Introduction: The Mighty Thor Costume

About: (Is there a word that means more than "ultimate"? Oh well, I'l just make one up... "omnilent") Omnilently creative, MrCrumley fights a daily battle to save the world in his capacity as a multimedia superhero…

Step 1: The Concept

After last year's awesome Ultimate WW2 Captain America costume, my boy and I decided to stick with the Avengers roster and send him out as the mighty Thor. So, my first task was deciding how the costume should look. With all the wardrobe changes Thor has seen, and the never-ending alternate universe storylines, I had my pick of "looks" I could go for (I even considered doing a Throg costume, but chickened out). i settled on his current costume with mail sleeves and leggings. I decided the mail would look cool, be easy to see at night, and allow me to sew in some padded muscles to make my boy more mighty.

I strayed from this design in two major areas: the boots and the belt. To me, Thor should always have yellow boots. I know they're a bit garish, but consider the context. I also went with the traditional yellow belt with the classic "T" buckle. I get that the new one (the runic letter meaning strength) is probably what the "real" Thor would have worn, but honestly, I think the yellow makes the costume more super-heroey and less like a generic Viking.

Step 2: Materials

I mentioned that I spent about $45 on materials, and here's where it went: $10 for the replica hammer (from an internet costume shop), about $10 for the shoulder pads, used belts, the long-haired doll, the used knight's helmet, a long-sleeved shirt, a pair of sweat pants, and a very worn child's sleeping bag (from a local thrift store), and about $15 on red, yellow, blue, and silver pieces of fabric. I had the scrap vinyl, white fabric, thread, hook-and-loop fasteners, and interfacing left over from previous projects. I also spent about $10 on some epoxy and a can of spray foam insulation.

I used some scraps of styrofoam (for the armor circles), leftover corrugated plastic board, some white and silver paint, a pair of imitation crocs my son would outgrow before next summer, and some craft-broach pins I had left over as well. I got a little obsessive about improving the replica hammer and used a 1 1/8" dowel piece, some scrap wood, craft sticks, the spray foam insulation (mentioned above) and a LOT of hot glue reworking it (totally worth it).

I also bought a bias tape maker, but I'm not counting its cost since it's really an investment in all my future costumes.

Step 3: The Armor

I rarely use sewing patterns. I'm too impatient. Instead, I rely on tracing the sections of existing clothing onto my material and then size the garment during assembly. In this case, I used a pair of my son's slightly baggy slacks and long-sleeve shirt as my "patterns" for the armor's sleeves and leggings. I spent a littl mre than I'd budgeted on the sequined fabric, so I only bought enough to make leggings and sleeves (not a full- shirt). Since the blue tunic covers most of the armor, this worked out fine.

I also sewed a series of padded muscles from some of the sleeping bag's filling and the scrap white cloth to make my Thor mightier. Then, I sewed them onto the pair of sweat pants and shirt I'd bought at the thrift store. The fit of the leggings and mail sleeves over these was snug, but acceptable.

I finished off the look of the mail sleeves by sewing a pair of wrist bands. Instead of hook-and-loop tape (my usual closure of choice), I opted to sew a short leather strap and friction buckle to keep the straps closed. The leather and buckle added just the right amount of detail and "finish" to the armor.

Step 4: The Tunic and Boots

Now comes the classy part. I really like Thor's sweet navy tunic. It's hands-down cooler than the weird blue body stocking he used to wear, yet more subtle than some of the crazy plate armor he's had recently (I mean really, if I wanted that look, I'd slap a horse head on my boy and send him out as Beta Ray Bill).

Because the tunic would be worn over both the mail and a set of football shoulder pads, I needed to fit it carefully. I used a jersey that I'd stretched over the pads while my son wore them to make sure I had a good template. I traced the rather straightforward design of the jersey onto my fabric and eye-balled a rather swank turned-up collar. Then, I set about sewing it together.

I used the bias tape maker for all the edging/ piping. NOTE: If you don't have a bias tape maker, consider getting one. It's a nifty little device that you draw over a long strip of fabric, following behind with a hot iron. It's incredibly easy to use and makes quality tape for much less than store-bought tape. And since you make it yourself, you never worry about the tape color matching the fabric. I'm very proud of how the tunic turned out. The edging/ piping make it look awesome.

The boots were based on a pair of my son's crocs. I measured the circumference around the sole and sewed a 1 1/2" wide strip of fabric into a loop. Then, I laid a piece of paper over the oversole and sketched a rough pattern. I cut the oversole piece out of the blue fabric and sewed it into the loop to make a crude moccasin. Next, I measured the length of my son's shin and cut out a piece of fabric to sew into the "moccasin", making it into a boot.

I added some details to the boots to give them more interest. I sketched out some Thor-like knee caps and used excess yellow piping as decorative straps. I could have used elastic to help keep the boots up, but I took the easy way out and decided to just safety-pin the boots to the mail leggings. Once I had the details on, I slipped the boots over the crocs and hot-glued them in place.

Step 5: The Cape and Medallions

Having shoulder pads underneath the tunic made the cape much easier to shape into a very Thor-like cape. Basically, I draped it in place, gathering and pinning it into the shape I wanted. Then, I sewed the pleats and gathers in place. The gathers formed a "pocket" on either side that the shoulder pads slipped into. This gave the cape the Centurion appearance that sets Thor's cape apart from others, like Superman's, for example.

