Delicate iridescent wings can add an element of fantasy to elf, fairy, and other fantastical costumes. They’re generally lightweight and, with a little practice, accessible to create for many cosplayers.
But there are limitations to the lightweight fairy wings that make their materials unsuitable for more sturdy or heavier wing-type structures.
How to make fairy wings
Standard Fairy Wings:
- Lightweight - Yes
- Rigid - No
- Wing Material - Cellophane Film and Iron-On Vinyl
Aluminum Frame Wings:
- Lightweight - No
- Rigid - Yes
- Wing Material - PVC Vinyl
Truly each wing structure falls more in a range between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ for the above answers. While aluminum frame wings aren’t necessarily considered lightweight, they are certainly lighter than using steel for the framework.
And while standard fairy wings aren’t necessarily rigid in their structure, they do hold their shape against the pull of gravity, so long as the wires for the framework use a large enough gauge.
For the sake of simplicity, though, aluminum frame wings are chosen because while they are heavier than fairy wings, they hold a stronger shape and can, thus, use a heavier material for the span of the wings themselves.
Aluminum is one of the lightest metals that is easy to bend but also holds rigidity. For even the largest ‘bird-type’ wings, aluminum is the metal of choice for all backplates, couplings and framework.
For this project, I wanted a frame that would be sturdy enough to hold wings with a total wingspan of about 4ft. I chose two sizes of aluminum tubing (you want hollow rods so they can be bent and still remain rigid after bending). The larger tubing was used for the upper sides of each wing while the smaller tubing was used for the lower edges of the framework.
Remember, the top edges are doing the ‘heavy lifting’ to keep the wings up while the lower edges are simply keeping your wing material taught. These were purchased from Speedway Motorsports, but you can also order both the 1/2 inch and 3/8 inch sizes on Amazon.
Plan Your Framework Blueprint
Before you begin hacking away and bending your tubes, start with a blueprint. I used InkScape to plan out the outside edges of my wings and printed the blueprints to the exact size I would need. This way, I’m simply bending the rods to follow the shape of my desired results exactly.
If you’re not feeling confident with InkScape, I’d highly recommend watching this easy-to-follow tutorial on Youtube by CestLaSara!
Once you’ve settled on your blueprint, it’s time to bend your aluminum rods gently into position. These rods cannot be bent until the inside of the tube ‘crushes’ onto itself, so any sharp bends will need to be cut and then welded together for a stronger connection.
It’s also important to note that bending and re-bending the rods will degrade their integrity, so work slowly and methodically to get the shape you desire.
For these wings, the bend at the very tips of each wing are too acute and need to be welded. I used this connection point as the break between my larger rods and smaller rods. Time to weld!
Weld Sharp Angles
To prepare for welding, the first step is making sure the connection of both aluminum rods is flush. This makes for a stronger weld. I used a rounded grating tool to shave the tip of my smaller rod to a concave shape that fit perfectly around the edge of the side of my larger adjoining rod.
From there, weld the connection point at the tip as well as at the base if you want a strong wing frame. If you choose not to weld the base, the opening will allow for more movement between the top and bottom of your wing, but this can also be a flimsier design.
I chose to weld the base where the edges of the wing would naturally connect. For these wings, I had four separate wing panels, which makes 8 weld points. The results were sharp!
Stretch Your Fabric
In my article on PVC vinyl I show every step to stretching vinyl for wings, skirts, and more! But as a taste, your next step is to use the aluminum frame you’ve just created as a mount for your fabric of choice for your wings.
For this project, I chose PVC vinyl because it’s transparent but also able to be stretched taught.