Captain America Shirt - Comic Book Classic!




Introduction: Captain America Shirt - Comic Book Classic!

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

Because of the wild response we got the our first costume instructable -- the Winter Soldier jacket -- and in honor of the great time we had going to Age of Ultron in costume, I'm going to post a series of instructables to put together a Cap costume like the one you see in the cover photo.

If there's decent response to this Instructible for the shirt, I'll post instructions for the shoulder straps, the shield (which is neither plastic nor metal), the gloves (not pictured above) and the helmet and mask.

Before we get started, one caveat - I didn't take any photos while building this costume. I hate myself for not taking one picture of the process (lesson learned), but there aren't any innovative processes here. I think we can make due with some generic photos and illustrations.

Let's get started!

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Step 1: Materials List

Believe it or not, this shirt only cost me about $15 for all the materials because I shopped clever.


  • 1 Royal Blue T-Shirt, no print
  • 1 Cherry Red T-Shirt, no print
  • 1 White Long-sleeve T-Shirt, no print
  • One sheet, white craft foam, 9x12
  • Double-sided craft tape (I used Tesa Tape; you use what you love that will work forever on fabric)

For the sake of the project, you want to buy shirts which are 2 sizes larger than what you normally wear in order to have plenty of fabric. If you aren't really sure what size to buy, buy XX-Lg for all 3 colors. For the sake of good hygene, PLEASE WASH THE SHIRTS BEFORE YOU USE THEM. :-)

I bought the craft foam at WAL*MART; you can buy it at any craft store.

You can substitute fabric glue for the double-sided tape if you are comfortable with using glue on fabric.

For tools:

  • Sewing Machine
  • Sewing pins -- more is better for sewing t-shirt fabric
  • Fabric Cutter or sharp scissors
  • chalk for marking fabric
  • a straight ruler at least 36" (or 1 meter) long

Step 2: Measure and Cut the BLUE Shirt

The first step is to get the BLUE shirt ready to receive the striped part of the costume, and it's easy. Put on the blue shirt, and make sure you have it on so that it hangs evenly on your body. Then, with a piece of chalk, mark a VERTICAL line (V-line) between your pectoral muscles, and a HORIZONTAL line (H-line) which marks the bottom of your breast bone (or: the top of your diaphram).

Next, measure the distance from the top of your shoulder (NOT the should seam, which will be droopy if you bought and oversized shirt) to you elbow, and mark the sleeve at the MIDPOINT of this measurement with chalk.

Take off the shirt and lay it out flat,and take a look at the H-line on the chest. In most cases, that line will probably line up with the bottom of the sleeve seam. However, you may have chosen a tighter fit than I did and you will find the H-line will be lower than the bottom of the sleeve seam. From whichever point is LOWER (the H-line or the bottom of the sleeve seam), make a mark on the right folded edge of your shirt 2 inches (~50mm) toward the bottom of the shirt; repeat on the left side as well. Use a straight edge to connect the marks on the front side of your shirt, then flip the shirt and connect the marks again on the back side.

On the sleeve, measure the distance from your chalk line to the EDGE of the sleeve, and replicate it as shown in the second picture, above. When you have a top mark and bottom mark on both sleeves, use your straight edge to mark guide lines, front and back, on both sleeves.

Sewing Pros will use their rolling cutter to then remove the bottom of the shirt on the guide lines. The rest of us will use a sharp pair of scissors and cut along the guide line ONE SIDE AT A TIME. If you cut both sides at the same time with scissors, you are going to mess up the side you cannot see

Set the extra material aside for other projects, and keep the main part of the cut blue shirt in a clean and dry place.

Step 3: Measuring and Cutting Stripes (1 of 2)

Before handling the other 2 shirts, take the bottom part of the blue shirt you just cut off and measure it from the bottom hem to your new cut. Add about 1 inch (or about 25mm) to that length. This will be the length to cut off the other 2 shirts.

