Panel Discussion on Star Wars Costuming Clubs at Long Beach Comic Expo

Panelists entertaining a question from the audience (picture by Isaac Svensson)
Panelists entertaining a question from the audience
(picture by Isaac Svensson)

A panel discussion the other day focussed on Star Wars costuming clubs and how to make costumes. Taking place as part of the Long Beach Comic Expo, the panel discussion was moderated by Derek Easley and featured Robb Yanagihara, Ingrid Moon, Gabe Flores, Randy Figueroa, and Ryan Trent. The panelists came from different Lucasfilm-recognized costume clubs, with Yanagihara in the Saber Guild, Moon and Figueroa in in the 501st Legion, Flores in the Rebel Legion (although he is also a member of the 501st Legion), and Trent in the Mandalorian Mercs.

The panelists all enjoy the primary element of these costuming clubs, on account of the charity work they do. “I got into it because of the charity work,” said Flores, and, he said, it is “great meeting new people.” Yanagihara said that all the hot nights and spinning around and training “makes those experiences worth it” with Make-A-Wish kids.

Robb Yanagihara speaking
Robb Yanagihara speaking

As to the characters and costuming, Figueroa said the 501st Legion covers all of the bad guys. Trent says the Mandalorian Mercs are the third-largest of the Lucasfilm-licensed costume clubs, although the Mercs “gives you more freedom in how you want to express yourself” than the others. He, for instance, “built everything from scratch”, although he bought the undersuits for his costuming. “With the canon groups, you have to be very particular”, said Figueroa, although he did note that there is more leeway with the Mercs. Moon said that “what’s also important abou the canon costumes is proportions”, meaning that the costume is proportionate to one’s body. Flores said that, in the Rebel Legion, one can still dress up as characters from Star Wars Legends, even though they are now not canon. Yanagihara said the Saber Guild is pretty simple, as they try to keep their Jedi characters in the Clone Wars era with brown and tan outfits. However, he noted, both Jedi boots and Sith boots can be hard to find. “We do a lot of shows for kids, so you have to look the part,” said Yanagihara.

Ryan Trent speaking
Ryan Trent speaking

All of the costuming clubs have guidelines and limitations, noted the panelists, so it is not the easiest to get into them. Trent advised working with the application people for the clubs on particular characters, as they can help you and work with you. Flores said that the 501st Legion “needs three separate references of a character” in comic books, television, etc. to be considered a possibility. “All of these guidelines are meant to help you”, pointed out Trent, further observing that “all of these clubs have a similar application process.” However, despite how tough they could be, he said, the “goal behind it is to make everyone look awesome.”

Derek Easley entertaining a question from the audience (picture by Isaac Svensson)
Derek Easley entertaining a question from the audience
(picture by Isaac Svensson)

When asked about making the costumes, Trent said that the first thing to do is come up with a particular character. When making the costume, Figueroa advised going through the different online forums and finding people who can make the costumes. “I buy all my stuff in pieces and put them together,” he said, also noting that there are “a lot of subgroups in the 501st” and there are specialists in different types of Star Wars costuming. Another place of getting help online is watching videos, as Flores pointed out, “almost everything you want to build is on YouTube.”

Gabe Flores speaking
Gabe Flores speaking

Asked about the cost of how much these costumes take, the panelists did say that it costs money, but there are ways to make it cost less money. Flores said a lot of the costuming can be done by going to Harbor Freight and buying cheap stuff. With body armor, Trent said that you can get lightweight plastic that one can re-heat and re-form, pretty easily. He found templates on the Mandalorian Mercs website, which helped him. He also added electronics in his armor, although he said he was able to procure them from cheap toys that had broken or just getting inexpensive lights. As to helmets, though, Trent said that it’s a lot of money and that it’s easier to go online and buy them rather than to make helmets, oneself. However, Trent noted, “your creativity is your best weapon.”

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