"Wrapped tails", "Rope Tails", "Braided tails" are all terms to describe the tails used in the original London production, and many productions following its style. Unlike the more literal fluffy furry looking tails used in Broadway-based productions, the wrapped tails look more sketchy, in keeping with the scribbled unitards and knitted warmers to create a suggestion of Cats.
With the notable exception of Cassandra, wrapped tails have a cotton rope base, decorated with lengths of yarn wrapped around the base and left with loose ends. Cassandra's tail is also braided, but made from the same spandex as her costume, dyed to match, and left smooth and un-decorated.
Cotton Leading Rein Tutorial - by Belle Edit
The soft cotton rope core used in the authentic London costumes is identical to that used for soft cotton Lead Reins - a common equestrian supply. I am very fortunate to have an authentic London Mistoffelees tail to refer to, which features in this tutorial.
To Alter a Lead Rein into a Cats Tail Base Edit
Firstly I purchased a cheap cotton lead rein from ebay, at a cost of £3.99. Colours are limited, so I chose black. White or pale grey would be ideal for a Mistoffelees tail, as the white tip is the loose ends of the base.
The rope is 2 metres long, consisting of cotton fibres in two cores which are twisted together to form the rope. The lead rein came attached to a heavy duty clip, the rope simply fed through the ring. Both ends of the rope are created by the fibres looping back on themselves, leaving no loose ends. Initially I hoped to make two tails from the rope, however having cut it in half, it was clearly about half as wide as the authentic tail. Therefore, I used both halves to make the tail base.
Once I cut the rope in half, I untwisted the two halves, creating two loose lengths of 2 metres. I took the mid-points of each, which had been either end of the rope, and folded them over to create one loop that is the top of the tail. I then tied this off to hold it in place, and used a 4-strand technique to simply braid the four lengths into one. I then tied off the end and worked through the twisted fibres, and the tail base is complete.
My base is a bit tighter than the authentic reference, however the cotton fibres will relax over time. The weight and movement is a very close match however, and once decorated this tail will be as hard wearing and stable as the authentics. The construction took less than 15 mins, and cost £4.