I’d made my decision: I would put together a Star Wars Imperial Naval Officer cosplay in time for this year’s Norwescon. Now I just had to figure out how.
Wait, back up a bit. I actually had to decide between a black uniform or an olive gray uniform. Did you know the olive ones are the standard uniform while the black ones are apparently related to security? I figured I looked better in black–because everyone looks better in black–but being a power-mad author-type, I also wanted to have a uniform that could portray a reasonably high rank. I finally choose power over looks. Looks fade, but power can get you a spectacular karmic death! (Oh boy!) 😀
After wandering the Internets, I wound up finding the base uniform at a costume place called ANOVOS. The design was an officially licensed replica based on on-screen details, and the place had good reviews, so I figured I wouldn’t be getting something cheap that would a) look like a pair of pajamas when I got it and b) fall apart three days after. Granted, it also had a waiting list, since they didn’t just have these suckers waiting around on racks. It gave me the jacket, the pants, the belt, and that snazzy hat, provided I was willing to wait three months. I hate waiting, but I went with it. (They also had a “premium” outfit for three times the price, though I couldn’t tell any actual difference except that it might have come with the accessories as well. For that price I figured it had better also come with a working sidearm.)
While I did need to figure out my measurements in order to order the right sizes for each piece (hat, jacket, pants), it wasn’t custom made. The hat fit perfectly. The pants ended a few inches above my ankles, but they’d be tucked into boots, so that didn’t matter so much so long as the waist fit, which it did. I was saddened to realize that it didn’t have any pockets–despite those extra-wide flairs along the thighs. The jacket, however, needed some work.
The material itself was fantastic. It had a good amount of weight to it, and all the stitching and such looked great. Though you can’t see it in the picture, the jacket is double-breasted, with about eight or nine snaps inside that thing holding it together (it opens from the front and snaps at both shoulders, with others around the midriff), all of which felt rugged and durable. The fasteners at the front of the collar neck were tiny, but well-secured. The sleeve length was great, as was the jacket length. (Is that called hem length? Describing clothing has never been my strength; I should probably look these things up.) Nonetheless, it didn’t quite fit me right around the midriff and below. When I put the belt on, the front would look fine but the back was all bunched up with a bit of extra material.
I can’t sew, save to re-attach a button, so it was then off to the tailor’s. I confess I felt a little silly asking someone–who clearly had no interest in cosplay or geeky things at all–to alter my costume uniform, but it went well enough, and when I got it back, the fit was much better. I did consider asking them to add some pockets into the pants, but I wasn’t sure if that might make them look inauthentic, and I had some other ideas with regard to storage. Besides, out of context, these pants look fresh from the Third Reich, and I decided it best to avoid any incorrect assumptions about what this uniform was for.
So I had the base outfit! What’s next? No self-respecting officer can wander around a Star Destroyer without footwear! That Seattle staple of socks with sandals was out (Vader was known for strangling officers for less), so I had a look at the movies and then hunted for some appropriate boots. Having spent a fair amount already, and knowing I wouldn’t be wearing these boots outside of the cosplay, I decided to head to Amazon with an eye for matching the look I needed rather than comfort and quality. Finding the right look–without spending a lot–was surprisingly more difficult than I’d expected. They’re basic black boots, I thought. How hard could it be? After reading that the original boots used were used for equestrian events, I finally found some costume boots that fit the bill. Mostly. Frankly it took so long to find them that I confess I decided it was close enough. (It would turn out to be the decision I was least happy about, but more about that later.)
I had the broad strokes. Now it was time for the details. If you’re like me, the immediate detail that pops to mind is the little blue and red rectangle rank insignia. The things look basic enough: Blue and red (or yellow) plastic rectangles on a larger shiny rectangle. Surely that was something I could get from a craft store. But what rank should I make? What are the ranks, anyway?
The four blue, four red insignia (admiral/commodore/commander) satisfied both my need for flexibility and ambition, so I went with that. Yet my search through craft stores turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. I wound up heading to Etsy looking for supplies when I realized that hey, there are people on Etsy making the full insignia. Unable to resist the convenience, I found a nice one with a magnetic backing to hold it on.
Now I’d be willing to bet that the average person familiar with Star Wars, if presented with all of those assembled items, would get the feeling that something was missing without being quite able to identify what. The missing piece? Those little silvery whoosits tucked into the shoulder pockets! During my research on ranks, I discovered that those are known as code cylinders, and intended to hold various access codes and security keys that an officer might need to get into high security places like the Star Destroyer engine room or Death Star Human Resources file room. The original ones made for the movies were from small radiation dosimeters, but those turned out to be a little expensive. So, back to Etsy! According to the rank chart, I needed one for each shoulder, which were soon easily found and ordered from a guy in Italy who makes ’em.
And here’s where I made a tiny mistake. I forgot that the Rebels have code cylinders also, and those look a bit different. Soon after my order shipped, I realized my error: I’d ordered the Rebel kind. At this point I was a little worn out–and starting to worry about my spending–so I compromised and figured I’d go with those, for now. Only a tiny bit of them poked out, after all. Who would really notice?
The final touch, which I really only realized after the costume was all put together, was that hey, don’t Imperial officers wear black gloves? By sheer coincidence, I’d only just bought some new black gloves to, ya know, keep my hands warm, and they were exactly what the outfit needed. I don’t know what it says about me that I like wearing black leather gloves favored by an oppressive galactic military regime, but I guess style is style, right?
So there it was. I had everything all set to go. I just needed for a place to wear it. Fortunately, Emerald City Comic Con was right around the corner.