How It Was Made: Captain America – Age of Ultron
January 25, 2015
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It’s time for another Captain America project! This time, I’m working on a version of the suit from the upcoming Avengers 2: Age of Ultron movie. After gathering as much reference material as I could from various sources, I began drafting the costume.

The last Captain America project I drafted, I used a quick-and-easy body mold technique to make a very form-fitted pattern. For this one, I’m taking a more traditional approach and using a basic pattern, called a sloper, to define the shape and then I’ll create the specific pattern for the costume from that. I began by creating the basic body of the suit. This will form the chest and torso for the suit. Here are pictures of the assembled sloper on my form and one side marked up for the torso. The other side will be used to create the under shirt that will contain the sleeves and collar (more on the reasons for this design aspect later).

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Next, I needed to draft the sleeves. Generally, to get an initial sleeve, I’ll just draft a flat, one-piece sleeve based on the size of the armscye, like this:

one-piece-sleeve

This is fine and will serve the purpose, but sometimes you want more shape and movement. This is where a two-piece sleeve comes into play. Almost all tailored garment like suit jackets, topcoats, motorcycle jackets and higher-end casual jackets and sport coats have two-piece sleeves. These sleeves are designed with a slight bend in the elbow and ease on the outside of the back of the sleeve that allows the sleeve to hang perfectly with the natural hang of the arm and turn in toward the body.

While some people find these sleeves a bit daunting (especially if they have to draft one), there’s a quite simple process for turning a one-piece sleeve into a two-piece. I didn’t take any pictures until I’d slashed the sleeve apart, but I did try to diagram this picture to explain it (hopefully) clearly.

sleeve-alteration-1

Here’s how it breaks down: Once the one-piece sleeve is sewn (the seam more often than not right at the underarm), the sleeve is cut into two pieces. The first cut is down the back at pretty much the exact back (line the seam up with the center of the piece and press – cut down that line). The second cut is on the front of the sleeve roughly 1/3 of the way from the seam to the center. The red lines above show these cut lines. The new under sleeve piece will be narrower than the new upper sleeve piece. Then, the two pieces are slashed at the elbow point (pre-mark this on your one-piece sleeve before cutting it apart) and spread about 1″ – 1.5″ at the back edge. Draw out the new pieces (don’t forget seam allowance) and you’ve got a two-piece sleeve pattern!

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Once sewn together and added to the sloper, you should have a nice, smooth sleeve that hangs perfectly with the body. If the sleeve pulls at all, it’s set too far forward or back. Take it out and rotate it in the armscye until it hangs correctly and mark that position for cutting the finished project.

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Here’s the sleeve with the torso sloper trimmed and added on top.

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For this project, I wanted the sleeve to have even more sculptural definition and form to the body a bit more. So I added in some darts and extra curves based on the client’s measurements and now have a body-conscious sleeve shape to draft out the Cap sleeve.

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Here’s the sleeve fully mapped out.

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With all the pieces mapped onto the muslin, it was time to cut it all apart, trace the pattern onto paper and then build the mock up from remnants of the same fabrics that will be used in the final piece. For the mock up, I just grab any remnants I have of the proper fabrics (in this case, cordura, jumbo spandex and lightweight faux leather) so that I can see how they will all work together in combination. Here are some pictures on the sleeve mock up.

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The next step was to finish the undershirt and torso mock ups. In order to maximize range of motion and wearability, the undershirt is made almost entirely out of jumbo spandex. Only the areas over the shoulders (that show beyond the torso shoulder) are cordura.

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For the torso mock up, it wasn’t necessary to cut out and sew together all the little pieces to just test the fit of the overall pattern. Therefore, I just made this piece using the lining patterns and drew on the detail lines so that they could be seen in the fitting for placement and proportion.

Here’s the lower torso with the stripes laid out.

