The Art of Engineering Costumes with Nicole Magne

Costumes, Cosplay, and Props Craft & Design
The Art of Engineering Costumes with Nicole Magne


Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada-based artist Nicole Magne makes some of our favorite Halloween costumes on the web. Her fun, innovative designs are a perfect blend of art and engineering, and she revels in a good challenge. She first appeared on our radar in 2007 with her classic Headless Marie Antoinette costume, a DIY of which was featured in our Make: Halloween Special Edition. Each year she creates a new costume, giving herself only the month of October to work on it. A true maker, she then shares her build notes with the community on Instructables.

1. How long have been making elaborate costumes? What’s an example of an early one you made?
I have been making elaborate costumes since 2005. I was She-Ra that year, which is not the most original costume, but I hadn’t seen an example of anyone really nailing the complicated headpiece. That costume was my first attempt at using a clay sculpture, plaster mold technique. The process worked so well I ended up selling She-Ra accessory packs on Etsy for years after, due to the fact I could duplicate so many using the mold forms.

Screen shot 2013-10-21 at 12.29.03 PM

2. What is your day job?
I work as a multimedia developer and videographer for a First Nations educational resource centre in Manitoba, Canada.


3. Describe the R&D process for one of your costumes.
The R&D process for my costumes is usually pretty similar. For example, with the headless Marie Antoinette, I was inspired by an animated GIF of a little illustrated decapitated girl. I’ll conduct an online search to evaluate what others have attempted and how I can improve on those efforts. There is almost always a previous attempt that can be referenced. I’ll sketch out my idea, focusing on how the costume is constructed on my body. I don’t worry about aesthetics or details at this point. Then it’s just of matter of choosing materials that I think would best suit the design.

Magne’s Headless Marie Antoinette Costume:

magne marie antoinette sketch


magne antoinette backpack

4. Your builds are as much engineering as they are art. How did you get started building “structures”?
My combination background of fine art and technology education have influenced my design and construction style. I am really interested in proprioception and relations to the body, and when I create something I focus primarily on wearability. I have no interest in building something that I am physically trapped in. Portability and range of motion are the difference between a “prop” that is used statically and a “costume” that is used physically and actually worn as a type of garment. I think this need — to not be hindered by the costume, but rather have it enhance the body somehow — has driven my builds.

Magne’s Freaky Contortionist Costume with False Legs:
magne freaky contortionist

magne contortionist3

magne contortionist2

5. With your skills, you can make a wide array of things. What’s the appeal of wearables/costumes?
The aspect of costumes that appeals to me is (mentioned above) the use of the body as part of the costume and the performance aspects of wearing it.

6. Describe some of the reactions you’ve gotten to your costumes.
Reactions to my costumes have been overwhelmingly positive but occasionally negative as well. The Kali costume was problematic because it is cultural appropriation from the Hindu culture. I was not aware of cultural appropriation and privilege at the time I created it, but I now understand why it is and acknowledge my mistake.

Magne’s Six-Armed Goddess Kali Costume:
magne kali

magne kali sketch

magne kali arms

7. Which costume is your favorite?
My favorite costume has to be the Headless Marie Antoinette. Everything just “clicked” when I made that. I realized that my brain really likes to solve these kinds of problems. I also love that costume because I made it it under a month, it looked great in photos, and I rocked it all over town.

8. What inspires you to document your builds and share your how-tos with the community?
I like to share my builds because I believe that online communities are the best place to research and encourage improvement. I always start my process by evaluating other people’s techniques; if I can help someone take their build to the next level, then I’m happy to contribute.

Magne’s Evil Dead Necronomicon Costume:
magne necronomicon book

magne necronomicon book2

9. What do you have in the works for 2014?
For the past several years I have challenged myself to build from concept to finished product in one month (lest my life becomes overrun with Halloween), so you’ll have to ask me next October!

Magne’s Conjoined Twins Costume:
magne conjoined twins

Magne’s Death Becomes Her Costume (with gaping hole):
magne death becomes her
magne death becomes her2

YouTube player

6 thoughts on “The Art of Engineering Costumes with Nicole Magne

  1. Ross L says:

    It’s actually Winnipeg, not Winnepeg…

    1. Goli Mohammadi says:


  2. BMac says:

    Awesome! Great ideas and follow through.

  3. Bongs&Thongs!! says:

    cool stuff

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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