Costuming Tips: American Masks


If you want a real Krampus mask from Europe, it’s possible to buy one online as discussed in a recent posting.  Some our fellow American Krampuses  in the Philadelphia Krampuslauf do buy European masks.  They’re expensive, but at least can also serve as a nice year-round display piece.  But these masks can cost several hundred dollars even without overseas shipping, so probably are  more than most people want to spend.

One answer is to make one from scratch or adapt something readymade, and that’s what most of our LA Krampus Troupe members are doing.  One reason for doing this is that genuine Krampus masks tend to be fairly oversized, and this ads a lot to the creature’s imposing presence.  Building up the size or height of a mask, elongating the dome of the head or adding towering horns adds hugely to the creature’s imposing presence.

Luckily there are some cheaper readymade masks American masks that do a good job standing in for their European counterparts (or an excellent job with some further modifications discussed below).

But before shopping for your mask….

Have a look at what European Krampus masks really look like by doing an image search for “Krampusmasken.”  They’re actually quite diverse, and rarely conform to that very standardized  devil featured on the popular Krampus postcards.  On the costumes — as in the photo above –you’ll notice multiple horns and more exaggerated beastly features and an wildly expressionistic cartoonish quality — note the tooth piercing the creature’s upper lip on the European mask above!

But a devil mask is not a bad starting point, and you’ll find a number of acceptable possibilities in the $20-40 range.

Devil's Workshop Mask

It may then occur to you to simply do a shopping search for “Krampus mask,” and lo, and behold, you will find a very good lookalike for around $59, a fraction of the cost of European masks.  This mask was crafted by Devil’s Workshop, and began mass production in 2011.  Search a little more, and you’ll find it again and again and again.  Even Wallmart is now selling that mask.You can buy the exact same mask for a little more on eBay if Wallmart makes you feek icky.  But you’re still likely to meet lookalike Krampuses who know your secret shame.  You could always customize your mask with color — greasepaint (messy) or acrylic paint (flakey if it’s layered too thick), but even there, you may not be sporting a unique look.

If you want to class it up a bit, there is also a very nice purpose-made American Krampus mask for $85 at Specter Studio.  Or another cheaper horned option is the $35-55 goat mask, which is also bound to be popular, though isn’t a great match for Krampus.

Specter Studio Krampus

One way to open up the options a bit is to consider adding horns to a mask that doesn’t have horns.  Those adhesive prosthetic Satyr horns, which are sure to be a popular choice for the “Krampus-lite” crowd this year can be spirit-gummed to  a rubber mask as well as you fleshy forehead.  Or a better — poke a pair of those rigid horns that come on a headband through a hornless mask of your choosing.  Some options for hornless base would be an Orc or GoblinGargoyle, or just a search for “horned, mask.”  Don’t forget to check out Specter Studio’s and Devil’s Workshop’s non-Krampus masks, as they have some cheaper models that might also do nicely once you add horns.

Also, with almost all of these masks you’d probably want to supply your own wig, to match or harmonize with whatever fur you end up adding to your body.

Werewolves can also sometimes be a decent match, and of course they are often sold with a readymade fur suit.  No, it’s not really the same kind of fur suit you’ll find on European Krampuses, but it’s a start, and we’ll be posting later about dressing one of those up a bit (and other furry body-covering options).   Even if you’re happy with the werewolf fursuit as-is, you might want to consider some of those other Krampus accesories: switches, bell belts, and baskets for naughty children.  We’ll get to those too.

But if you’re going to add horns to a mask, why not do it right? One way to vastly improve the look of any readymade mask is to add your own horns — BIGGER horns, especially: REAL ANIMAL HORNS.  The worst thing about these latex masks is that they do not have the rigidity or counterweight to support larger horns, so they sport embarrassingly dwarfed nubs.  Compare them to the European “Krampusmasken” images and you might feel a little inadequate with that single set of embarrassingly underdeveloped horn-buds!
Some crafty types out there have offered labor-intensive suggestions for making taller horns with expanding foam or even shrink-wrapped plastic bags(!), but these inevitably lack the convincing color and texture of real animal horns.  And real horns are naturally hollow anyway, so not terribly heavy — and if you spend some time searching, they’re not too expensive ($12+ for a respectable pair).
Regardless of what you use, horns of the traditional height (anywhere from 16″ to 40″ or more) cannot be attached directly to an off-the-shelf latex mask.  You will need to stretch your mask over a hardhat with chin strap (the strap helps w/ balance).  That process calls for some fiddling, possibly attaching hardware, and possibly you may need to add some counterweight. If you’re handy with fiberglass, you might consider extending that hardhat to create more of a mask shell, using the rubber mask more as the detailing surface skin.  This counterweight issue is part of the reason that European masks have those wide gaping jaws — to add to and spread out the weight.  And it doesn’t hurt that they accommodate so many scary teeth.
See how we’re slowly nudging you toward making a proper European style mask?
More on cheap horns and actual mask-making to come.


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