Have you ever been at an event and noticed Star Wars costumers wearing highly detailed costumes? Then you’ve probably encountered the Rebel Legion and 501st Legion. The two costuming non-profit groups are officially sanctioned by Lucasfilm and appear at gatherings like conventions, Free Comic Book Day, games, and charitable events. Their mission is to make screen-accurate costumes (and to help others do so) and to give back to the community. Members of both groups appeared on a panel at WonderCon last weekend to discuss some of the ins and outs of choosing and making amazing Star Wars costumes.
Panelists included Shawn Crosby, Gabriel Flores, Chris Hale, Gary Howe, Shannon Howe, Ingrid Moon, Jennifer B, and Ian White. More than a couple of them belong to both the 501st and Rebel Legions and their costumes include: Garindan, stormtroopers, X-wing pilots, Tusken Raiders, and Mara Jade. If you’re not familiar with the groups, they’re basically split between evil characters (501st) and good characters (Rebel) in the films, television series, and Legends.
Stormtrooper costumes seem to be an incredibly popular starting point for members. You can purchase armor kits, and your local 501st garrison will point you towards suppliers. Flores said full sets of armor cost roughly between $1,000 to $1,500 without the undersuit and gloves. You have to keep in mind that you’ll need modify the pieces to ensure the armor fits and moves properly. Ventilation is important. And you actually don’t need fancy tools to make those modifications. Panelists recommended everything from scoring armor with a straight edge like an X-acto knife, Dremel tools, tin snips, or industrial shears. Along that line, they mentioned they use everything from cheap one-dollar acrylic paints, to spray paint, to twenty dollar bottles of paint when they need to add color to armor or helmets.
Before you make an investment in that armor, a helmet, or any costume parts, the panelists offered a few tips. Flores mentioned that a basic Tusken Raider costume is quite simple to put together, but you can choose to make a higher quality costume with aluminum pieces. However, that adds weight. You have to think about what you can tolerate to wear for long periods of time while considering both weight and heat. Moon suggested making a set of armor from craft foam first and trying it out to see if you like wearing armor. Some people can find it restricting, and you want to be comfortable.
And if you end up being someone who doesn’t like to wear armor, you still have plenty of options to choose from. Most every costume worn on screen in a Star Wars films is accepted by one of the groups. That includes Jedi robes, Leia’s dresses, Han Solo’s pants and vest, etc.
If you ever spot the 501st or Rebel Legions at conventions, stop by their table and chat. They usually have a book of accepted costumes on hand and are more than happy to help you find the outfits you’re looking for.