Winter Soldier Costume Build




Introduction: Winter Soldier Costume Build

About: I make things so you can make things. Out of stuff.

UPDATED: at the close of the 2014 Superheroes/Supervillains contest, we just wanted to thank everyone who voted for us, everyone who favorited us, and all our fellow contest finalists for their great entries. We didn't win the iPhone, but we had great competition and were thrilled with all the positive response to this costume build.

Thanks Instructables!

I started a tradition in our house for CosPlaying for Marvel Movies, and with Avengers 2 coming up my daughter wanted to join the fun. I am a Captain America cosplayer, and she has decided that for A2 she wants to be the Winter Soldier -- the cyborg assassin who used to be Bucky Barnes. However, we wanted to build something suitable for a teen aged girl, and suitable for someone who does not own a metal shop, and suitable for the Heroes/Villains contest here at Instructables.

The results are this tutorial, which builds the whole costume but gives you a very clean and easy method for this so that your cyborg arm doesn't cost you a fortune in Nazi/Hydra gold and gives you a chance to be successful if your best skills are sewing rather than welding, forging, rubber casting or plaster casting.

One important note: we have a lot of steps, but each one is short so you don;t die of boredome reading the instructions or making progress. Don't be intimidated by the number of steps!

If you like this one, please vote for us for the Heroes/Villains contest because our Mom needs a new iPhone (that's why we built a Villain and not a Hero).

Step 1: Bill of Materials

For this project, you're going to need a few things. I don't think we used anything too exotic.


Sewing machine, black thread, heavy duty needle

Sharp scissors

Seam Ripper

Large Box Cutter and blade sharpener

Metal ruler/straight edge

Compass (for drawing circles)

Protractor (for drawing a symmetrical star)

Glue roller & mixing pan

Pencil, Marker


2 yds Silver Lame Fabric (we got ours at WAL*MART for $6/yard)

4 sheets 18x24 BLACK craft foam (99 cents each at Michaels)

1 sheet RED craft foam (also at Michaels)

1 Winter Soldier mask (we got ours at KMart for $10 at Halloween)

1 double-breasted biker jacket (Ours was $30 at Target)

1 22-inch separating zipper (black)

1 roll TESA permanent double-sided tape, 1/4 inch

1 sheet 24x36 Poster Board

1 bottle, fabric glue (we used Fabri-Tac)

1 can, acetone (used as glue thinner)

Step 2: The Jacket and the Mask

Seriously now: buy the jacket and the mask. You will spend the rest of your mortal life looking for a biker jacket pattern to build from scratch, and the next generation of your family will spend its existence sewing it together if you are using real leather. Just go to Target or the Salvation Army or some second-hand store and buy a suitably-aged jacket.

The mask is $20 when you can find it, and it to saves you from starting a second career in costume making.

Step 3: The (very Hard) Tape Template Method

Above, image 001 shows you what a normal teenaged girl's arm looks like. We're showing it to you so you can see that no teenaged girls were injured in the cosplay costume. However, we're also showing it to you because the standard method for cosplay armor building is to make a tape template of the arm you're trying to armor and use that to build the rest. This method is too hard. We recommend that you STOP USING IT if you are building foam costumes for your arms.

However, the basic 4 steps are in image 002, above. If you look there, you can see why this method is too hard: you have to cut the tape off the teenaged girl arm to get the template off. This usually results in poking said girl with scissors. Do yourself and your teenaged girl a favor and don't poke her with scissors.

Step 4: What to Poke With Scissors

Look: you had to buy a jacket with two arms to make this costume anyway. Why not use the arm you are going to remove to make the armor arm? So the first real step here is to get out your seam ripper and CAREFULLY remove the LEFT arm of the jacket from the jacket. It's not poking with scissors, but it is poking. Enjoy yourself.

When that seam is safely ripped, turn it inside out and rip the back seam of the sleeve so you get an open flat piece of fabric with is the shape of the original sleeve (like image 008, above).

Step 5: Creating the Metal Arm Panel Template

Now that you have a flat piece of fabric, you can trace it on your piece of poster board. Our advice is that you not get too worked up about a perfect trace job -- get the general outline, and then square it up with your pencil and a ruler. This template is meant to be BIGGER than your final arm, but not so much bigger that you can't use the pieces you cut to make the actual foam/lamè on the arm.

However, once you have the outline complete, you can start designing your arm's armor. The last image above shows you what our original template looked like before we made some modifications to suit our our sense of what looked good.

A good rule as you design your armor is this: leave at least 1/4 inch (about 6mm) between each section so that when you lay it up on the arm with the tape, you have joints that give you some flexibility.

Step 6: Sew the Zipper Into the Sleeve (1 of 2)

This step is sort of a step in parallel with the next step -- but it's the step one member of our team did while the other member went on to the dirty work in the next two steps. After you have used the sleeve to create the basic flat form for the armor pieces, it needs to be finished in such a way that you can get it on and off your costume wearer.

Using this version of this build, you can make the armor fit as tight as you like and still maintain some kind of mobility.

