Introduction: Sergeant Calhoun
Sergeant Calhoun, you're Dynamite Gal from Hero's Duty who also just happens to have the most tragic backstory every written. This is a fabulous costume to wear, and people love it! Though I do warn you that it will take a bit of work. If this scares you off and makes you wanna to go pee-pee in your big-boy slacks, then keep it to yourself!
Step 1: Costume Breakdown
Let's break down all of the pieces for this costume (are you ready for this?):
- Chest-piece (this is big, let's break it down further)
- Shoulder straps
Whew! Got all of that? Good.
Now I like to order things on what I feel is most important. This will help you budget your time and money on a costume like this so that when you run out of one or both of those resources, you can still have something.
Must haves (Top):
- Some form of undersuit
- Leg armor
- Upper arm
- Thigh pieces
Step 2: Materials and Tools
- Sewing machine
- Hot glue gun
- Heat gun
- Snap-off Utility Knife
- X-acto craft knife
- Extra blades and knife sharpener
- Rotary tool
- 3D Printer (optional, but very nice to have)
For the undersuit:
- Long sleeve shirt and pants
- Mesh net material (like from a laundry bag)
- Spray on Dye
For the corset:
- Separating zipper
- Black stretch vinyl/faux leather
- Black thread
- Black material for lining (I used a cheap jersey knit)
For the armor:
- Lots of foam. I primarily used foam gym mat. Also get some sheets of 5mm and 3mm craft foam for details
- Barge's Cement Glue or Contact cement glue
- Lots of hot glue (you will be amazed how much you can go through)
- Black Plasti-Dip paint (I went through 3 cans of it)
- Acrylic paints (metalic/silver, black, yellow)
- Silver spray paint
- Drawer liner for doing the carbon fiber look
- Red reflective tape for the red details
- Red, clear plastic folder
- Battery powered LED string lights
- Elastic straps
- Nylon webbing straps
- 1 in furniture foam (you won't need a ton, mostly to hold the arms on)
Attached are the STLs for the 3D printed details. You will need 10 of the small widget. These will go on the back, upper arms, pauldrons, calves and thighs. You will need two of the other larger one which goes on the back.
Step 3: Crafting With Foam
There are many excellent resources out there already on foam crafting. Some of my favorites come from Punished Props and Evil Ted Smith. Here are some of the main videos I would suggest looking at to give yourself a primer on foam crafting:
Step 4: Mock-ups
When ever designing your own custom patterns, ALWAYS make a mockup!
If it is a sewing pattern, then take that pattern and make a simple version of it out of a cheap material such as muslin (or even some old bed sheets you no longer want or got at the thrift store).
If it is a pattern for foam, try it with something like cardboard or cardstock paper. It's not as flexible, and you can't shape it with heat, but it can give a good idea it if will fit or not.
This will really save you time and money in the end. It's always worse to have to remake a part out of your nice material when you find it doesn't fit.
Step 5: The Undersuit
For the under suit, we decided to go for something relatively simple. We hit up the local thrift store and found a matching gray top and bottom. I then got some mesh from an old laundry bag as a template, and used spray dye to give the under suit the mesh texture that it has.
I guess if you really wanted to be fancy, you could sew up a black body suit, with dark gray, stretchy mesh material on top to give it a more realistic look. But we opted for simple.
Also, another important consideration is going to the bathroom (everyone does it). It becomes significantly easier when the top and bottoms are separated. Though if you can find a bottom with a higher waist, that might look better in the long run, as it will hide the seam line under the corset.
Step 6: Corset
Sergeant Calhoun's corset has a very unique look, so I did not use a pre-made pattern. I designed the corset to be worn under the bust since the chest piece covers the rest (and lets face it, corsets get a lot more complicated once the breasts get involved). This also helps keep the corset less bulky and therefore cooler (this is a warm costume to wear because all the foam insulates your body). Remember that the armor doesn't cover as low in the back though, so keep that in mind when designing.
