I was contacted by a client who wanted a version of a Batman suit based on some of the recent video game versions and built in a similar fashion to the last Captain America projects he had seen posted here. For reference, we focused primarily on the Arkham Origins and Arkham Knight suits.
Using these images as primary reference, I was able to work up a rendering for the base pieces.
The general idea is to have 3 pieces. Following the Captain America design, these pieces will all fit together to create the entire suit while allowing a great deal of freedom of motion and maneuverability.
The primary fabrics for this project will be Cordura, jumbo spandex and 1/4″ headliner foam.
With the general design decided, it’s time to work on the pattern. A sloper (basic pattern that fits the measurements and shape of the design) was used to create a blank torso. The specific pieces are then sketched out on the blank to determine the seam lines and create the pattern.
Next, the sketched out mock up is cut apart and the pieces are transferred to paper to create the cutting pattern.
Most of the non-stretch pieces are going to be lined with 6mm fabric-backed foam frequently referred to as headliner (because it’s used to cover the ceilings of cars). Some of the pieces will have layers of foam to create sculptural effects.
The abs, for instance, were cut as an entire piece of headliner and then each individual section was cut and spray mounted onto the base.
Next a piece of Cordura was cut and spray mounted to the front to tack it into place and show the levels of the foam.
The entire piece was basted around the outside at the seam allowance and the details top stitched around each segment. The excess Cordura is cut away and the foam is trimmed away from the seam allowance and we have an ab section with the needed levels of definition.
For anyone who’s not familiar with doing this, here’s a few tips on working with headliner foam and angular patterns. First, I find it best to cut the piece from the foam and cut the fabric larger. On the fabric-backed side of the foam, mark dots at all the corners on the stitching line. The key here is, when you baste the foam to the fabric, you want the basting line to be right on the final stitching line. Marking the corners makes it easy to be very precise.
Baste the foam to the fabric with the fabric toward the bobbin and follow your markings all the way around.
Once basted down, trim the excess fabric to the size of the piece and then (carefully!) trim the foam away from the seam allowance. This will keep the seams from being overly bulky with all that extra foam.
For inside angles, go ahead and clip to the point where the stitching will turn the corner. Here’s where having all those markings starts to come in really handy.
It’s generally easiest to stitch angles like this with the inside angle (the clipped one) on top. Match up the dots, stitch to the point and put the needle down right through the dot. Lift the presser foot and rotate the fabrics so that you line up the next part of the seam and stitch it down the rest of the way. All the while, you should be careful to line up the basting stitches and sew ring on top of them. This is where being accurate with the basting is essential. When you turn it out, you’ll have nice crisp angled seams.
Here are all of the Cordura pieces for the torso assembled and laid out. The shoulders, chest, abs and ribs are all foam lined. The sides are just lined with heavy cotton.
I also decided to make a test version of the symbol to check proportion and the technique I’m considering using. It’s bevel cut from 2mm eva foam and Plasti-Dipped.
Here’s how everything looks so far all together.
It’s coming along, but there are few things I want to revisit before assembling all the stretch areas. The chest needs some more pattern work. I want to move the seams a bit farther out to the sides, alter the shape of the bottom a bit and change the construction process a little to make the seams more streamlined and less “puffy”. The abs also need a little adjustment. They are slightly too narrow and I want to revisit the stitching to make it more even and precise.
Revisiting the chest, I adjusted the seams so that they are slightly wider on the piece. I also made the shell and the pad separate. Then, the two were basted together and the seams are crisper and less obtrusive. I also decided to revamp the shoulders in a similar fashion and give them the same angled seam treatment. These angles are becoming a running theme in the piece and will work to pull it all together into a cohesive whole.
Next, I moved on to the abs. I adjusted the pattern to make them wider. I also decided that, rather than trying to stitch around each individual segment, I’d pull in more of the seam detail and then let the pad just do its work underneath without forcing it.
