eyelet hole puncher)

And for joining everything together/finishing touches you're also going to need:

E600 glue
Armature Wire
brown paint
I had held onto my old fencing cups from my pe university days "just in case" - and
that case turned out to be Xena. I taped them onto a mannequin and covered the upper
torso with oil-based sulfur-free clay (plasticine). I next roughly carved the breastplate
design into the clay. I added more clay and began sculpting out shapes, fine line and
details, trying to smooth pieces out as I went (using rubbing alcohol to help eliminate
finger prints).

At this time I also sculpted the "corset medallion" that appears around the navel on the
The backplate consisted of lots of clay snakes all rolled and then blended together. I
sculpted it on the ground, instead of on the mannequin, as it needed to rest 'flat' rather
than be curved and fitted to a body. When making this I resized my backplate pattern
to work with my proportions, printed out the pattern, and used it as a guide.

If you have the time, you can make the rest of the armour using the same method. I
started doing this, but realized I was short on time, so then I switched to an alternate
method. I traced and cut out the armour for the upper and lower arm-bands, the
shoulders and the knee pads out of craft foam.
First I surrounded my sculpts with a high clay wall (to contain the mold
material/prevent it from spilled over). Next I coated my sculpts with a release agent
(vaseline), and cut up tons of little squares of cheesecloth (you could also use burlap)
before finally "beginning".

I made rigid molds/negative copies of my breastplate, backplate and 'corset medallion'

using Ultra-Cal 30. I mixed the UC30 with water, gradually adding it, until I got I got
a mixture roughly the consistency of "river mud". I slosh a layer of this over the
sculpts using a silicone brush, making sure there are no air-bubbles. Once the area is
all covered I add another layer of the UC30 mix, this time immersing squares of
cheesecloth in it; you need to reinforce your mold so slosh on Ultra-Cal coated
squares of cheesecloth! (Or burlap. I find burlap to be messier.)

I let the mold cure overnight (it will heat up, cool down, and change in shade) then
took it off of the sculpt and cleaned off any excess clay.

During the process I wore a dust-mask, gloves and eye-protection, as you really don't
want to be inhaling it and should avoid getting this stuff on your skin; it can and will
burn you. At the very least wearing gloves will prevent your hands from drying out!

(If you have any cracks you can try to repair/fill them in with a bit of ultra-cal or clay.
In the picture of the molds above, my molds were not cracked like that; I remembered
I still had them and pulled them out to take a picture of them for this tutorial...and I'm
exactly with old molds as I usually just throw them out! In other words, your molds
should not be that cracky, and I'm going to go destroy some molds.)
Once my molds were cured and cleaned, I poured slush latex into them. For the
backplate and medallion, I filled the molds up with latex, sloshed them around to get
ride of any air bubbles, and let the latex set. For the breastplate, I filled the mold up
with as much latex as I could, turning the mold around in my hands to coat all the
side, and let the latex sit for about 20 minutes. I repeated this process (as I wanted
thick latex) and then poured the excess latex out.

After the latex had completely dried (the ultra-cal molds and the latex casts will
change colour, and the latex was no longer liquid) I peeled the pieces away from the
molds and trimmed any excess latex away.
For the other armour pieces - after cutting them out of foam, I coated them in latex; I
painted 3 layers of latex onto each side, letting each layer dry in-between coats. This
made the craft foam pieces far more durable than they previously were.
To prevent any paint I applied to the latex armor from cracking, I applied a base coat
of, well, leftover paint base from my Rem costume; the key ingredient in this mix is
PAX paint. It allows acrylic paints to stick and "meld" when painted over top (without
this type of pros-aid paint base, acrylic paints will crack).

I then painted my latex armour black and then brushed and dabbed on gold. (Actually,
I painted my armor black and spray-painted it gold, hated it, and redid it all hand-
painting it). I added high-lights by going in with a small brush and a lighter, white
gold and added shadows to areas with a dark brown-black paint.

Right, put all that stuff aside, onto the dress!


Now, I had never made a corset before, and my method of pattern making is pretty
hacky-slashy. For this project I look at a bunch of other Xena tutorials,
but thesetwo were all about how to make the corset-dress so I referenced them
frequently when making my own. So because of my inexperience and rough pattern
abilities, I made a dress prototype. If you've never sewn before, I definitely
recommend at the very least to make a mock-up!

I measured the "key points" of my torso (natural bust, underbust, waist, hips) and
compared that to the measurements of the real Xena corset pattern (by measuring each
piece at those points, adding them together and subtracting seam allowance). I then re-
drew the pattern to match my measurements. I then cut the pattern out of a test fabric
and sewed it all together. I tried it on, and it ACTUALLY FIT (I was pretty excited).
But don't be discouraged if it takes some tweaking to get it to fit right. Based on this
prototype I measured and cut out shoulder straps and a modesty panel. I also tested
out adding the boning to the corset.


If what you just read on the last step makes some sense...I'm going to recommend
reading this tutorial about making a Xena warrior dress. It's lengthy, but is a good and
needed read. I could turn this Instructable into how to make one step-by-step but so
many others have done it in a far better and clearer fashion than I could ever do...

If you're completely overwhelmed and a bit lost, I'm going to recommend reading on
Instructables about how to make a corset or to go buy a corset pattern from McCalls
or Simplicity as a start.

So to summarize what I did...

