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Basically, my question is: is it possible to make a real life costume in which the eyes of the person wearing it are fully covered with opaque material but the person can still see through it, and if it is possible, how can you do it?

In the case of Dead Pool, his eyes are covered with what seem to be white covers that are part of the mask. I imagine this is to conceal his identity but it's never explained how he can see through that thing.

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Is this even possible to construct at home (say for a Halloween costume)? What material would it have to be for it to be transparent only in one direction?

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    As long as the rest of the mask is opaque such that no light illuminates the eyes or surrounding skin, the fabric over them can be translucent (like silk) and still appear opaque from outside. The mask wearer would not be able to see perfectly, but they could make out basic shapes and obstacles. – Henry Taylor May 29 '18 at 21:04
  • All answers here were very informative. Thank you everyone! – Alex Jun 1 '18 at 20:22
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In theatrical use on a larger scale, scrim is used for this sort of thing. It's a fairly open-weave fabric. Unless black, it reflects light when illuminated from the same side as the viewer, but transmits light to the dark side. Black scrim is often used in the eyes (or mouth) of character suits so the occupant can see out. You can see quite clearly through it from close up, like the bank robber's stocking mask (TV tropes).

Note that the term scrim refers to quite a lot of fabrics, so you need to be careful. I thought you might find offcuts on eBay, but instead came across something in ribbon form that might work.

Another option that is inherently silver or gold rather than white is space blanket. Most space blankets, and even "foil" crisp (US:chip) packets are only semi-silvered because the layer of aluminium is so thin. You could see out through them if outside was brightly lit and inside completely dark. If you want to do this, it's best to gently stretch the material so it's smooth.

A third option (again shiny) would be to glue the lenses of mirrored sunglasses onto the inside of the helmet.

Scrim has the advantage of providing some ventilation as well, though eye holes are small enough that it probably doesn't make much diference.

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  • FYI; In the UK - in my experience at least - we call scrim gauze. – walrus May 30 '18 at 14:27
  • @walrus that's interesting because I first came across the term in stage lighting in London in the 90s – Chris H May 30 '18 at 14:48
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For this Lego Batman costume, we covered the eyeholes with white gauze (ok, actually patches cut from some old pantyhose). Vision was only very slightly reduced -- much more so by the small eye openings (and loss of peripheral vision) than by the gauze.

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The concept being used in this example is the same as that which is used for perforated vehicle window wraps, frequently used for advertising on buses and business vehicles.

According to this web site, Streamline Print and Design, perforated vinyl is the key:

Perforated vinyl is exactly what the name says, a sheet of vinyl material with a pattern of tiny holes cut through it. There are so many of these holes that a significant amount of the material is removed. The amount of vinyl removed usually ranges from 30 to 50%. For example, 60/40 vinyl, is 60% vinyl and 40% holes.

Light-colored perforated vinyl signs are opaque when seen from outside a window because our eyes naturally focus on a bright, well-lit surface rather than on the holes and the relative darkness of whatever is behind the surface. The inner side of perforated vinyl, however, is dark colored. Here the eye naturally focuses through the dark vinyl to the light and motion outside the window. Because of this, people inside a store, home or automobile see through the back of the sign to the world outside.

I learned a bit of new info from this page. The idea of dark inside and light outside makes sense, but is not necessarily intuitive, especially in the case of masks and eye holes.

One aspect not covered in vehicle wrapping is that the closer one's eyes are to the holes, the smaller they can be. This can be demonstrated with a piece of black paper and pinholes placed in various patterns and sizes. Peer through the holes and you can see (or not see) that even tiny holes will provide good viewing.

It's not unusual to see costumes, specifically sport mascots, with large black gauze panels through which the human bean within will view the surroundings. The gauze is mostly holes, a very small percentage of area which is not holes, but the darkness inside and especially the greater distance from the panel to the human's eyes provides "invisibility" to the crowd. This does not apply in the case of a close-fit mask.

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