Introduction: Ultimate WW2 Captain America 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…

Since seeing some of my old Captain America comics, my 4-year-old has been pretending his frisbee was a shield as he valiantly battles the forces of evil.

With Halloween approaching, I decided to make him a WW2 Captain America costume similar to the one in Marvel's "Ultimates" timeline.

As you can see, it worked out well. Now we have our own little super soldier watching over our neighborhood.

Step 1: Materials

Most of the materials came from thrift store purchases. A pair of duffle bags and a dress provided all the buttons, straps, velcro, buckels, snaps, and lining I needed.

I still had to buy new items like: the shield (Amazon), a pair of red gloves (, a toy army helmet, red and navy dye, blue and white spray paint (Walmart), a can of spray foam insulation, a tube of gorilla glue, and a can of red plast-dip (Home Depot).

Step 2: The Mask

To make a mask pattern that would fit well, I wrapped my son's head in plastic wrap and applied little pieces of tape (paper-mache-style) to the plastic. Then, I slipped it off his head and cut it out into pieces that would lay flat. These pieces became the patterns for the mask. Then, I sewed together the pieces into a rather fashionable mask (if I do say so myself).

Pressing the mask's seams was a bear (particularly the eye-holes). And in the end, I had to resort to hot-gluing the seams to the underside of the mask. This was the only way I could keep them from poking into my son's eyes.

I decided to dye the mask (and enough white cloth to make the nessesary jacket stripes and boot anklets) outside, so there'd be less mess. However, I discovered that room-temperature dying doesn't produce colors as intense as stove-top dying.

After the dye-job, I finished off the mask with a chinstrap made from a piece of brown vinyl leftover from a previous project.

Step 3: The Jacket

I don't really use store-bought patterns for my sewing. This means I've gotten quite good at laying out existing items of clothing onto fabric and tracing out the pattern pieces I need. That's basically what I did for the jacket. I took one of my son's winter coats and traced out the pieces I needed to cut. Then, I pinned and sewed together the basic jacket.

Having learned my lesson while dying the mask, I decided to dye the jacket in a simmering pot on my stove. This worked much better; producing sharper color and wasn't nearly as messy as I'd feared.

After the jacket had air-dried, I cut off the bottom half and sewed in the red-and-white-striped panel (also made from white denim; half of which was dyed red).

I finished the jacket off by sewing in a strip of black webbing for a waistband, and added the buttons I salvaged from the thrift store dress. The white chest star is made from white denim and some leftover blue piping I had laying around.

Looking back, I would have saved a lot of time by buying an existing navy jacket (or ideally) a child's pea coat and modifying it. I coulda used the removed bottom half of the jacket to make the full-chest front panel. Also, I probably should have just purchased red and white pants from the thrift store and skipped the dying altogether. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.

Step 4: The Helmet

One of the coolest features of this version of Captain America's costume is the mask/ helmet combo. I like it much better than the (rather dorky) blue mask with white wings.

To make the mask, I started by painting the front of the toy army helmet white. I used Krylon's Fusion paint because it supposedly bonds to plastic better than typical spray paint.

Then, I printed out a 3 inch capital "A" in a suitable font. I taped a piece of waxed paper to the back of the printed "A" and put strips of masking tape onto the waxed paper. After cutting out the "A", I was able to peel off the masking tape, which was now a pretty decent "A-shaped" sticker.

I applied the sticker to the painted helmet, masking where the white "A" would be. Then, I spray-painted the rest of the helmet blue. I even painted the underside of the helmet as well (making sure to cover the helmet strap with tape beforehand).

After the paint dried, I was able to peel away the sticker and was left with a helmet any 4-year-old crimefighter would be proud to wear.

Step 5: The Boot Anklets and the Belt

The anklets were pretty straightforward. I cut out strips of the dyed red denim, sewed them together, and added some velcro, vinyl sole-straps, and some ornamental buttons.

The belt is made from one of the duffel back straps, some velcro, and a leather buckle from the smaller bag. Attaching the leather belt buckle was a bit tedious. I used the sewing machine and had to hand-advance the machine, setting the needle into the existing holes.

The pouches are made from some of the bag fabric. Each pouch has velcro closures cunningly hidden behind ornamental leather tabs. He doesn't actually carry anything in them, but they sure look cool.

