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Making a Fat Suit: it aint over till the fat lady sings


In the big, fat, musical comedy Hairspray (May 10–June 3, 2012), Drew Frady adorns a fat suit when playing Edna Turnblad, the very large mother of teenage heroine Tracy Turnblad.

Janson Fangio, resident designer and Costume Shop Manager at the Fine Arts Center, explains how he created the fat suit, and shares helpful advice should you feel inspired to try and create your own.

Artist Fernando Botero’s work
highlights a distinct “fat” form.

STEP 1 Research various medical textbooks to understand how the female body holds extra fat.

STEP 2 Purchase the largest leotard possible.

  • Challenge: Men’s leotards do not come in nude and women’s leotards are too small.

STEP 3 Map out the pieces of the body to attach to the base leotard.

  • Remember to accentuate the hips and butt as well as breasts to emphasize the feminine shape—which means put lots of stuffing in those areas.
Sketch illustrating the general
shapes to connect to the base
leotard; “filled” shapes create
the exaggerated form.

STEP 4  Buy a mixture of polystyrene micro-beads(what you find in therapeutic pillows) and large polystyrene beads(what you find in beanbags) because the beads move with the body and keep the actor relatively cool.

STEP 5 Make a breastplate—a latex type of necklace that has full collar bone and breasts—to replicate breasts.  Use polyester lightweight knit for the skin and fill breasts with micro-beads.

STEP 6  Ensure that the “fat” parts of the suit can be removed easily for washing and will not rot.  Do not use rice or seed grain for stuffing.

Here is what your finished project should look like:

Drew Frady gets help putting together the fat suit.
Fat suit put together in its entirety.