Black Widow, Part 3: Accessorize

Logo Belt

The second  item I created was the logo belt buckle (reference photos). I hadn’t really made a firm decision to make a whole costume at that point and I was just wanted something simple to build to have something to show and talk about at the presentation I was preparing. I tried different materials I happened to have at home and ended up making the buckle entirely out of vinyl flooring. It’s pretty easy to cut with sharp knife, spray-paints very easily and it was soft and thin enough so that I could use my sewing machine to attach the lowest layer of the buckle to the belt. The belt is 5 cm (2″) wide elastic from a local crafts shop with velcro sewn for closing it. In the film, the belt is made of the same material as the jumpsuit. With a bit more effort, the belt could be made to look a lot more “professional”.

The buckle just covers the velcro and doesn’t open up. It would be interesting to try to design a functional buckle with this design – maybe some day. The silver base of the buckle consists of layers of vinyl, initially attached with double sided carpet tape and secured later on with a bit of epoxy glue at the corners. The red and black parts are individual pieces cut from a single layer of vinyl. I spent quite a bit of time getting the tapers on the red part as clean as possible. I had silver and red spray paint already and used a wide black permanent marker to paint the small center part black.

Everything from early draft versions to the hand-crafted belt to the 3D-modeled and printed version.

Everything from early draft versions to the hand-crafted belt to the 3D-modeled and printed version.


  • 5 cm / 2″ wide knit elastic band
  • 5 cm / 2″ wide velcro (note that you can get elastic loop side velcro in this size)
  • Left-over vinyl flooring from a dumpster
  • Double-sided carpet tape (optional)
  • Epoxy glue
  • Silver, red and black paint

The belt buckle is a nice confidence-builder: it’s an important part of the costume, but it’s also quite easy to make one that looks practically identical to the one in the film. If you happen to have the needed materials and some simple tools (mostly just a marker pen and a sharp knife), you can potentially make the belt buckle in one evening (just give the paint a chance to dry properly and apply multiple coats if necessary).

There are a number of 3D models for this buckle on Thingiverse. Most of them are not very accurate, but one is pretty close. My buckle was the first thing I made, so looking at it now and comparing it with photos from the film, I could see where it could be improved.

One evening in January, I used Blender to model a more accurate belt buckle and then a few days later printed it at the public library. Here’s a zip archive with the Blender file and STL exports. I used a lot of constructive solid geometry for this model, which means that I took basic shapes like boxes and cylinders and used “addition” and “subtraction” to describe the 3D model. CSG sometimes causes problems in the mesh exports, but those can be (and were) cleaned up using NetFabb Free. The hourglass cut-outs all use the same size cylinder, except the one for the red part is skewed. The geometry is also mirrored on two axes. Printing the looped version of the silver colored part will probably require adding some removable support material. I enabled that option in Cura and it was pretty easy to fut off the excess with a sharp knife.

The buckle is modeled as three different parts that still need to be glued together. I did this so that the two flat outward faces could be printed against the glass bottom of the printer and the beveled red part with the bevel up. Flat surfaces printed right on the glass look a lot better than flat surfaces printed at the top of the model. If you print this, make sure the parts are oriented with the largest flat surfaces down on the printer floor.

The timeglass buckle is a relatively quick and easy item to print and the first version didn’t have loops for the belt to pass through, so I changed the design slightly and printed another. The one in the photo above is the first version without the belt loops. I had some difficulties with the red paint – my can of red paint is probably already past its prime. The second print was made using red filament and just I deepened the red color a bit by coloring with a permanent marker.


I compromised quite a bit on the boots. I found inexpensive wedge heel boots with just one strap and the zipper on the side instead of in the front. I figured I could add some straps for show later on, if I had time. As often happens, I just didn’t have time to improve the boots at all before Halloween. They were very comfortable and easy to move in, but something a bit sleeker around the legs and with more straps would have been more accurate. As far as I know, the boots that were used in the film were custom-made, so they are not available anywhere.

