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A Celebrity Alien in a Custom Space Suit

custom space suit

Aliens! Art performances! Awesome design opportunities! This project helped me realise that costume design was something I needed in my life!

Chiro approached me to help her design and construct an outfit for her performance arts project, during her studies for BFA Masters. The performance formed part of a collective called FeedBack Loop, which took place in Cape Town for an arts festival. For some fun context, I’ve put together a bit of information about the festival – the only one of its kind – and Chiro’s performance project.

Infecting the City

Hosted in Cape Town, Infecting the City (ITC) is South Africa’s only Public Arts Festival. Originally developed and curated by Brett Bailey, the festival is committed to making art freely accessible to everyone. Every year ITC hosts a variety of performance art, site-specific art and art intervention that responds to a social issue or theme. The artworks challenge their audience to engage with these themes and experience the city in new ways by noticing hidden spaces and different perspectives.

FeedBack Loop

Chiro’s performance formed part of the FeedBack Loop collective. FeedBack Loop is a group of staff and students from Rhodes University Fine Art Department engaged in performance art research.

The review is essential to the artist, but it is always a lie that replaces the truth. FeedBack Loop will investigate this truth, with a performance of reviewing that attempts to redraw and personalise the relationship among artists, reviewers and audiences.

Infecting the City, 2015: FeedBack Loop

You can view a digital copy of their publication (a total of 6 issues) here on Issuu. It includes an interview with Chiron the celebrity alien, as well as fascinating perspectives from the rest of the festival. In addition, why not watch their fundraising excerpt below:

Chiro’s practice focussed on performing identity and the construction of self in the everyday. For her performance at Infecting the City she took on the persona of Chiron, an alien from the planet Borox. As a visitor to Earth, she explored the novelty and alienation of celebrity status through performance art. The concept of the celebrity in a socio-stylistic construct is critiqued by its reflections of alienation, especially a personal alienation through beauty.

The Creation of Chiron the Alien

Okay, enough high-faluting art analysis claptrap, let’s talk about the costume!

Chiro and I met on campus to visualise her costume. In the end, the final brief reflected a sort of David Bowie meets Samus Arun’s Zero suit.

custom space suit

The Fabric

custom space suit

We needed a fabric that could offer enough breathability and flexibility to keep Chiro comfortable. Moreover, it also needed to be durable enough to hold up during a week’s worth of wear.

Chiro chose two shades of blue for the body of the suit and black for the boots and applique. The blues were both spandex lycra knits, but the ice-blue was a smoother, glossier texture while the darker shade was more matte. The black was a PU vinyl embossed with pinprick dots.

custom space suit
The fabric needed to withstand a lot of wear

The Construction Process

The Leotard

The suit started out as a long sleeve leotard piece with a separate leggings piece. I did this so that the leotard could be worn over the leggings to mark off where to join the two later. The design called for a very high, elegant hip seam.

custom space suit

From there I could mark off the alterations needed to fit Chiro’s measurements better. This included shortening the sleeves and taking in the sides for a narrower waist. While she was still in the suit I also marked off the placements for the appliqués on the legs and body.

The appliqués then got hand stitched onto the suit fabric later. The leg curve appliqués turned out to be the hardest to do as they needed to be folded in 1cm on the edges. Luckily the black vinyl appliqués could keep their raw edges. But their placement needed to be very precise as they offered no stretch. Therefore, the wrist cuffs each had one press stud at the wrist to fasten closed.

custom space suit

The Wing Blades, Boots and Finishing Off

custom space suit

Then came the shoulder wing things. These got constructed from stiff batting and covered in the light blue lycra. I attached them to the suit at the tips and on the shoulders, allowing for easy movement and dressing/undressing.

The boots I constructed from the PU vinyl and were detachable from the suit legs. I made a pair of tubes that fitted Chiro’s ankle and calf measurements and attached them to black canvas tekkies to create the boot. I also extended the dark blue leg curve decal down the tube to form the shoe tongue for consistency in design.

In the end, one part of the brief that couldn’t be met was the addition of pockets. A skintight lycra suit simply does not have space for hidden pockets. Thankfully, Chiro had a nice leather fanny pack that matched the design of the suit. It was a great alternative that allowed her to keep her phone and keys with her during the long days of performing on the streets.

custom space suit

The Final Space Suit

I loved the final result. The process of designing and constructing this costume was fairly stressful; I had very limited experience working with stretch knits, I was on a close deadline schedule, and Chiro’s performance depended on the costume being of a good quality. So by the end of it I was pretty impressed with myself that I pulled through!

The suit fit well and Chiro looked gorgeous in it. In addition, her white wig and bleached eyebrows completed the alien look perfectly.

custom space suit

Here’s a collection of some of the images of Chiron the alien exploring Cape Town during the performance (borrowed mercilessly from their Facebook page):

  • Penny Siopis, Floating World, 2009, Ink and glue on canvas
  • Penny Siopis, Migrants, 2008, Ink and glue on canvas
  • Spent the day signing autographs! Lots of fans, Lots of laughs!
  • Cruising the streets
  • Art and about

If you enjoyed this Creation Chronicle, contact us for your own custom space suit costume!

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