Archives for category: Costuming

If you know me, then you know that I like to play dress up. The more refined nerds call it ‘costuming.’ If you’re not one, then you’ve at least seen one. You know, they’re the grown folks playing dress up, as if any day is Halloween.

Adam and Eve

This costume looks even worse on black people.

I came across a comment made by a friend of a friend (on Facebook, where else?) who said that he wished he could afford costuming. I have to admit – that’s the worst excuse I ever come across when it comes to playing dress up. I suppose what these people were saying is that they really wish they had the money to do a really great, detailed, “screen accurate” costume. But still, I find it disturbing.

First, it’s a bit of a misnomer to believe that expensive costumes are good, and that cheap costumes are, well, cheap. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you’ve ever been to one of those Halloween shops, you’ll know that they’re shoddy (at best) and expensive for what they are. And yes, I’ve bought costumes at those places (for my kids, FOR MY KIDS!!!) Mostly because I didn’t have the time to make my son an Optimus Prime costume.

Sure, it looks like I'm defecating, but I'm really chasing a bounty.

On the flip side, there are plenty of ‘cheap’ costumes that don’t look cheap at all. I know a girl that made a great Zam Wesell costume and she did it fairly cheap. I don’t remember what she spent on it, but for roughly what she would have paid at a costume store, she got something immensely more ‘realistic.’ Not to brag, but I made my own Vader costume. Yes, it cost quite a bit (around $600 total), but only because I spent $100 on a helmet, $100 on a saber, and $40 on boots. I suppose that still sounds like a lot of money, but it wasn’t all at once. I bought pieces here and there. And in the original version, I used a turtle neck tshirt and sweatpants for the undersuit. I upgraded to vinyl a few dollars later.

My point is that you CAN spend a lot of money on a costume, but why? If you have the time and patience, you can really knock out some good looking costumes for relatively cheap.

The balance is where to put your time and effort, and where to spend your money. If you’re looking to make a Jedi costume, you could make your own saber, but it may be worth the time and money to order something online. Unless you’re a whiz with circuits and batteries and stuff…

A Jedi costume is probably one of the easiest costumes to put together. My biggest suggestion is to shop around at fabric stores until you find the fabric you want at the price you don’t mind paying. I know some guys won’t settle for less than wool lined with silk, and that’s going to be expensive. But you can get some cheaper material and not line it and come out with a tunic that is less than $20! Compare that to the Halloween shops, and you’ll soon realize that this is the way to go for anything resembling a ‘real’ costume.

I’ve done a few Jedi tunics, and I have some suggestions. If you live in an area that’s typically warm and possibly humid, I’d really suggest that you stick with natural fibers. They breathe, whereas the synthetics get stuffy quick – especially if you’re working on your jump flips and saber twirls.

Oh, and look for fabrics with texture. They really add a lot to the look. Steer clear of broadcloth. It’s synthetic, hot, and looks really plain. Trust me on this – my first one was made with some beige broadcloth. But, I spent all of about $10 on fabric, so not a total loss.

Dresses. Jedi's love 'em.

One of the benefits of the Jedi costume is that you don’t have to go with one look. If you watch the Geonosis Battle in Episode II, you’ll see that the overall look is similar, but they’re all different. In fact, that one Jedi is wearing a DRESS!!!

The thing to keep in mind is that Jedi need to stay with neutral, earth tones (I disagree with the greens, but hey, it’s your Jedi.) The main thing is that you have a tunic, tabbards, sash and light saber. It’s also smart to match the colors. Have different colored tabbards and sash, but make sure they go with your tunic…

Pants. This should really be the easiest part of the costume. Grab some khakis and go with it. I have a pair of thin piped corduroys that work well for a Kenobi costume. But just about any khakis should work. I saw a guy at Celebration III who had a fantastic Jedi Tunic, but was wearing blue jeans. WHAT? The kid could have just headed out to Goodwill and picked up some khaki pants! I dubbed the guy “Casual Friday Jedi.” Don’t be that guy.

Now, there are a couple of pieces to this costume that can be done cheaply, but can be expensive as well.

