Monday, November 26, 2018

Air Dancer

Emily was an air dancer for Halloween this year. Air dancers, sometimes called tube men, are those funny inflatable tubes with faces and streamers which stand outside stores and other establishments and wiggle in the wind. My kids used to call them the asparagus men and would exclaim in glee whenever we spotted them at car dealerships and strip malls. 

While I haven't actually examined an air dancer to determine how it works, I believe there is a kind of fan in its base that blows air upward, filling the tube and making it shimmy and flap its streamers. The combined visual effect is excellent for attracting attention.

It's well and good for an advertising prop standing in one spot, but a little more challenging when one has intends to walk around the neighborhood encased in what is essentially a fabric cigar. Also, one also needs a peephole through which to look, so as not to walk into a trashcan, parked cars, other neighbors, or anything else one might inadvertently encounter while candy-gathering in the dark. 

Then there was the issue of the tube not collapsing into itself as one moved around in it. Fabric, after all, clings and drapes (not to mention falls down). And while actual air dancers have a stream of air to help the walls stay apart and aloft, we really didn't care for our hindquarters being enthusiastically ventilated by a fan on a cold pre-winter night. As we walked around the neighborhood. In what was essentially an enlarged drinking straw rendered in the cheapest fabric we could find.

Thus, we decided: why fight gravity when we could harness it to our advantage?

Behold: The Cardboard Headdress.

This is, in essence, a helmet-crown hybrid. The lower hemispherical section is the helmet, which sits on Emily's head. The flat upper platform is the crown, raised above the helmet by dowels. 

This extra elevation served two purposes. One, to elongate the tube further so that the height-width ratio even more closely  approached that of a real air dancer. Two, to raise its top by enough distance to turn the air dancer's mouth into a peephole for Emily's eyes.

And it is from this flat platform that the entire fabric tube (with a closed circular top) hangs. Not unlike a fitted tablecloth for a disproportionately tall table.

Even without additional structural reinforcement, the fabric cylinder kept its shape quite well. However, we added a couple solid rings in the lower region around Emily's legs. In the same way that a hoop skirt works, these kept the cylinder open so she could walk without kicking the fabric out in front of her. I sewed two narrow channels all around the inside of the tube, then bought dollar-store glowsticks and connected them into a couple of large rings to push into the channels. 

The main structure thus accomplished, we finished off the costume with simple details. We put the tube on Emily, marked the position of her eyes, cut out the  air dancer's mouth and sewed black athletic mesh fabric over the opening. We also cut out armholes and Emily wore a coordinating fleece sweater for instant arms. Much easier than trying to fit sleeves, we thought. The streamers are fabric strips glued onto short sticks that Emily is holding.

You can see the streamer-sticks in her hands in this next photo. They're like mini twirling-ribbon-sticks.

This was one of the quickest costumes to make, and the funniest!


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