What's a fairy costume without its wings? Check out instructions and tutorials to make unique fairy wings.
Have you ever wished for wings?
Costume shops are full of fairy wings at this time of year, but they tend to carry the same models over and over. If you want something more unique, there are at least half-a-dozen websites where you can order custom wings to your specifications, ranging from cartoon-cute to something as lifelike and colorful as a butterfly.
However, most styles of fairy wings are not very difficult to make, if you have the time and determination. Find out more after the break: we have links to plenty of tutorials, videos, and visual inspirations!
Fairy Wings(click thumbnails to view gallery)
Designing and making your own wings
Most wing styles involve bending wire into the desired shape. Leaves are simple; bird or insect wings are often more complex. Some wings have at least three or four separate parts on each side. Sheer material is stretched or sewn over the wire armature, then decorated with details (some fabrics might need to be decorated first). There may or may not be a "backpiece"; it depends how far apart the wings are.
A style of attachment is then selected: will the wings be tied on over the chest, be held on with elastic arm loops, or have straight extensions that are meant to go down the back of a corset? (It seems that a lot of people dressing as fairies also wear corsets, particularly at Renaissance faires.) Embellishments may be added before the wings are ready to wear: small bunches of silk flowers between the shoulder blades are common, as are trailing ribbons.
Before you start, you may want to draw or find a sketch of what you want to make, so you have a guide to use while you're shaping the wire and painting on the veining and other details. Karen's Whimsy has public domain images of fairy wings: line art that you can use as a template.
After you've decided on what you want, it's time to check out some tutorials.
One relatively exhaustive wing resource is the Make Your Own Fairy Wings lens at Squiddoo. The author, "relache," includes fairy lore resources, wing-building instructions, butterfly photos, links to other tutorials, and so on. The tutorial there, however, is hampered by not being illustrated. It's still a good place to start, and includes the next few links.
Threadbanger recently posted a fairy wing tutorial on Instructables. This one is done with wire hangers, old black tights, and glitter paint, and includes a video.
ArtisticBabe created the Puppy Fairy Costume Wings tutorial at Instructables because she was having a hard time finding wings for her two-pound dog. The style shown here is tiny and lightweight, on a soft fabric harness.
WikiHow has a fairy wings tutorial that's pretty standard, but has some economical ideas, like the suggestion that you use elastic hairbands -- easily found in many colors -- to secure the wings to your arms. Another tutorial, How to Make a Gothic Fairy Costume, shows a different type of wing: they seem to have been temporarily tattooed onto a woman's back with henna.
The "Recipe for Faerywings" at Twilight Armory specifically discusses how to make wings from wire hangers, and offers some advice on shaping: keep them narrow and not too pointy!
Popular "Victoriandustrial" Chicago violinist/singer Emilie Autumn was, at one point, featured on HGTV's That's Clever! (a.k.a. Crafters Coast to Coast). She has a strong interest in crafty DIY fashion, and in this instance, Emilie Autumn made detailed fairy wings for the show. (8:41 in length. Perhaps inevitably, some enterprising fan has uploaded the footage to YouTube.)
Emilie's process leads to something that I'd describe as "realistically fantastical," with an airy, tattered feel, but since a lot of the effect is achieved by paint, you may have some difficulties achieving the same results on the first try. You could try slipping the end of a stocking over a large embroidery hoop, about the size of a dinner plate. This would enable you to practice the burning and painting technique before you work on your actual wings.
Some wings you'll see have a shiny, iridescent, translucent quality, which gives an ethereal look. These wings are most likely made of cellophane, which is often sold as see-through gift wrap; several layers are fused together, or cellophane-coated pearlized specialty fashion fabrics are used. Cellophane wings weigh almost nothing.
I can't find an online tutorial that is specifically about fusing layers of cellophane, but I did find one that discusses fusing together plastic bags. The process should be similar. A few other tutorials might be of interest: Liquid Thread at And Sew It Goes, and how to use Bo-Nash bonding powder and the Bo-Nash non-stick ironing sheet.
The wings in the photo at the top of this article seem to be made of a layer of iridescent cellophane over a layer of silk dupioni, with wire or sticks of some kind (possibly painted or wrapped) sandwiched between them, and the edges of the wings shaped last of all. Unless the plastic sticks to the silk when you iron it, I'm not sure how they were fused together without the method showing from the plastic side. If you'd like to try something like this, experiment with small swatches and low temperatures first.
The following sites sell custom wings; you can order from them, or use them for inspiration for your own creations (if you do, it wouldn't be nice to sell them). If you like the idea of custom wings, but don't want to make your own... well, you may be out of luck for Halloween, though some sites still have some ready-to-wear handmade stuff available. Check out:
Fairy Wings & Things
by Mary Danzer. Very colorful wings with lots of glitter detailing. Not as realistic as some, but nice.
has a good selection that's generally representative of the "handmade wing" market: airbrushed wings in many shapes and colors. They also have dragon wings, which are more little-boy-friendly.
On Gossamer Wings
is a similar site that does especially nice work with glitter, and has cute "bug wings."
: more stylized than the others. You'll see lots of unique shapes here, some of which seem to have more to do with creative, swirling pop-art drawings of wings than with anything you'll see in nature.
Art of Wings
: sells lots of fairy accessories, including wings unlike any of the others I've discussed here: wings made of branches and other botanicals. All the common styles, too, including feather wings, bat wings, and wings something like the ones made by Emilie Autumn. Also check out their feather gauntlets and their fairy crowns.
Custom Fairy Wings
: stunning, hand-painted silk wings.
I've seen these in person, and I was extremely impressed: they look real
. It would be difficult for an inexperienced person to make something like these, but if you want to try, you can get silk habotai yardage and the necessary paint from Dharma Trading Company
If you still need ideas, visit our Fairy Wing Gallery. Also, check out the following, on Flickr: J.Star's "Urban Fae" photo set.
We hope you now have all the information you need to be extra-magical this Halloween!