BOOTS: I was able to pick up some Frye boots for $75 on ebay. I’ve worn them a lot, and they need to be resoled (bonus to ‘real’ boots.) But I’ve seen plenty of costumes that use the cheap $20 vinyl pirate boots that typically show up at those Halloween stores. The downside is that they aren’t very durable and will ultimately crack and fall apart after any extended use, but for the price you could get about 6 or 7 pairs for what you’d pay for cheap ‘real’ boots. And then there’s the whole “detail” part. If you look at Anakin’s and Obi Wan’s boots, you’ll see that they have some neat details that you don’t get with the cheap boots. That’s the trade off… Unless of course you’re a boot maker.

BELT: I’ve seen belts on ebay go for over $100! Which is insane, considering it’s just some leather strapping with some detail parts. I made my first belt. I looked through women’s belts at various stores until I found something that would work. One side had a suede texture, and the other was a marbled leather look. So I separated the front and back and then cut the belt to the size I needed. And, I was able to make pouches with the left over material. I used a buckle I found at a fabric store, and never got around to putting the food capsules on, but no one’s ever noticed. Except the guys thinking I should join one of the bigger costuming groups.

Hopefully you’ll be on your way to making a Jedi costume soon. If you are and need some advice, ask and I’ll be glad to help out.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money, you just have to know where to spend your time, and where to spend your money. I suppose if I were to make a Star Wars analogy, I’d say that buying your costumes is like the Dark Side – quicker, easier, more seductive. Making your costume from scratch is like the Light Side, patience, my young apprentice.


Superwhy did I volunteer for this?

Quentin likes watching PBS in the mornings. He loves starting his day off with the “Abby’s Flying Fairy School” on Sesame Street. He loves watching “TCITHKALAT” and “SuperWhy.” Today’s episode of Superwhy started out with the three pigs fighting over how to build a house. The message at the end of the episode is “work together.”

This got me to thinking about things. Those three pigs reminded me of David and Zada. They fight and argue all the time, as if in some sort of power struggle. Overall, they behave very well, but far too often it seems they argue and fight. It’s a real challenge, because I can rarely ever prevent it, and usually it ends up with me yelling at them and sending them to their rooms.

Two positive things about Roy. This was one.

Both have gotten into this bad habit of correcting each other, which is usually how the arguing begins. And it usually ends up, if I’m around, with me giving the correct info followed by one kid pouting and one kid gloating. Then it ends up with two kids pouting. And me thinking of Roy.

Roy was a chubby toe head who wore glasses. I met him through Cub Scouts. I went over to his house one day to work on some projects. I don’t remember the projects, but I do remember playing Boxing on the Atari.

The only lovable Jerk in the entire world.

Roy lived with his mom. I think his parents were divorced. I don’t think his dad had died. Or maybe she was just a single mom. I was 7 or 8, and didn’t pay too much attention to these things. What I did remember about Roy and his mom was that she let him get away with quite a bit. He talked to her in a way that I’d never talk to my mom – if I did, I’d pay for it, not unlike Atari Boxing. I think I only spent one afternoon there, but that was enough.

Some amount of time later, maybe a day, maybe a week, I corrected someone on something. Either I corrected my dad, or corrected someone in front of my dad, but my dad pointed out that Roy corrected people. He pointed out that it made me feel bad – it did, when Roy corrected me – and that I shouldn’t do that to other people. He also pointed out that Roy was rude and a bit of a jerk. At that very moment in time, I made a vow to never be like Roy. And it has stuck with me ever since.

I’m not sure my dad would remember Roy (he didn’t even remember the cake, and that was more recent), but I do. He has been etched into my memory, forever to stay. Funny how one afternoon can have such an everlasting effect on a person’s overall personality? I’m betting Roy probably never even thought of me after that day. He probably didn’t even think of me when I was there, to be blunt…

These two probably needed a Roy in their lives as well.

Now I’m in the position my dad was in – trying to teach my kids how to behave, and how not to behave. Unfortunately, I don’t have a ‘Roy’ to introduce my kids to. I can’t say, “Hey, you don’t want to be a jerk like Roy, do you?” Because they’d look at me funny. No one names their kids Roy now (skip to the 3:00 minute mark).

