Anyone who’s watched Attack on Titan, the anime series by Hajime Isayama, has at some point wished they could strap on the 3D manuevering gear of the Scout Regiment and zip around like a katana-wielding Spiderman. Acrobatics aside, I realized that dream when I made one of the most detailed and source-accurate cosplay I’ve ever taken on.
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I had thought about making this costume before, but always realized the jacket would be a major obstacle. I didn’t want to just buy one; it would feel like cheating, the quality of material wouldn’t be great, and it would probably account for half of the budget. Trying to sew or adapt a normal jacket to fit like the ones in the anime would be beyond my tailoring abilities, although a lot of people have sewn from scratch, like Lynnenew in the Denver Sewing Collective.
One day I was scanning the isles at Goodwill for Halloween costume inspiration and a jacket a few isles over caught my eye. It was on the children rack, but it was pretty much the exact dimensions, fit, color, and style of the Attack on Titan uniforms. The sleeves were longer than the waist so I guess it was meant to be one of those awkward women’s jackets, but because the corduroy was woven into a stretch fabric, I was able to fit into it pretty well. Yes, budget cosplay sometimes requires you to ignore funny looks you might get trying on women’s clothing at a thrift shop. It’s worth it though when you find the perfect item.
There were only a few modifications needed. I reduced one of the hems to allow it to hang more naturally in one spot, and used the extra material to make the shoulder straps. I got lucky with the jacket because I would have never taken on the rest of the project had I not stumbled upon such a perfect starting point
Again, I could have saved a lot of time here and just bought patches from Etsy. This was way before the live action movie though, and the anime must not have been as well known, because patches and jackets were far more custom and expensive than you can find today. I also knew I would need the full size patch on the back, which I couldn’t find in the right size anywhere. So instead of pre-made patches, I bought the right colors of canvas and thread, pulled out the sewing machine and started practicing embroidery. Obviously, it was a little rough, but in the end it came out neat enough that I was satisfied with it.
One thing I didn’t consider was that the jacket had a decent stretch to it, while the patches I made did not. Sewing them on so that they looked right while the jacket was being worn was a little tricky. Always consider the types of weave when combining pieces of different fabric.
Shirt, Boots and ACCESSORIES
After the jacket, finding other pieces of clothing was fairly easy. The only way I found tight white jeans at Goodwill was in the women’s isle. I also found a shirt that was similar to what Erin Jeager wears, as well as a short sleeved white shirt for the main cosplay, Captain Erwin Smith.
To complete the Captain Smith look I made a bolo tie from polymer clay and painted it with model paint.
The boots were much more difficult to figure out. I looked really hard but couldn’t find any way to get boots that were tall enough without spending too much money. Eventually, I used an old pair of shoes and glued tagboard onto them for the structure, then glued a faux leather suede to that. I used the same faux suede to make the little skirt thing.
One of the most confusing parts of the project (especially when putting it on) was the straps. The characters wear harnesses that wrap around their entire body in a specific pattern. I looked at a lot of illustrations and screenshots before I wrapped my head around how they wrap around a person. I used a stretchy, vinyl pleather and hemmed the edges so the seam met on the back, giving me a lot of strap to work with. Artelle Vienn has an excellent tutorial on the straps posted on Deviant Art.
The gray portions were a thicker faux leather used for upholstery.
The back-brace squares had loops so they could slide up and down the straps and adjust their height on my back. Behind the middle rivet was a neodymium magnet that matched magnets in the 3D gear, allowing it to snap into place.
The swords are the most iconic piece of the entire series, so I knew from the start that they would be essential to this cosplay. There would be a lot of challenges in making one, let alone two that were identical.
I wanted to make the blades releasable like in the show, but I simply wouldn’t have trusted any locking mechanism I could imagine to hold it in place well enough, while keeping the shape of the locking end accurate. The leverage of the long blade would just create too much strain. Kudos to FluxTideDesigns, whomanaged to pull it off with 3D printing .
Instead I focused on making sure the blades were integrated into the handle well enough that they wouldn’t break off when swung around. I looked at screenshots from the show as well as other people’s builds to create a design that would give me what I wanted.
Close to a dozen hours went into the patterning for these blades, so I made sure to keep those. If you want to try this build for yourself, you should be able to use the grid and patterns below as a good starting point
For the blade, I found some aluminum blanks at Home depot that were perfect. They measured 36 x 1.50 x 0.62 Inches, but were light and very ridged. Putting them in a vice, I used a hacksaw to cut the distinctive 45 degree marks in the blades. I also drilled and cut the handle anchors.
I patterned the design into about 5 layers and traced out mirrored pieces on 1/4 inch medium-density fiberboard (MDF). A jigsaw makes quick, neat work of MDF.
Wood glue forms an incredibly strong bond with MDF, but I didn’t want the blade coming loose, so it was anchored with four flat-head screws. I still had to grind down the heads and slightly countersink the other side for a snug fit. Finally, I slathered the aluminum in two part epoxy glue before closing it up.
Another important feature I wanted was movable triggers. This is why the interior design was so complex. Not only did the angles brace the blade within the handle, they also anchored the springs that would be behind the triggers. You can sort of see the spring from a cheap pen in in position against the aluminum in this pic (sorry it’s so blurry).
