Today I’m going to stray a bit off from my usual posts. That said, I suspect that most folks will find this rather interesting.
I started my “career” of running around as a 9′ tall monster back in the fall of 1988. In the years that followed, my monster-suit has undergone many revisions. However, the one item which stuck with me through the years was my lone pair of stilt-pants. You see, stilt pants don’t exactly grow on trees.
At almost every event I’ve ever worked, I’ve had someone come up and ask me whether it’s hard to walk on stilts. My answer to them has always been, “No, you can be walking on stilts in no time…..it’s finding the pants that can take years.”
In the 1990s, with the internet still in its infancy, you couldn’t just flip through the yellow pages and find someone capable of creating a pair. I also couldn’t just ask another stilt-walker for their source, since it was years before I ever met another stilt-walker. When I did start to meet other stilters, it was common that the first thing out of their mouth was, “Hey, do you know anybody who makes stilt pants?”
Oh, I’ve certainly had a number of people attempt the task. I can think of at least a half-dozen folks who were certain that they could whip a pair right up. Unfortunately, stilt-pants are not simply “really long pants”. If made incorrectly, you either end up swimming in fabric, or with something that allows the outline of the stilts to be made noticeable through the pants.
With modern computing, I’ve occasionally come across companies who were offering to make them. However, the prices were always prohibitive and I feared dropping that kind of money for something which might not work out.
Rolling out of this past Halloween season, my poor pants had just about had it. They were threadbare and had been patched and re-patched so many times that I had lost count. I had to do something.
The Zesty Nest, owned by Emily Carpenter, specializes in custom-made stilt pants. I immediately fired off a message requesting more information. Over the course of the next few days, Emily had answered a number of my questions, taken all of my specific information, and set to work on my new threads. My new pants arrived the following week, packaged with care as if they’d come from a fancy boutique. I might add that all of the was for a VERY reasonable price.
My pants were a perfect fit and I debuted them this past weekend at the HorrorHound Weekend in Columbus, OH. Driving home from the show, I found myself wondering how someone ends up becoming a “maker of stilt-pants”. I figured that there must be some back-story there so I fired off some questions to Emily and thought I’d pass her answers along to you all.
How is it that you ended up making stilt-pants and selling them on the internet? I started stilt-walking in 2003 in an unlikely place—aboard a ship. I was part of a four-person sketch comedy group with Royal Caribbean. We did 27 different sets a week, and two of them were parades (our only non-sketch sets). We even did one parade as we pressed through a hurricane—yikes. While there, I met my husband, a fellow improv performer and stilt-walker.
Years later, when we no longer had our pick of stilt pants from the dressing room, I looked and looked and –beyond stilts pants being an almost impossible find— when I did find them, prices were prohibitive and I found many preferred you came in to be measured, I didn’t have my pick of fabric or pattern, etc.
I put my costuming education to work (yay for theatre degrees!), spent some time experimenting, and started making stilt pants. I eventually started my Etsy store in hopes that if someone else was looking, they’d find my more affordable option. I love making these pants. The first pair I made were for my husband, and he was elated to finally have a pair he didn’t have to cinch up with suspenders. I love that each pair of pants is custom to the exact performer inhabiting them.
What type of stilts do you use? We use the dura-stilts. We’ve just found with characters that sometimes mingle and interact with audience up to 4 hours at a stretch, these work best. We also pick children and babies up for pictures and I feel better with more of a foot under me!
Do you and your husband still perform on stilts? If so, what type of gigs do you do and what does your act consist of? We do–but it’s mainly Seth now. It depends on the gig, a babysitter, and the length, etc. I really had to re-train after each pregnancy, my balance was so off! Seth can do 4 hours at a stretch, I find one hour is plenty for me now! Seth mainly does audience interaction or parades, grand opening, parties, etc.
I mentioned that I’ve had a really hard time finding stilt-pants over the years. Despite this, I meet other stilters at Halloween/horror events each year. Have you crossed paths with any other folks who use your pants for monster costumes, haunted houses, or cosplay? I haven’t yet, but I’ll keep you posted. I only opened the store in December 2011, so I’m hoping to meet a wide range of stiltwalkers from all over the world!
Thank you for reading. I know that this was an extremely narrow topic but if just one other monster out there can find a new pair of pants, I feel I will have done my job.