Cosplay How-To: Wonder Woman Armor

While I typically find myself drawn to characters from the Marvel Universe, there are the occasional few from DC that capture my attention—and none more so than Wonder Woman. Diana Prince has graced comics since 1941, was immortalized by Lynda Carter from 1975 to 1979, and continues to be a fan favorite. She’s even getting her own film (finally) starring Gal Gadot.

I’ll be cosplaying the Amazonian princess at WonderCon 2016, and have created each piece of armor from scratch. Want to make your own bulletproof bracelets? Here’s my how-to for an easy Wonder Woman costume.

First things first, decide which version of her costume you want to replicate. I chose her newest outfit.

(Note that each piece of armor follows the same basic steps, just using different patterns.)

Step One: Pattern

If you live on the edge and don’t want to use patterns, that’s totally fine. I, however, need the reassurance that I’m drawing on and cutting the craft foam correctly, and using patterns helps eliminate errors. Using some regular lined or plain paper, measure and draw out what you want your pieces to look like. (They should be the actual size of the armor, and not to scale!) What’s great about doing it on paper first is that you can mess up and start over as many times as necessary, and not waste craft foam in the process. You can also fit the armor pattern on yourself like you would for a clothing pattern. And as my mother always says: measure twice, cut once!

The images above are some examples of what your patterns can look like. The pattern on the left is for my Lady Loki vambrace, but I used the same concept for Wonder Woman. The pattern on the right is for my Wonder Woman chest piece, created in plastic wrap prior to being cut on paper. The plastic wrap method was inspired by Kinpatsu’s breastplate tutorial, and is what the Collectress and I used when we created our Iron Man arm.

Step Two: Cutting and Shaping Craft Foam

Wonder Woman vambrace, already glued but not yet shaped.

Lay the pattern over the craft foam, and trace it very carefully with pencil or pen. Then cut it out using an Exacto knife, which will give you very precise edges if you do it right! Some pieces may require scissors, but the knife should work fine for the majority of it.

Once you have your armor pieces all cut out, you need to begin shaping them to fit your body. While craft foam is pretty pliable already, it becomes even more so when heat is applied. You want to be sure to shape it before painting—even though a few pieces may appear to lose their shape when you’re  painting them in step 3, they’ll bounce back quickly if you’ve already heated and shaped them during this step. A heat gun is preferable, as many hairdryers don’t get hot enough. But if you only have the latter, don’t worry; the process will just take you longer.

(If one piece of armor has multiple layers, like this Wonder Woman vambrace, you have a few options. You can shape each layer individually and then glue them together, or you can glue them together and then shape them. I chose to glue them first, since the final rounded shape would prove difficult to maneuver; other pieces, like the shoulder armor, were shaped first and then glued after, because of their dimensions.)

*Be careful when using any heat source!*

Heat up the craft foam evenly on a flat surface. Then turn off your heat source and carefully pick up the foam and shape as desired. I use an old plastic glass to get the curved shapes I want. You will need to heat and reheat the foam several times, and shape and reshape before you get exactly what you want. When you finally have it shaped properly, wrap it around something (again, I use a drinking glass) to let it cool.

Step Three: Priming and First Paint Coat

Chest piece with 5 coats Gesso and 1 coat black paint

It’s vital to prime your craft foam with something before you begin to paint. Craft foam is super absorbent, and if you don’t prime it you’ll end up using more layers of paint than necessary. Mod podge can work well as a surface prep, but for these pieces, I applied Gesso with a foam brush. Gesso does require several coats, but I think the end result is worth the work. Each piece of Wonder Woman armor has anywhere between 5-15 coats of Gesso. If you want a smooth finish, you can gently sand your final layer of Gesso once it’s dried. I chose not to do this because I wanted the armor to look rough, old, and weather-beaten. When you’re done priming, apply one to two coats of black paint. This will add to the depth of the spray painted color.

Step Four: Spray Painting

IMG_0480 IMG_1208

This step is pretty self-explanatory. Always spray paint in a well-ventilated area, or wear a mask to prevent inhaling fumes. Both pieces above only have one coat of gold spray paint, because I wanted to add to the aged look, but you can apply as many coats as you like. Be sure to let each coat dry completely before applying the next.

Step Five: Aging, and Other Details

Aging and detailing obviously depends on the type of armor you’re creating; as mentioned above, I wanted to create a battle-worn look for Wonder Woman’s armor. In all the corners and crevices, I added smudged black paint to create shadows and depth. I also wasn’t hesitant to let the black paint get on areas I normally would avoid, because hey, battle. Just smudge it up with your finger, a small brush, or a q-tip and you’re good to go. I added silver stars to the shoulder pieces and a red star on the tiara. I also added a final coat of Mod Podge spray to seal the paint and help prevent cracking. However, be careful with the spray, or any finisher, as too much can alter the sheen of your spray paint.

The tiara can be attached to your hair using regular clips or bobby pins; just hot glue them carefully to the inside of your tiara where you want it to clip into your hair or wig.

All the other pieces will require either lacing or velcro; I chose to attach the armor using sticky velcro, which is pretty easy to manage. The vambraces and belt close on themselves with velcro while the shoulder and chest pieces attach to my bodysuit with velcro.

While not shown here, the other pieces of my costume include a navy bodysuit, a red corset, boots that I painted red with Angelus paint, a natural black wig, and a lasso of truth.

I’m excited to share this cosplay with my fellow nerds, and will be posting photos of the end result on our cosplay-centric tumblr The Collected Cosplayers. If you’ve created your own armor, let us know in the comments below.

Until next time,

The Collected Mutineer

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