The trigger hammers can also be depressed. You can see in the picture below that they are held into their groove with a tiny pin. A chamber under it holds a spring to push it forward.
There was a whole lot of sanding with a rotary tool and paper to get the triggers and trigger guards to fit and slide within the channels.
I masked the blades to prevent them from being marked by any scratches from sanding or paint.
MDF is soft enough that a handheld rotary tool can easily bevel edges and add detail. Wood filler helped make the parts smooth.
For the wood portion of the handles, I wanted to get really accurate knurling, so I traced across a highlighted grid.
The lines were wood burned into the MDF to make the texture, then paint brought out the detail.
Several other details were added that I don’t have photos of. I embedded an anchor for the gas tubes at the bottom. The tubes themselves were garden watering lines. I took the brakes off an old bicycle for the handles. They mounted through the small piece above the triggers.
To make the sheath boxes and 3D gear I followed a tutorial that, unfortunately, looks like it isn’t online anymore. I appreciated the detailed explanations and pictures the maker documented everything with. I followed a combination of his tutorial and this Indestructible. I made quite a mess.
At this point I had not experimented much with using EVA foam for making, preferring cheap, ubiquitous cardboard and good old foam core. I made the main structures with cardboard. I left spaces for the swords to be inserted, the springs on the outsides, and the hip attachments on the insides.
Next I carefully cut the faces and the perpendicular tank holders out of foam core, and gave those a base coat of acrylic.
The tanks themselves were made of smart water bottles and PVC “T” intersections. The Faces of the box got the right color of mat acrylic, while the tanks and holders got silver and black spraypaint for a weathered aluminum look.
I wound some wire around a dowel to make a spring, painted it silver and put a black background in the little chamber where it sits.
On the inside there were two crucial pieces of MDF that helped hold the sheath boxes on. The black one has holes with diagonal slots that receive a button that is sewn onto the jeans where the leg straps cross, between the knee and hip. It fits in and slides up the groove, just like a nail head into a picture frame.
The brown piece has a wing nut that tightens onto a telescoping selfie stick. this means the anchor points can both be adjusted, as well as the overall length of the connector rod. The rod fits into the rubber handle that will be attached to the 3D gear on my back. These two MDF pieces are hot glued directly to the cardboard sub frame so they won’t rip away.
The last touch was to make a few sword connectors to stick out of the sheath to look like spare blades.
3D Manuvering Gear
I knew the 3D gear would have to be really sturdy and easy to put on. I started with perforated steel hanger strap. This is a ribbon of steel that can be easily bent, but is fairly strong. The holes also make it easy to attach to other components. I found some aluminum shelf brackets that were easy to bend up and grind to the right shape. I attached the hanger strap and the brackets to a 2X4 joist hanger bracket. After bending the nail guides 90 degrees, the back of the hanger bracket sat nicely against my back and the top of my butt, and would position the gear right where it needed to be. Two other little pieces of metal were attached to the joist bracket at the same point as the hanger strip, coming off at an angle.
I used a dog collar for the nylon strap and clip connector that connected the two pieces of hanger strap.
The lower pieces coming off the bracket supported long threaded bolts. These would run up through the foam core coil housings to hold them sturdily at the proper angle. On the back of the metal pieces the bolts also held on the rubber grips of the selfie sticks used to attach the sheath boxes. The grips pulled off the selfie stick easily enough, but when the stick was reinserted, it acted kind of like Chinese finger traps, resisting when pulled. That made it easy to clip the boxes onto the buttons of the pants, then guide the selfie stick into the grip so the box was further supported and kept from swinging around.
At the other end of the bolts I used the plastic lids from some containers of protein powder. They would keep the coil housings perpendicular to the bolt. Cardboard tube was put over the bolts to make it easy to glue the coil housing supports to. I started covering some of the components with foam core and cutting out the shapes for the coil housings.
For the gas vent I used the plastic from some kind of microwavable soup container. When I need a clean line to cut along something cylindrical, I sometimes tape a sharpie to a wall and rotate the object on the floor.
The top of the gas vent was made with foam core. Because the exposed foam has a porous texture, I sealed it with wood filler. Later I used a wood burner to create the indentions and inserted craft brads to create the effect of sunken rivets.
Everything was hot glued together and given a base coat of acrylic before being sprayed silver.
I put unpainted drywall screws through the top holes of the coil housing. In between the top and bottom pieces, I slid silver-painted segments of the garden tube over the threads of the drywall screws. A piece of brown tag board sat behind these as the body of the coil housing.
I don’t have any progress pictures of the cable ejectors, but they were pretty straight forward. I just used a piece of wood, cut it to shape, rounded the edges and pained it brown. I inlaid the black lines on the side and used aluminum tape on the ends. The front had some aesthetic holes drilled in and the back got threaded cable holders where the tubes were attached. A screw went through the hanger strap and right into the wood.
The tubes got threaded receivers to screw onto the other components. Magnets were glued behind the aluminum brackets to stick onto the back braces. The gear all had to go on in a particular order, but looked fantastic when it was in place.
All together, I could not have been happier with this cosplay. I had a great time wearing it around for Halloween, but sadly I never made it to a con with it. Either way, I had a blast making it and it looked great on me as well as on my wall. Thanks for reading and check back for more cosplay breakdowns.