New Star Wars is coming! New Star Wars is coming! You guys really like my quick and easy Batwoman and Green Lantern costume tutorials and, in the same vein, I thought a write up of Jedi and Sith costumes just in time for the new movie premiere might be appreciated.
As with previous costume tutorials, this one is for people who want something that looks decent, is relatively quick, very cheap, and very easy to make. These costumes will not be screen accurate, but you shouldn’t be ashamed to be seen in them either.
Choose Your Look
Your first task is to decide whether you will be a force-wielding good guy or bad guy. You may need to have this playing in the background while you ponder your midi-chlorian disposition.
Next, you’ll need to come up with a color scheme. In the movies the Jedi dress in shades of brown but, depending on how broad you cast your net in the Extended Universe, you can find Jedi that wear almost every color. Maybe you want to pick clothing that is complementary to the color of your lightsaber. You can use this lovely color picker. Just click on your saber color and then select “complementary” to see the color opposite on the color wheel. For Sith, you are probably going to want to stick with greys and black. Maybe you’ll wear cloth or leather (we’ll discuss materials more later).
If you are trying to keep costs to a minimum, the easiest way to do this is by picking clothing colors that you already own. Buying a shirt, pants, and footwear can easily quadruple the cost of this costume since the parts you must make can be done so cheaply. Don’t worry, even if you have to buy clothing, this can still be a very low cost costume.
I made a much more comprehensive Jedi costume many years ago with the help of ancient websites like this and this. I include them now because they still offer excellent reference pictures and construction techniques if you want to take your costume up a notch from the one I’m going to describe to you below. For more current and hyper-detailed instructions, check out this forum – in particular this thread.
Now that you’ve looked at the nice pictures and may be in a mild panic from all the patterns and sewing, relax. This is going to be a really easy costume to make. We can do away with most of it and still maintain an easily identifiable look. Let’s list the parts of the full costume out:
Robe The outermost hooded garment. We won’t be making this. Yes, I know it is iconic, but it isn’t always worn and by leaving it off, we save a lot of time and money. It will be an easy thing for you to add later. Also, in all but the coldest conditions, Jedi and Sith robes get hot quickly.
Outer and Inner Tunic V or turtle neck shirts that wrap in the front. Both of them will be replaced by a single V-neck T-shirt (long or short sleeve).
Tabards In Episodes I – III, two strips of fabric wrap the shoulders and simulate a one-piece medieval tabard. We will be making these from fabric or pleather.
Obi The cloth strip worn beneath the belt. We will be making this.
Belt There are many variations on belts. You can choose from many designs or come up with your own. Basically, you just wear a standard leather belt and clip various greeblies to it. I’ll show you how to make a few below.
Pants You should wear some. Seriously, they just used regular pants for the movies and we will do the same.
Footwear Jedi and Sith are seen in boots a majority of the time. If you don’t have any and don’t want to spend the money, slip-on dress shoes can work.
Lightsaber The crown jewel of your costume. There are so many ways to go with this and a nearly infinite numbers of examples and build videos. You can buy a cheap toy, an expensive toy, a really expensive toy, make your own out of various pieces and parts (like this or this), or in a pinch, get a 1-1/4″ or 1-1/2″ chrome plumbing pipe and decorate it with electrical tape and glued-on buttons and knobs.
So you see we really are only sewing three scarf-like rectangles (and maybe not even sewing those – see method two below), getting some belt decorations, and swinging around a toy. Super simple. Now just pick one of the three ways listed below to make your obi and tabards.
Construction Method One – Easy, Realistic, and Quick
This is the method most of you will probably use. Even though there is sewing, the most novice tailor with access to a sewing machine can get very good results with this option. If you select good enough material, the parts you make can even be reused for a more complete and upscale costume when you have more time and resources. This costume could be made in one full weekend or two partial ones.
- Make It – Tabards Tape together some sheets of paper to make a strip that is about long as you are tall. This will be your tabard pattern. Drape it over your shoulder. Using a friend or a mirror, determine how wide you want your tabard to be. I’m much bigger than my wife and my tabard is 7″ wide. Hers is 5″ wide.
- Trim the pattern to the determined width.
- Place the pattern back on your shoulder and pull it so the inner edge touches your belly button on the front and your spine on the back. Mark both locations.
- Cut across the pattern at the points you just marked making your single piece of paper into three.
- Place the pattern back on your shoulder holding it so it once again just touches your belly button. Now hold one of the other pieces of your pattern so it hangs down vertically from your belly button and make a mark or tape this second piece of paper in place.
- Fold the pattern at the high point on your shoulder. This will provide the location to sew on your shoulder Velcro later. Now attach the third piece of paper to the back side of the pattern using the angle from the front for the back piece.
- Place the pattern back on your shoulder and determine how long you want the front and back ends of the tabbard to be. Choose the shape you want the ends to be – squared off, curved, pointed, etc. Squared off is the easiest and what is most often seen in the movies.
- Fold your fabric in half with the good sides facing in. This way when you cut out your pattern, you will cut both pieces at once.
- Now tape the pattern to your fabric and and trace it using a straightedge. I used a white colored pencil. Also, mark a line 1/2″ out from this edge.
