Introduction: Creating a G.I. Joe "Duke" Halloween Costume

Inspired by the new summer flick "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra."  This instructable will show you how to create the "Duke" Armor.

So my wife and I love to go out in costume for Halloween.  I usually lean more on the side of gross and mutilated, as I have studied Special Effects and Make-up Artistry.  My wife, on the other hand will dress up as whatever, as long as it’s fun.

This year we are going to Vegas on Halloween to celebrate our 1-year wedding anniversary.  We got married there and thought it would be fun to go back.  We thought that since it would be just the two of us this time, we should dress up in a way that will compliment one another.  We thought long and hard and finally came up with G.I. Joe characters (from the movie).  If you have seen my wife, she is a dead ringer for Siena Miller’s “Baroness”.  And me?  As long as I have the suit on, I might, sort-of look like the Channing Tatum’s “Duke”.  Maybe.

Items you will need:

•Hot glue gun

•Spray glue

•1 can silver spray paint

•1 can black spray paint

•Sewing machine or a needle & thread (add about 40 more hours!)


•Blue Painter’s tape (wide)

•Self-healing mat

•4 yards black fabric

•4 yards green fabric foam

•1 roll of black craft foam

•2 sheets of thick black craft foam

•Cardboard (for patterns)


•White fabric chalk

•2 yards velcro

•4 yards black belt strap

•4 yards black elastic

•2 side release backpack buckles

Total price for materials: $87.00

Total hours worked: 30ish?

Let’s start off my examining the production shots of Duke’s armor carefully.  I tried to build it as close as I could but I had to take some liberties based on my experience at this.  But I did, however, want to make it somewhat functional.

We will be making three parts to this suit:

•Vest & Armor

•Arm Gauntlets

•Shoulder Pads

Step 1: Making the Pattern.

For me, pattern making was very important.  So within Adobe Illustrator I inputted a picture of Duke and drew on top of it, coming up with this.

Orange – Top layer of thick foam

Pink – Bottom layer of thin foam

Green - Thick foam

Step 2: Real Men Know How to Sew!

Then I took the same patterns for the vest and traced it onto some fabric with fabric chalk.  After cutting the patterns out, I pinned two pieces for the front together and repeated the same step for the back.  Make sure you label your pieces as front and back.  I then pinned both sides to my duct tape dummy to see how they fit together.

Step 3: Adding the Padding.

Again I used the same patterns and laid them out onto some green fabric foam.  I traced them out with a Sharpie and made sure that labeled them front and back.  This will definitely come in handy when they look this similar.  When it comes time to cut them out, I found out by trial and error that I needed to come in about a half inch because after I sewed the fabric together, the pattern ended up a bit smaller due to the stitching.

Step 4: Strapping the Vest Together.

This part was not the most fun part as the foam tends to resist moving over fabric.  You need to force the foam into your sewn pattern and flatten it out.  After that, it comes time to close it up.  Whalah, you have your front and back foamie vest plates.  Now comes time to sew on some belt straps and side release buckles, 2 on each side.  Then add two pieces of fabric up on the shoulders to permanently connect the two halves.

There you go!  You have just created a pretty realistic looking bullet-proof vest.  Just don’t go out looking for trouble.

Step 5: Creating the Armor 1.

Fun time.  I had taken all of my pattern shapes that I have printed up for the armor portion of the suit and spray glued each piece to black craft foam.  After they dried, I used a plain old scissor and cut out each piece.  The great thing about the adhesive I used was that when I was done cutting them out, the paper pattern came right off leaving me a perfectly clean cutout.

Step 6: Creating the Armor 2.

I then proceeded to spray each piece with silver spray paint. Creatively, I wanted to leave some portions black so I used blue painter’s tape to tape off those areas.  I noticed from a bunch of other sites on this matter that people are saying that paint will not hold onto this type of craft foam.  I have not had that problem.  I can even bend the pieces without it flaking. 

Step 7: Creating the Armor 3.

I then places the dried armor pieces onto my original patterns to see how they line up.

Looks good so far.

Step 8: Creating the Armor 4.

