This past weekend (8.15.09)
I finally completed my ANH and ESB Vader displays.
I've been working on Vader on and off for 16 years (which is when I first entered the hobby).
It's been a long road.
Before I show the new pics of the final completed versions, I thought it might be fun to show the various incarnations of my Vader endeavors over the years and provide some background info about each stage and what was going on at the time. I can't believe it has been this long.
I had no idea that building a ****** Vader costume for a halloween party would be the catalyst for my obsession with this costume and this hobby.
Although I have tweaked my Vaders (changing out or re-doing different pieces) over the years many times, for this thread I only selected the incarnations that I felt represented the major milestones along the way.
It began in 1993. I was 20 years old and working a full time job as a customer service rep for a company (very similar to Initech from Office Space).
I hadn't started college yet (got a bit of a late start) so I had absolutely NO building skills. I mean NONE.
My friend/co-worker was having a huge halloween party and I had no idea for what my girlfriend and I would go dressed as. This was right around the time that Lucas announced that he was going to go back and do Episodes 1, 2, and 3. As a kid Star Wars was my favorite thing until immediately after ROTJ came out. Then it was over, and being in 5th grade at the time, moved on to G.I. Joe and never looked back. I hadn't really thought about Star Wars at all from 1983 to 1993, and all because Lucas made the announcement.
So, with everyone getting all excited about the notion of new Star Wars movies, my friend suggested that my girl and I go as Vader and Leia. I told him it was impossible for anyone to make a Vader costume. It was WAY to complex.
He seemed to think it was totally do-able. All we needed to do was score one of those plastic Vader helmets from the 80's, and go to Radio Shack for all the electronics. Seemed easy enough at the time. :ohwell
For the next few weeks, we scoured all the hardware stores looking for anything that we could modify into the costume components. After much searching, I located a plastic Don Post helmet. I think it was around $80 or so.
From a reference standpoint, all we had was the Star Wars story book (which I still have) and a couple of 8x10 photos from ESB and ROTJ. It is crazy to me that at this point in time, I was using reference from all three movies and didn't realize the costumes were different. The end result of my first attempt is a complete amalgamation of them.
We bought LED's and enclosures from radio shack, boots from the army/navy surplus store, cape/robe fabric, and a set of black leather biker gauntlets. The chest armor was basically a flat bib, made out of stacked 1/8" acrylic sheet. It hung around your neck like a big necklace.
My girlfriend's mom sewed up a black vinyl one piece suit for the under suit.
We were able to find a boxer's abdomen pad that we cut into the shape of the codpiece and paint black. This was totally coincidence as the rumor of the original cod being a boxers cod had not been born yet. BTW, that rumor is totally false.
The chestbox was made entirely of acrylic and metal bits from the hardware store. This is the very first prop I ever built, and I still have it for sentimental value.
My girlfriend made her Leia costume from one of those old McCalls patterns. It was not too shabby all things considered. I made her belt out of sheet metal and silver snap covers. She had naturally long brown hair that she braided and made the buns (although much smaller than the ones on the wig Carrie Fisher wore).
When we were finished, we felt like we had costumes very close to the real deal (we must have been blind).
However, at the party we were a HUGE hit. It was great fun and even though I'm only 5'8", one one even cared that Vader was supposed to be a whole foot taller.
Here is what that first incarnation of costume looked like.
I bought a mannequin from JCPenney and kept the costume on it. You can see it in the following pic, and believe it or not I actually used that very same mannequin for all my other incarnations of Vader up until 2006!
After that, I was hooked. But spending a lot more time actually looking at real Vader reference and my costume, I began to see differences that I really didn't notice the first time around. I knew that I could do a better job without the time constraints of the pending halloween party from before.
The thing that bothered me the most about this first version was the small dome on the don post helmet. At the time, I thought the reason for the difference was that the dome was shorter. So I took 5 min epoxy and some thin plastic from the hardware store lengthened it, filled the gap with epoxy, then painted it.
