Darth Vader is a classic costume and is great for Halloween or your favorite local geek convention. I'm not going to cover a lot of techniques (such as sewing, pepakura, or foam crafting), but rather what I needed for the pieces, and how to template some of them. I'll also cover different levels that you can choose depending on your time and budget for each costume piece.
Note: That this tutorial will probably not get you a costume that will get you into the 501st. But it will look good at your friend's Halloween party.
Step 1: Resources
Here are some valuable resources to consider:
For foam crafting:
- Evil Ted Smith Youtube Channel - https://www.youtube.com/user/evilted40
- Bill Doran's foam armor books and website - http://punishedprops.com/shop/foamsmith-ebook/
On Darth Vader references:
- 501st Legion - http://www.501st.com/databank/Costuming:SL_esb_va...
Lots of Star Wars Pepakura - http://www.therpf.com/f79/fierfeks-star-wars-pepa...
- There is a foam helmet pattern on this thread - http://www.therpf.com/showthread.php?t=148889
Step 2: The Pieces
Here are the different pieces in the Darth Vader costume.
- Body suit
- Chest box
- Chest armor
- Shin Guards
- Inner robe
- Belt Boxes
The only reason to not include the "Ought-To-Have" pieces is if you are on a quick time frame, or on a low budget. Pick and choose what you would like.
Step 3: Helmet
Often when we think of Darth Vader, the image that comes to mind is the iconic Helmet. Thankfully, because the helmet is so famous, it is easy to buy one (even for different budgets). Just make sure that the helmet you are buying covers all of the head, and isn't just a face mask (unless that's what you are going for).
Here is a pretty cheap one that I got that looks pretty good: http://www.amazon.com/Darth-Vader-Deluxe-Adult-Bl...
I'm sure you can find more expensive options online as well.
There is also the homemade options, such as pepakura or sculpting (if that's your thing). You can find links to pepakura files on the resources page of this tutorial. While making the helmet yourself is definitely an option, take into account the quality that you want, as well as the expense in time and money. You can easily find a good looking helmet for cheap here. Also, it's easy to modify and upgrade a cheap costume to look even better with just a little paint, grit and spit.
Also, it's a good idea to add a black balaclava or ski mask underneath the mask. This will help cover whatever neck or head might show, as well as your face through the mask.
Step 4: Cape
Next to the helmet, for the iconic look, comes the cape. Black capes are easy to find at about any party store or costume shop. Or you can easily make your own by draping a black cloth. But for those of you who want something more authentic, here are some instructions (from the 501st):
- The cape is a black wool type material on the outside, and the inside is black satin
- The collar is a black leather (pleather) material and is about 1 - 1.25 in. wide
- It is closed with a chain
- The cape is a 3/4 circle made in 4 or six panels
- The cape is floor length.
For those on a budget, just find a cool black cloth that hangs well and not worry about the wool, lining, and collar. You can also just close it with whatever works, because it will likely be covered by the helmet.
To construct a 3/4 circle cape (Hey, it's Pac-Man!), you need two measurements first:
- From the tops of the shoulders to the ground (I'll show this as H)
- Around your neck (I'll show this as N)
I'll show the sizes for a six panel cape. WARNING: Math is coming!
Each of the six panels will be a trapezoid.
- The top width of the trapezoid is: ((N / 8) + 1/4) + 1.25
- The height of the trapezoid is H + 1.25.
- The bottom width of the trapezoid is: ((PI * H) / 4) + 1.25
You will quickly notice that this will require a lot of fabric (especially if you are tall). If you need to reduce, feel free to make the bottom width of each trapezoid smaller (like from 45" to 35"). Note that the 1.25 I add is for a 5/8 in. seam allowance on all sides.
As you cut out the panels, pay attention to the nap of the fabric (if you have it), or things might look funny.
Sew the panels together to form the cape. If you are not doing a lining, trim around the bottom to make it more circular, if you'd like, and add a hem around the whole thing. If you arre doing the lining, you'll be making the cape twice (once with the wool, the other with the satin). Line up the capes together with right sides facing each other. Sew them together leaving the neck open.
For the collar, create a curved rectangular shape that's the same length as the neck of the cape. Make it 3.25" thick and add 5/8" to either side for seam allowances. Fold the piece in half, and iron up the seam allowances along the length of the collar. With right sides together, sew the ends closed, then attach the collar to the cape.
Add the chain, and you're done!
Step 5: Body Suit
There are a lot of ways of doing the body suit, and you can decide which you prefer. Here are some notes from the 501st on the body suit:
- It's a black leather material
- It has quilting lines that are about 1" apart going down
- It can be 1, 2 or 3 pieces (such as a jumpsuit; pant and shirt combo; or pant, sleeve and vest combo)
The cheapest and/or easiest method is to find a black sweatshirt and pants. You can end it there, or you can try and add the quilting lines. I would suggest starting from the center and working outward. If you use a shorter stitch length, it gives it more of a quilted look.
You can also make it yourself using a basic long sleeved shirt pattern and pants. They can be very basic without pockets, zippers, etc. You can use a black leather looking material and cut out the pieces. Then I would suggest doing the quilting lines before sewing the pieces together. Also, a good suggestion I saw was to use a light, breathable fabric for the back of the shirt instead of the leather. This will help keep you cool, and no one will see it under the cape (also less quilting lines to sew).