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In order to get an accurate test fit, however, it was necessary to cut the torso into major components and insert the areas that need to stretch. So, the torso consisted of 6 main parts: the 2 back pieces, the front, the lower torso (stripes) and the 2 side stretch panels.

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The undershirt was then attached, a simple zipper added to the back and the collar attached. The completed mock up ready to go to the client for the test fitting:

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The fitting for the upper part of the costume went quite well. There are a few minor adjustments that need to be made – length needs to be added to the bottom to allow for the torso to rise up when he raises his arms and not pull away from the pants and the width of the shoulder on the undershirt needs to be shortened just a little bit to bring the shoulder bell up higher. Here are some pictures of the client in the mock up:

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The only other alteration needed is to the sleeves. They need to be shortened to the correct length and the stretch area on the front of the elbow is a bit too wide. I’ll trim that piece down a bit to remove the excess fabric. That will tighten and smooth the elbow and solve the bunching issue.

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With the mock up all set, I can begin cutting the actual piece. I began with the under shirt. This piece is mostly stretch and contains the shoulder details, will hold the sleeves and is Cordura in the back. Ultimately, the torso will float on top of this piece in order to allow for added range of motion.

torso-1 torso-2

The sleeves still need some slight pattern adjustment, so I decided to move on to the upper torso. The upper torso (cehst and back) consists, in my version, of 24 cut pieces. The shell was cut and assembled first.

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Once that was complete, the padding needed to be assembled. There is a light padding for this entire upper torso area that’s made from fabric-backed foam. This padding will provide support to the garment, allowing it to hold its shape, and also provide support for the metal star and padding for the harness. The padding was constructed separately and then basted into the shell.

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Here’s the padded upper torso on top of the under shirt as both pieces are now.

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Note the beginnings of a ‘keyhole’ in the back. The upper torso will overlap and fasten under the harness and the lower part of the torso will close most likely with a separating invisible zipper. The solid back of the under shirt will show between these two sections of the torso – as in this reference picture.

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In this image, the back of the upper body is closure-free except for the overlap on the upper back under the harness. In order to maintain this effect, but still make the costume manageable for someone who (probably) doesn’t have a fleet of dressers and handlers, my plan is to use the method outlined above.

Progress was slowed a little due to a fabric upset. On top of an order for several projects that disappeared and had to be replaced, I’ve also chosen to change up the fabrics for the lower torso. Instead of using Cordura for the red and white sections, I’m now using a ponte de roma. I went this route for two reasons:

  1. Cordura is almost impossible to color correct and finding an exact match to the other red would take wading through a thousand swatches. No time luxury for that.
  2. Using the ponte will allow both added flexibility (keeping in mind that there are small foam sections sewn into the torso) and breathability.

So, I got the ponte (as well as the other fabrics) in and began the tedious tedious tedious task of matching it. First, let me just say that red, in general the color red, is problematic. I think there’s just something inherent in the cosmic structure of the color red that makes it difficult. I’m going at the dye process for the fabric very conservatively – doing the piece in a not-too-concentrated bath with black dye and then washing and drying it to see how close it is. Then, repeat until it’s right. The point here is, I can always make it darker – but if I get it too dark, there’s no way to make it lighter and I’d have to start over.

Here’s where I am so far. The far left is the red that’s on the chest and shoulders, the middle is the ponte at this point and the far right is the ponte as it came off the bolt.

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It’s just a whisper away from being there. One more quick knock down and it’ll be right. Then I can begin constructing the final sleeves, torso and pants.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on gathering all the hardware that’s needed for the piece. Since my molding and casting skills are not up to standard yet, I’m supporting my community and sourcing many of the components for the costume.

The star is from Cosplaysky and is a very nice piece. I use this one for all of my Cap projects. The other pieces pictured here are from The Bronze Armory. Allan is great over there and they get their product out very quickly and it’s very well done.

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The only thing that might need to happen is a little repaint on the Bronze Armory pieces. They have a more aged, distressed finish and the star is very clean and bright.

