After going to conventions last year and seeing people dressed in cool costumes–and realising that is all part of the fun and actually a feature of going, I decided I wanted to have a go. My other half had already decided to go as Arrow, so I was keen to go as Red Arrow. But, at the time the TV show costume I found online didn’t look all that, and I do not have the body for the regular comic costume. I had no idea what else to go as…
And so began an obsessive revisit of all things geek that I like or that I thought would be cool. And then I had to think about practicality. I’d already seen a stormtrooper take out a young child by walking through it at Comic Con because the helmet restricts vision, so I didn’t fancy that, then wondering how various people actually sit down for lunch, or actually go to the toilet, and decided I didn’t fancy any of that hassle. I also had to think about embarrassment value… After seeing a man in princess Leia’s slave girl outfit last year, I know I shouldn’t worry, but we would have to get to comic con, our next convention, by train with a change over on the DLR… I really didn’t fancy travelling across London dressed up… Then I also had to think about cost. Some of these costumes are really pricey.
Also, if I was going to spend money on a costume I didn’t just want it sitting in a wardrobe–not saying I need to be able to wear it out or from day to day (as much as I might want to), but it would be nice if I could combine a cheeky replica purchase with a costume 🙂 I was toying with a Star Wars Imperial Officer costume, but sourcing all the bits looked to be a faff, but in the process I came across a Visitor 80s ‘V’ uniform on a cosplay site. Only it looked a bit, off, not quite right, and I’m a stickler for detail… But decided this would tick all the boxes and be something I liked.
I sat down with my ‘V’ miniseries DVDs and began and obsessive watch for an idea of what the uniform consisted of. Some shows should not be obsessively watched. As a kid I always thought the show looked slick and all the alien stuff was smart. It did have a lot of money thrown at it, but I think it had to be spread quite a way… I realised that the costume is essentially an orange boiler suit with the collar cut off (and in some scenes, they look scruffily sewn back up) and have a tabard over the top and separate cuff/wrist guards, and boots. Easy, I thought. I could make that.
I was wrong, of course. I can’t even sew a button, but there’s nothing like enthusiasm to ignore such trivialities…
So, in case you’re going to give it a go I thought I’d share what I found as it’s all spread about the Internet.
Tabard & Cuffs
The tabards and cuffs seem to look quilted in that the cuffs have a decorative diamond stitch, and the tabards have decorative upside down ‘V’ chevrons through decorative stitching. At first I thought the stitching on the tabard might conceal a seam but most of the standard tabards look to be one piece of material–a V shape–they really took the title literally for their design. The butt of the ‘V’ goes down the back, and the ‘arms’ of the ‘V’ come down over she shoulders and pull together at the front where they velcro together, with a mandarin collar around the neck. The tabard is quilted with V chevron stitching. The cuffs are tapered to the arm and velcro to themselves. Aside from Diana or some of the feature female actresses in the series, neither the tabard or the cuffs are fixed to the uniform.
Red or Orange?
As a kid I’d always thought the crew uniforms were reddish/orange and the shocktroopers were red. Turns out there is a bit of a debate on this on the Internet, oh and people seem to call the tabard an ‘overlay’, but they’re definitely a washed out reddish orange. Although there is quite a colour variation. The costumes in the first two part miniseries all seem a pretty standard shade of washed out burnt orange, but in the second miniseries some of the security costumes (with the gold shoulder bands and mandarin collars) seem to be a more vibrant blood orange. It’s quite noticably different in part one when the partially converted Julie is being transported from the mothership to the LA security base in a shuttle and she’s in uniform, and again in part two when Donovan and Julie are in daylight checking out the large pipes at the water processing plant.
However, different lighting on the show and different quality stills do seem to make more of the differences. Looking at boiler suits I could only find prisoner type bright orange and that didn’t look right to me. I was thinking I would have to get a white one and dye it. Which I really didn’t fancy. No garden and two cats. One is already ginger, I didn’t want the other one t be ginger too…
The overlay tabard and cuffs look to be a completely different material to the boiler suits and when the light catches it has a textured pattern on it. Turns out that they used table cloths that were widely available at the time in the 80s. I have no idea whether the Aztec diamond type pattern has a name, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to find it.
I decided I would have to go with the shocktrooper black faux leather, although I would have to try and get a baseball cap and glasses like a few of them wore as I didn’t have a helmet…
eBay to the rescue
I had already seen visitor guns on eBay, which are quite frankly awesome, and was already making this costume an excuse to buy one–but then I found a shocktrooper helmet too–also a cool design. It was pricey for a costume purchase… but thought I’d love one living with us and would look nice on display at home, so I could get a costume and a cool bit of geek decor out of it too.
However, I knew I had to be sure if I could get a costume together to do the helmet and gun justice–and to justify buying them… Thinking I was lucky to find these items I wondered if I could find a decent off the peg full costume–and I did. For a price. Most of the costumes I’ve seen have been really expensive for what they are, and they would’ve had to be imported–which undoubtedly meant import charges too.
So with the helmet and gun auction with only two weeks left to run I knew I had to get cracking and see if I could make a costume before I committed to this purchase… Again, different episodes and different stills give the black overlay a different finish, in some they look leathery, others they look like PU, some glossy, some with just a sheen. Time for lots of frantic material hunting, sewing practice, and pattern designing. Which I’ll share with you in my next costume post…