I’m making a Big Barda cosplay (from the DC comics) and most of the arm/leg/midriff area is covered in blue scaled material, whether it’s got depth or is just a print differs based on the artist. I want to give it some kind of detailed texturing like making foam scale mail, or perhaps quilting a scale pattern? although I still feel like that might feel a bit flat for my tastes. However it covers high movement areas (elbows/knees/waist) do you have any ideas of flexible texturing to give it depth
Thankfully, for scales, you have several options, and I’ll run through some of the pros and cons of each.
The first thing I would do is to take a look at the scale tutorials we have compiled on the website. There’s only a few, but they cover both foam and plastic scales.
Plastic scale mail made in the style of ring mail would have a nice visual effect, but it also has several drawbacks, the main one of which is that it is not stretchy. It is flexible and would be able to move somewhat with your body, but you will never get the skin-tight effect of this outfit over such high-movement areas with it. It would also be quite heavy to wear over your entire body.
Plastic scales sewn individually to a bodysuit would allow for flexibility and movement, but would also have the issue of weight. I would be afraid of that many scales stretching out and dragging down the bodysuit underneath. You can, however, find lightweight, sewable scales for sale.
Foam scales would be one of your better options here in terms of weight if you want a more armored look. I have seen foam scales glued directly to fabric, though I would worry about the glue messing with the stretch of the garment. I would instead recommend sewing the scales to the garment. Since EVA foam tends to tear along the perforations of machine sewing, I would create two holes near the top of each scale and sew them on through those holes only to prevent this. If you don’t want to cut your own foam scales, you can purchase them on several sites, though you would need to punch your own holes (I would use a large needle).
If attaching something non-stretch to your spandex bodysuit, you will want to make sure that there is adequate space between the attachment points, and that you attach them while the garment is stretched to fit. This will ensure that there is enough of the stretch fabric between the scales to make up for the lack of stretch where the scales are, and will make sure that it still fits when you put it on, even where the scales don’t fit. Otherwise, you will end up with puckering on the fabric around the scales and/or too much space between them, since the fabric surrounding them will stretch but the scales themselves will not. Using a duct tape body double would work for this purpose, or even just stuffing the bodysuit as you work.
If you want something more fabric like, you also have a couple of options.
One option would be to cut scales out of fabric and sew them on. You can do them individually or in strips. This way, you can make sure that the fabric stretches with your bodysuit, and you can get a good color match, since you can use the same material. This will stretch well and be more textured than quilted scales, but will also have a flatter look than something like foam or plastic scales which can have dimension molded into them. I’ve also seen vinyl and faux leather used for interesting effects as sewn scales, though if you get a material that doesn’t stretch, be sure to follow the above advice about sewing them on so your suit will still stretch.
Another idea that is a bit less scale-like but might be another idea is to use smocking for the scales.
Your quilting idea could be interesting if you stuffed the scales slightly by using a high loft batting or by cutting a small opening in the lining of the quilting and stuffing some polyfill in the hole until the scales have a rounded shape. This would be a very warm outfit, however, and would reduce movement.
I hope that helps give you some ideas! Good luck :]