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How we made a Catwoman costume to help stage a London takeover by Gotham's finest

The Joker is normally found terrorising Gotham, aided and abetted by his goons and henchmen. Catwoman is usually up to her tricks, plaguing Batman's vigilante efforts with her wily ways.

So what do we have here? All three together, and in London?

Join me, Mrs Mind Magic Studios, to find out how the Joker, Catwoman, Batman and a 1989 Batmobile stole London's heart in one of the oldest street parties in the world. Find out what went into the making of this beautifully screen accurate Michelle Pfeiffer 1992 Batman Returns Catwoman costume for me to wear as part of this event in this throw-back to 2015.

Cosplay actors dressed as The Joker, Batman and Catwoman
A brief cosplay entente cordiale between the Joker, Batman and Catwoman

London's history unites with Gotham

The Lord Miaow's Show

How London's history united with Gotham

What is the Lord Mayor's Show?

Before we get into all things costume-related, first an explanation for our overseas friends. The Lord Mayor’s Show is an important and well-loved annual parade in London. Thousands attend in person, millions watch on tv and the Show’s origins could be straight outta Gotham: over 800 years ago, King John appointed the Mayor of London to bring back order to the City and keep its residents onside against his rebellious northern barons.

Think Commissioner Gordon trying to clean up The Narrows.

The King allowed London to elect its own Mayor every year but on the condition that every year the new Mayor would travel through London to swear loyalty to the King. The Brits love their history as much as DC Comics fans love all things Gotham, so it’s no surprise that this tradition has continued for over 800 years in spite of the wars, plagues and fires that have ravaged London over time.

The 1989 Batmobile and The Joker at the 2015 Lord Mayor's Show
The Batmobile and The Joker delight the crowds at the 2015 Lord Mayor's Show in London.

Like our well-loved film premieres and celebrity sightings of today, the Mayor’s annual journey grew into a popular spectacle that became known as the Lord Mayor’s Show. Little did King John know it would end up featuring in everything from Shakespeare’s plays to Fleming’s Adventures of James Bond.

Showing its importance in the nation’s hearts, in the 20th century the Lord Mayor’s Show was the first outside event to be broadcast in the UK. The modern Lord Mayor’s Show of today sees huge numbers of Londoners, City businesses, livery companies, charities and more come together in a huge and colourful parade to celebrate the city.

Medieval characters on a Lord Mayor's Show float
One of the many eye catching floats to be seen at The Lord Mayor's show

Why did Gotham take over London?

In 2015 we see a glorious DC Comics take over of the Lord Mayor’s Show. Thanks to some wonderfully screen-accurate cosplayers we see the Jack Nicholson Joker from 1989’s Tim Burton film Batman waving his umbrella, taunting the crowd and jeering at Batman who is driving a replica 1989 Batmobile along in front of him, much to the surprise and delight of the cheering audience thronging the parade route.

Riding shot gun to Batman is me as a Michelle Pfeiffer style 1992 Batman Returns Catwoman cosplayer, hissing at Mr J, contemptuously ignoring Batman and simpering and smirking at the thousands of Londoners and tourists enjoying the parade.

Was the then Lord Mayor was a secret DC Comics fan? We'll never know! What we do know is that Character Cars, who supply a dizzying array of cars and bikes from films for events across the UK and Europe, were requested to bring their replica 1989 Batmobile to be part of the parade, along with some screen-accurate costumers for added Hollywood movie magic.

The Lord Mayor's Alderman and the 1989 Batmobile in London
The Lord Mayor's Aldermen getting a closer look at the Batmobile. We think the Batsuit will be their next costume...

I've been up close to this Batmobile many times. Steve aka Mr Mind Magic Studios has had the pleasure of driving it too. It is a stunningly beautiful replica, complete with a fully operational flame thrower! It is also really challenging to drive thanks to its length and super low profile to the ground. Luckily it does have a rear view camera for any difficult manoeuvres.