For the medallions, I cut 4 circles out of some flat pieces of scrap styrofoam. I used a jar lid as my template. Then, I roughed up the surface to give them a stone or metal-like texture. A quick once-over with some silver spray paint and some hot-glued craft broach pins, and I had a set of 4 neat-looking medallions.

When pinning in the medallions, I first safety pinned the cape to the tunic and shirt underneath, Then, I pinned the medallions into the cape covering the safety pins. That way, the medallions wouldn't bear the weight of the cape.

Step 6: The Helmet and Hair

My version of Thor's helmet began life as a cheap, black, plastic knight's helmet from the thrift store. I used a power drill to remove the metal rivet holding on the helmet's visor. Then I spray painted the helmet silver.

Next, I drew and printed out some wing shapes on my computer. I cut out the wing patterns and traced their outlines onto a piece of corrugated plastic board. I gave them a once-over with some white spray paint to make them a cleaner-looking tint of white.

Now for the disgusting part - Thor's hair. I thoroughly washed the long-haired doll I'd bought at the thrift store. It was one of those 1/2 sized, hair styling practice dolls, girls get from family members who hate them. I was seriously repulsed thinking about the germs that might be breeding in that lifeless mop. I washed it again for good measure.

Then, I got out my miter saw and scalped the doll. Next, I set about slicing away clumps of hair with a razor bade and setting the ends on strips of tape I'd laid out (sticky side up). After i had enough, I threw away that wretched half-scalped doll head, then went and sat in a closet to compose my nerves. Eck.

After the helmet paint had dried, I layered hot glue on the inside of the helmet and set the clumps of hair into the glue. Then, I epoxied the wings on to either side. I was so glad to finish this step.

Step 7: The Belt

The belt was actually a belt-like sleeve slipped over a cheap vinyl belt (with the buckle in the back). To make the sleeve, I wrapped a length of padding from the sleeping bag in some yellow material. Then, I sewed the "T" pattern for the buckle, and some "X's" to give the belt some more interest. I fished it by sewing on a rear panel that completed the "sleeve" the real belt would fit through.

Next, I cut up a thin brown belt into a 10" loop and sewed it to the bottom of the right side of the belt "sleeve". I also sewed the buckle end of the thin belt to the sleeve above the loop. Then, I sewed hook-and-loop tape onto each section of the thin belt so it could be closed around the hammer's head. This made a functional (yet stylish) loop to drop the hammer's handle through, with a lash to keep it from falling out.

To accommodate all the candy my son was sure to receive, I took am irregularly shaped piece of brown vinyl and sewed a rough-looking bag (with a hook-and-loop closure). It made a nice-looking accent that was way better than a plastic candy bag.

Step 8: The Hammer

The crowning touch of any Thor costume is the hammer. After all, Thor without his hammer is just a Viking. I experimented with making a hammer head out of styrofoam. But, I accidentally dissolved chucks of it when I tried to coat it with Plasti-dip (bad idea). So, I resorted to purchasing an officially licensed plastic hammer online.

When the hammer arrived, I was shocked at how big it was. If you recall, I bought an officially licensed Captain America shield for last year's costume and learned that many costume accessories are 3/4 scale. Not so, for Thor's hammer. This thing is actual size. And the grip was over 2" in diameter. My son could barely hold it. Also, the hammer was hollow and easily deformed during light play. This simply would not do.

So, I set about improving it. First, I removed the unscrewable, hollow plastic handle. I replaced it with a section of 1 1/8" wooden dowel, epoxied to the inside top of the mallet.

Next, I set about preparing the head to be filled with expanding foam. I didn't want to sides to bulge out, so I spent several hours precisely cutting wooden sides to firmly encase the mallet head while the foam set. I even glued a lattice of craft sticks to hold the seams together. In hindsight, I should have used clamps as well, since several of the craft stick braces popped loose during curing.

After I had the mallet encased, I drilled two small holes near the handle and filled the hammer head through them. I had to clear away the ever-growing mound of foam from the holes several times throughout the day. After a day of curing, I removed the wooden braces and discovered a firm (yet slightly bulged) hammer with a wooded handle firmly held in place.

I finished the hammer by epoxying a strip of brown vinyl spiraled around the handle. I then fastened a loop made out of a leather belt, to the handle's base with a wood screw. I covered over the screw with the remaining length of belt and spiraled the belt up the handle as well (securing it with more epoxy. After drying, I was left with a highly customized and very authentic-looking plastic replica of Thor's famous hammer.

Step 9: Photos and Final Thoughts

 I must say, I'm very proud of this costume. I think it clears the rather high bar I set for myself with last year's costume. It's a great feeling when the finished product matches what you envisioned, and this certainly does.

We went to a few local family-oriented parties and the reaction to our little Thor was pretty much what you'd expect. Everyone recognized him immediately and complimented his outfit. I tried to get him to respond "thank you, mortal", but it was hard since he didn't really understand what a mortal was.

All-in-all, it was worth the late nights and missed sleep to create such a memorable and successful costume. Excelsior!
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