costume design by Rafael Castanera

Top pieces of the claw: Each of the outer pieces was cut with a dart to allow the claw to curve. Top 1 is the visible inside of the claw, while Top 2 is positioned to create a snug slot for the 4 fingers of a hand to rest in. Top 3 provides additional support to ensure the claw holds its shape once fabric is stretched over it.

Bottom pieces of the claw: Lower 1 is the outer, visible portion of the claw. Lower 2 is positioned to create a slot for the thumb to fit in snugly. Lower 3 is for additional support to hold the claw’s shape.

The pieces were assembled using gasket adhesive, which was applied to both surfaces and allowed to become tacky before the pieces were pressed together.

view of inner structure of lower half of the claw (prior to attachment) looking down.

view of inner structure of upper claw (prior to attachment) looking up from the bottom

The claw top and bottom were “hinged” together using gasket adhesive applied to a 1.5" strip on either side.

view showing top attached to bottom

Using muslin, I roughly patterned the 3-D shape of the inner surface of the top and bottom of the claw. This pattern was traced and cut out of buckram, which was doubled-up, and then formed to each individual claw using steam.

The hinged areas were reinforced by adding 1" bias tape applied with gasket adhesive. on either side.

The buckram pieces for the tops and bottoms of the claw had a portion removed to allow the actor to better grab/feel things while wearing the claws. These pieces were also applied with gasket adhesive.

After the buckram pieces were in place, each lower claw received a strip of 2" foam tubing (cut in half and tapered on each end) which was smoothed with batting.

The buckram surfaces on the inside of the claw were covered in red spandex. Prior to stretching the spandex over the buckram edges, a very thin line of hot glue was run along the cut edges of the buckram and allowed to dry in order to smooth them and help prevent wear and tear on the spandex.

the lower (on top) and upper (bottom) pattern pieces, cut out of fashion fabric

The entirety of the lower claw edge and upper claw edge where the black material met the red had to hand-stitched for a clean(er) edge.

I used double hymark to pull the fabric tight against the foam tubing to create a definite ridge in the lower claw.

These are the pieces used to create the “cuff” transition between the claw and the actor’s arm. They were cut from doubled-up 1/4" foam.

The cuff pieces were attached using gasket adhesive, and each seam (on the inside and outside) was reinforced with bias tape (also applied with gasket adhesive).

I ran a cut-in-half line of the 2" foam tubing around the upper and lower perimeter of the cuff prior to covering.

The covering is a sock I made by cutting the pattern halves as one piece (surged along a single seam, which was hidden on the underside of the cuff).

I finished the cuff by pulling the fabric tight against the tubing with hymark, as I did on the lower claw.

The white piece is a thermoplastic base which was glued to the rise of the hat. I then cut 1.5" foam tubing in half and used it to create the rounded ridge across the top of his eyes

Once the tubing was added, I covered everything in batting before stretching the spandex across it.

I covered the new rise in spandex, and “hid” two large tucks, one on each side, behind the ridge of his eyes. This allowed for the appearance of a totally smooth and gather-free surface. I also covered the top of the brim in this same spandex.

I covered the bottom of the brim in different material to echo the design of the vest.

I created a strip of binding from the same spandex used on the claws, legs and vest exterior to finish off the brim.

I created the eyes by cutting the shape out of thermoplastic, then glueing 1" foam on top and sculpting them into rounded shapes. I then covered the foam in white spandex and glued on buttons for pupils.

The base of each of the 6 legs was a length of cardboard tubing with foam at each end to create the segmented look of a crab leg.

I created “sleeves” (pattern-matched to be identical) of spandex to pull over each leg piece prior to attaching the ends.

The pointed part of the claw is a conical spandex sock which I stuffed with Poly-fil. I then cut circles out of thin plastic that were a half inch larger in circumference than the opening at the ends of the legs. I inserted these plastic circles into the ends of each sock and glued the sock to the back side of the circle. I then used barge to adhere the plastic circle to the end of the legs.

Before the legs were attached to the belt, I added a plastic circle to the other open end of each leg, which was then barged to the belt.

Cornelius Davis as Sebastian at photocall


For this costume, I built the hat, claws, and legs. The hat is a modified felt top hat, the claws are built of upholstery foam covered in spandex, and the legs are made of a cardboard fabric tube, foam tubing, and spandex.

Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”