Step 7: Sew the Zipper Into the Sleeve (2 of 2)

The first thing to do is to fit the sleeve to size. In our build, we turned the sleeve inside out and cinched it up to a close fit for our subject. We then pinned it and marked a rough seam line on both sides for the sake of setting up the zipper.

We used an open-bottom zipper because you need the sleeve to lay flat as you install the lamè panels on it.

After you attached the zipper and trim the excess material, you can then stitch up the sleeve hole in the top of the jacket.

Step 8: Lamè-nate Your Foam Panels (1 of 2)

Before you go much further, you're going to need your foam to get all silvery so it looks like armor when it is cut and assembled. The common cosplay wisdom is to coat it with a vinyl spray to seal the foam and then spray it with your favorite chromium or silver spray paint. To this we say: TOO HARD! TOO MESSY!

Instead, go to your local fabric store and buy 2 yards of the shiniest silver lamè they have. Also while you are there, pick up a bottle of

Beacon FabriTac

You'll also need a small bottle of acetone to thin out the FabriTac glue before application. The truth is that if you apply the lamè to the foam with the glue, the odds of it getting damaged by bumping into things is almost zero -- which is another massive advantage of this approach over other moulding or metal-fab techniques.

Step 9: Lamè-nate Your Foam Panels (2 of 2)

So here's what you do:

1. Lay out one foam panel on a FLAT surface, and cut a panel of silver lamè just slightly larger than the foam.

2. Lay the Lamè flat on a table, shiny side up. Roll the lamè up onto an adequate piece of PVC or broom handle to get it into a straight, even, flat rolling surface. To start the roll, attach one end to the roller with blue painters tape for easy removal. Set aside the roll.

3. Lay out one sheet of foam on a FLAT, CLEAN surface.

4. In an aluminum (NOT PLASTIC!) container (for example: a $1 baking pan from the Dollar Store), mix equal parts Fabri-Tac and Acetone. Mix quickly and throughly.

5. Apply an even coat of the thinned out Fabri-Tac to the foam. Let the glue dry to tacky -- about 45-60 seconds. You'll know its ready when you touch it and you can pull a spider web up from the surface.

6. Start at one end of the foam, and roll the lame FLAT AND EVEN onto the tacky side of the foam. If you get bubbles, after you untape the roller roll the whole sheet flat once more.

7. set aside for a good hour or two to get a solid cure for the glue. Repeat for all sheets of foam.

Step 10: Using Your Knife

This seems like a beginner's pointer, but what you are about to do is cut some poster board templates out, and then you're going to cut fabric-laminated foam. Cutting the poster board is pretty standard issue, but cutting the foam is not as the foam will dull your blade at a very surprising rate. A dull blade will not give you a clean cut in the foam, but a jagged and chunky edge. That will look terrible in the final assembly.

To avoid this problem, you need a blade sharpener or wet stone, and you need to know how to sharpen your blade.

  1. Please (PLEASE!) use a large knife with a decent grip so you don't hurt yourself. Also: anyone under the age of 18 needs to be doing this under adult supervision because a sharp knife is a sharp knife, and we want this project to end with fun and joy, not a trip to the ER.
  2. You're going to hold the knife in one hand and the sharpener in the other. Hold the sharpener in a way where your fingers are not in the path of the blade on the sharpener.
  3. Hold the cutting edge of the blade on the stone at a sharp angle - 15 or 20 degrees. Press down gently and swipe the blade away from yourself 10-12 times. Make sure you are sharpening at least 2 inches (50mm) of blade edge which includes the tip.
  4. Now switch the tools in your hands so you can repeat the process on the opposite side of the blade. When you are done, take a piece of your foam which will be scrap, lay it flat on your cutting surface (NOT MOM'S DINING TABLE!), and test your sharpness -- cut a small slice by drawing the blade in a straight line through the foam. If you get a chunky cut, repeat the process but swipe fewer times on each side.

Keep in mind that you will need to repeat this process often while you are cutting. When in doubt, sharpen your knife to get nice, clean edges both on your template and in your foam pieces.

Step 11: Start Cutting (template Parts)

So you have a template for your arm all laid out on the poster board - now use your knife and a metal straight edge to make clean, straight cuts. As you are cutting, number your pieces so that you know how to reassemble them. You might also be well-served to cut a few pieces of template, them use them to cut their foam counterparts, then mount the foam counterparts on the leather so you can see how well your template idea is working out. It's better to revise your template before you have cut your foam into ribbons so your final work looks and acts the way you intend than it is to have no materials left and a ton of useless foam pieces you can't make work.

CUTTING TIP: seriously now: use a good metal straight edge. Ours came from harbor Freight and cost less than $2. It has a cork back and doesn't slide around while cutting when you press down slightly. Hold the edge on the line you want to cut, press down, and then hold the side of your blade vertically against the straight edge. You want straight lines, and this is how to get them.

Step 12: Continue Cutting (foam Parts)

Once you have template parts, you can start cutting from your laminated foam. Use the templates in order, use the metal straight edge to keep your cuts straight, and sharpen the blade often.

