The latest project to get underway is a replica of Kylo Ren from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This project will consist of 6 major components: neck seal, under tunic, mid coat, top coat, cowl and belt.
I decided to begin with the neck seal. To create the pattern, I turned to my trusty Ed Head from Monster Makers. I began by creating a tape form of Ed’s neck, shoulders and chin by first wrapping him in plastic wrap and then using white duct tape to create a mold.
I then drew on the lines for the pattern pieces, cut the tape form apart and transferred the base patterns to paper.
After testing the pattern in muslin, I made a base for the piece in ribbed black cotton. This will serve as the base for the segments and will make a soft and comfortable lining that will go against the wearer’s skin.
Next came the most intricate part of this piece – the segments. I wanted them to be sturdy and hold their shape. I also wanted them to move well and allow the wearer a decent range of motion. I decided to make the segments out of an upholstery vinyl and attach them to the base at the bottom of each segment. This allows them to move somewhat freely and ‘float’ on top of one another while the base keeps them in relative place.
I mapped the segments out by using a muslin mock up and sketching out the lines for each segment. I then cut that apart and transferred each piece to paper adding 1/2″ to the bottom of each one for overlap.
To create the pieces, I selected upholstery vinyl because I liked the fact that it has a leathery texture but still looks somewhat rubbery and ‘manufactured’ – which I thought was appropriate for this component of the costume.
I worked from top to bottom to assemble the segments. I first cut the top section, stitched it to the base and then bound it off with a thin faux leather to finish the edge.
After that, it was a matter of cutting each segment, binding it on the top edge and sewing it along the bottom to the base. When each segment is sewn down, it covers the bottom edge and stitching of the one above it.
Once I reached the bottom, I bound the lower edge off with bias tape, trimmed and bound the back edges and added the velcro closure to the back.
The next step was to begin drafting the basic pattern for the various tunics. I began, as I typically do, with a block (or sloper) to get the basic shape and fit. I traced the block out on muslin and made a test copy.
After trying it with the neck seal and fitting the pattern, I decided to start with the under tunic and work my out.
The foundation for the tunic is a basic cotton twill. I cut the upper body pieces out of that and finished the front dart and side back seams. This left me with the 4 base upper body pieces. Next, I cut strips of the outer fabric that will be pleated – a medium weight linen – and pressed the pleats into it.
The next step was to lay the base piece over the pleated fabric, pin it down and secure the pleats. This was done by – working top to bottom – lifting the pleats up and stitching them down to the base layer on the underside crease. Each pleat on each piece was secured in this manner.
Also, since the front has a dart and the back has shaped side-back seams, the pleated linen must be eased along these curves. This is part of the reason I selected linen – aside from it’s obvious texture, it’s easy to ease and is a loose enough weave that it will correct itself along simple curves with steam.
I blew out the three images of the pleats and stitching so that the details can be seen. All of the fabric is, in fact, black. Here is one side of the under tunic after the pleats were eased and pressed.
I did both fronts and then the two back pieces.
Note that the armholes are finished already – here’s why: In reading the guide from the 501st about the costume, I liked the reference to the sleeves being ‘recessed’ from the shoulders on the under tunic section. I decided to create the upper part of this piece in two main layers: the pleated outer layer and an inner layer that will be made of the black cotton and will hold the sleeves.
So, when finished, the tunic will be all one piece but the sleeves will ‘float’ underneath the body and move somewhat independently of the outer shell.
The sleeves, due to their length, have to be made in sections. The base sleeve was cut out of the same black cotton as the base of the rest of the tunic. I then began the pleating at the cuff and worked my up. First, I finished the edge at the cuff and pressed the linen to the right side. Then the sleeve was pleated to about halfway up the forearm.
I then cut another piece of linen and spliced it onto the lower pleating to complete the sleeve.
Once both sleeves were fully covered in pleated linen, I bound the edges and set in the zippers that run from the underarm to the cuff.
The sleeves were sewn to an inner layer of the bod of the tunic. This layer is exactly the same cut as the shell, just without the pleats. This inner layer was stitched to the inside of the shell. This creates a perfectly synced layer for the sleeves that can move independently from the shell and give the added layered effect to the piece.
The neck edge was finished off and the whole piece was tested with the neck seal.
The next pieces to create for this piece are the skirt sections. The two front sections have been cut and covered with pleated linen.
Here’s the entire piece so far.
The back sections of the skirt were made using the same method as the front and the entire skirt was assembled before being attached to the body. The main thing to note on the skirt is the treatment of the side seams – they are double-bound. Here’s how to create these seams:
First, the side edges of the skirt pieces are basted at 1/2″ from the cut edge (basically at the seam allowance). Then, the bias trim is laid against that basting line and stitched down in the fold.
The edge of the fabric is then trimmed even with the edge of the bias trim and the bias is pressed toward the edge.
So, what we’ve essentially created here, is a new seam allowance out of the bias trim and cut the skirt fabric away to get rid of the bulk. Next, the sides are laid together and, making sure the edges are all lined up and using a zipper foot, the side seam is stitched down the center of the bias (which also should be right up against the edge of the skirt fabric.
The skirt is then laid flat and the bias trim is pressed down to create the double binding and stitched down to finish the seam.
Once the skirt was finished, it was hemmed and attached to the body of the tunic. The tunic was then completed with bindings on the front edges and the zipper.
The tunic and neck seal were then sent off to the client for a fitting. Everything is good so far. The only thing that needs adjustment at this point is the fit of the sleeves – they need to be tightened slightly.
The next steps will be creating the outer and mid-robes based on the tunic pattern. Once these pieces are returned, the sleeves will be altered.