Making a Joker prosthetic

The costumer playing the Joker already had an incredibly screen-accurate costume for use with his charity work, but he needed that infamous Jack Nicholson Joker smile to complete the look. Mind Magic Studios had the pleasure of making him a custom prosthetic to achieve this.

A cosplayer performing as The Joker
Wait till they get a load of me!

We started with a cast of his face using special life-casting silicone before sculpting the Joker smile over the top of a cast from that. The prosthetic was then cast in white platinum silicone.

As huge Batman fans we were ridiculously excited to see the Joker whooping it up in London. Despite the British weather giving him a thorough soaking, the costume and prosthetic held up and he laughed and cackled his way along the entire three-mile parade route.

A cosplayer performing as the Joker with a 1989 Batmobile replica
Where does he get those wonderful toys?

The Lord Miaow’s Show

Why make a Catwoman costume?

Steve had been doing charity work costuming as a 1989 Batman for several years. I only had a Stormtrooper costume at the time and, although I love my fellow UK Garrison Star Wars costumers, I was really starting to miss performing with Steve at the events we help with.

I’ve always loved the Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman from Tim Burton’s 1992 Batman Returns film because she is one of the few characters who wields a whip. As a girl I was obsessed with Indiana Jones and I guess the fascination with action heroes and villains who use a whip stuck with me.

Little did I know I would later travel to Rancho Indalo to receive whip training from actor, director, fight coordinator and weapons expert Anthony De Longis, who trained both Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford - but that's a story for another day!

A Batman Returns 1992 Catwoman cosplayer
Please. I wouldn't touch you to scratch you.

How to make a Catwoman cowl

I spent many hours looking for pictures of Michelle Pfeiffer’s original cowl on the internet as reference photos. Pinterest is your friend here. To stay organised, I created separate boards for each part of the costume.

Steve put huge effort into getting this custom Catwoman cowl sculpt screen-accurate for me. This is the diligence he is known and loved for and made no exception for me. He spent a long time carefully measuring and checking to ensure the stitches were all exactly in the same place and pointing in the same direction as they were on the movie original cowl.

I also wanted the cowl to be as comfortable as possible so Steve cast it in lovely soft polyurethane rubber. It’s really easy to put on and take off too but I wear a hairnet underneath it to keep my hair in place and avoid stray hairs from finding their way out.

Batman Returns Catwoman cosplayer
Close up of custom Catwoman cowl

How to make Catwoman's claws

The claws are a critical part of this iconic costume. Each claw is different and made of various different parts. After we identified all of the individual metal components, we bought them, and then Steve put them together before making moulds of each. I couldn't risk damaging my catsuit or anyone around me by using the metal originals so Steve cast my claws in con-safe rubber.

The gloves were easy to source from a fetish wear website. Next it was a case of carefully gluing each claw to each finger. The gloves were a little long. As they were PVC I didn’t want to puncture them with any stitching so I folded the tops over and glued them in place.

Catwoman cosplayer in a 1989 Batmobile
Catwoman's rubber claws standing up to the rain and a gorgeous interior shot of the replica 89 Batmobile

How to make a Catwoman corset and catsuit

I have a curvy build unlike Michelle Pfeiffer so I knew I would need a traditionally custom made, boned corset that would cinch my waist. The corset and catsuit would need to fit tightly but comfortably, so made-to-measure was the only way and I can't sew. At this point, I had a bit of a panic because I needed to find someone with traditional corset-making skills but who also had the experience of working with fabrics that are typically used with fetish wear.

Luckily after a search, the wonderful Yasmin from Feverish Imaginings came to my rescue. She had the exact skills. Before I visited her we had chatted about the pros and cons of different fabric options. Thanks to her experience with fetish fabrics she sourced some samples for me to pick from when I arrived.