If you compare the second version helmet to the first, it looks a ton better. Only from the front though, because viewing from the back it looked ridiculously out of proportion.
I built a new chestbox. This time I made a conscious choice to make it the ESB version.
I made new belt boxes out of acrylic sheet and a new belt buckle. My friend taught me how to wire a simple circuit using LED's.
This time around, I made shin armor for the boots. I used cut and stacked vinyl floor tile and painted it black with flexible car bumper paint.
Although you can't see it in the following pic, I made a lightsaber out of a sink tube and pvc.
Here is a pic of my friend modeling the version 2 costume. I later ended up selling this costume to a costume rental shop for $800.
With the stuff that is available now, and considering how cr*ppy the costume was, that price seems nuts. Not so much at the time.
By this time, I was halfway through college (industrial design), and amassed a small army (8) of vac formed modified marco style troopers.
I decided to put my new modeling skills to the test by doing yet another incarnation of Vader.
With newly acquired access to the internet and the resurgence of SW in the public eye, a ton more reference was available. Still nothing compared to what is available now, but it was a major difference compared to pre-1995.
At this point, the don post deluxe helmet was out so I had a (somewhat) cast off original to work with.
I set about sculpting a set of chest armor and shin armor in clay which I would later mold and make fiberglass casts. (I still have this documented on VHS tape).
At this time, there was nothing like this chest armor or shin armor out there to be found. I sculpted the shin armor in 1995, and the chest armor in 1996.
I sculpted and constructed a much more accurate chestbox, belt, and cod. I also had a fashion major at my college sew up a set of capes, robes, leather suit and gloves for me. I remember back in 1995, the few fellow prop builders I knew thought I was nuts for spending the money and going to the extreme of making an entire suit out of leather. At that point in time, a full leather Vader suit was unheard of.
I also sourced a heiland syncronar flash for the saber (which at the time we all believed was correct).
Several years passed where I didn't do any new work on him.
This is the version of Vader that I first posted on the RPF when I joined in 2001. I joined the RPF looking for a set of cast off original Vader armor and everyone kept pushing this GT armor. I posted that I thought it was inaccurate ****, and totally pissed off half the forum for saying so. I suppose not much has changed in that respect. :innocent
For this next incarnation, the main differences are the addition of my first version of cast from original chest armor, and a new set of cape/robes. Also, the black cape chain was found around this time by someone on the RPF and I added it to my cape.
Now we've come to the point in time where I decided that I wanted to branch off and make ALL THREE VERSIONS of Vader. However at the time of these pics, I still only had my one original mannequin (the one from the very beginning) and had to change out the costumes to display or take pics of the different versions.
I had finally acquired all three cast off original chestboxes, some of the found parts for all three versions of belts, and worked with another seamstress to make new sets of capes and robes.
Here is a pic of my 2005 ESB vader and the very beginnings of my ANH.
The ESB Vader was displayed at my local theatre for a few weeks to promote ROTS.
Since then, a lot has changed. I've swapped out about 80% of everything you see in the previous pic, keeping only the chestboxes, chest armor, and some of the belt parts. I've since been able to replace previous fabricated pieces with the real found parts, FINALLY replaced my puffy codpiece (that everyone would give me a hard time about) with screen accurate versions, had all 3 versions of leather suits made, and completed the nearly impossible task of having screen accurate capes/robes, and gloves made.
The capes and gloves were by far the most difficult pieces to get right out of the entire costumes followed closely by the cods.
The last step in finishing my ANH and ESB Vaders was to attach the posable hands to the posable mannequin arms. I wanted to have this finished by the time the gloves were completed, but other projects kept getting in the way.
Finally, I've completed this for all three displays.
I still have been dragging my feet on getting the ROTJ helmet painted, but I did manage to get him fully completed with the exception of that. After the painting of that helmet will be the absolute last task necessary to complete all three versions.
In the meantime for ROTJ pics, I've been using the finished ESB helmet as a stand in.
Stay tuned for new pics of the COMPLETE and FINALIZED ANH and ESB displays! (still taking pics)
Ok, here's a teaser.