- Flip the pattern so the face that was touching the fabric is now up (do not just rotate it). Tape, trace, and mark the 1/2″ line.
- Pin the fabric together so the sides won’t move during cutting.
- Cut the fabric along the outer (1/2″ offset) line. You should now have two tabards made of two pieces of fabric pinned together with the good side facing inward.
- Sew around three of the four sides leaving the short end in the back open.
- Trim the corners leaving about 1/8″ near the corner stitching. This will prevent bunching in the next step and provide sharper corners.
- Turn the tabard inside out so the good sides are now facing outward.
- Sew a piece of Velcro on each tabard at the high point on your shoulder. You will sew the opposing face of the Velcro to the shoulder of your shirt. This will prevent the tabards from sliding and falling down when in use. You will probably want to do this part by hand so that you sew only through the bottom layer of the tabard (so stitches won’t show on the top).
- You may also sew Velco that will later be used to connect the tabard to the obi (see picture). I am not sure that this is necessary though and only did it on one of our costumes.
- To finish each tabard, fold in the bottom open edge and sew straight across sealing this piece.
- Lay the tabards side by side and overlap them roughly 1/2″. Sew them together at the two points shown in the pictures above.
- Lay the tabards over your shoulders and mark where the loose pieces of Velcro from the tabards sit on the top of your shirt. Remove the shirt and sew the loose Velcro to the shirt.
- Obi Next tape together another strip of paper long enough to encircle your waist for the obi. You will probably want it to be 1″ wider than the tabards so that it can bunch up a little giving it more character and texture.
- Trace, pin, cut out, and sew as you did for the tabards. You can choose to put a strip of Velcro on the ends of the obi or just rely on the belt to hold it in place.
- Food Capsules The ones used in the movies were made with pen caps and a rounded piece to fill in the bottom. I went to the dollar store and got three of these chrome beauties for $1 (They were terrible for writing). I removed the ink cartridge, cut the barrel down, removed the rubberized grip, wrapped the grip area with aluminum foil, and super glued the bottom to the cut barrel. Now these items can be clipped on to a belt to provide a little futuristic interest.
- Pouches I couldn’t believe my luck. I got each of these old leather mobile phone pouches for $1 each at the dollar store. They clip right on to a belt so all I had to do was color the stitching black, and make some black foamcore inserts for a couple of them to help them retain their shape. They look great in person.
- Wear It Put on your V-neck shirt, pants, and boots. Lay the tabards over your shoulders attaching the shirt Velcro to the tabard Velcro so the tabards won’t slide off your shoulders. Wrap the obi around your waist and hold in place with a belt and/or Velcro. Place food capsules and pouches on belt. Pick up your weapon from a more civilized time. Done.
Construction Method Two – Easiest, Cheapest, and Fastest
If you have no time or desire to sew, you will sacrifice some of the look, but it can be done. This method can easily be done in a weekend. If you are quick, you could do it in a day.
- Make It Get felt in whatever color you wish and cut it out according to the patterns listed in method one. You will just need a single thickness of felt and you won’t be sewing any edges.
- Attach the tabards together as shown in method one (tiny amount of hand sewing that no one will see).
- Wear It Now put on your V-neck shirt, pants, and boots. Lay the tabards over your shoulders and have a (trustworthy) friend sew the tabards to the top of your shirt so they won’t slide off your shoulders. This can be done with a stitch or two that shouldn’t damage the T-shirt. Wrap the obi around your waist and hold in place with a belt. Skip the belt greeblies and grab your choice of toy lightsaber. Done. The tabards are easily removed from the T-shirt by snipping the thread.
Construction Method Three – A More Challenging Path that Leads to the Dark Side
If you would like to try your hand at working with pleather, this is the method for you. I found this to be much more time consuming than sewing the fabric in method one, but if you hate sewing, then might just be the ticket for you. Know that pleather is more expensive than fabric, but just a bit.
- Make It Get pleather for the tabards (It will only be single thickness, not double like the fabric tabards). Get fabric for the obi. Make patterns and cut them out of fabric as detailed in method one. NOTE: While the fabric obi uses the same 1/2″ offset outside the sewing line as used in method one, the pleather should have a 1″ offset to give the edges more weight and gluing surface.
- Fold and glue pleather tabard edges applying a minimal amount of pressure to hold seams flat while glue cures. I used PVA glue (both Sobo and Aileen’s) and would let items sit overnight under a weight. The following day I would let them air dry completely without anything covering them.
- Glue on Velcro tabs under the shoulder high point location. The other half of the tab will be sewed on to the shoulder of the shirt to make a removable connection that will prevent the tabard from sliding off. This is necessary with the pleather. It is heavier, stiffer, and more slippery than fabric and will not stay on your shoulder without something to tack it in place.
- Sew up the obi exactly as detailed in method one.
- Make food capsules and pouches as detailed in method one.
- Wear It Put on your V-neck shirt, pants, and boots. Lay the tabards over your shoulders attaching the shirt Velcro to the tabard Velcro so the tabards won’t slide off your shoulders. Wrap the obi around your waist and hold in place with a belt and/or Velcro. Place food capsules and pouches on belt. Give in to your hatred, take up your weapon, and strike down your enemies! Done.