With the red fabric finally the color I wanted it to be, it was time to start cutting and assembling the lower part of the ‘vest’. The stripes are both made with ponte de roma and the blue is matching Cordura. I then cut all of the small ‘padding’ pieces from 2mm craft foam. These were tacked in place with Super 77, the lining laid across the back of the piece and a zipper foot used to stitch around the edges of each piece.

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With the stripes complete, the next thing to finish was the chest lining. The lining is cut from Cordura everywhere except the front, which is a navy blue cotton. The lining had to be made in two separate pieces so that the armholes could be stitched first and the lining turned to the inside.

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With the lining turned inside and the top stitching complete, the center front seam could be stitched closed. Then, the loose areas of the lining are basted down to hold them in place while the rest of the pieces are added. At this point, the stretch side insert is added to the chest, then the striped piece and, lastly, the lower center back piece.

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In the second picture, you can see the open ‘keyhole’ in the back. I covered this briefly earlier on, but the way this will work is, the upper part will overlap and close with industrial velcro and the lower part will have a separating invisible zipper.

In preparation for building the sleeves, the “A” insignia had to be created for the shoulders. I decided to cast these pieces in resin and paint them. The first thing I did was find a clean b/w PNG of the symbol.

Avenger A

 

Next I put it into Photoshop and created a printable graphic. I created it in three different size because, even though I measured out the size I wanted it to be, I wanted some variety to decide which one actually looked best once they were printed.

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After selecting the size I wanted, I cut out and traced the entire shape onto 2mm craft foam. I then used Super 77 to tack the paper to another piece of  2mm foam and used and X-acto knife to cut out the design (the black areas). I then glued the design to the flat base to create the logo.

A-1

I cut out the entire piece and glued it back to the foam and cut a third level that will serve as the lip that will hold the piece into the shoulder. With the piece finished, I prepped what would serve as the bottom of the mold box and glued the piece down to it.

A-2

At this point, the foam piece was sealed with several coats of Modge Podge and the rest of the mold box was built around it. The entire inside of the box was sprayed with gloss paint and the rubber was poured. For this mold, I used Smooth On OOMOO.

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Here’s the cured mold after the box was taken apart.

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For the resin casts, I used Amazing Casting Resin. This is a very easy to use and very fast curing resin and is also readily available at most craft stores and on Amazon. Also, the finished pieces are extremely lightweight compared to some other resins.

AmaCastResin

Here’s one of the cast pieces right out of the mold.

A-5

Some sanding and masking of the lower lip (I don’t want any paint or finishing on this part that will interfere with the piece adhering to the shoulder fabric) and it’s time to paint! I primed the pieces with clear plastic primer and sprayed the red on with Duplicolor Toreador Red.

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I then used Testors metallic silver enamel to paint the silver ‘A’ and circle.

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They still need a clear coat on top to protect them from scratching and then the masking can come off so that they can be glued into the shoulder pieces.

While those were working, I also got the pants underway. I created a basic pants sloper in muslin and traced on the seam lines for all the details. The dotted lines show the placement of the detail padding on the sides of the legs.

pants-1

The sloper was then cut apart and transferred to a paper pattern and the construction began.

The small detail pads were constructed by cutting the pads from 2mm craft foam and sandwiching it between the face piece and another piece of Cordura on the back and then stitching around with a zipper foot and trimming the backing fabric away. Here’s one of the sides with all the pads, the metallic blue lightning-bolt-thing (that matches the blue on the sides of the chest star) and the red stripe sewn to the front.

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Here are the pants so far basted together to see how they will eventually fit together with the top.

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The next step was to add the side pockets, the small pads above the knees and the ‘knee caps’.

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With those details completed, the zipper was installed, the waistband added and the rest of the seams completed.

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With the pants finished, the last major components to tackle were the sleeves. Using the mock up and the paper patterns that came from them, the sleeves were created by assembling the major areas and then connecting them all together. I began with the shoulders.

