In this second part of our Resistance X-Wing Pilot costume tutorial, I show how I altered a readily available pilot flightsuit to create an accurate Star Wars pilot suit, just like Poe Dameron’s in The Force Awakens!
Since I was on a budget for this costume and did not want to construct a flightsuit from scratch, I purchased the Costumebase TFA Pilot costume, which included the flightsuit, 2-piece vest and gloves. All three pieces of the costume are nice quality and I chose Costumebase because I also own their Kylo Ren costume and found it to be a great value. The flightsuit is 100% cotton that is a nice breathable material and has a heavy duty zipper with velcro collar closure with the correct style trim on the collar and sleeves. It also has the sewn in chaps areas on both leg fronts which have an opening to accept the chestbox hose. The suit is a vermillion color, which is a reddish orange instead of a bright orange, and has gray wrist cuffs. The movie suits also appear to be a color somewhere between dull red and bright orange.
This image shows the vermillion flightsuit color next to a bright orange piece of fabric for reference.
The Costumebase flightsuit also has 2 sections of gray straps around the legs and one section around the lower back connected with a quick release buckle. To make my suit more screen accurate, I ordered some 1″ charcoal gray webbing when ordering the straps for my harness. I painted it with Medium Gray Duplicolor Fabric and Vinyl Spray Paint to match the harness and belt and replaced all 3 areas of the strapping on the suit. When removing the leg straps I kept the small pieces of fabric used to hold them in place on the inseam. This piece can be reattached at the top of the flightsuit, later on, to hold the chestbox.
I replaced the existing slider buckles on the leg straps with a larger version from Amazon, but they are also available from Strapworks, which supplies the webbing. Before attaching the buckles I did a quick metallic silver paint job on them using acrylic paint. I also wrapped and glued a small piece of the strap around the center bar, using contact cement, just to give them a little more depth.
I stitched the leg straps around the suit below the knee pockets leaving about a 3 inch un-stitched section in front so I could still slide the buckle.
The Costumebase flightsuit has all the leg pockets shown on the movie suits, but the position of some is slightly off and they are missing some details. It also has 2 rear pockets that the movie suits do not have.
To make the leg pockets on the Costumebase suit match the pockets on the film used suits, I started by removing the 2 rear pockets with my seam ripper. Once this was complete I removed the upper side pocket on the left leg. Since I wanted the end of my hose to sit in this pocket (instead of going into the chap opening) it was important to correct the flap. The pocket needs an open top instead of a flap closure and it also has some decorative ladder stitching and a smaller pocket, slightly visable at the opening, that sits inside of it. After removing the pocket from the suit, I unstitched the top sides of the pocket that were stitched together in order to open up the box shape of the pocket. Then I rounded off the lower corners by just removing the squared off stitching and re-stitching them with a curve. I marked the lines for the decorative ladder stitching in the middle of the pocket and stitched over the marks to create the design.
Next, I created the solid flap at the top of the opening by flattening out the existing flap and using the material to create a section about 2 inches tall and the same width as the pocket. With this piece stitched to the top of the pocket, I made the inside pocket using one of the back pockets I removed. I sewed it about 1 1/2 inches tall and an inch smaller in width than the opening of the larger outer pocket.
I marked the position of the large pocket and the smaller inner pocket on the suit leg, using a pencil, and sewed the smaller pocket then the larger pocket in place.
Next the knee pockets needed to be altered to be accurate. The pocket is already the correct box style, but the flap is flat instead of boxed. To correct this I used a seam ripper to remove the existing flap, which is attached above the pocket as a separate piece. I also removed the stitches on the top sides of the pocket that are stitched down. This opens up the boxed sides at the top of the pocket. I opened up the doubled up fabric of the flap and ironed it flat so it could be used to create the new pocket flap.
Next I folded over one edge and stitched it along the fold, then marked 1 1/8 inches up from this edge (creating the front of the flap), folded and ironed it again and stitched another line across the fold. Then folded it a third time about 1 inch up and ironed it flat. This creates the top of the flap. I folded over the side edges to make the flap the same width as the pocket, and ironed and stitched them down to create finished edges.
With the flap constructed I attached it by stitching it across the back to the leg, on the top sides of the pocket and down the front of the pocket on both sides. After attaching the new flap I trimmed off any excess material and then repeated the same process on the knee pocket of the other leg.
