My Road to the 501st Legion: Part 1
A great resource for someone just starting up in the 501st Legion: Vader’s Fist!
The 501st Legion is a costuming organization run by Star Wars fans themselves. It has always been a goal of mine to join, but a part of me felt guilty for wanting to side with the Empire. The 501st is made up of different garrisons across the world, each with members of all kinds: Mandalorian bounty hunters, Jawas, Stormtroopers, Imperial Officers, you name it. The 501st holds events across the world and all of their proceeds go to a charity of their choice.
Just recently I finally committed to being a Stormtrooper. After being Boba and Jango Fett for two years for Halloween, I wanted to step it up. If you’ve searched for Stormtrooper costumes to fit a budget, you know how difficult it is. Everything available is usually disproportionate or comes in a printed body suit. Both Fett costumes I wore were just like that, and I probably spent about $130 once I included accessories. Anything better than that starts at around $500.
Let’s say you want to take it up a notch and step into the world of costuming along with me. The first step is to SAVE UP. You’re no longer buying a costume. You’re buying armor, and it will cost you anywhere from $600 to $1,200. More expensive does not necessarily mean better. If, like me, you want to be a stormtrooper, the armor can be made out of a large variety of materials.
Step two: how willing are you when it comes to building? Some kits will come pretty much assembled, while others will come in pieces, leaving you with the meticulous task of putting the costume together.
Surprised? I was too. It’s pretty daunting idea. Going to Home Depot, buying tools (some of which I had never even heard of), and working with pieces of plastic that cost more than any class I’m currently taking. There really isn’t an easy way out, but any legion member will tell you that when blood, sweat, and tears have been put into your armor, you’ll appreciate it more.
Now, some of you have seen replica armors online, such as this one. This costume is made by Rubies. Currently, they are the only company licensed by Lucas film. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad but it does not fit 501st requirements. The armor is expensive as it is, but because it is not 501st approved, it will cost you a couple hundred more to modify it up to their standards so you’re better off purchasing armor elsewhere.
You’re probably asking yourself where you can purchase 501st approved armor. Well, it requires plenty of research but I’ll give you a head start. This link contains all the garrisons, outposts, squads and detachments available. Look for yours and sign up to their forums. If you’re truly committing to this, the members of your future garrison will be your best friends. They will help you out with any questions you have and will point you in the right direction. So sign up, introduce yourself, and you’ll be on your way. Please inform yourself though. Many of the questions you have may have already been answered in the forum or really just require minimum research on your part to figure out.
Unfortunately, I went ahead on my own without using my garrison’s help. (While it isn’t necessarily wrong, you may miss out on plenty of information) I went right ahead and searched through eBay for possible armors. There are plenty of options across eBay, and they’re all affordable. However, most of these options are recasts. Up until recently, I had never heard of that before but it’s pretty self-explanatory.
“Make sure that whatever you purchase comes with everything included in the CRL. If it doesn’t, take the time to find whatever you’re missing. Most sellers won’t include a body suit or the neck piece, but you can get those anywhere.”
Recasting is when anyone takes a prop and uses it to make a copy. Props are fan-made and have a lot of time and effort put into it. It’s really more of a morals thing. Most of the prop makers are actually 501st members themselves, so by purchasing a recast, you are taking away incentive from those who build props as a hobby. That’s completely understandable, so it is up to you to make that judgment call. On the other hand, re-casts are usually made from inferior material. Some will withstand a few trooping events, others will not. On top of that, some of these recast sellers won’t offer the same type of service that a seller from the 501st would.
It’s truly up to you. There are a few eBay sellers who may be 501st dropouts just looking to make a buck or two out of their old armor. Some 501st members even have their own eBay page. That’s your call. However, whatever you do: always check the Costuming Reference Library (CRL). The CRL will give you every detail about the costume, what it needs and what it can’t have.
Like your fellow costumers, the CRL will definitely point you in the right direction. Make sure that whatever you purchase comes with everything included in the CRL. If it doesn’t, take the time to find whatever you’re missing. Most sellers won’t include a body suit or the neck piece but you can get those anywhere.
Just by reading this, you’ve taken your first step into the 501st Legion. I’ve got a long road ahead of me but I know it’ll be worthwhile. If you were as lost as I was in the beginning, I hope this article has given you the final push to consider joining the 501st.
– Matthew A. Ramirez