How to Make a Roman Helmet With a Plume

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You can arrange your feathers in a line, or in a single plume on the very top.
You can arrange your feathers in a line, or in a single plume on the very top. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

There may be no activity more classic and more enjoyable for children and adults of all ages than dressing up in costumes to play pretend. The fun is only expanded when you make the costume pieces yourself before dressing up. A classic Roman helmet with a plume, a single piece that instantly makes a costume fun and recognizable, is surprisingly easy to make.

Things You'll Need

  • Standard latex balloon
  • Ostrich plumes or feathers
  • Scotch or masking tape
  • Water
  • Flour
  • Cotton gauze
  • Bronze metallic paint
  • Red paint

Blow up a latex balloon. Inflate it to just larger than the head of the person for whom the helmet is intended. Tie the balloon closed.

Tape ostrich plumes or craft feathers in a row along the helmet to form the plume. Use Scotch tape or masking tape, as available. You may tape the feathers in a single line, or a thicker line.

Mix paper-mache paste. Although there are many methods, one of the simplest is to mix one cup flour with five cups water. Bring this mixture to a boil and boil for about three minutes, then let it cool before use. If you live in a particularly dry area, use more water. If you live in a humid region, use less water.

Paper your helmet. Cut cotton gauze into strips about a foot long. Dip the strips into your paper-mache paste, then lay each strip over the balloon. Cover the entire balloon, and be sure to entirely surround the base of your plumes or feathers. Make the paper-mache helmet about six gauze-layers thick.

Allow your paper-mache to dry. Wait at least three hours.

Pop your balloon by sticking a straight pin through the paper-mache shell.

Cut out the neck hole. Cut an opening on the bottom of the helmet large enough for the wearer's head to fit through. This is generally about twelve inches.

Cut out the opening for the face. This opening should be in the shape of an upside-down “U.”

Paint your helmet. Paint the helmet portion with metallic bronze paint, or bronze metallic acrylic paint. Paint the plumes or feathers with red paint. Allow this paint to completely dry. Then, if you wish, you can add detail to your helmet using black paint, or even a black Sharpie.

Tips & Warnings

  • To reduce that classic "paper-mache smell," mix a small amount of cinnamon into the flour and water before boiling.
  • Your paper-mache helmet may look like a Roman helmet, but it will not actually protect your head. Make sure that any children who will be playing pretend with the helmet understand this.

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