Step 6: Gloves
This is another feature that is easy to buy something decent. What we are looking for here are gauntlet type gloves that flare out on the top. They should also have the quilting look (similar to the body suit).
Here's the pair that I got: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0009S6TJY?psc=1...
I'm sure you can find others at varying levels with a quick Google search.
For your really cheap option, go to the hardware store and pick up some black rubber gloves (with long cuffs). Like these:
(I actually used the home depot ones for a super hero costume, and they looked great)
Step 7: Belt
The base of the belt is a basic black leather belt (try to find a thicker one). Then you will need to add a belt buckle. You can make it from any number of materials including cardboard, foam, plastics, etc. I've included a drawing that might help. You can attach the buckle to the belt by putting basic straps on the back.
Step 8: Boots
These are just you basic black leather boots (or anything that looks like black leather). You can find lots of boots that might work online or at a costume store. If that's too much, you could probably also get away with black shoes and simple boot covers.
Step 9: Chestbox
Like the belt buckle, this can be made out of any number of materials. For the basic box, you can go with cardboard, then use other painted cardboard or foam pieces to make the buttons on it. Look at the pictures as a reference to help you place the buttons.
For something a little more complicated and legit, the 501st reference I have in the resource area gives a list of the different buttons and switches needed to make the chest box.
The chestbox is then strapped on with leather straps (1" wide). You can even just use webbing or other black fabric you have left over. The two straps attach to the top and wrap to the sides of the box, similar to a backpack. Make sure to position the straps correctly so that the box ends up on the correct spot on your chest. They also need to be tight enough that the box doesn't bounce around as you move.
Step 10: Chest Armor
I made this piece out of foam. You will need a couple measurements for this. The first is the length down the shoulder (from the neck). This will be the width on both sides of chest armor. Then you will need the shoulder to shoulder distance. This will be the width of the chest piece. Then measure how far down you want it to go. The rest I free drew to what I liked. Try out your pattern with cardboard first. Once the foam pieces were all glued together, I shaped it with a heat gun. After sealing and painting, I added strap to go around the arms. I also added a strap behind the neck that is attached with Velcro to help hold things down better.
For the shoulder pieces, I just followed the tutorial here:
They are then attached to the chest armor with a strap.
Step 11: Codpiece
Two measurements here:
- Seam to seam around your waist (the front half). That will be the top width of the codpiece.
- Crotch length from waist down. That is the height of the codpiece.
The inset oval I made at 2.5 inches wide and I made the length a couple inches smaller then the height of the codpiece. See what looks good to you.
Note that the codpiece in the movie is covered in leather. The inset part is marked off with piping. Or you can just seal it and paint it, and it will still look pretty good.
I then added an elastic around the back to fit it on.
Step 12: Shin Guards
1. From knee to the top of the foot for the height.
2. Measure up a few lengths. I measured the top and bottom of the calf and the ankle. Measure around and how high up to get the right shape.
The Shin guards only go half way around the leg, so cut the measurements in half to draw the shape. I then drew by hand the details down the middle as well as the grooves on either side. Make sure that if the pattern isn't symmetrical to flip it when cutting out the pieces to avoid having two right legs.
Use a heat gun to shape it nicely around you leg. Then seal and pain it.
I then put three straps going down each shin guard. They are glued on one side with Velcro on the other so that it's easy to put on and off around the boot and pants.
Step 13: Inner Robe
You will need three rectangles for this and four measurements.
- Measure from shoulder to shoulder for the final width of the back.
- From Shoulder to ankle. This is the height of the robe.
- Neck to shoulder width. This is the width of the front pieces of the robe.
- Shoulder to waist height.
For the back rectangle, the width will be the shoulder to shoulder width + 6 inches. I then made two symmetrical 2 inch pleats in the middle of the back.
For the front pieces, you use the neck to shoulder width + 8 inches. I then added four 1 inch pleats (facing towards the center), starting 1 inch from the center. These pleats go down to the waist, so sew them in there.
Attach the front pieces to the back at the shoulder, then down the sides, leaving about a 1.5 foot opening at the top for arm holes. Finish the edges in whatever way you prefer, whether that be rolling a hem or using bias tape.
According to the 501st, the fabric for the inner robe should be the same as the outside of the cape.
Step 14: Belt Boxes
The two belt boxes look the same (only mirrored). Make them from two small small boxes. Then add buttons and knobs for the right look (or use foam circles and squares). For the speaker, you can use a small piece of mesh, or even a small segment of vinyl braided tubing. Add straps to the back to attach it to the belt.
Step 15: Putting It On
Now that you have all of the pieces, here is the order to put things on (or at least that worked for us)
- Balaclava or Ski mask
- Body suit
- Shin guards
- Inner Robe
- Belt (this is positioned just above the codpiece, not over it)
- Chest armor
And that's it. Now have fun pretending to use the force to choke your friends and open grocery store doors. Maybe even hide speakers in your belt boxes that play the Imperial March on loop as you walk around. It's more epic that way.