Thursday, February 16, 2012

Captain Barbossa

Character: Captain Hector Barbossa
From: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Made: 2006
Awards: Part of a skit that won Best Presentation (2006 San Diego Comic-Con Masquerade)

"So what now, Jack Sparrow? Are we to be two immortals locked in an epic battle until judgment day and the trumpets sound?" Among the many highlights of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was Geoffrey Rush's gleeful, scenery-chewing portrayal of Jack Sparrow's nemesis, Captain Hector Barbossa. I shrieked like a little girl when he showed up at the end of Dead Man's Chest, and if you ask me, he was the best damn thing about At World's End.

I made this costume for our 2006 Comic-Con Masquerade skit, PDQ Pirates, a retelling of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie in 3 minutes. (Lots more pictures, plus video, are available on that page!)

When I was putting together our Masquerade skit, I asked my husband if he wanted to participate, and if so, who he wanted to be. At first, I was a little surprised that he picked Barbossa instead of Jack, but now I'm really glad he did! Researching and constructing the costume was challenging, but very satisfying and a lot of fun. Plus, Jack Sparrows are ubiquitous at cons these days, but there are hardly any Barbossas around, so he gets to be a little more unique. And he has a great time riffing with the Jacks he meets!

In October 2006 I was visiting Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida, and I discovered that they had the Barbossa costume on display at the end of the backlot tour ride! I took a ridiculous number of pictures of course, coming back several days in a row to study the costume further. I'm sure the staff thought I was absolutely crazy! I put all the pictures that my friend Kimmerie and I took into a Flickr set here. They're all high-res, but they're basically just straight from the camera, no adjustments or anything, and a lot of them aren't that good. Drat costumes that are entirely enclosed in glass!

San Diego Comic-Con 2006 Masquerade


Holy wow. I really did not expect this to be such a complicated costume, but it really is! Pirates have a *lot* of costume pieces-- not just a dress, or a bodice and a skirt, but a shirt, coat, vest, pants, sash, belt, bandolier, hat, jewelry, monkey...


This was a toughie. The fabric is so very distinctive, and so very hard to find. I settled for a heavy cotton that I found at a local upholstery outlet. It had a wide, visible weave that sort of gave the appearance of the little squares on the actual costume. I toyed with adding black Sharpie dots at intervals, but quickly decided that would be a one-way ticket to crazyville. The fabric was originally an olive-tan color, so with some help from my coworker Ellie, craftsperson extraordinaire, I did some dye swatching and discovered that RIT Black turned it a nice gray with a blueish cast, which is what I was going for. As always, the actual dyeing didn't go as smoothly as the testing. Two packets of black with five yards of the fabric in the washing machine wasn't dark enough or blue enough, so I put it through again with one packet of black and one of navy blue. I declared that "good enough" and called myself done.

I used Simplicity 4923, a POTC knockoff pattern, for the coat. I omitted the collar piece, widened the lapels, and narrowed the sleeves and cuffs quite a bit. From my study of the coat, I had concluded that the front piece wrapped all the way around to the back princess seam. I wasn't skilled enough to redraft the pieces and have it work, though, so I settled for keeping the side seam and adding a back princess seam. I then removed the center back gore and instead added gores at the back princess seams.

I had wanted to line the whole thing, but as time was short (as always) I just lined the sleeves and front pieces. I couldn't begin to explain how I ended up lining those split sleeves with the cuffs attached, but I can tell you that I did it hilariously wrong at least once. The front lining I just sort of bagged down the center front and lapels and tacked down at the inside seams.

I made an unpleasant discovery as I was lining the coat-- I had used the same pattern pieces to cut the coat fabric and the lining fabric, but the coat pieces had...grown. Significantly. The fabric was so heavy, and the weave was so loose, that once the coat was together and hanging on a dress form it stretched quite a bit. Oops. So the waist is somewhat lower than I meant it to be, and the shoulder seams sagged down onto the upper arms. It's annoying, but I'm living with it. For now. I would really, really like to find more accurate fabric and do the coat over again, though, especially now that I know so much more about how it's constructed.

For the trim, I just bought two widths of that black gimp braid that every fabric store carries. I folded the wider braid in half around the edges of the center front, lapels, and neck and sewed it down, and used the narrower for all the decorative loops. I bought the buttons on Ebay from a seller that's since disappeared. They were originally gold, with an acrylic "stone" in the middle. They were painted with a combination of silver and pewter acrylic paints, then aged with watered-down black paint, and finally sealed with a matte spray. My dad sewed them on! Didn't he do a great job? As a final step, the coat was aged by spraying it with watered-down black and gray fabric paint.


