Costume Tips: From the Neck Down


Krampus Troupe, Bad Gastein, Austria

The Austrian Krampus troupe pictured above is about as traditional as they get. Creating this exact look would be a big challenge because the suits are made of mountain goat fur, and LA’s not exactly known for its mountain goats population.  But at least this picture makes clear something that doesn’t have to challenge you, and that’s striving for Hollywood  hyper-realism.  The oversized masks these Krampuses sport are more like walking folk art than something sculpted in an FX shop.  What you need to remember is that these guys are not trying to simulate something “real”; they are carrying on a tradition. Notice how they make no particular attempt made to disguise their hands or match the fur on the head with the fur covering the body.  The kneeling Krampus clearly wears a vest.  I’ve seen these beasties in person, and realistic or not, they are mighty impressive.


The troupe above is also very traditional, though their look is slightly less common because they are wearing shorter sheepskin outfits rather than suits made from the longer goat fur.  But again, the suits make no particular effort to be appear as anything other than what they are: fur robes, pants, tunics, and vests.  You’ll notice belts too.  The Krampuses in the first photos are also wearing belts, but they’re just obscured by their longer fur.  This is not a fashion statement but  a practical way to carry large cowbells suspended on their backsides.  You would be hard pressed to find a Krampus without bells.  We’ll be posting about creating bell-belts later.

So when you are thinking of covering that Krampus body of yours with Krampus fur, keep in mind old fur coats, mufflers, leg-warmers, etc — whatever furry stuff you might find at a thrift stores (or try “fur, cutter” on eBay = worn-out coats sold to “cutters” who recycle remnants for craft projects).   Don’t assume you need some sort of seamless furry coveralls.  A one-piee fur bodysuit could make a great starting point, or be fine on its own, but  furry odds and ends add interest.  Furry body-covering costumes can go for $100-150, but you can find them as low as $80 sometimes.  Try search for werewolfgorilla, or yeti fur suits.  These could all work depending on the the particular style. Just watch out for the cheaper ones with extremely short-pile fur.  The better suits have fur with a 1.5-2″ pile, still much, much shorter than your average Krampus, but there are ways to beef them up with longer fur (discussed below).

Krampuslauf at Munich Christmas Market

The fellow  was photographed in Munich, where you’ll see more modern influences like the fastidious realism of the mask.  His outfit has completely left behind the idea of furry coveralls, and is more a combination of pelts and period costuming. LA Krampus Troupe members have  taken to calling this approach “Viking Krampus.”  So, if you happen to own or know anyone who owns Renfair garb, you may be closer to a Krampus costume than you think.  Lay on some extra scraps of old fur and you’re good to go.  (Sorry for the blurry photo.  The guy was moving, and this just happens to be the best one I have to illustrate the point.)


Munich Krampus. Photo: Al Ridenour

This Krampus has taken the mix-and-match approach to glorious extremes.  Actually, this relatively modern patchwork of tattered cloth, hanks of hair, scraps of hide, buckskin, etc., is not at all uncommon. He may be slightly less traditional, but he’s flaunting the fact that his mask is just good old wood, wearing it stained a solid color and sporting a wooden beard right alongside the real fur.   The idea Americans  have of wearing makeup to simulate a “real” Krampus would be very strange in Europe, where the woodcarver’s work, with its inherent limits, is regarded as more than sufficient.  Also notice this guy’s flared fur bellbottoms.  This is a common solution for covering feet.  Probably because the tradition evolved in areas where feet are sunk in snow, there is rarely an attempt at fancy footwear, and never the simulated hooves Americans expect to see after looking at hooved illustrations of Krampuses on postcard.  No goat tails either.
auer_passThese guys demonstrate a typical technique of Krampus costuming — namely, piling a lot of long hair around the head and shoulder to create a sort of bulky mane that dominates the costume. It’s a good way to use a little hair for big effect.   Notice too how  almost all the rest of their costumes is just ragged cloth or hide.   Tattered cloth blends well, and is often a stand-in for more expensive hair.
LA Krampuses have been using a similar trick with those off-the-shelf werewolf or ape suits, sewing the equivalent of synthetic hair extensions or wig wefts into these the  bodysuits to approximate something of the stringy shagginess of the real deal.  The very long hair you see on European costumes is either the naturally long hair of mountain goats, or hanks of horse hair, both of which are quite expensive. 
Sewing a fur suit rather than buying one gives you infinitely more choice on colors.  Patterns for fur coveralls or simple tunics are among the easiest patterns there are.  Or just cut apart some disposable painters coverall and add room for seams.  This guy’s YouTube video  doesn’t even use a pattern, and he does a great job of making the process look easy (convinced me to take up sewing!).  His final Krampus is not bad, but lacks the distinctive shaggy, ragged quality that would have given it a more iconic look.  You can solve that by sewing (or gluing on) scraps of other fur, torn cloth, or wefts of hair.
In shopping for faux fur yardage, the longest pile you will find is about 3″. Some furs use combine different piles lengths and colors for good naturalistic effect.  You get what you pay for.  Yes, you can pay $10/yard for short-pile fur, and you’ll end up looking more like a teddy bear in fuzzy pajamas.   The longer, more naturalistic furs are worth it, and you should expect to pay $20 and up.  It’s still cheaper than a readymade suit and will be much more distinctive.  Beware of strong or small patterns, as these only work if your fabric is hanging in folds or otherwise arranged to break up the pattern.  Ideally, you’ll be adding various hanging bits of synthetic hair or scraps of fur from old coats anyway.
Selecting and sewing faux fur (or real fur) is a topic unto itself, but to get you started,  here are some suppliers: 

City Fabric is in LA’s downtown fabric district and offers much better range of deep-pile furs than Michael Levine’s or other local vendors.  You can bargain him down but don’t expect any free swatches.  A good local online-only supplier is Distinctive Fabric. They will send you five free swatches if you set up a free account with them.

Fabric Empire is also in LA (online ordering only).  We also like

Mendels in SF for their selection and free samples.


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