Pretty self-explanatory. Do you like body chains? With our without capes? Wanna see how I did mine?
Now, normally I’m not a fan of any sort of metal in my festival costumes, because I tend to not like to wear a lot of clothing, and skimpy armor is a BIG anti-feminist pet peeve of mine. But body chains don’t look like armor to me. I mean really, is anyone going to mistake this thing for protective shoulder gear? No.
I fully expect you to extrapolate your own from this, since it’s only a few notes about construction and a tiny schematic showing which chains are connected where. But I think and hope it’ll be helpful for someone who has chain but isn’t quite sure how to puzzle out the shapes in their head.
–Several yards of chain. I recommend Home Depot; they have a surprising selection by the yard and they’re cheaper than the little pre-cut packages at craft stores. Or your local hardware store if you have one. Local > big box. I just don’t have one of those nearby.
-Jewelry hammer/anvil (optional, but you might want it if you want to hammer the rings flat and/or sturdify them in some way. I didn’t.)
-Soldering iron (again optional. I didn’t use one, but I will if I plan to take this to Burning Man. This will take forever, but will make sure your chains don’t explode everywhere if you get one slightly caught on something. Chains can slip out of each other at inopportune moments.)
First, I listed the things I wanted out of my chain. I MUST be able to lift my arms and have freedom of motion without everything falling off. Loosely draping chains look awesome, but what if I want to climb something? Or wave my hands in the air as though I just don’t care? There are some lovely draped pieces out there, but I need a little more restriction in the chain’s movement to keep it on my shoulders, balanced by not restricting MY movement. This was a little bit challenging, but with some sketching and mental contortions, I figured it out. Ultimately I ended up with a sort of cage shape. Here it is lying flat, with the essential pieces labelled (everything else is just aesthetic):
Note that the chain that runs under the arm is much shorter than the one that runs over the shoulder. Like a set-in sleeve, this accounts for the socket joint and movement. The over-the-shoulder chain doesn’t lie quite flat against my shoulder, but has a little slack. The chain running under my armpit (which I may change out for ribbon later, depending on if I encounter chafing issues) is pretty short, with just enough length to get from one side to the other.
The chain across the back was originally much lower and drapy-er, but it kept falling off. A snug, high chain across the back and front and the key to making sure everything stays in place. You’re basically making a harness. If you’ve ever made a cloth or leather costume harness, it’s like that. But with chain.
To figure out the lengths, I awkwardly draped a flexible tape measure over my shoulders/across my back. I did end up with a couple of pieces too long at first; be careful, since opening and closing the chain rings weakens them. Eventually I figured out that I could test the lengths by safety-pinning the chains together. Just attach the safety pin a couple links back from the end, to account for the length of the pin itself.
I’m not 100% sure how necessary the big connecting rings are, but to me they seem very useful and necessary for allowing for movement and less stress on the individual chains. Without the connector rings, you’d have 2-3 chains pulling directly against each other with motion, with only a small range of slack. The ring provides a lot more freedom for the chain being acted on with any given movement to sort of pull and move around. Make sense?
The downside is that it can be difficult to sort out which chain goes where when putting everything on, as the rings can easily flip around and get the chains a little bit tangled. It’s still wearable, but looks a little wonky and will be tighter, since the chains won’t be able to move as freely.
I didn’t have grommets handy, but I’ll go back and add them to the cape later. I just poked two little rings through the gauzy front panel of a thrifted semi-formal dress and attached the rings to the whole contraption.
I might not take it to Burning Man because I take trash/MOOP pretty seriously. It all depends on whether I can get the rings soldered in time.
You’ll notice I don’t have any pictures of me wearing the chain. This is for two reasons. First, the Male Compatriot claimed it. It’s the first thing I’ve made that he’s wanted for himself, so I adjusted it to fit his bigger shoulders. I’ll make myself another soon. The second is that this particular piece, when combined with my other fantasy pieces, strongly evokes ’80s sword-and-sorcery, which I like, but I’m ambivalent about representing, seeing as it’s a really, really, really sexist genre. I’ll talk about this more in a future post, and in the mean time I’ll be working on some pieces that aren’t quite as comic-book-sorceress looking to go with this chain.