I started with the vest pattern from the same Simplicity pirate pattern as the coat. I then extended the center front to make it double-breasted, and made it taller so the lapels could fold over. I also lengthened the bottom and added the "cutout" part in the middle.

Finding the right fabric was, again, a challenge. I eventually settled on a blue red, and green woven upholstery fabric from a local store. I used this fabric for the two front panels and made the back and lining from navy blue cotton, since Barbossa always wears his coat, so the back of the vest wouldn't be seen.

The buttons came from an Ebay supplier who's no longer in business. They came silver, so I painted them with a combination of gold, copper, and bronze metallic paint, again followed by a wash of watered-down black paint and a spray of matte sealer. My dad sewed these buttons on, too!

Barbossa's vest looks super-grimy, so I went pretty crazy with black, brown, and green paints to muddy it up quite a lot. I think I may have gone a bit overboard, actually. I've considered washing it, but I'm a bit worried about what it would do to the buttons.


For the shirt, I used Simplicity 4219, a pirate/poet shirt pattern. I modified it to open up the front, and didn't add any eyelets or anything. I was not particularly thrilled with the pattern-- overall it was way too big. I probably won't use it again. The fabric was another local store find, a loose-woven, off-white, very drapey fabric that claimed to be cotton. I'm still not convinced, but it looks pretty nice. It got a very quick, uneven dunk in some gray RIT to dull and age it a little.

I started with the pants pattern from Simplicity 5958, then added four inches to the center of each pattern piece, because Barbossa's pants are very full, almost baggy. The legs were just gathered into the waistband, and I added a button fly. The cuffs are elasticized rather than buttoned, because it was easier and the cuffs are hidden by the pant legs anyway.

The fabric was, once again, from a local store. It's a dark blue-gray, fairly heavy but with a nice drape. No idea on fiber content, although I think there's some rayon in there. Rogue reports that they breathe quite nicely.


The boots came from Caboots, who actually made the boots for the POTC movies. They were having a clearance sale on their older styles, and we scored a pair of Barbossa boots in "cognac" for only $100. Let me tell you, these are great boots. Very high quality, great looking, and you definitely feel like a pirate when you're wearing them.

The boots we bought were much too light, which we knew when we got them, so we decided to darken them with black shoe polish. This gave them a great aged look and a dark black-brown color. My husband, my dad, and my brother were responsible for the boots, and they took their polishing duties very seriously.


I bought a black felt hat blank from an Ebay seller. It was just about perfect as it was, so we just worked on distressing it a bit, crumpling it up, stomping on it, ripping the brim. Barbossa has these great ostrich feathers in his hat-- all I could find locally were red and purple feathers. I tried to distress them by dry-brushing them with black paint, which helped a bit. I'd like to replace the feathers at some point.


I bought the Ashley wig from in color 8, light chestnut brown, and then trimmed it to Barbossa length. I've since discovered that Barbossa actually wears his hair in a long braid in the back, in addition to his shorter front hair! So I need to buy a new wig. It's hard to find the right color for the wig-- Barbossa has this sort of very old-looking brownish hair. It's not gray, although there's some gray in it; it just looks old and worn out. Obviously, that's not a very popular color for a wig! So I'm still looking for the perfect color.


I do Barbossa's beard with crepe hair; I bought it in dark brown and gray on Ebay. I found instructions for applying crepe facial hair in a theatrical makeup book, but this is a pretty good online tutorial. Basically, I cut off a piece of hair a few inches long, then spread it out and pull it apart until it starts to look like natural hair. Then I apply it with spirit gum. It's time-consuming, but it's cheap and produces a fairly good result.

Manly Pirate Jewelry

The pendant and earring were both made from Sculpey and painted. For the pendant, I printed out a picture of the actual piece at an appropriate size, taped wax paper over it, and then formed my clay over that. I got the chain from a necklace at Target. Master Replicas now sells a decent, cheap version of the pendant, so we'll probably buy that and replace the rather fragile Sculpey one. For the earring, I mostly just winged it-- I made and painted several tooth/fang/tusk thingies until I was satisfied. I baked a wire loop into the top so I could hang it from a clip-on earring back.

Everything Else

Rogue bought the baldric on Ebay-- it's intended for people who play bagpipes. The belt is his own. The sash is silk habotai from Dharma, washed, dried, and dyed with a mix of golden yellow and brown. The sword and pistol are plastic toys. And the monkey is a Beanie Baby.

No comments:

Post a Comment