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The Baroness
G.I. Joe

I decided I needed a new costume and one idea I had been tossing around for some time was the Baroness from the old cartoon and comic books, G.I. Joe. Baroness is a fictional character from the G.I. Joe series. Baroness serves as the COBRA Organization's intelligence officer and lieutenant to Cobra Commander (the bad guys). With long black hair, black rimmed glasses, and a black leather jumpsuit, Baroness is a dark, sensual femme fatale whose beauty is matched only by her ruthlessness. In both comic and cartoon incarnations, she has romantic relationships with Destro.

I decided that Baroness would wear a latex jumpsuit, not leather, so I set about constructing a hand-made latex bodysuit.

First I wrapped my underclothing with Saran Wrap. The reason is when I add the latex to any existing fabric, the latex bleeds through and I did not want to deal with removing latex from my rather sensative areas later, so I wore underclothing and then covered them in Saran Wrap. The instructions also recommend you moisturize all the skin that will be covered with latex with a moisturizing lotion and let it dry. I recommend that females wear a strapless bra or cover the straps with plastic wrap too. Also, the picture doesn't show it, but I also had a strip of plastic wrap between my legs to cover ALL the underclothing fabric.

Next I put on the clothing that I planned to rubberize, in this case, a full-body unitard by Bal Togs. Stretchy fabric like Spandex is the best fabric to use, and fabric with absolutely no stretch, like denim is also OK. A cotton t-shirt with only minimal stretch ... not so good. A hint: do not use clothing or fabric that is the same color as the latex. I chose a black unitard because I had not worked with latex before and I was afraid it wouldn't work out, so I figured if I use a unitard the same color, then any mistakes would not be noticeable and I could still wear it even if it was substandard. Problem is it worked. It was very hard to tell when I missed a spot, so I continue to find thin patches by feel. Better to use a different color next time and have no thin spots or missing patches at all, now that I know this method of creating latex clothing works great!

Then I stood over a large plastic drop, like what painters use, and (this part is extremely important) I used the backs of chairs to rest my hands on, so that I could keep my arms up during the entire process. Then I had Tacit paint the latex straight on my body. Open the bottle of latex in a well-ventilated room, because it has a very strong ammonia content. Only use foam brushes or foam rollers to minimize the brush strokes. Unfortunately, we could not eliminate brush strokes entirely. When the latex starts to dry (or cure) onto the brush, just throw the brush away and get a new one.

Fully coat the intended fabric and let dry, or "cure". It takes roughly a half an hour to dry and while it's drying it will try to stick to itself. So I had to make sure that no part of me touched any other part of me by standing with my legs apart and my arms up. Thank goodness for those chairs! Here you can see the shiny, rubberized first layer of the unitard.

A hairdryer on warm significantly speeds up the curing process. Here you can see Tacit using a hairdryer and you can also see some of the brushstrokes. This suit is about dry and ready for the next coat. I believe we went through nearly 2 16oz. jars of latex for a slender female 5'5".

When it dried, we were able to see some spots we missed, but I suspect that using a different color fabric would prevent much of this problem. Regardless of whether you miss spots or not, it's now time to add another coat. We added no less than 3 full coats, plus some spotting on thin areas. Don't forget that half hour of drying time between coats. I highly recommend popping an engaging movie on the TV during this whole process. Assistants must not be afraid or cautious to paint in delicate areas or get down on their backs to get all the spots. Hint: It's easier for the painter to move around than the model.

After all the coats are totally try, the latex needs to be finished by rubbing in a silicon-based lubricant. Because the latex sticks to itself so aggressively, you will not be able to take the clothing off or move at all without getting stuck and you probably won't unstick yourself. But the silicon lube prevents that. It also makes the latex nice and shiny. After several discussions with a very knowledgeable adult-store clerk, I decided on the brand ID Millenium. This is applied over the entire costume with a clean paper towel or by hand. A note: Silicon lube stains clothing and fabric so be careful and don't wear anything you'll miss while working with it. Now your assistant gets to be really friendly with the parts of your body covered in latex! Pay special attention to the joints, crotch, and underarm areas. After the latex is sufficiently lubed up, I can now get out of the unitard. As expected, the latex bled through and stuck to me while we peeled it off of me. Let me tell you, I was more than grateful for that Saran Wrap!

Here I spread out the unitard onto the plastic drop and very carefully inspected it for thin patches and missed spots, adding more coats to those areas and drying them, and re-lubing them after they dried.

I don't have pictures of the next bit of construction, but basically I took a pair of cheap foam kneepads from Walmart, cut them into the diamond-shape I've seen in some artistic drawings of Baroness, and covered them with latex too. Then I printed out a large image of the COBRA symbol and painted over it with red paint and filled in the spaces with more of the black latex. I cut it out as close to the image as possible and added a fresh layer of latex in the center of the chest area and stuck the image to the chest and let the latex dry. I had to remember to lube the fresh layer where it was larger than the image, plus the latex inside the spaces of the COBRA logo. I added knee-high leather boots, a wide leather belt with silver rings, a couple of guns in holsters and a large gun to carry around. Funny thing, but when it came time to go shopping for a toy gun, I discovered that the stores I had previously noted for having a nice selection of toy guns no longer had ANY guns, let alone realistic ones. So I had to settle for an existing weapon from a previous costume, but eventually I obtained a realistic model of an M16, and a leather thigh sheath for a knife. I also added a pair of black latex gloves and the final piece will be a plastic breast plate armor with shoulder straps to more closely match the comic book drawings.

All in all, I'm very happy with how it turned out.

There are more pictures of The Baroness on the Baycon 2006 page with the first gun, and better images at Dragoncon 2007 after I added the M16 and knife. In 2009 I also had LASIK done and could replace my rectangular prescription glasses with costume round frames, which is what the Baroness wore in the comic.

Now, for the care and feeding of your latex clothing: Latex is a very finicky material. It must be lubed up regularly, no less than once every 3 weeks, or it will begin to degenerate. I hear latex can be kept longer if sealed in an air-tight storage container, but then comes the difficulty of how one folds up or otherwise packs a material that sticks to itself in an airtight container. Apparently they make full-length airtight hanging clothes-bags for things like fur coats, but I did have some success with placing pillow cases on top of and underneath the bodysuit and then folding it up so the pillow cases were the material that touched, not the latex, when I packed it for the trip to CA for Baycon 2006. So I might try folding it that way and storing it in good storage tupperware or those vacuum bag thingies (if I can find any that actually work). Hopefully this costume will survive until the next event ... at the very least the upcoming Halloween!

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