Start with the red shirt. Lay it flat and measure the cut-off length starting at the hem at the bottom of the shirt. Mark that length at both folds, and use your straight edge to make a straight line connecting the two marks. Repeat on the back side, and cut off the bottom for use to make stripes.

Repeat this process with the white shirt.

When you have removed the bottom from the white shirt, go ahead and cut or seam-rip the seams connecting the sleeves to the shoulder holes of the shirt. Lay the sleeves aside for future use.

Step 4: Measuring and Cutting Stripes (2 of 2)

With the bottoms of the red and white shirts cut off, get your straight ruler and mark off strips on both which are all the same size at about 2.25" (about 60mm). You should know how big around you are, so simply measure and cut a number of stripes equal to how big around you are, plus about 2 stripes -- but remember to create the same number of red and white stripes. Also: work diligently to make all the stripes the same width. It's surprising how easy it is to make this costume look sloppy if the stripes are not all the same width.

When you have cut all your stripes, stack them in a pile which alternates in color - one white, one red - with all the hemmed sides facing the same direction, and all the "out sides" facing the same direction. This makes the next step easier.

Step 5: Sewing Stripes

For those who know how to sew, this is an easy step -- simply sew the stripes together in alternating colors until you have a full circle of strips sewn together with the seams all on one side and the correct "outside" faces of fabric all on the other.

For those of us who are novice sewing machine users, here are some tips for this step:

  1. Take your time. The worst thing you can do at this point is rush and ruin all these strips of fabric because of lousy sewing.
  2. Pin carefully.
    • Some fabrics are sort of rigid and non-stretchy, and these are easy to sew together -- you barely need to pin them at all. This t-shirt fabric is very stretchy, and it will easily bunch up if it's not pinned properly. I recommend pinning every 1.5 inches (about every 35mm)to keep the two pieces of fabric from running away from each other.
    • Always pin the fabric together with outsides facing each other. Your strips have a cool indicator of which side is the outside: the hem at the bottom of the strips. Face the outer sides of that hem together when pinning up each seam.
    • My advice is to also line your strips up so that the bottom hems are aligned to get a nice, finished edge at the bottom. However: because you're going to tuck this side into your pants in the final costume, you may choose to make the top of the strips all even to make sewing that seam (to the blue shirt) cleaner and easier.
  3. Sew one seam at a time, and keep your seams as consistent as possible. Straight seams in this step are critical!
  4. As you sew, REMOVE EACH PIN AS IT COMES CLOSE TO THE FOOT OF YOUR MACHINE. You can't sew through a pin.
    • As you come up to each pin, stop a second and make sure you aren't creating bunched of fabric. Lift the foot while the needle is down and "take back" any bunching so your sew does not develop any folds.
    • Don't let bunches collect at the pin. Keep the fabric as smooth as possible as often as possible.
  5. Keep the whole piece "inside out" until it is completely finished.
  6. As you get close to the end of your piece, measure it around you to make sure it is wide enough. It is better for these seams to hang loose around your midsection than stretch. If it stretches, the seams will not be straight.

Step 6: Attaching Top and Bottom (1) Match Seam Length

Let's face it: you now have half a t-shirt and a girdle, and you want to feel as good about that as possible. Let's get them sewn together so we don't have to ask any awkward questions...

This first of two parts may seem ridiculous to you, but here;'s the problem you now have: the length of the edge of the bottom of your shirt does not match the length of the edge of the top of your shirt. Because they do not match, you cannot sew them together in a way that you will like when it is finished.

The easiest way to remedy this problem is to lay the two pieces down as in the picture above. What you will likely see is that the blue piece is still bigger than the striped piece. Center up the striped piece below the blue piece, and then mark the blue piece to show how much needs to be taken up on both sides of the shirt -- just a simple hash mark on each side. Turn the blue piece inside out, and draw a straight line from the bottom of the armpit seam to the hash mark. Pin the fabric and sew along the line on both sides. This should make the edge at the bottom of the blue piece the same length and the edge at the top of the striped piece, and you are ready to sew them together.