When you have 2-3 parts cut out, start assembling the arm. If you are especially clever, you will cut some 1/4" (6mm) strips from your scrap foam to work as spacers between the pieces to ensure a consistent spacing. Lay out the pieces on your leather so you can mark and trim any over-hang before you tape them down.

Our advice is to cut some pieces, lay them on the leather, trim to size, then apply your tape or glue. Be happy before the adhesive sets up, otherwise you're going to have to live with whatever you lay down.

CUTTING TIP: seriously now: use a good metal straight edge. Ours came from harbor Freight and cost less than $2. It has a cork back and doesn't slide around while cutting when you press down slightly. Hold the edge on the line you want to cut, press down, and then hold the side of your blade vertically against the straight edge. You want straight lines, and this is how to get them.

Step 13: Start Assembling

In the Bill of Materials, we recommend using 1/4" TESA tape. The reason is that this tape is, frankly, the most rugged way to assemble semi-porous parts (like foam on leather) while still maintaining maximum flexibility. It also sets up bonded in about 10 seconds, which is great if you are careful and a nightmare if you are not. if you know yourself to be someone who needs to redo their work to be happy with it, use the glue you used to bond the silver to the foam to bond the foam to the leather. It is more forgiving, but a lot less durable.

TESA tape is double-sided, and is pressure-activated. What that means is that when you apply it, you need to press or roll it to activate the curing agent in the adhesive. So when you apply it to your foam strips, roll them with your roller (the same one from step 9), then remove the backing, then apply to the leather, then roll again to ensure the leather side is also activated. Clever users will assembly 2-3 foam strips on the leather, and then roll them as a group.

Last tip about tape: work slowly, and apply the tape to the foam as close to your straight edges without any overhang. This will keep your edged from rolling or peeling back, and will also keep the white tape under your blade foam.

Step 14: A Note About the Shoulder Assembly

When you have built up from the wrist to about where the elbow begins, we suggest to start building from the shoulder down. The reason is simple: it will be easier to modify your template in the elbow where there is not critical design issue ratehr than on the shoulder which, let's fact it, needs a shiny red star in the middle of it.

For our shoulder, we super-simplified the pattern and used a large circle.

We created a star template and cut it out from the center of the shoulder.

We cut a matching star from some glittery foam we found at WAL*MART, inlaid it in the gap, and taped it all in place on the leather.

After that, we worked out our template to make sure the center line of the arm stayed centered, and we also worked on making the stripes over the bicep has a dynamic and bulky look (as far as you can make a teenaged girl's arm look "bulky")


Step 15: A Note About ELBOW Assembly

In the final assembly, we wanted an elbow which both looked good and was functional. What we chose to do was to cheat.

The center line of the elbow is assembled with 4 octagonal pieces about 1.25" diameter. To the outside of the elbow, we assembled solid lines of laminated foam. To the inside of the elbow -- the part that folds in -- we chose to only put in foam on the skinny creases. That allows the elbow to bend with some freedom without tearing up any of the good detailed work.

Step 16: Secure Undergarment to Arm

We ran out of time to get this build entered into the Heroes/Villains contest, but the next step is to secure the arm to a shirt which you can wear under the jacket which will hold the arm on. Since the arm already has a hem line, this is a no brainer which ought to take about 15 minutes.

  1. Remove the left sleeve from your undershirt with your seam ripper
  2. pin up the sleeve to the shirt
  3. Stitch it into place.

Step 17: Zip It Up - Try It On!

We have a few other improvements we're going to work on before Avengers 2 comes out, but this is a very straight-forward build which, we think, anyone can do and get very shiny, durable results.

Step 18: Other Improvements

We were rushed when we did this first build because we wanted to get in on the Instructables Hero/Villains contest to win our mom a new cellphone, so there is at least one improvement we will implement prior to wearing this to Avengers 2. This arm looks very shiny and metallic at a glance, but because it is filled with a teen-aged girl arm it is not completely filled out. We will likely get some more foam of pillow padding to make sure the mass of the arm is filled out. It looks pretty good actually as-is, but at some angles it can look like there's no arm inside the arm.

If you come up with other improvements to this design, post them in the comments below!

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    8 years ago on Introduction

    Silver lame on foam. Brilliant. Must remember this for costume ideas.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    The gluing is easy; the cutting is the bear. I was sharpening the cutter about every other panel -- about every 8 cuts -- to get a clean cut edge.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Well done! This is a great Winter Soldier costume.

    I love this kind of costume. It looks cool, but you're still completely mobile and can function like a human while you wear it!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    We wanted to be able to walk around in it without being crippled! :-)

    Thanks for your feedback!


    4 years ago

    This is really really amazing.


    8 years ago

    I made mine with fabric, but the automail is so cool!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    We wanted the dimensional look of real metal and the flexibility and ease of use of foam. We also wanted the final product to be reasonably durable -- and paint usually isn't.

    The silver lame was a brilliant find by my daughter, and the gluing technique was old-school hard knocks learnin'. :-)