I suppose now I’ll have to ask at the parent teacher conference who the real jerk of the class is, so I can point out these kids to my kids with the insightful message passed on to me from my father. “Hey, you don’t want to be like that kid, do you?” I’m just hoping that it isn’t my kids who are the “Roys.”

If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you know that I love Star Wars. Not only that, I wear and make Star Wars costumes. Yeah, it’s not something a whole lot of people do – but thanks to the internet, it’s not as odd as it once was.

I’ve done a few costumes, but the one that gets the most attention is Darth Vader. I’m really proud of this costume, because I made it. Mostly. There are a few things that I didn’t make, or couldn’t make. Like the helmet. I bought that, but I’ve done so much work to it that I don’t really consider it ‘off-the-shelf.’ My wife sewed up the cape – which, by the way, is over 27 feet from tip to tip at the bottom. I quilted vinyl and made it into the undersuit. I used PVC board to make the chest armor. The shoulder bells I crafted from some t-ball helmets. It’s made up of a lot of different media, and I worked hard on it. It’s not 100% accurate. It’s a sort of amalgam of Vader suits, taking parts of each one that I like. A lot of people who make Vaders go after a specific one – like the ANH version with the widows peak helmet. Each movie has a different Vader. Sometimes within the movie the Vader changes (example – during the duel in Empire Strikes Back, the cheeks were clear plexiglass so that the stunt man could see), so for me, I just wanted to take various aspects that I liked from each suit and applied it to mine.

After making the Vader, I realized that as cool as it is, it’s also a bit of a curse. Vader’s always in demand. Vader never gets a break. Vader sometimes is how you’re introduced. “This is Toby. He’s Vader.”

One of my good friends had made a Vader – and is actually how we got to know each other. We both were members of the Sith Training Temple and would often consult each other on various methods on scratch building Vader. When I moved to San Marcos, he contacted me and let me know he lived nearby. We’ve been great friends since. One of the first times we got to meet and hang out, he told me how glad he was that I was there to take over Vader! I didn’t understand at first because I had only worn mine a few times. It wasn’t long before I knew exactly what he was talking about. Once a Vader always a Vader. And you don’t get to give it up until you’re replaced by another Vader. It’s like some sort of Dread Pirate Roberts where it’s fun while it happens, but you’re so relieved when someone else can take over.

For the most part, it’s great to be Vader. One of the first events I did as Vader was at the Special Olympics in San Antonio. The guys out there were great and I had such a wonderful time. I can’t express how awesome it was to see those kids and their families just get a kick out of being able to hang out with the Star Wars gang. It’s one of those feelings that just really warms you heart – to know you were able to brighten their days – lives – by just sharing your love of Star Wars.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, though. The first Halloween I wore Vader was interesting. My friends and I were in the parking lot of Hastings in Waco, Tx, getting ready to be part of the costume contest/midnight release of Episode 3. As we were suiting up, some jerks drove by and egged us. Not fun at all. And my cape didn’t smell good all night! They got my friend’s car, and we were quick to clean it up to keep it from ruining the paint.

And apparently something everyone things is “original” is to say, “Luke, I am your father!” This is the most annoying to me because first of all, that’s not the saying. It’s what Chris Farley said in Tommy Boy. The actual quote is, “No. I am your father.” It’s just a pet peeve of mine, because I hear it about a bazillion times every time I suit up.

But even though I’ve had a couple of bad times, they were nothing compared to the good times. Getting to march in the Fiesta Flambeau parade made me feel like a Rock Star. Being part of the CF walk as both Vader and a Stormtrooper was incredible. Getting to watch Fanboys at the Alamo Drafthouse as Vader (one of 4 that night) and hanging out with the writer, Ernie Cline. And even “invading the quad” at Texas State is a blast.I know I’ve helped raise money and awareness for various charities, but I have never kept up with it. A hundred here, four hundred there, it all adds up and really benefits the charities – but it’s not the numbers that keep me going.

It’s the smiles.