Step 7: Attaching Top and Bottom (2) Pin and Sew

We need a method for getting this seam to be clean and straight and rightside-in, so we need to get our pieces oriented the right way.

  1. Take the blue piece and pull it rightside-out. Fold the sleeve of the piece back (or forward) to form a roughly-rectangular shape which is as wide on the bottom as the open end of the piece.
  2. Take the striped piece and pull it INSIDE-OUT (so you can see the seams on the outside). You should be able to pull the BLUE piece inside the STRIPED piece so that the BOTTOM of the STRIPED piece overlays the neck hole of the BLUE piece, and the edged to be seamed lay over each other at the BOTTOM. When you lay this all flat, the OUTSIDES of the pieces should be facing each other.
  3. Pin the part to be seamed with plenty of pins. Make sure you have the seam laying loosely together (no tight sections between pins) to avoid bunching or distortions.
  4. Sew the seam closed around the whole piece using the same patience and skill we used in step 5 previously. Some pointers:
    • start your stitches under one of the arms so you can end under the arm. This will give the best final appearance of the finished work.
    • used the edge of the fabric to guide the foot of your sewing machine. if your cuts have been clean and straight, your seam here will also be straight.
    • move the fabric through the machine slowly so you don't get a tangle of fabric either before or after the needle. Be patient!

Step 8: Arms

Way back in Step 3, you cut the arms off a white t-shirt, and you set them aside for use right now.

  • Take one sleeve and lay it over the matching sleeve on the assembled piece. Get the sleeve flat so the seam is facing toward the bottom of the shirt and the folded edge is a straight line you can match to the top of the existing sleeve. make a straight line with those edges and is the first picture, above, then pull that folded edge up the blue sleeve until the bottom seam of the white sleeve touches the bottom of the blue sleeve as in the second picture, above.
  • Trim the white sleeve, and check to make sure that the opening on the white sleeve is the same as the opening on the blue sleeve. (picture #3, above)
  • Now pull the FINISHED PIECE inside-out, and pull it into the WHITE SLEEVE into the correct sleeve hole RIGHTSIDE OUT. When you line up the white sleeve as in image #4, above, the OUTSIDE of the finished piece should be touching the OUTSIDE of the sleeve.
  • Pin up the seam and sew it together.
  • Pull the whole thing rightside out and you will have completed one sleeve. repeat for the other side.

Step 9: Adding a Star

About 6 months ago I added a stupid little tutorial on making a 5-pointed star which seemed to be one of those tutorials which was added for the sake of entering a contest. :-) The truth is, it was added for the sake of making this costume.

But how do you decide how big to make your star? Well, you need to make a star that is drawing in a circle which has a diameter which is 75% of the length from the neck line to the stripe line. That sounds like a mouth full, but look at the diagram above, and you will be able to figure out the diameter of the circle in which you star should be drawn. With that length in mind, follow the instructions at the star instructable and make a template for your star.

Take the template and use it to cut out your star from the white craft foam.

Take the white star and apply your adhesive to the less-appealing side of the foam (you need to look and judge for yourself).

But now: how to get it centered on the chest?

Step 10: Those Chalk Lines ...

Now, finally, you're going to use that V-line you scribed in chalk on the front of the shirt. You want the line that runs on your star from the top point to the bottom interior vertex to run exactly on top of the V-line. That sounds complicated, but it is self-explanatory if you look at the picture. Do your best to put the star down in that sweet spot which the circle we drew in the previous step theoretically laid on the shirt.

Step 11: A Finished Product!

And that's it!

Oh wait -- this photo shows gloves and the harness straps (which really hold up a shield)!

Stay tuned for more updates!

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    2 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Great work on the shirt!

    And as an "after-the-fact" instructable, this is perfect. Well done!