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The shoulders consist of the main shaped pieces with the metallic trim and the upper bicep pieces that form the underarm part of the sleeve cap. The blue ‘v’ shapes under the main bells were made of jumbo spandex and the upper side sections out of Cordura. The red bands were made of the same red ponte as the torso, but these pieces were fused to jumbo spandex using Super 77 to give them more body and weight to hold up to the rest of the very intricate sleeves.

At this point, you might be wondering where the ‘A’ logos are. After working on the logos that were intended to be inset into the shoulders, I decided to go a different route. Even though the movie logos are inset into the fabric of the shoulder, I decided to apply them to the outside for two main reasons:

  • Ease of construction – these sleeves go through a lot of abuse just getting put together and being able to apply the logos once they are complete makes getting the entire piece out in prime shape much more likely
  • Longevity – the biggest reason for the change. Since this costume is not for me, I wanted to make sure that, if these pieces become damaged or come loose during wear, they can be relatively easily repaired or replaced. By having them on the outside of the shoulder, they are easy to reattach or simply replace if they are damaged. Were they inset into the fabric and under the padding, it would be next to impossible to reasonably repair or replace them and would almost certainly require deconstructing the sleeve.

So, I recast the pieces and only poured enough resin to make the logo and not the outer layer. Then, once the resin was about 85% cured, I carefully pulled it from the mold and shaped it around the lower curve of a wine glass (yes, really) and let it finish curing.

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Here are the two pieces after curing. They just need some sanding and paint and then they can be epoxied to the finished sleeves.

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Back to the sleeves. The next pieces I assembled were the forearms. These pieces were backed with foam and had an inset of the metallic blue.

The ‘magnet’ pieces were made by cutting a small piece of metallic grey vinyl, edging it with Cordura and stitching it onto the piece.

sleeve-2

Once the main forearm pieces were finished, I added the strap and the jumbo spandex piece that fills in and connects all of the sleeve areas. The elbow ‘pads’ are simply a piece of Cordura backed with foam and some detail stitching added. The one in this pic was basted on as a test and the final pieces were revised slightly for the finished sleeves.

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The bicep sections were then completed and attached to the forearms. Once the lower arms were together, the shoulders were added and the sleeves completed.

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The sleeves were attached to the undershirt and all the finishing was done on that piece. Here’s the costume as it is now. The zipper has been added to the lower back of the vest and the only things still to do to the suit are the collar, the closure at the top of the vest and the paint/attachment of the ‘A’ logos on the shoulders.

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The collar has been added, the star attached and all closures are complete on the top of the suit.

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The new insigina were then painted. This time, I decided to paint the pieces silver and then use a metallic red for the hand painting. I then glued them to the shoulders with E6000

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I then moved on the the accessory set beginning with the gauntlets. I’m using a template from The Foam Cave. They create templates for building character accessories from EVA foam. The great thing is, these templates are very easy to adapt to other materials as well as being very detailed and easy to use. Here are the ones I used.

Template-for-AOU-captain-america-gauntlets

I adapted the pattern to use headliner, 2mm craft foam, Cordura and faux leather. I began by creating a base pattern and all the small pieces and building everything up on a headliner foam foundation.

The first parts to do were the red sections. I cut the craft foam ‘pads’ and Super77’d them down and then covered the whole area with red Cordura and stitched around the ‘pads’.

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Next came the ‘pads’ that surround the red and go under the brown faux leather. These areas were done in the same manner as the red.

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Next, I created the parts that cover the tops of the hands. I cut the pieces from the faux leather and then used the same metallic vinyl as the forearms to create the ‘magnets’ on the hands.

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With those added, The next steps were to add the craft foam pad behind the ‘magnet’ and then the headliner foam base under that. All of these layers are tacked together with Super77 to prevent them from shifting during stitching.

