Where do you draw the line?

This topic is something always on my mind when costume building and I know everyone is going to have a different answer…

And that’s okay!

But when you think about the character you are creating a costume for, where do you stop or draw the line when making your costume?

This has come up in my mind especially when I talk to other members. I know there’s no consistency to answer, nor does there need to be a right or wrong stance. We’re all going to approach this differently and I’m perfectly okay with whatever that is.

Let me give you some examples since I’m a couple of paragraphs in and probably sound goofy if you made it this far:

Talking with Tom W the other night on zoom about costumes. He was referencing his v1 Firefly costume (which is great, filled with lots of one off pieces he handmade; I was impressed when I saw it in person at Bivouac this year) Tom was saying he needed to completely repaint his boots before he can wear them again.
In my mind I was thinking about this concept wear and tear on your costume parts. To me, it is natural for a character to have some ‘battle damage’ on them. In my mind it creates a sense of realism to have that baked into a costume. To Tom though, having beat up boots didn’t sit right with him. It was less like the figure to have this approach.

This exchange lead me to this post, how do you think about representing these characters in costume? Are you a real life interpretation of the character or are you a life sized figure? No one is going to have the same outcome, I’m just curious how someone who’s reading this thinks about themselves in their costume.

My personal outlook for my costume is bringing life into a character, be it a cartoon version, plastic figure, etc. I add grime and weathering to costume parts to make them feel more authentic. I like to make my costumes from the actual materials that I believe they would be made from. The level I take it to differs from one character to the next: my Cobra Commander is super clear and I wouldn’t add any grime or battle damage to it. My Beachhead is dirty and I went over many areas to build in that feel of weeks on end without a shower (in appearance, I draw the line at smells with costumes) My Cobra Trooper is somewhere in between those two costumes; if I get a paint chip in the helmet I might leave it alone so I have a story about that time I got Cobra clutched by the Sargent.

So that’s the :bulb: here. I’m curious to hear from you peeps: are you molded plastic or are you a living adaptation of the character?

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I always just take it on the 5ft rule, can folks see your damage or weathering from that distance where you are being looked at from or a picture is being taken? Can these problems be noticed even in the pictures? If not, then to me its not a problem.

We have this alot with Stormtroopers for example, we have such shiny white armor and anything will show on it so it bugs us. But reality is almost no one sees these things and unless you are looking right at it point blank, no one notices. My trooper looks perfect white clear in pics, but up close its a mess of marks, scratches, and other blemishes but again the 5ft rule, no one can see these things.

So to me it’s all about how noticeable it is from the perspective of those who will look at it and pics


I think there’s some crossover with the two IP’s to have that be a good rule of thumb. Where Star Wars differs is the fact that it was born of a real world 1:1 scale influence in costumes. GI Joe in many ways is the opposite scenario.

For the 501st you have definitive rules to costumes following screen accuracy: Boba Fett isn’t just weathered looking, his costume comes under great scrutiny when joining. This is only broken down further with levels of accuracy within the organization. Granted I probably chose the most extreme example I could do here.

For the finest we don’t really touch on that level (which I’m perfectly okay with!) I love the fact that the costume creator has input to how they wish to portray their costumes. Where we differ from the 501st is we can take a small figurine and blow it up to a full scale costume (also artwork, comics, cartoons, etc)

I’ve joked in the past that it’s a good thing that people don’t know what sort of underwear the actor playing Boba Fett was wearing in any particular film otherwise it may end up in the CRL. Vintage Fruit of the Loom might be the hardest piece to find in the end.

Really my question here is do people view themselves in costume as the living embodiment of the character or are they 1:1 scale figures. It’s more of a curiosity of each individual’s take on it.


As for me, the garrison leader of Action Force 44 in the UK and Ireland, the GI Joe genre isn’t really as active or existent at all in the UK with a recent convention I went to where people didn’t even realise I was in GI Joe cosplay at all and a friend who made an attempt at Beachhead didn’t get any attention at all so he’s scrapped the idea of improving on what he had.

But I think, giving people the encouragement and guidance on where to go with an existent idea and how to improve on it it is crucial to engaging them that they want to adopt and improve a costume.

I know my Sideshow Collectibles version of Firefly isn’t completely accurate but if people had scoffed at the attempt I made, why should I bother refining that costume to satisfy someone who evaluates it’s accuracy?

I have been part of a group that insisted on screen-accuracy and my costume failed because I didn’t want to part with 100’s of pounds to satisfy a prop or piece of clothing that would give me a thumbs up, instead finding my creation appealing to others as another take on the design.

So with others, I encourage to get involved with an aim to improve, with almost employing somewhat of a limbo zone for for costumes. I know the costume you are trying to do, it has to be like this but this is what you need to get there and helping them to do that.


I tend to go with a bit of realism to my costumes. My Dial Tone is more of a custom modern take and don’t mind it even being a bit dirty, but my Iron Grenadier is as a character more of a formal costume so I try to keep it clean and pristine. A year ago we did a photoshoot that I wore my Cobra Trooper and at one point I had laid down in the woods, and in the next set of photos, there is visible dirt on my kneepads and the elbows of my BDU shirt, and I like that look for that character.


A slight bit of modernization I think is normal, I don’t believe in going full on accurate on many of the smaller details cause so many were just often also ignored, folks don’t notice them, or even the figure creators often skirted around them, such as how paint apps were typically dictated by cost over realism. Like all the tiny details on the Cobra Trooper that didn’t get painted just to save money. And so many details that you just have zero clue what it was supposed to other then greeblies to sci fi something up.

When I made my Mainframe Bandoleer for example, the references for his random bits of tech are all different, in the cartoon they were always drawn different, card art, figure, every source they changed. I basically took a 3D file for a Demolition Man SAPD communicator we had made and took it apart and made random greebles as thats what it always was.