Like with the cowl, getting all of the white stitches in the right place on the catsuit and corset was also key to making the costume screen accurate. I supplied a ton of photographs for Yasmin to reference. Steve helped me to measure out how long each area of stitches should be on my own body and we drew these out on paper to size for Yasmin to use. I think you'll agree she did an absolutely stunning job.

Suddenly the invite to the Lord Mayor’s Show

When I first started the journey of making my Catwoman costume I had no particular deadline in mind. I was hoping to have it ready for that year's November Birmingham Comic Con but I was more concerned with getting the costume right than rushing. I was happy for it to take as long as it needed so everyone could really enjoy the project.

Then things suddenly took an unexpected turn. The UK cosplay grapevine had heard about my costume build and I received a call in which I was asked, under strict confidence, if I could have the costume ready to ride in an '89 Batmobile that had been booked to be part of the Lord Mayor’s Show.

Being asked to be part of such a prestigious and historic event was hugely exciting but it would mean compromising on my relaxed approach to the timing of the costume build. At that stage, the cowl and claws were made and I had sourced some boots but Yasmin was still in the process of making the catsuit and corset. Thankfully, she was completely hero when I called her to tell her the news and worked really hard to make the costume in time for me. It was up to the wire and the final costume try on didn't happen until the night before the event.

The Joker and a 1989 Batmobile replica greet The Lord Mayor of London
The Catwoman, Batman and Joker cosplayers pause with the 1989 Batmobile to greet The Lord Mayor.

The impossibility of getting into the Batmobile

On the day of the event, we had to be up really early. The Police close various streets in London to prepare for the parade and security was tight. The Batmobile was on a huge lorry and I had to travel with it into a holding zone before the parade began. Every time I walk past that spot it makes me smile.

This meant that I had to get ready at the event. I had only put the whole costume on with makeup once before as a test run the day before. What I hadn’t anticipated was that I would need to get ready in the cab of the parked up lorry the Batmobile had been driven down to London in. Along with the Joker and Batman. Ah, the glamour!

The discomfort wasn't limited to getting ready. The next challenge was getting into the Batmobile. It doesn’t have doors and I cannot bend when I’m cinched into the corset which reduces my waist down by 4 inches. After much discussion and laughter, we found a solution. I was unceremoniously lifted by Steve into the Batmobile, carefully avoiding puncturing the gorgeous seats with my boot heels.

Crowds watching the Lord Mayors Show parade
Crowds at all levels of historic London watching the parade

What are some Catwoman cosplayer tips?

I learned so much from my first ever time out in my Catwoman costume and many things since. Here are my three key tips here for wannabee and newbie Catwoman cosplayers.

1. Think about whether you want to OWN the costume

Most cosplayers will tell you to imagine yourself in different costumes and that choosing which one to make is one of the most fun parts of the process. What I hadn’t fully appreciated was possessing a costume is different from owning it. Let me explain...

You need to enjoy your costume and that means being comfortable with the character you are portraying. Catwoman is a fetish-wear-clad, sexy villain. I didn’t think about this at all. I’m naturally a shy introvert so I was totally unprepared for the level of attention a costume as iconic as hers would command. At an event as large and prestigious as the Lord Mayor's Show it was overwhelming.

That’s why I mean by owning it. You’ve got to get out there and really be that character, so pick someone you feel confident or are happy to spend time growing into portraying. I have to channel a super confident version of me when I’m Catwoman and it took a bit of time to get used to.

2. Start with the hardest part of your costume first - and it is normally the boots

Boots are heinously expensive to have custom made so I had no choice but to look for something off the shelf that got as close to the originals as possible. I think I looked at every pair of boots on the internet before finding a pair I was happy with and even then they weren't completely screen accurate. I’ve since learned from other cosplayers that the footwear is often the hardest part to get screen accurate and this was certainly the case for my Catwoman costume.