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The edges were all turned under and finished and I used nickel snaps to close the pieces under the palms. Note that the upper edge of the hand piece needed to be extended so that it can be attached to the main piece (in the pattern, the two pieces are separate).

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The main parts of the gauntlets were stitched closed in the back (they are large enough to fit over the hand without having to open and close), the top and bottom edges finished and the hand pieces sewn on. The last step was to attach the dots to the red section. These were cut from the same metallic vinyl and simply glued in place. The client has his own fingerless gloves that will fit under these, so all I needed to create was the gauntlet itself (and that’s all that’s pictured here).

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The next piece to build was the harness. I began by updating the harness pattern I used for a previous Captain America project to fit this version and the hardware I sourced from Bronze Armory.

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The base of the harness is cut from the same faux leather as the gauntlets and lined with headliner foam to give it added depth. The area that will go through the harness is left unpadded to reduce bulk.

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For the darker parts of the accessories, I took the same faux leather, laid a piece of door screen over it and lightly sprayed over it with black NuLife to darken the color and all a ‘texture’ pattern. These pieces were finished along the edges and stitched down to the base. The sliders were added at this point as well as the tops of the clips that will release the front sides of the harness.

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The lower straps were not padded, but were lined with the same faux leather. So, they have some extra thickness, but are not as bulky as the upper straps. The darker areas were added to these pieces as well as the lower parts of the clips and all the pieces attached to the back buckle. Here’s a picture of the harness flat as well as on the costume.

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Next, I moved on to the gaiters. Once again, the first step was the pattern. I used a stock pattern I had and created the patterns for the details based on that. The gaiters are lined with a thinner and more flexible headliner foam than the other pieces.

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The center fronts were stitched together, then the upper and lower edges finished with bias tape. Next I began adding the details with the red panels at the top. These were made by cutting a piece of the faux leather, stitching red Cordura inside and then stitching the whole thing to the main piece.

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Next, I added the red ‘stirrups’. For these, I used the same red faux that I used on the chest and backs of the shoulders. I cut the pieced, used Super 77 to finish the edges and tack the pieces in place and then stitched around them.

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With those added, I then added some detail stitching and cut and added the center front panel and small silver accent. The last things to do on these pieces was to add binding and velcro to the backs and elastic to the stirrups. By the way, those are not the shoes being worn with the costume, just a pair that I had to hand for the pictures.

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The last of the accessories to tackle was the belt and pouches. Like the gauntlets, I decided to adapt the template from The Foam Cave for these pieces.

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The belt itself was made using the same process as the harness. The buckle and front greeblies (not pictured here) were all from Bronze Armory. Since the buckle is not functional, the belt is solid in the front and I decided to utilize nickel snaps in the back to fasten the belt and also allow for some adjustability.

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The pouches proved to be a challenge. Most of them are quite small and getting a good, solid and smooth shape with them is not easy by sewing. After some messing around with the best way to approach them and a couple of write-off test runs, I finally decided to not overthink them and do them as a foam and faux leather hybrid using the templates. I created the main parts of the pouch with the faux leather and ‘texture’ painted faux and lining with the same material (adding in the male side of the magnetic clasp at this point. These pieces are all stitched down and finished.

pouch-1 pouch-2

I then cut the sides from 6mm craft foam, faced the foam with the faux leather and glued them into the main piece. Note the area in the picture above where the fabric side of the faux leather is exposed (the lining is trimmed away). This is where the foam is glued down. Hot glue will form a nearly permanent bond to the fabric side of the faux, but will not adhere well at all to the finished side.

Here’s what the almost-passable test looks like. I need to clean it up a bit, but I think this method will work.

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So, except for the final pouches and a few small finishing details, here’s the costume all together.

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Here are some images of the final costume. Thanks to Jay Tallsquall and Martin Schiff Photography.

AoU Cap 1 AoU Cap 2 AoU Cap 3 AoU Cap 4