how to make a human statue

This Essay should help you make a good plan

Making a human statue costume isn’t difficult, but it’s worth making a good plan ahead of time. Now that I have made a few costumes and learned from my mistakes, I can give you a few tips and pointers. I went through 3 versions of this dress this summer. So we’ll talk about how to make a human statue costume in the form of a 2000 word, 3 video and 17 photo epic. Eek!

One minute you’re up…

For this post on the creation of a human statue costume I am remaking a character, Goldie. She has been an amazing part of my repertoire in circus. But, unfortunately, about 15 minutes after this video was taken the dress ripped down the back’s mid-seam as I was bending over and the next thing I knew I was mooning my crowd. Ah, performance. One moment you’re doing something amazing, the next… you’re showing everyone your ass.


Choosing which Human Statue Costume you want to be

I recommend you choose a character and build from an idea.  This will make your piece well put together and thought out, which is respected on the street. It can also help you with what movements you choose to make when you are actually performing. My character is already created, her name is Goldie. She is an idea built on the concept of Midas’s daughter, whose real name is Marigold.

Choosing Your Fabric

Cotton fabric will hold color better than all other fabrics. Synthetic fabrics tend to be more color fast. Using a white base gives your paint a chance to be true to it’s color. Or, alternatively, you can choose the same color you are going to paint the costume. I’ve done colors that weren’t useful as a base in the past, and it created a lot more work in the painting part of the job!
Here we have 2 options: A fancier wedding dress, going for a royal look. And an basic Genie look.
I have zero skills as a seamstress, so I bought a discount wedding dress. This dress is completely polyester, and has a sheer layer on top, but it’s heavy. Heavy fabrics work well with statue costumes, because lightweight fabrics will blow in the wind, ruining your illusion of stillness.
I wore it by itself as a white costume, but this was problematic. It clearly was a wedding dress, and people would comment on that often, so don’t buy a wedding costume if you want to choose to be white. Unless you want to be a bride, of course.

image07This is the only circumstance you’ll see me in a wedding dress.
ShirtGenie PantsHere we have the cotton base genie style pants. This makes for a lighter, more comfortable look and feeling!

Choosing Your Colors

Base the color of the costume on the color of the face paint you will use. There are a large variety of textile-paint colors for sale, especially for metallic face-paint. That said, color matching textile-paint to face-paint can be difficult.

Copper and Silver are pretty consistent across the face-paint / textile-paint spectrum, but if you choose a color like gold, it comes in many variations on the spectrum, and finding one that is exactly the same will be difficult. You can choose be a variety of shades of the same color, as some statutes do, but you are less convincing as a true statue this way.

Colorful people
Montreal Jazz Fest 2016

Choosing Your Makeup

Kryolan Metallic Gold Liquid Body paint is my choice of face paint. Their colors are the brightest and shiniest. It is easy to put on in its liquid form. I apply it like a suntan lotion. You do have to shake the bottle before each use, because the color settles at the bottom and you’ll only get alcohol. If it’s well mixed, it should be fairly thick with coloring.

Oh, and very important: do not introduce any bacteria into your face-paint, or you will suffer! Use a palette to take it out of the bottle, and apply it from there.
Kryolan often comes in palette form too, and many people use that. You can check out other colors on this blog, and this woman does a wonderful comparison of various body paints.
Spray Paint

Choosing Paint for the Costume

You can purchase textile-paints of off the shelf in 2oz bottles, but if you ask the art store, they will order in 1 litre containers for you. Be sure to check out silk-screen paint options. This is what the good statues use.

In my case, choosing the right color fabric paint was impossible in small town France. I actually spent a year trying to buy tiny 2oz bottles of every fabric paint I could find, and none of them matched my gold body paint color that I have been using for years. It wasn’t until I was in the large city of Montreal that I could find the silk screen paint that I use on the genie pants. At the time, back in France, I decided to use spray paint on my dress.
That was a mistake.

A couple of notes about that:
Spray paint is toxic.
If you do choose spray paint, wear a protective mask and gloves. Always spray outdoors. Put something behind the item to protect the surface you are spraying. Spray with the direction of the wind. I had a protective mask in Canada, but they are expensive! Now that I’m on the road and only needing 2 cans of paint, I’m only wearing a scarf over my face. This isn’t smart. You should try harder to protect yourself than I am.

Cover your face
This is not smart.