In December, I found and bought some boots that are closer to the right length, with a higher wedge heel and about the right length too. Closer, but of course not perfect. The first pair of boots have a seam running along the front, so I’m also considering having them modified to be as accurate as possible. Having found a replacement, trying to modify the previous the boots wouldn’t risk the outfit. I think I would need to talk to a shoemaker: my sewing machine isn’t suitable for this task and I don’t think I want to try hand-sewing a zipper onto the boots. Alternatively, I could leave out the front zipper and just change the straps on the new boots to look more like the Avengers boots.


The gloves I used are men’s weightlifting gloves: Harbinger 143 Pro. Inexpensive and with quite a bit of leather, they are not a perfect match, but a very good one for the price. The logo is fairly inconspicuous, so I just left it there. In the completed costume, there’s a hidden micro-switch inside the palm of the glove to control the computer on the Widow’s Bite bracers. Other than adding a velcro patch inside the glove to attach the switch, I didn’t modify the gloves in any way. The switch part of the Widow’s Bites, so I’ll describe it in a later article in this series.

Up Next…

The next article will cover the tactical belt and gun holsters, which were also mostly off-the-shelf items that I only adapted slightly for use with the costume. After that though, this series should get more interesting with more parts that were built pretty much from scratch.

Black Widow, Part 2: Suit Up!

In this part, I’ll discuss where and how I got the logo belt, suit, shoulder patches and gloves. I wanted to get the costume ready for Halloween, so I only had about a month and half and out of that time, I was away on a business trip for nine days. There was no way I could make everything from scratch.


While I own a sewing machine, my experience using it is mostly for making small pouches, various of straps and belts and repairing stuff. I’m interested in learning sewing for making costumes, but it just had to wait. I didn’t have time to improve my sewing enough, get patterns and materials and get other parts of the costume done. Instead of trying to make a jumpsuit, I did some online shopping to find something suitable.

I wanted a body-hugging material suit with long sleeves and with a slightly textured surface that wasn’t too shiny or matte. I knew 1 mm neoprene with a lycra cloth surface would look nice, but long sleeve full suits are generally way too hot to wear indoors. Luckily, I found the Rip Curl G-Bomb ladies long sleeve springsuit. It’s available in various colors, among them a pure black suit. It has a nice front zip that goes just far enough down to work with this costume. The zip locks in place securely in any position, making it easy to adjust the amount of visible cleavage. I found the wetsuit for under $50 (+ shipping and taxes) – I knew I could use it without ruining its function as a wetsuit, so I felt it was a good deal.

On the negative side though, there is a silvery Rip Curl logo on the chest and another left arm near the shoulder. The ridge around the logo peeled off pretty easily and I covered the logo with the black marker, but it is still visible in photos. I tried removing the logo with acetone, but I didn’t want to ruin the neoprene, so I gave up when the silver color didn’t seem to come off easily. Neoprene is somewhat resistant to acetone, but I was worried about damaging the suit.

The arm logo is a bit lower on the arm than the shoulder patch on the Black Widow uniform, but putting the S.H.I.E.L.D. patch on top of it was clearly the best way to hide it neatly. I bought some fabric arm patches on Ebay and then later noticed that they were negatives of the ones in the Avengers costume. I found and bought another set of patches before Halloween, but ended up liking the first set better anyway and used them despite the black/white reversion. The first patches have a hooked velcro back. This meant that I could easily remove the S.H.I.E.L.D. logos from the wetsuit when it wasn’t used for cosplay. Still, the patches weren’t exactly accurate in terms of material & looks. I used Liquisole to attach the loop side velcro patches to the suit. Liquisole is quite good for gluing something like that (very strong), but it takes overnight to cure, so make sure you have time, if you want to use it.

