Black Widow, Part 1: Cosplay Project Overview

Why I Did a Cosplay

Over the years, I saw cosplay on the big screen (Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope) and on online streams such as the Blizzcon virtual ticket. I was impressed by how great some costumes were and how ambitious some of the plans were. I arranged for a club that I’m a member of to have a cosplay presentation at this year’s fall weekend retreat, but due to scheduling problems, I ended preparing and presenting the whole thing myself, despite having no actual experience in cosplay.

So, in order to learn enough about cosplay to talk about it in front of a (small) audience, I did as much online research as I had time for. Mind you, I learned that I would be the one doing the presentation only about two weeks before the event, so I had very limited time. Having watched a number of documentaries on YouTube, I became aware that a major part of the activity is in actually designing and building the costumes. Sure, most of the costumes are derivative works of the original designs of the characters, but even if you go for a super-accurate superhero costume, you have to figure out how to create the costume. It’s like getting a sketch from a designer and then as the engineer getting the freedom to implement and modify that as you like.

My grandfather had a workshop in his basement and he was always tinkering with stuff and also building things for us kids. I don’t have a workshop like that, but over the years I have collected small tools here and there, so I actually already had most of the tools I needed to make a costume. Shows like Tested and a number of do-it-yourself videos on YouTube inspired me to take a step and actually do something instead of just dreaming of doing. Having essentially quit playing WoW also left a sort of time vacuum that could be filled. There’s a busy community on TheRPF, but I was already weeks into making my costume before I found my way there. Frankly, if you are just starting out, that place could potentially feel a little intimidating, but it is a great resource if you are looking for information on almost any costume or prop.

Character Choice

So, one night just after I had started working on the cosplay presentation, I was watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier on Netflix and noticed the brown leather jacket that Natasha Romanoff wears in it. I had a jacket almost like it… and I happened to have an old wig that was a reasonably close match to her hair in the Avengers movie. I determined that I had just enough time to piece together a costume that would be good enough to use as a demo in the presentation. At the same time, I realised that the Black Widow in civilian clothes wouldn’t really mean much to someone who wasn’t a rabid fan of the films, so I also started working on a design and some props for an actual superhero Black Widow costume.

Of all her costumes up to that point, I felt that the best one was in The Avengers (2012). A logo belt with a separate tactical belt looked better than one combined belt, as it did a better job of accentuating the waistline. And as I mentioned, the wig I already had was a decent match for her hair in the Avengers movies. I’m hesitant to link or include copyrighted movie art here without permission, so if you want to see some of the reference photos I used, you can use a search engine to look for them…

What Are Little Black Widows Made of?

I think the first actual prop that I made was for the Captain America WS costume and it was the arrow-shaped necklace. I shaped a bit of solder wick into an arrow and covered it with soldering tin. I did the arrow one evening, then bought a lock and chain and installed them the next. Easy and fun – I was hooked. In the limited time I had, I worked out an idea of how to make the shuttle-shaped (think of loom shuttles) pods on the Widow’s Bite bracers and I had made the logo belt. Technically the necklace isn’t part of the costume, but I ended up wearing it anyway – it’s not really noticeable unless specifically mentioned, but it is supposed to be a gift from Hawkeye to Natasha, so technically she should still have been wearing it in the time span between Avengers and Winter Soldier.

The first thing I made was this simple necklace

The first thing I made was this crude necklace.

There was no way I could get her combat outfit done in two weeks, so I decided to try to get a costume done for Halloween. I knew I wouldn’t have time to make everything from scratch, but I didn’t want to buy anything that was only made for a Black Widow costume. The costume was to be a combination of re-purposed items that I either already had or bought and a few things that I would concentrate on making as well as I could.

Here’s a rough list of “parts” that I wanted to have for the costume:

  1. Suit (with patches)
  2. Boots
  3. Gloves
  4. Logo belt
  5. Tactical belt
  6. Holster(s) & gun(s)
  7. Baton weapons
  8. Widow’s bites (bracers)
  9. Wigs etc.

This blog series will document how I obtained or made the parts and how it all worked out. Even for the parts which I didn’t make myself, I think documenting my costume may be entertaining or useful to someone else. Who knows, maybe this series will encourage someone else to start their first costume project?

I don’t think Black Widow had her batons in Avengers yet, but I suspected carrying even a realistic prop gun at the Halloween party would be frowned upon, so I decided to try to make the batons and focus my effort on the bracers. Of all the parts, the Widow’s Bites were by far the most work as I designed and built them from scratch. The bracers are the “crown jewel” of this costume and have three blog posts dedicated to document the design and build.

Black Widow costume on January 1st, 2016.

Black Widow costume on January 1st, 2016.

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