“Making costumes is addictive. You never just do one costume. It destroys your life.”
I went to a couple of fascinating back-to-back maker panels at Star Wars Celebration. They shared tips that would be useful in all kinds of craft – even if you’re not into Star Wars.
The panels were given by two groups.
- 501st Legion: make/wear Star Wars “dark side” costumes (Darth Vader, stormtroopers, etc.)
- Mandalorian Mercs Costuming Club: make/wear armor-clad bounty hunter costumes (Boba Fett). Four members constructed armor for a panel audience volunteer in just 40 minutes (!)
Like Justice League Arizona (who I’ve mentioned before), members of these two groups build their own costumes, often make free appearances for charities and other good causes, and are passionate about what they do.
Don’t do a complicated metal costume like Boba Fett for your first costume. Do a soft costume.
You can get everything you need to make your armor for under $50 – tools, Bondo, gloves, etc. But know what level of tools to buy and when to spend less. Don’t be afraid to spend a little money on good tools, if you’re able to.
- Wear gloves. Hot glue will burn you and will not stop burning until it cools off.
- The most dangerous thing is an X-ACTO knife. That’ll cut through you faster than a hot knife through butter.
Sizing for Costumes
Audience question: How do you adapt costume templates for people who wear larger sizes?
Mandalorian Mercs: Use optical illusion – black fabric, extra flanks, etc. Adapt templates to fit your body. People don’t all have the same proportions, especially women. Get up close with a friend, who can help you get your exact measurements. Armor must be molded to your body. I don’t think anyone else could put on my armor.
It’s better to have slightly less accurate armor that’s proportionate to you. You don’t have to stick with on-screen measurements.
Make a duct tape dummy for a perfect cast of your body you can use to create a costume sized to fit.
- Put on a t-shirt that’s one size too small.
- Duct tape around yourself.
- Have friend cut it off down the back.
Materials and Tools
Audience question: Does costume material have to be the same as the original?
501st Legion: No. It comes down to the finish. If a piece is painted well, you can’t tell what it was made from.
- A dremel set is one of the most important tools. It makes plastic look like metal. However, it is extremely messy. It goes so fast it can eat into your armor.
- The best place to find expanded PVC board, a.k.a. Sintra is a sign shop. [I believe Sintra is what they used for the armor-making demo. –TCJ]
- You can get Bondo at Walmart. It comes in large container that should last a long time. Do not glob Bondo on. Use rubber spatula to smooth on small bits.
- Krylon paints dry quickly and last. Don’t mix them with Rustoleum, because it won’t cure. Some people prefer to airbrush.
- Primer is like the Velcro to help your paint stick. It’ll last longer.
Use rare earth magnets when working with metal that you can’t clamp down on. Just don’t accidentally glue your magnets to your armor!
Costume pieces may be incorporated from found items, seemingly random things like a battery cover from a palm pilot. We like go on what we call “scavenger hunts”. You’ll never look at the thrift store or dollar store the same way.
It’s funny how our costume obsession has increased the price on random and ridiculous stuff on eBay! 3D printing can be a cost-effective alternative.
Sometimes we get too obsessed with details and have to remind ourselves: “Just relax. We’re just plastic spacemen.”
Thank you to Star Wars Celebration for providing media passes.Read More