Star Wars Costuming Comlinks: Research and Planning

June 14, 2016

After deciding which costume is suitable for your body type and budget, the next steps to take are researching and planning your costume build. Creating a costume can get overwhelming very quickly and sometimes you might feel like no progress is being made. However, if you research and plan your costume properly, all of these hiccups and discouragement can be avoided.



Research

Do your own research first. Don't waste anyone's time asking a question until you've done a little bit of research on your own. If you still can't find the answer, that's probably a good sign that the question hasn't been asked a hundred times. While asking questions can be a great way to get information on building a costume, you don't want to be that one guy that always asks the rookie questions. Some questions are explained very thoroughly online and it only takes a little bit of research to discover the answers to your inquiries. Never feel like your question is a dumb one, but be sure to do a little digging before asking someone else for help.

Gather reference images. In order to create an accurate costume, you'll need to compile a collection of reference images of the costume you'd like to replicate. The best way to gather these images is to screen-shot scenes from the movie or television show where the costume appears. Books can also be a great source for accurate photos of the costumes. I highly recommend Star Wars Costumes and Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars if the costume you're building was featured in one of the Star Wars films. The photos featured in these books are highly-detailed and were taken of screen-used costumes.

An example of my reference photos for a Sabine Wren costume.
The 501st Legion's Costume Reference Library is a great resource to look at the different pieces of Star Wars costumes, even if your goal isn't to join the 501st Legion. There are also plenty of online forums that provide reference images and tips on building specific costumes or props. The Replica Prop forum is one of my favorite forums to dig through when looking for ideas on how to create certain costume elements from scratch. The Padawan's Guide has photo galleries of costumes from the prequel and original trilogy films. Never use other fan-made costumes as reference material. Some of them could be good resources for reference, but most of them have flaws and inaccuracies. It's best to use images from the movies and television shows as much as you can.

Create a list of which costume items you'll need to make, and which pieces you can purchase. This part of your research could be really long or short, depending on your skills and how much of the costume you can make from scratch. For the pieces you'll make from scratch, create a list of what products you'll need to create the costume element. This will help you stay on track with your budget and keep an eye out for products that could go on sale. 

Planning

Checklists are your friend. Staying organized during your costume build will help relieve frustration, anxiety, and stress. Checklists help create a sense of accomplishment when you finish pieces of the costume and give an idea of how close you are to completing the final outfit. Create a checklist consisting of each part of the costume you're building. This includes everything from a wig all the way down to the specific type of shoes you will need. You could list these items in order from least expensive to most expensive or anything else that helps keep you on track. Set goals and deadlines for when you'd like each specific piece to be purchased or created. This will help you stay motivated to complete the costume. Google Docs is my favorite place to create costume checklists because they can be edited anywhere from your phone or computer.

Start with small pieces first. Costumes can get overwhelming if you decide to tackles the big pieces first and then get discouraged with the pacing of the project. I recommend starting with small pieces first and work your way up to the big pieces. This tends to turn into a snowball effect and when you have all the small pieces finished, you'll have more motivation and confidence to keep going.


Assess your work space. Having room to create a costume can be challenging if you live in a small apartment, dorm, or don't have a garage. Most costume items can be worked on inside your house, but you will need to clear off a desk or work table to use. Set up a space for your sewing machine, spray paint cans, and other tools. This will help you put things back where they came from and you'll never be searching around the house for that missing pin cushion or bottle of glue. Spray painting and using other chemical based products should be done outside with good ventilation. If you don't have an outside space or garage, ask around in your circle of friends if they have a garage or yard that you can use for a weekend. If you're a student attending a university and live in a dorm, ask your art department professors if you can use their areas for painting projects. I built an entire clone trooper costume while living in a tiny dorm on a college campus so it's definitely possible. Several of my friends offered me their garages for a few weekends, which helped me complete all of the painting, gluing, and Bondo steps in a safe environment.

Gather the tools you will need. Some costumes require very little tools when building them and others require all sorts of expensive devices. If you're creating one costume and have no intentions on making any more, ask friends or family members if you can borrow their tools. However, if you feel that cosplaying is going to become a new hobby, invest in the essential tools. If you're making a costume with lots of fabric, it might be a good idea to save up for a good quality sewing machine. If you're creating a stormtrooper costume, definitely purchase a Dremel and several different cutting wheels. Sandpaper, spray paint primer, and glue are always staples for creating armored costumes. Pins, patterns, and a fabric cutting mat would be needed for fabric costumes.


Each and every costume build is different, but if you consider all of these tips, you'll be on the right path to creating an awesome Star Wars costume. If you have any questions regarding these topics or anything relating to costuming, feel free to email me at savannaakiefer@gmail.com or tweet me @Savanna_Kiefer

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