To design the pattern for the corset:
I started by wrapping my wife up in plastic wrap around the waist going from the chest down the the crotch (this corset dips down a bit). I then wrapped her in basic masking tape. Make sure when taping things up to do it in strips. If you wrap around and around, you might accidentally make things too tight (not that I know this from experience...). Whenever using this method to make a pattern, be sure that they are wearing underneath whatever they might actually be wearing (i.e. a bra and the undersuit). This will help the corset fit correctly and comfortably.
Using a marker, draw the pattern of the corset. Mark down the middle of the stomach and the middle of the back as well as the side seam (underarm to hip). We will just use one side, since we want things to be symmetrical. I them carefully cut this off and flatten the pieces. I divided the back into two pieces to help the shape lay down better. Divide how you need to ensure that the pattern pieces lie down flat. (Note: when drawing the line down the center of the back, make sure that it matches the length of your separating zipper - or buy a separating zipper to match the line.)
I then transferred the pieces to some tracing paper. Once there, I cleaned up my lines, then added a 5/8 in seam allowance around everything.
Cut out your fabric. Remember to cut out both the outside fabric (stretchy faux leather) and lining (I used a lightweight jersey mesh).
Sew the front together (side seams and center seams). I then drew out some lines (spaced about an inch away from each other) to run vertically around the corset and topstitched them to add some detail.
Sew the lining together and attach to the front keeping the back seam open for the zipper. Top stitch around the top and bottom edges of the corset about a 1/2" away from the edge.
Add the zipper to the back seam and close things up.
Add some fun details with some rivets along the bottom.
Step 7: Bracers
To make the pattern for the bracers I started by wrapping my wife's forearm with plastic bags and tape to get the shape I wanted. (Make sure you pad the arm wide enough so the bracer can easily slip over the hand.) I then wrapped the padded arm with plastic wrap and tape to draw out the bracer pattern. I cut down the sides to separate the top and bottom of the brace.
Now try making this simple pattern from something cheap like card board to ensure that it can fit over the hand onto the arm, as well as allow the wearer to bend and move properly.
Once I was happy with the basic pattern, I transferred it to card-stock and cleaned up the lines (be sure to add registration lines to show where the halves meet up).
I then cut the pieces out of foam, heated them up with a heat gun, and gave them a curl to round it out. Then I glued them together. (Actually, I just cut one out of foam and glued it together. I tried that one on my wife, and one I was happy with it, cut out the second one.)
The underside of the forearm has an additional piece of foam attached to add some detail and dimension. I patterned this piece off of the bracer base I just made (see the image of the pattern I made for the bottom of the bracer). It covers most of the underside of the forearm, though doesn't quite extend to the end of the elbow (see the curved line I drew onto the bracer bottom pattern). I then cut it out of 3mm foam and added it to each bracer.
Next add the other details on the bracer with a marker* and shallowly cut into them with a craft knife. Then hit it with a heat gun and the details will open up.
*Important to Note: The left and right bracer are NOT the same. Pay attention to those details and check out the pictures I included as well as some references.
Step 8: Upper Arm Armor
Similar to the bracer, wrap the upper arm in plastic bags, plastic wrap and tape to get the shape you want. Draw the shape on top. I then cut a straight line down the middle of the back. The front of the bicep is curved.
After cutting this out of foam, give it a nice curve with a heat gun, then glue it together.
Draw on the details and score it in with a knife and heat gun.
The leather on the inside of the arm and the 3D printed widget on the outside I glued on after painting everything else.
Step 9: Hip and Thigh Armor
There are 4 separate pieces of armor that cover the hips and thighs. I wrapped one of my wife's thighs and her hips with plastic wrap and tape then drew the pattern out while it was on her. Please note that they do curve following the bottom edge of the corset, so you will either need to design the corset to match the layout of these pieces or design these pieces off of the corset (I personally chose to make the corset first and layout these pieces to the corset).
