Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Gambit Costume Tutorial v1.0

A while back, my girlfriend wanted to dress up as Rogue for her first Dragon*Con and I figure I might as well be Gambit to accompany her. While her costume was a wonderfully commissioned piece, I wanted to gather my own pieces and put it together. It all starts with a reference picture, and this guy's version was my inspiration:


I liked the color scheme and it seemed easier to do compared to a full blown comic/cartoon version.  In case anyone else likes his rendition or mine, I wanted to give some pointers on making one for yourself.

Trench Coat
- Probably THE most key piece. You have a good coat, a stick, and some playing cards and people will know you're Gambit. I think this is one of the few areas where a good used real coat trumps anything a costume maker can whip up. You need some of that beat up character and genuine material instead of the typical ones cosplayers use to make tops and jackets. Whether you look at a the local Goodwill store or scour eBay, keep these tips in mind:
  • Go for real leather: gives it a cool feel nothing else can match. A tough twill cotton would be a good alternative though. 
  • Color: you have some freedom here, but I'd try to stick to a medium chocolate brown as closely as possible. A tan color or more reddish brown is fine too though. I just don't think a dark olive or black one works. 
  • Pre-owned/used is fine, even preferable. Just be sure to air it out and clean anything gross out of it
  • Right length and fit: too short a coat won't look right, and too long of one will just swallow you. I'd say one that hits a little below your knee is good. Get a tape measure and find your measurements so you have a good reference when buying online. 
I was lucky enough to find an excellent trench coat on eBay for around $20 and shipping:


Tights
- A pair of black compression pants is what I originally used. I think I'll eventually get a solid black tights since mine had some designs along the side. A good website to get tights, shirts, the mask, and pretty much any spandex is SpandexMan.

Compression Shirt
- Ideally, you should get a long sleeve compression shirt that matches your tights. Solid black is good again, and even a bit of a collar. Bonus is you can re-use the same one for Naked Snake and probably a host of other costumes. However, if you're going to wear the ensemble in the middle of summer, a short sleeve version will be just fine. This is what my pieces looked like:


Chest Armor
- Another key piece here. I looked through various tactical vests, armor suits, and sporting equipment. I finally came across something that gave you an excellent illusion of a muscle suit: paintball armor. The best one in my opinion is a "Proto Chest Protector," in black with red trim:


I didn't do much modification to it during my first run. Just cut out the plastic logo in the upper mid chest. However, I will eventually get to painting the foamy muscle pieces: a magenta color in the body and blue around the collar.

Belt Buckle
- Since Gambit is part of the X-Men, gotta have that X symbol somewhere on my costume and why not a belt buckle. You can find these on Amazon or eBay for around $20. Just search for terms like X, circle X, or X-Men buckle. I would like to eventually repaint the silver and make it black to more closely resemble the X-Men logo. Oh, additional note, you should buy one or two compass pouches (in black) to also go on your belt. They add a utility belt look to it, plus gives you room to store your wallet and phone.


Knee Pads
- Purely based on taste, but it went with the red color scheme of the chest piece, so I picked this pair called the EVS Knee Glider. I believe they're for motor cross racers.


Boots
- Again, can vary greatly depending on what kind of look you want. I think black leather boots are cool in general and can come in handy for multiple costumes. These are a biking pair I got for pretty cheap on eBay. If you want to look for the same pair, the brand is Teknik.


Gloves
- Gambit has a pretty distinct glove which you can imitate with pretty much any black pair that's thin. I used the satin long kind (yes, the kind you'd see women wear with a dress!) so it gave the illusion of extending up my arm and being continuous with the compression shirt. Leave the middle and ring fingers alone, but cut the pinky, index finger, and thumb at the part where they meet your palm (the MCP joint).


Mask Headpiece 
- Probably the second most important piece of the costume... otherwise you're just some guy in a trench coat. Get a balaclava/ski mask/open face hood, preferably in a tight spandex-like material. This is so you don't get a sagging turkey neck look like I did on my first one. In fact, you may want to get 2 so you can practice on one.


Next, turn the mask inside out, wear it on your head, and find a buddy with white chalk or some kind of marker. The easiest way to cut out the face is to draw on one side of the face only, then take the mask off, and cut in a sagittal plane. Remember, you can always cut more but can't put fabric back in. Once you have the face taken care of, just make a vertical incision where each ear attaches to your head. You don't need a hole, just a slit for the ear to stick out. Again, start small and cut more only as needed. The following is a good reference picture:


Finally, the third cut depends on whether or not you want to wear a wig. After all the trouble I went through, I almost want to suggest that you do wear one. You see, the balaclava fits just fine as long as there's a top to it. But if you cut out a ring at the top for your hair to come through, then you'll have to deal with the whole issue of the mask constantly wanting to sag down your face. So if you do want to use your real hair, just cut a small snippet off the dome of the hood and take off more as needed. Be sure to leave about an inch or so in the front otherwise that horizontal section above your forehead won't look right. You may have to use some double sided tape on the front to keep that section glued to your forehead. On the back side, hair clips are the way to go. Find two small black extension clips, and sew them into the hood. The idea is to have one end of the clip sewn to the hood and the other end clipped into your hair. Yes, this does get painful after a while, and it'll STILL want to sag down after a few hours.

Minor note, if your hood leaves your neck exposed, you may want to go with a bandana to cover it up.

I think I will re-make my mask one day. The plan is to buy two of the same hood, sew them together so it becomes a thicker double layer, and just go with a wig.

Staff
- Ah, now for the few props to finish things off. The staff is pretty simple. Find the thinnest PVC pipe you can at a home improvement store (a real metal rod will get heavy if you're going to carry it around all day). I didn't even have to cut mine because the length was already appropriate for my height. Next, tape the hole on each end with some masking tape. Next, spray a coat or two of primer and let dry. Then spray a coat or two of silver or metallic paint, and you're done. Note, I used spray paint that was specifically designed for use on plastic.


Cards
- There are some good tutorials on how to make those light up, like this one. A slightly easier route is to look for neon/clear playing cards. You can carry just a few or the entire deck if you want to show off some fancy shuffling.


And that's pretty much it. I know it's not the best or most authentic looking one, but I hope my info has helped. Here's my favorite picture of how the final product turned out, taken by our friend Nash.


Plus, we took part in a huge group photo shoot that ended up on Marvel.com. How awesome is that?! I'm near the top right hand corner. 


A tremendous resource for any superhero or spandex related costume is the Super Hero Costuming Forum. You have to join to see the posts, but there are pages of tutorials and links for pretty much any comic character. Plus, the people are friendly and willing to help.