Step 6: The Shield, Part 1

The pista de resistance (sp?) of any Captain America costume is the shield. Now, the more knowledgeable geeks reading this will know that in the Ultimates timeline, Cap used a triangular shield in WW2 (instead of his trademark round one). I choose to be somewhat anachronistic and use the round shield for several reasons.

First, my son's 4 and I don't want him poking his eye out with one of the shield's sharp corners. Next, plastic versions of the round shield are cheap and readily available online (I bought ours for about $6). Finally, this costume is different enough from Cap's traditional red, white, and blue pajamas that I felt it needed the round shield to make it more recognizable to the average parent handing out candy.

So, I started with the round plastic, officially licensed shield. Unfortunately, there were a few issues I wanted to address before adding it to the costume:

The plastic shield is a little too flimsy. My son cracked the frisbee he used as a shield surrogate when he accidentally stepped on it. The store-bought shield seemed even less resilient. So, I bent a bunch of steel wire into a zigzagging circle and glued it inside the shield.

The shield comes with a pair of elastic straps that were the epitome of cheap. I engineered a strap system where each strap can be unclipped and lengthened. This allows the shield to be worn on the back or carried on the arm just like in the comics.

-Side note: the strap/ clip system is the aspect I'm most proud of. I searched around the internet but no one else (to date) has devised a sensible way to explain how the straps on Cap's shield shorten/ lengthen from his back to his arm. I believe my implementation is ground-breakingly unique and elegant.

The shield's a little too deep, so I trimmed off about 3/4 of an inch to make it less bulky.

The plastic strap bindings are too flimsy and too close together. I bend more steel wire around some plastic clips and glued them in more appropriate places on the shield. Before gluing, I sewed straps onto 2 of the 4 bindings. I didn't sew the other 2 because I needed to fit the shield's inner lining on later.

I made sure to raise them up from the shield to accommodate the next step. To hide the wire and glue, I sprayed foam insulation into the shield's concave. After the foam had hardened, I used a long-bladed knife and trimmed off the excess. The shield was nice and stiff at this point.

Step 7: The Shield, Part 2

Next, I needed an edge treatment to cover the raw cut edge left over from trimming the shield's depth. I drilled 130 1/16th inch holes around the edge of the shield. Then, I stripped off about 2 feet of the protective housing from some 14 gauge copper wire. I carefully fitted the stripped wire jacket onto the edge of the shield. I looped thread throught the holes and around the edging to hold it into place.

Now it was time to cover the inside of the shield. I used a piece of brown vinyl to hide the yellow foam filling. I put fiberglass mesh tape (the kind made to cover drywall seams) on the back of the vinyl to keep it nice and stiff and to avoid wrinkles.

I cutout 4 rectangles for the strap binding to poke through the vinyl and spread the gorilla glue onto the back of the vinyl. Then, I threaded the straps and bindings through the holes and pressed the vinyl into place. To hold the vinyl down while the glue dried, I poured all the spare change I could find onto the shield. This worked reasonably well.

After the glue dried, I brushed on several coats of red plasti-dip over the applied edging, thread, and brown vinyl. This prevents the brown vinyl from peeling up and binds the back and front of the shield together.

However, instead of looping the thread over the edging, I should have just woven the thread back and forth through the holes. Looping the thread over the edging made the edge bumpy. I thought this would get smoothed over by the plasti-dip. Instead, the plasti-dip enhanced it. If I had simply woven the thread through the holes, alongside the edging, the plasti-dip would have still held the edging firmly in place but without any bumpiness.

To finish the shield, I trimmed the straps to the correct length and sewed on the plastic snaps that complete the strap system. I also repainted the blue outside the star to match the blue helmet.

Step 8: Final Results

So, after about two months of work, I've finally completed the costume. To get the most out of it, we've taken our son out for a few "photo shoots" with appropriately-themed backgrounds.

Step 9: -SUPPLEMENTAL- Candy Bag

Earlier in the week, we went to a local church for a trunk-or-treat. I realized that seeing Ultimate WW2 Captain America carrying a bright orange plastic bag spoiled the illusion. So, I whipped up this military-styled candy bag from some leftover duffel bag material.

To make it really "pop" I printed "U.S." on a sheet of paper and cut it into a basic stencil. A quick once-over with some white spray paint and I had a very military-looking bag. The strap runs under one of the jacket's shoulder flaps to keep it from sliding off his shoulder.

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