In the end, my hands got cramped for days after spraying the dress with that tiny nozzle, and when I washed it, the sheen came out and it turned into a dirty brown dress. Hours of work for nothing! I seriously recommend avoiding spray paint when you can. Use textile paints or Silk Screen paints for better quality, and for washability.
dress partially sprayed
second coat
This is the second coat of silk screen paint on the genie costume. It was way better, and after heat setting I could easily put it in the washing machine!

Washing the dress

For my old dresses & spray painted dresses I use the shower. I pay special attention to selective areas, like the armpits, back and under-boob every night, especially in the hot summer. With spray paints, this will wash off the paint, which means you have to continuously purchase more paint, and expose yourself to more toxins. This is one of the reasons I believe textile paints to be the best choice.
Also, I wear an undershirt under the costume, and although this is hot, it protects my skin from direct contact to my costume. Be aware that the Kryolan makeup will discolor regular clothes, so only use an undershirt that you don’t mind ruining. With textile paints, don’t forget to heat set the costume before you wash it!
sad dress is sad

Choosing not to paint the Costume

I have seen other statues done well without painting their costumes, but those characters tend to be more doll-like than statue-like. This is a choice that’s up to you. It sure makes things a lot easier with care & washing, and less work without the painting.
But, there is something about being a true solid color that makes it unreal. I really enjoy that about human statue costumes. It is possible to buy a Zentai Suit, but be aware that the metallic fabrics on those costumes often rub off after a few uses.
Versions that didn’t make the cut:
Solid White CostumeMadame Blanche – same white human statue costume, all white paint. I really don’t like using the white paint! It’s so difficult to make one solid color on the body!
Golden FabricGold Dress, not painted. I really disliked the difference in colors between the two golds! Also, that hair really needed to be gold, without it, it just isn’t the same. It was an interesting experiment!

Heat Setting the Fabric

In order to set the textile paint you need to iron it. Wait 24 hours after you paint the fabric, then turn the fabric inside out, and put a wax sheet of paper between them. Using medium-high heat, Iron the fabric for 3-5 minutes each spot.

I had just moved across the world when I painted this, so I didn’t have an iron and used a baking sheet to iron instead. Hey it worked! #streetratghettotrashHeat Setting


Masks are cheating. Don’t do it. You lose all expression in your face, and your personal character is lost. Professional statues (almost) never wear masks. There is a whole range of cheap, unartistic, costumed characters that wear masks, and it is frowned upon within the street performing scene.
If you want to be seen as an artist, you will put time and energy into your character. Wearing make up is a pain in the butt, but it’s beautiful and people really want to see you – not some made-in-china caricature.

Statue wig
Can you see the bug I painted into my hair?

Painting the Wig

I chose spray paint when redoing the wig. Using heavy paint was too…heavy for what I was aiming for.
To do this, start with the wig upside-down, from the back, going section by section, making sure you get each piece well, then move up to the top and front of the wig. Let it dry.

Once dry, do it again from the back, section by section, slowly moving towards the front until the whole wig is covered.
You can see how I do this at the end of this video:

Another option is colored hair spray, but if you are doing the statue consistently, this gets expensive with daily use.
Colored hair spray

Shoes, gloves, neck coverings, etc

You will want to cover every part of your body that you possibly can with costuming pieces. I do not choose to do so because I need my hands to juggle, but really, use costuming where you can. Any uncovered skin has to be painted, and that make-up will leave footprints and fingerprints everywhere you go. Goldie’s got the midas touch.
Whatever you do, don’t paint your feet, unless you really want green zombie feet for a week. This seems to be the stupidest artistic choice I have ever made, yet I keep making it!

Highlights – eyeliner

You’ll need to cover the pink around your eyes with something. Black eyeliner helps cover this and pops the eyes in a way that makes it very visual for emotional cues. Getting the gold make-up (and, I assume, other colours too) in your eyes stings, so you want to keep a little bit away from the edge of your eyelashes to be safe. Use eyeliner to fill the gap.

And Voila! Here is what those two human statue costumes look like!

Genie costume
Genie Costume with a wig!
Big Dress all gold
Big Synthetic Wedding Dress

Things I would change:

After all that, the dress is very difficult to move in! I was tripping and falling when I was juggling. That isn’t unusual for me, but this was particularity bad. I will be taking up the train and bunching it up in the back. On the other hand, the genie costume is too plain, and doesn’t suit the event managers I am working with. I will be going to the fabric store to purchase some gold decals to spruce it up a bit.

Those are my experiments in costuming. You made it to the end! I hope this is helpful, and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us!

Goldie the Living Statue
Genie Costume without the wig

The Busking Project is the largest community of street performers in the world. Join to get cashless tips, promote your music and get hired for gigs.