Next, we are going to adhere them to the vest.  You have one shot at this so be careful.  You don’t want to mess up all the work you put into the vest.  Best thing to do at this point is to place the pieces onto the vest as a “dry fit”  Then take a Sharpies and trace around each one.  I liked using black so that if I moved the pieces a bit, you would hardly notice the outlines.  Now go ahead and glue ‘em down.  This is what I came up with!  Pretty cool!  

Step 9: Creating the Armor 5.

Next I hand painted the Joe logo onto the chest. 

Step 10: Creating the Armor 6.

I printed out the logo, put blue painter’s tape onto a self-healing mat, placed the print on top of the tape and used a blade to carefully cut out a negative of the logo.  I carefully removed the tape and placed it where I wanted it onto the chest.  Then I covered the rest of the vest with plastic leaving the logo cutout alone.  Then spray painted the logo with black spray paint that I had lying around.  After it was dry I pulled off the tape and did touch-ups wherever necessary.  Here is what it looks like.

And another look at the back.  (Just because it is cool looking) 

Step 11: Creating the Arm Gauntlets.

So this was a pretty fun part of the project.  The armbands or gauntlets.  I really took some liberties on this since I did not know how to get the hard edges on it.  So I came up with an idea to mask some cool tech lines into it as I did with the chest plates.  So I first started with a pattern I created, spray glued it onto black craft foam and cut them out.  Then, like the Joe logo earlier, I placed blue painter’s tape onto my mat and put the pattern over it, securing it with tape as well.  Then I used a blade and cut out the shapes I want to keep black after spraying with silver paint.  I then used a copy of the pattern as a guide to see where I need to stick the tape.  Then I sprayed and pulled the tape off.  The result was pretty cool.  I then hot glued some elastic bands connecting both sides.  Make sure that you really measure the bands before you glue them down, to fit your arm.  Have someone help you mark it while its on your arm.  Don’t forget to wear the shirt you will be wearing under the armor since it will affect the length of material you will need.  GLUE GUN IT AFTER YOU TAKE IT OFF YOUR ARM PLEASE!!!  

Step 12: Doing the Shoulder Pads.

Shoulder pads are back baby!  This is my least favorite part of the suit but I think it adds a little bit.  I think the design is right but I think the execution is flawed.  I wanted it to form around my shoulder but while doing that, it created a bit of a peak.  Oh well.  I may go back and adjust it a bit later on.  So, just like the gauntlets, I followed the same process.  Cutting out the foam with the pattern I created, then masking with blue tape the areas I wanted to keep black.  Then I used a combination of hot glue and spray glue to adhere the shapes together.  I then sliced and curved the top of the pads, and glued those flaps together as well.  Lastly, I added some velcro to the underside of the pad and to the corresponding top of the vest so that they could come on and off as I pleased.

I also, like I usually do, sketched out how I thought I would create the shoulder pads.  I have included that sketch below.   

***Update!  I have recreated the shoulder pads.  My firefighter buddy had some extra foam shoulder pads lying around and gave them to me.  I have painted similar patterns shown below onto them.  I also printed out the GI Joe logo in color onto Inkjet fabric paper.  I cut them out and spray glued them onto the shoulder pads.  Man, they look so much better now.  Check out the pictures are at the end of this Instructable.

Step 13: Putting It All Together!

And now you know.  And knowing is half the battle.  Add some cargo pants, a turtleneck, weapons and black gloves and you’re done.  I have also created more logos on the fabric paper to adhere to the gloves, just as an extra touch.

It was my first time doing a project like this so I hope you got some insight and enjoyed this tutorial.

You can contact me with any questions you may have.

I will be putting the vest, armor, gauntlets and shoulder pad patterns up for sale if anyone is interested.

And depending how the suit makes the trip back from Vegas, I will be accepting bids for that as well.

Thanks for viewing!

*The vest, armor, gauntlets and shoulder pad patterns up for sale if anyone is interested.

**And depending how the suit makes the trip back from Vegas, I will be accepting bids for that as well.  Please email me at for prices.

Step 14: Finished Photos!

 I was lucky enough to work above this really interesting old garage.  It was a really great place to take these photos.  Enjoy!
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