After making a Xena dress prototype, I moved onto the real thing, making it out of
pleather with a lining. I sewed together a corset-bodice, adding shoulder straps with
O-rings connecting to the front and back. I added eyelets to the back I cut out 143
pleather petals to make 13 strips that consisted of 11 petals each for the skirt. Each
petal was attached to another by a spot (cheaper and easier to set than real rivets). I
then cut out 13 slighty rounded rectangles, as long as the finished petal strips. I sewed
the petal strips and the rectangles to a pleather waistband; the waistband was sewn to
the corset. I took a piece of armature wire and sewed a tube around it; I bent it into a
U and stitched it to the side of the dress (to hang my chakram on).


Using the "accessory armor" pieces as a guide, I cut out pleather fabric pieces for the
shoulders, and arm bands (2 pieces for each item - 12 in total). I attached the latex-
covered-armor to one piece of fabric with E600 glue and spots (standing in for rivets).
Putting right-sided-fabric pieces together, I then sewed the armor together (leaving
one section open) and turned each piece right-side-out before hand-sewing each piece
completely closed. The upper arm bands were two long rectangles that were sewn
together in this fashion; the ends were joined by thick elastic attached to either end,
looped. The lower arm bands had eyelets added to close them. The shoulder armor
had 3 pleather straps emerging them; one from the top, bottom, and inner side.

Each knee pad had three different sections, so I cut out 9 pieces for each knee (2 of
the pleather for every piece, and one, slightly smaller, out of craft foam). I added spots
and craft-foam latex "sun" design armour to half of the knee pieces. I then sandwiched
the craft foam between 2 fabric pieces (all facing right-side in) before sewing them
together, leaving one side open to turn a knee-pad section right-side out. All three
knee-pad pieces were overlapped and sewn to a piece of thick black elastic that went
around my knee.

I added a little bit of fabric to the breastplate too; I retrieved my protective fencing
cups and sewed them to the inside of the breastplate. I added some spots to a pleather
strap and then stitched it around where the cup and breastplate met.


I added loops and straps and D-rings to everything, to put it all together! Hopefully
this will make sense...

The shoulder pieces were attached to one-another at the back; one of them had a long
strap, the other a strap with two d-rings on it (for adjusting, for when I needed a bit
more wiggle-room when sword-fighting).

The shoulders attached to the backplate by more straps and d-rings.

The shoulders attached to the breastplate by swiggly armature wire running through
two sets of pleather loops (one loop was stitched to the backplate,the other the

And finally the backplate and breastplate were joined by, you guessed it, straps and d-

All of the straps were glued AND stitched on, for both pleather and latex pieces.


When I first wore this costume I wore a pair of old black boots that zipped up the side.
They worked fine. A few weeks before a convention, while trying on my new
kneepads with the boots, the zippers came apart completely. So I decided to
designated them 'purely Xena boots' and made a few changes to them. Footwear really
does help bring a costume all together - a pair of tall (lace-up) boots from your closet
will due but if you have old ones/can find cheap ones, a few modifications will really
help bring them together.

If you don't have brown boots, get some - or paint them! I painted my black boots
with watered-down acrylic paint and a paintbrush, followed by dabbing and wiping
the paint with a paper-towel to get them look leatherish.

My boots laced up in the front, but lacked grommets, so I added them. If your boots
don't lace up the front you can add grommets, but if you're working with a boot that
just slips on and doesn't have a tongue, you likely will have trouble punching holes
and setting the grommets.

Xena has studs on the back of her boots with a cord "wrapping" around them - so as I
laid down spots I wove cord between them.


Say "la la la"

Say "la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la" really fast. Now go outside and yell out
"lalalalalaalalala" really fast, loud and high in falsetto. And that's how to do the Xena
Battle Cry.


The Chakram and Sword?

I wore this costume for a sword-fighting academie skit, so I wanted ("real") metal
weapons. If you're heading off to a halloween party at your neighbours filled with
kids, you may want to get plastic toy weapons. If you're heading off to a halloween
party with lots of spooky booOOoooze being offer, maybe you should just leave the
weapons at home. There are multiple options.

In my case, I bought mine online - I somehow bought a chakram for cheap on ebay,
and I bought the sword here. You can buy 'real' replicas of both but they are
expensive. There are lots of other tutorials out there on how to
make (Xena)weapons like herchakram.

The Hair?
Get a dark brown wig with bangs to complete your look! Or you can cut and dye your
hair to look like Xena's. Yes, I went all out and took the plunge. I dyed my hair from a slightly darker shade of brown...with semi-perminant dye...and I already
had bangs...

Complete the look with a braided headband (either using your own hair, or buying a
fake one)


Xena isn't Xena without her Gabrielle! Rope Ask a friend to be your sidekick! Her
costume can be as simply or detailed as you like - start with a brown-red skirt and
green crop-top and go from there. Bonus if she has quarterstaff experience!

Additional Characters?

Don't stop at Gabrielle, rope ask your other friends to be part of the Xenaverse too!
Xena had episodes set in the present day, in the near-past, far-past, in tons of a a a
new one one day and to to see it you if it different countries, with multiple people who
looked like Xena...I mean, there was even an episode in a lagoon with mermaids and
Hawaiian can kind of find something for anything. I quickly made an
Autolycus (Bruce Campbell as the King of Thieves) costume for my husband right
before we took some photos (I made him a black "piratey" shirt and a green vest with
grommets and we accessorized him with a belt and bracers).

And you don't need to have Xena just fight people from her realm; friends dressing up
as other characters from other TV shows or books? Great. Xena always wins - even if
pitted against The Mountain and The Red Viper. Just. Have. Fun.

Because I think that's what Xena was all about. (and kicking butt)

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