These are not terribly complicated. Cut out the pieces and make sure to sand/grind around the edges to smooth them out. Also give them a nice curve to fit around the body. Cut in the details and hit it up with a heat gun.
Step 10: Legs
Wrap the leg all of the way from the ankle to the knee. Be sure not to go too tight. I drew out the pattern so that there is a strip in the front that runs down the shin and another bit that goes down the back of the ankle (see the attached image). I decided to use the center of the calf to close things up in the back. The process for crafting the foam is the same as before. Carefully cut it out, give it a curve with the heat gun, then glue the pieces together leaving the back open. Then draw and the details and cut those into the foam and use the heat gun to open them up.
The knee cap I designed separately. (See the example pattern I posted.) The bottom needs to be about the same width as the top of the shin strip. I experimented with pieces of cardstock until I got a shape that I liked.
Step 11: Chest-piece
Now is a great time to get the base pattern for the back, chest and abs. So wrap everything from the hips to the neck with plastic wrap and tape it up. I also had my wife pad her bra with some plastic bags to offer a little extra room around the chest for breathing purposes (and no one will complain about the extra curvature either). Draw on the main shapes and forms for the different pieces. You only need to focus on one half, since it is fairly symmetrical. Cut up the sides under the armpits to remove. This is also where you will strap the chest-piece together once it is made out of foam.
The breast part chest-piece extends from the tops of the shoulders to the bottom of the chest. I divided the breast in half taking advantage of the armor's seam lines, then added a cut in the bottom half of the breast to allow for more curvature. I also cut off the strap piece to handle separately. Make sure to leave registration marks along the seam/line between the chest area to the ab area to ensure that things line up correctly when you glue the pieces together.
After cutting the base shapes out of foam, I heated them, gave them some form, and then glued them together. Then I heated again to get everything shaped nice and smooth.
Once the base is put together, I designed the little block that is centered at the base of the neck (at the top of the chest-piece) using 5mm foam.
Step 12: Abs
The ab piece is fairly straight forward. Cut it out from the pattern designed earlier, then draw on, cut in, and heat the details. The silver ab detail pieces I made out of 2mm foam and glued on top. I purposely used hot glue to give them a "welded on" look. The whole ab piece is then glued under the chest piece. Reenforce the seam between the abs and the chest-piece with some hot glue on the inside.
Step 13: Back
Start with the base pattern shape and cut that out of foam. Then cut out the second layer segments using the same gym mat foam as the first layer. You will need to smooth down the edges and make sure everything glues together well. For the circle details, I included the STL/3D Model files in the Materials section. However, I didn't glue them on until after painting. It makes things a whole lot easier.
Glue the shoulder straps of the back to the front to make it all one piece.
Step 14: Shoulder Strap Detail
On the shoulders straps, there are small box details. Look at the images for the dimensions of that. I used a thicker foam mat to cut them out, but you can also glue two layers of 5mm foam together. I ended up using 8 of these on the shoulder straps. I also used the thicker foam to make the end pieces which I added to the front and back where the shoulder pieces attach to the rest of the chest and back.
For the lights, I found red, battery powered LED strings at the dollar store and lined them up in the viewing hole for each box. (Each viewing hole ended up having 2-3 LEDs inside.) I hid the battery packs in the pauldrons. For the red cover, I bought a red, clear, plastic folder for really cheap and cut that into the rectangles needed with some scissors. I then put a bit of packing foam underneath to help diffuse the lights.
Step 15: Pauldrons
There are actually multiple layers for the pauldrons. There are two pieces that are underneath the larger dome. Those have a pretty standard pattern to them. Look at the examples I have.
To design the pattern for the large domes, I made a triangle that was 7 in. on all sides. I then rounded out the sides of the triangle so that the corners where 90 degrees each instead of 60 degrees. You then cut out two of this shape for each side. Give them a nice curve with a heat gun, then glue together down one side.
Once made, I then covered the pauldron with tape and drew on some details to add. Those details can be seen in the third image. I then pulled off the tape and flattened the details to make other patterns. I then cut them out of 3mm craft foam and glued them to the main pauldron.