If I had left the boot research until the end of the costume build it would have meant I missed the event, so my second tip is to identify the most difficult to find part of your costume and invest your time in this first. This will help you to establish whether the costume is even doable and you also won't risk missing your target event date if you have one.

3. Rehearse your costume - for all seasons

It sounds obvious but put your costume on and wear it around the house a few times before you take it to an event. It's far better to discover parts that need adjusting and put those right at home when you have the time and tools to do a proper job. Otherwise, you may have a costume fail at an event and risk damaging your costume with a temporary fix, or worse being unable to fix it all and having to withdraw from the event at the last minute.

Also think about what you'll be doing in your costume, whether you'll be outside at any point, and check the forecast. At the Lord Mayor's Show, in true November British style, it rained on and off all day so it was very cold and wet. The parade looks very smooth when seen on television but in reality, there is a lot of stopping and starting for the parade participants to ensure there are safe gaps between floats and people on foot. Why is this relevant? Read on!

You can see in the photo below the Batmobile roof had to be open for us to be seen. Now check out the flat piece behind the seats, just in front of the purple and red lights. This innocuous part of the car acted as the perfect place for the rainwater to collect whenever we were stationery.

So what? Well, the sides of the Batmobile are quite tall and I am quite short so to see and wave to everyone who was lining the parade route I had to lean forward slightly. This meant that every time Batman hit the brakes, the rain that had collected behind me shot forward onto my neck and ran down my back. It started cold and just got colder.

Batman and Catwoman cosplayers in the 1989 Batmobile
Smiling and waving despite a freezing wet back

There is a halfway point in the parade when the floats and participants park in a further holding area for a break and to have some hot drinks and food. By this point I was so cold my nose was running and sending my makeup everywhere and my lips had started turning blue.

I was again hoisted out of the Batmobile which caused quite an amused stir and lots of my fellow paraders came over and wanted photos. In truth, I was now cold to the point I was shaking and smiling for photos was the last thing I wanted to do. Thankfully Mark, who owns Character Cars, managed to borrow a big thick high vis jacket from someone to warm me up and brought me some tea.

This probably reads like it was an awful day for a costumer but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Its impossible not to get swept away by the cheering, clapping and flag-waving crowds and as a part of the parade it was every bit our job to make the event a success. I had great fun smiling and waving at everyone as well as glaring and hissing whenever The Joker got too close.

And really, I mean, c’mon - I was riding in a freakin’ 89 Batmobile dressed as Catwoman, being driven by Batman and tailed by The Joker at one of the biggest events in London’s history. Surreal? Yes. Awesome first time out in my Catwoman costume?


But - massive lesson learned. If I had checked the weather and checked whether the car's roof would be open then I would have worn thermals and/or something like Under Armour under the catsuit and enjoyed the event even more than I did. I've never made that mistake since!

I hope my tips help any aspiring Catwoman cosplayers. I love using my costume in the charity work that we do and I encourage you to do the same. Now I'll hand over to Steve for his closing words on the event.

Did Gotham have the last laugh?

1989 Batmobile replica
Are they BOWING for the Batmobile?! Fitting for Catwoman the Courts of Justice laid on a red carpet!

Despite the 7,000 people, 200 horses, 155 floats, 24 marching bands and much, much more, on that rainy day in November 2015 in true villainous style, the Joker and his Gotham frenemies totally stole the show. The beautiful, sleek 1989 Batmobile was an unbelievable sight to behold on the streets of a city with as much historic, pomp and ceremony as London during the Lord Mayor's Show.

The Lord Mayor’s Show is always a spectacular event but for us Batman fans, the extra Gotham magic in 2015 was DC-tastic. For Mind Magic Studios, making the special costume pieces and prosthetics was an honour. We're thrilled for Character Cars and all of the cosplayers involved that their incredible replicas, costumes and performances earned them a very special place in London’s history. I've never been so happy to walk behind a car holding an umbrella!

Photo credits: With many thanks to Samantha Jones Imagery.


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