The dark grey stretch areas began going in at this time as well. Here’s a picture of the abs, the front stretch panel and one rib/side section complete.
Here are the same pieces with the chest and shoulder laid out on top.
And all of the pieces so far on the form.
After talking with the client, we decided to take this in a little different direction. Rather than making the top in two pieces (a ‘jacket’ and under shirt), it’s going to be a one piece. So, after some on-the-fly modifications to the pieces that were already made, I was able to combine them together. Here’s a picture of the whole torso flat.
And on the form.
Next, I began drafting the sleeves. I started by creating a full length base pattern from the original mock up.
Once that was assembled, I added some shaping to create a more sculptural design that will serve to create the final patterns.
The photo is a bit washed out, but you can see where the shoulder bell will fit into the final sleeve. The overall form has been refined a bit and the pattern is cut apart and traced onto paper.
All of the Cordura pieces for the sleeves were made first. The biceps and triceps are padded with the same foam as the chest and abs and the forearm pieces are lined with heavy cotton. Once all of those were complete, the stretch pieces were cut and all of the pieces are assembled. Here’s the sleeve flat with the shoulder added.
And, the torso with one of the sleeves attached.
With the torso well in hand and the other sleeve working, I began working on the new version of the symbol. I decided to try making casting the symbol to see if I got better results than the foam and Plasti-Dip method.
To give the symbol some depth and texture, I cut a design out of Cordura and spray mounted that to 2mm craft foam and cut out the whole symbol.
I then prepped the bottom of the mold box, glued the symbol down and coated it with Mod Podge to seal it. Once that was dry, I built the mold box and gave the entire inside a couple of coats of glossy spray paint to keep the silicone from sticking.
And, here’s the finished mold. I used Smooth On OOMOO 30 for this mold (and most of the ones I’ve made in the past).
To cast the symbol, I decided to try it in resin first. I used Amazing Casting Resin for this cast. When the piece was about 85% cured (enough to hold itself together but still very flexible), I carefully removed it from the mold and laid it across the chest of a mannequin to finish curing. This way, the piece would harden the rest of the way with the contour of the chest. Once it was hardened, I popped it off the chest, trimmed the edges with an Xacto knife and sanded them all smooth.
I wanted to test my theory for attaching the symbol at this point and used LocTite to glue Neodymium (also called Rare Earth) magnets to the back of the symbol. If this method ends up working, the symbol can be removed for cleaning or swapped out with different versions of the symbol making the costume pieces much more versatile.
The other sides of the magnets are then placed on the inside of the torso chest to hold the symbol quite firmly in place. The next step in this symbol test is priming and paint.
Here is the entire completed torso with the symbol in place.
After discussing the symbol with the client, we decided that a more simple design would be better and I knew that I wanted a more flexible option. With the time factor to consider, I turned to my friend at Jordan’s Ironic Armory and obtained one of his urethane rubber symbols to try on the suit.
The style is perfect and the size, while somewhat larger than the one I was working on, is better and makes the chest much broader and more impressive. Here’s the new symbol laid across the chest – it will be permanently attached with Gorilla Glue.
Next, I needed to move on to the pants. The patterns for the pants were made in the same manner as the top. I created a base pattern in muslin, measured and added in some darts and shaping to make them more sculptural and form fitting, drew on the new seam lines, cut it all apart and transferred the new patterns to paper.
The thigh and the outer calf areas were constructed in the same manner as the arms and chest. The individual pieces were lined with the headliner foam and stitched together. Then the stretch areas were added in. For ease of wear and to keep the bulk down, the center front, center back and knee/inner calf areas were not padded. Here are pictures of the upper leg and lower leg sections laid out flat during construction.
Here are the pants mostly completed. There are a few alterations to make and they can be hemmed and finished.
Lastly, I did all the finishing work: hems, the snap and back of the waistband on the pants and the symbol was glued down with Gorilla Glue. Here’s the final suit, ready to ship.