I’m Oz, and welcome to the Ozplay Blog. It’s awesome to see you and if I may be so bold, you’re looking pretty damn hot today.
This is the first installment of the CaptainBlack Cosplay Recipe, covering the creation of the jacket for the costume.
In case you don’t know, Captain Black is the villain on the Gerry Anderson series, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons . Initially human, and Agent of Spectrum, Captain Black is killed during a mission to Mars. The Mysterons have the ability to control matter, and reconstitute an exact likeness of Captain Black to become their operative on Earth. Each Spectrum Agent is coloured coded (e.g. Captain Blue, Colonel White) and their uniform matches the colour.
I chose to Cosplay Captain Black for several reasons;
Captain Scarlet is my absolute favourite Gerry Anderson series. It’s packed with action, very dark and the costume & set design is brilliant.
The Spectrum uniform is iconic, I always wanted one as a kid, and now I have one – does that mean I win life? Hopefully.
The key reason I chose Captain Black over say, Captain Scarlet, is that black material is more forgiving of mistakes, and this was my first fully Oz-made Cosplay costume so it was 90% mistakes.
But each mistake teaches you something, so in theory I’m a costuming genius now! (Not really).
Let’s begin with the jacket.
Black Nylon / Cotton blend material
Long silver zip with white fabric backing
Short silver zip with black fabric backing
2 x Key ring ‘rings’
2 x A3 Black plastic
White leather belt with silver buckle
Frosted sticky backed transparent paper
4 x Rounded Bottle Tops
2 x White LEDs
Length of wiring
2 x AA Battery packs and batteries
Small length of stuffing (Teddy Bear’s insides)
One small, but feisty, sewing machine
A hand held drill
A soldering iron
Usual costume making stuff; scissors, pattern paper, gaffa tape (which is like 75% of all costumes).
The Spectrum jacket is basically a waistcoat, but with bigger, rounded shoulders. It has a single zip, off centred and crossing the right nipple (note; I know zero proper costume terms). It has one zip pocket on the wearers’ right below the rib cage. On the each shoulder is a wicked cool epaulette that is a round, slightly frosted tube with brass rounded ends. They light up when a Spectrum agent receives a message. At the bottom of the jacket is a white belt, and the belt loops are actually on the jacket itself not the trousers.
I began by drawing the pattern freehand. I had my measurements and used them to roughly work out the dimensions, and then I freewheeled it using the TV show & images as a guide. I choose to design the jacket as one large single piece, like a bib, so that I could finish everything more easily before finally sewing up the sides. I made a funky test version with orange material left over from a Doctor Who Cosplay. This taught me a lot, particularly about factoring in a decent seam allowance!
Taking my lessons from the test version, I cut the final version from the black material and hemmed it like a mofo. I chose a Nylon / Cotton blended material because some research into military uniforms indicated they use it, so it would give the jacket a military look, and that felt right.
I made the collar separately by cutting a large rectangle of black material and rolling it around some teddy bear stuffing. I discovered you need a much thicker piece of stuffing to really bulk out the collar. Once I rolled it I sewed it closed leaving an excess strip so it could be sewn onto the jacket. I cut the excess strip in diagonal lines to make it easier to pin to the jacket and take a neater shape. I then machined it on. I backed a small rectangle of black material with Velcro and attached some to each end of the collar. This piece can then be attached to hide the join.
After studying the TV show I noticed that their collars weren’t joined at all, but actually crossed over. In fact, the whole front of the jacket appears to actually cross over and perhaps Velcro shut, with the zip being for looks only. This might have been easier for me to accomplish, but I’m glad I went for the proper, fully functioning zip. The thing to remember is that the outfit had been designed for puppets not humans, and therefore didn’t have to function and move in the same way.
I think the toughest challenge on the tailoring side was getting those darn shoulder pads to stay rigid and pointy. I initially tried using interfacing. It’s an iron or sew-on backing material that helps material hold a shape. I can see how it would by great on some outfits, but not this one. The weight of the epaulettes was just too much for it to handle and resulted in saggy shoulders. My next plan worked to a good degree. I cut flexible plastic shapes to act as shoulder pads and then fabric glued them in. The glue was pretty rubbish, so I had to follow it up with gaff. This brought it to an acceptable level and saw me through Andercon. However, I plan to redo them as follows: I will cut shoulder pads from the same material as the jacket, sew them inside and leave on edge open thereby creating a ‘pocket’ into which I can slide the plastic inserts. This will hopefully provide the same support whilst looking that bit more professional and neat. I have mild OCD so you can imagine how happy that will make me after hours and hours spent cutting and fiddling with the gaffa tape so people couldn’t see it.
I thought these special guys deserved their own section.
Start by cutting your Perspex tube to the required length. I got my measurements by taking the length of the shoulder section and shortening that so that the epaulette sits in the centre with some free space around either side. On reflection I would have gone for a slightly shorter and smaller tube, but the chunky look of the current design is pretty cool.
I soldered the LED to wires (note; do not solder the wires to the battery pack yet) and taped the LED to a two pronged metal fastener (for holding punched paper together). Again with hindsight I should have used white or clear tape instead of black gaff, because you can see it, even through the frosting. Drill two holes, using the width of the fastener, in the bottom. Then feed the LED / fastener combo into the tube. Using the fastener base had two benefits; it prevented the LED from swinging loose inside the tube and the metal legs of the fastener could be put through the material of the jacket and secured, preventing the whole epaulette from moving or falling off. You can feed the wiring through the same hole.
Wrap the Perspex in frosted sticky backed paper to give it its tinted look. For the brass ends I used bottle caps (from cheap nail polish remover). An important note, if you go into a shop with your own Perspex tube and start taking lids off of things to see if they fit over the end, you will be followed by security, so buy something even if you don’t get what you’re looking for! They were wide enough to slide over the Perspex, but had an inner circle that allowed it to wedge itself on the end of the tube, I secured this further with super glue. Before attaching I painted them brass. That brass paint was pretty strong, so I then spent a few pleasant hours thinking I was the paint. When you go to your convention or event, bring the paint with you, not just for its medicinal benefits, but because the paint is easily scratched, and being out there on the shoulder pads they are an easy target for scrapes – you’ll doubtless have to touch it up. If you don’t, you aren’t having enough fun.
Once you have them made, fit them in place, the reason you don’t solder the battery pack on yet is to allow you to attach them and tape down the wires in a concealed way inside the jacket. Then once you’re happy with the placement, attach the battery pack. I popped a clip on the pack so it clipped to my belt – although to activate the lights it does look like I’m reaching into my bottom. But this is a good cover for those times I am reaching into my bottom.
I think that covers the bulk of making the jacket. I realise that reading these instructions might not make total sense so if there is anything I can do to help or advise you in making your costume you just holla at me.
Join me next time for the insanity that was making the hat, and how it actually made me bleed!
And remember, if it wasn’t meant to be fun they’d call it Coswork.
Catch you on the flipside,
Tweeter me @OzplayOnline