Take a drill and carefully drill the three different holes you see in the outer pauldron.
Step 16: Collar
I started with a long strip of paper, then placed it around my wife's neck. I then trimmed it to the right length and adjusted the other sides to fit comfortably around the curve of the neck and collar bones. I chose to make this a separate piece, because it is close enough to the head that it might make it difficult to slide over if it were attached to the chest piece. So I glued some fabric around the bottom edge and added velcro connect it to the the chest piece.
To size the fabric, I covered my wife's shoulders with plastic wrap and tape. I then had he put on the chest piece and hold up the collar. I then traced onto the tape where the chest-piece lay as well as the collar. I gave some extra room to allow the edges to be tucked under the armor and velcroed in place.
Step 17: Shoes
We found some shoes at the thrift store that fit my wife and where similar to the look of Sergeant Calhoun's.
I then cut some paper for the front pieces of armor. I also cut out a large circle shape. I traced these onto foam and cut them out. I added the details and hit them with heat.
Each circle had a double thickness of foam. I glued the pieces together, then sanded around until the circles were round and smooth. I then smoothed and rounded the outside edge of the disk. These were then glued on both sides of the strip.
After the shoe is painted, I hot glued the disks onto the shoe. Since these shoes had zippers down the insides, I held the inside disk on with velcro. I also added an elastic to the back to help hold everything in place.
Step 18: Accessories
I cut out the belt buckle from foam. I then bought an old nylon belt from the thrift store, cut off the buckle it had and glued the end under the buckle I made. I then added bigger hook and eyes to the other side of the belt as well as the underside of the buckle to be able to close the belt.
I bought a pair of black dress gloves for the base. Then for details, I found some fingerless, grey mesh gloves to put on top. I dyed them a little dark and made them look a little weathered.
We found a blonde, pixie cut wig from a local party store. It worked great!
Step 19: Beating Up the Foam
Doomsday and Armageddon just had a baby and it is ugly! Calhoun is a soldier, so we want this armor to look like it has seen some serious battles in it's life. So I took a grinding bit on my rotary tool and cut in some big scratches around the armor. Focus on protruding areas and edges (where things normally tend to get beat up). I then added some small slices with my craft knife for some finer scratching. Be sure to hit these up with a heat gun after to open up the details.
Step 20: Painting and Details
After everything has been heat sealed, I covered all of the armor with at least 3 coats of plasti-dip paint. This give it a nice plastic coating will will help make it more metallic looking.
I taped off the area that has the carbon fiber look on it (upper arms, thighs, calves, back, lower breast), put the drawer liner on top, and gave it a light spray with some silver paint. Once that dried, I dry brushed silver acrylic all over the armor. Look at reference photos to see how it is painted.
Then I used yellow acrylic to do the strips on the chest-piece, pauldrons, and collar.
I used a fine tipped brush with silver and black paints to bring out some of the scratches and cuts in the armor. Have lots of fun weathering things!
I added 1" faux leather strips to the inside of the upper arms, on the thighs and on the right bracer.
Reflective tape strips where then added on the bracers, thighs and legs as a simple alternative to wiring LEDs to the red glowing areas of Calhoun's armor.
Step 21: Strapping
First, watch the Punished Props video on strapping foam armor. It is worth your time. http://punishedprops.com/2015/11/02/foam-straps/
I used webbing to strap the pauldrons together and strap them to the chest piece. I then added some elastic straps to the sides of the chest piece to close things up there.
Pieces of furniture foam were used inside the bracers and upper arm pieces to help hold those onto the arm
I added small elastic pieces to the thigh pieces to hold them together and make it easier to pull them on. They are then velcroed to the undersuit.
The lower legs are strapped on in the back.
Step 22: Putting It All Together
Now it's time to get it all on. Here's our preferred order of operation:
- Thigh pieces
- Upper arms
Now that you look super awesome, it's "make your mamas proud time!" Go out there and have fun!