The two side by side pockets on the upper right leg also needed to be altered and moved to be accurate. To correct these, I started by carefully opening the outside leg seam where the flat rounded corner pocket is stitched in. Then I removed the stiches around the flap and pocket edge to completely remove it. I also removed the other pocket that sits toward the back of the leg behind the outer leg seam. Again, I opened and flattened the flap of the flat pocket, folded over the edge and stitched a line over the fold to create the lower edge of the flap. To make the flap more accurate I ironed the outer flap edge in a rounded shape.
I marked the new position for the pocket, about 1 3/4 inches above the knee pocket and 2 3/8 inches from the outer seam of the leg, and stitched it in place, stitching the pocket on first and then the flap. With this pocket attached, I sewed the outside leg seam closed, where it had been opened to initially remove the pocket.
Since the side boxed pocket itself did not need any modifications (only its flap), it could now be stitched in place. I positioned it centered over the outer seam of the leg, aligned with the bottom of the adjacent flat pocket and covering the rough edge of the flat pocket.
The final step needed to complete the pocket modications was to make a correct flap for the side pocket. To do this I used the material from the remaining back pocket to make the flap. The flap for this pocket is a taller version of the knee pocket flap with added side pieces. I made the front of the flap 2 3/4 inches tall, and the side pieces straight half way down the height of the flap and angled inward the rest of the way to meet the front of the flap.
To attach the pocket flap, I stitched the flap to the suit above the pocket, sewing along the back and down the straight part of the sides.
The Costumebase suit has a 3 loop fabric piece on the left upper arm. Although this is present on the screen used suits, I felt the location of it was too low and the loops were too flat. I removed the piece using a seam ripper and re-attached it about 2 inches higher making the loops more pronounced. I was able to sew the ends on using my sewing maching, but had to stitch the center of the piece by hand due to the thickness of the fabric over the ribbed arm trim. With this piece attached in the correct location, my suit was complete except for some minor sizing alterations.
The Costumebase flight suit is available in four sizes: M, L, XL and XXL. At 5’11” and 200 lbs I used a large. The upper part fit very well, but the legs were baggy and about 2 inches too long. To correct this I brought the inseam of the legs in and hemmed them.
Some of the X-Wing Pilot flightsuits also have chaps on the rear of the legs. Specifically Poe’s and Jess Pava’s suits are both known to have these rear chaps. It appears that severals other pilots, including Snap Wexley and some background pilots from TFA, do not have these chaps. There may have been multiple versions of the X-Wing Pilot flightsuits used in the film. As my intention was to make my costume a generic pilot, I did not alter the suit to add the rear chaps. However, if needed, I believe the rear leg chaps area could be easily added to the Costumebase suit, but it would require the purchase of a second suit to use for matching material.
After my modifications were complete on the flightsuit, I added some grime and weathering. I used a combination of medium gray acrylic paint with some added fabric medium applied with a rag. My technique was to dab the rag with a small amount of paint, blot it to nearly dry, then apply small amounts around the seams, pockets and raised areas of the suit. It’s best to try to keep most of the color on the surface of the fabric and not soaked in. Also applying small amounts in layers over multiple applications will work better than trying to apply all the weathering in a single session.
I also added some authentic grime by using a moist (but not wet) papertowel to wipe off some grime from around my car engine compartment and wheels. This is a dry grime and soot that can then be wiped onto the surface of the suit for a very authentic look. I applied the grime heavier around the seams, edges and pockets of my flightsuit. What better to make a pilot suit dirty than real engine grime!
To remove the “new” look of the flightsuit, I sanded the surface of the fabric with 320 grit sandpaper, paying special attention to the pocket areas, knees, elbows and spots where wear would naturally occur. This will soften and dull the fabric in addition to removing the natural sheen that the flightsuit has, giving it a worn and aged appearance.
This photo was taken at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando where my flightsuit made its cosplay debut. We are already working on the next post which will include photos of many of the amazing costumes and cosplayers from Star Wars Celebration in Orlando. I am also planning additional posts for the other parts of the x-wing pilot costume so stay tuned!
Tools and Materials:
Costumebase TFA Pilot Costume
Thred to match Pilot Costume – I used Coats & Clark in Tango (7650dd)
3 yards of 1″ Charcoal Gray Webbing
Gray Fabric and Vinyl Spray Paint
Slider Buckles for Leg Straps
Metallic Silver Acrylic Paint
Medium Gray Acrylic Paint