May 13, 2012

Armor Party

If you've ever seen the 501st Legion at an event, you know how impressive our costumes are; members' costumes are in some cases of a higher quality than the their counterparts used in the movies, because they are designed to take much more wear and tear, during many events.

Members of the 501st Legion have all been bitten by the costuming bug, and spend a lot of time creating, improving, and modifying their costumes, so that when Legion members appear at events, their costumes are as perfect and movie-accurate as possible.

All of this takes a lot of passion, not to mention skill, and there are some truly talented Legion members who know a lot about creating costumes, and costume parts. An armor party is a get together at a member's house during the weekend where members bring tools, props and ideas, and work on their costumes. It is a way to get ideas and advice from other members, and learn new costuming techniques. 

In short, armor parties are a fun way to learn new skills. This will be a fun peek behind-the-scenes, so to speak, of a typical 501st Legion armor party. In the picture above, Mark clowns around with a head mold that will be used to make a Wookie head for a full Wookie costume, from the Star Wars movies.

Left: a mold for the head of a Wookie costume (at right). The large nose cutout is so that the eyes can be as close as possible to the backside of the mask.

The Wookie costume is, as you might imagine, a very time consuming project and involves a lot of work and skill. This mold has a hinged jaw so that the wearer can open the mouth a bit.

In the foreground, a bare Wookie mask is ready for the next step: adding hair. The black netting is attached to the mask, and bunches of hair are painstakingly tied to the netting until the entire mask is covered. Foam padding is glued to the inside of the mask so that it sits on the wearer's head properly, with the eyes in the right position.

Behind the Wookie mask is an unfinished TIE fighter pilot's helmet, which will eventually be painted with primer, then painted, before the decals are added.

In the background, Jason brushes the fur on a completed Wookie foot, which is built around painter's stults, to give the wearer greater height. Walking in a Wookie costume requires some practice.

Left: Tim, wearing the Wookie feet, ducks as he exits the garage, to practice walking in them.

Right: Shad and Tim in their Wookie feet. The costume means lengthening the arms as well, because with the added height, human arms would be way too short

Below: a video shot by Inkstress, a 501st member of Tim and Shad in the Wookie feet

A view of the back of the Wookie feet before the calf pieces are put on. When walking in the feet, you have to walk a bit bowlegged to maintain your balance.

Left: clowning around with the gas mask that will be part of my Half Life 2 Civil Protection costume. I picked up some great ideas from members about how to modify the mask to make it more comfortable, and more "game-accurate".

The mask is incredibly tight, so I will have to cut a U-shaped divot out of the chin to make it more comfortable (I'd pass out after half an hour in its current state). 

I also removed the plastic membrane from the front grille for airflow, and will use a shower drain grille to cover the lower protruding air vent. I'll use a rubber compound to fill in the filter screw hole on the side, and sand it down until it's smooth, and then use glass tinting film to black out the lenses. I'll also have to get a shower cap that matches the mask color to disguise the openings at the top of the mask.

A point of pride with Legion members is making their costumes as accurate as possible. Armor parties are what takes place behind the scenes to make that happen. It's a hobby, but it's also a labor of love, like any creative endeavor. The payoff is being able to wear your costumes in public and see the costumes of others.

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