There’s a shirt and a bodysuit version of the springsuit. I bought the bodysuit because I knew it wouldn’t ride up under any conditions and it would be more useful as a wetsuit as well. The crotch doesn’t snap open, so going to the bathroom is complicated and not really advisable. I suspect bathroom complications are a common problem for cosplayers…

For the legs, I tried to look for neoprene leggings, but found compression tights instead. The material isn’t neoprene, but the surface texture and color are actually very close. I guess the lycra is quite similar. 2XU Women’s compression tights are available with black on black graphics. The price was a bit high for my Halloween budget, but this was also something that could still be used elsewhere. Even though the black on black logo is visible in photos, it doesn’t look out of place in the costume. Together with the tactical belt, the top and bottom can be made to look like a seamless jumpsuit. As far as my Halloween costume was concerned, I was happy with what I had.

For winter/spring 2016, I have started researching materials and patterns in order to make my own suit from scratch. It’s still too early to say much about this, but the sample swatch of black spacer mesh I got from Moodfabrics might be the right fabric. I’ll write another article about this once I have something more concrete to show.

Spacer Mesh and some 12mm fold-over elastic

Spacer Mesh and some 12mm fold-over elastic.

Improved Insignia

For Halloween, the shoulder patches were from Ebay and didn’t look quite right. Writing this series, I started upgrading pieces of the Halloween costume with improved versions. For the shoulder patches, one plan was to 3D print a S.H.I.E.L.D. logo stencil or mold and then make my own patches. Before I had a chance to get start 3D-printing stuff, I came up with a way to make the patches with common and easy materials. The prototypes were promising, but the first two patches looked a bit messy because I used too much glue. The third patch turned out almost perfect, but I made a slight layout mistake with the pieces and had to redo that one as well. The process works, but requires precision to get the best possible results. If the patches do not need to be super durable, you can get some rubber or foam sheets with adhesive already on one side and skip all the nasty parts that involve rubber glue and long drying times.

Here’s what I used:

  1. A bicycle inner tube, 1.75″
  2. Some rubber glue (Liquisole)
  3. I wanted a velcro back, so I used two slices of 5 cm (2″) wide velcro, but this is optional
  4. A printer and some paper
  5. Water-soluble glue stick
  6. Silver spray paint
  7. Wax (baking) paper

I used Autodesk Graphic (formerly known as iDraw) to draw the logo. I started with a photo reference in a background layer and set up guidelines for drawing. Three concentric circles for the black perimeter and the wing + tail edges and then the straight lines in the logo. Once I had the guidelines in place, I converted the inner parts into polygons or bezier curves. I then reduced the logo to the size I wanted and labeled the parts so that they would be easier to recognize and place on the patch once they were cut out. I duplicated the patch and mirrored the body to turn the head of the eagle the other way for the other shoulder. I then duplicated these two patches three times on a sheet. I printed out the patches on paper, making sure I had plenty of spares. I was new at this, so I had a hunch I would end up making more than two shoulder patches before I got it right.


I cut a segment from the rubber inner tube and then cut it lengthwise to make a square. The rubber square needs to be large enough to cover the whole logo and then some. I washed and dried the rubber square and (optionally) sanded the side with ridges on it. The smooth side is then covered completely with glue stick and a printed logo is applied over the glue. At this point, it’s good to let the glue dry properly so that it doesn’t come loose while you are doing the next steps. I placed a flat weight over the rubber/paper composite to keep it from curling while it was drying. Patience is king.

Once the paper glue had set, I cut the gray logo pieces. I found it best to start cutting inside the white area above the eagle’s head and cut out the circle around the patch along the inner line. A good pair of scissors works really well here. I used two pieces of 5 cm wide velcro as the backing. The patch is wider than 5cm, so the two pieces are used to form one larger piece about 10cm × 10cm in size. Another bit of velcro held the two sides together until the glue had dried and the patch was ready. I squeezed some glue directly on the velcro and made sure all of it was really well “wetted”. It’s OK to use a little bit of excess glue. Next, I used the glue on the velcro to wet all the rubber bits needed for the patch. I moved the bits to a piece of baking paper with the glue side down and slid them around like slugs, leaving a trail of glue behind. This got rid of excess glue and to made sure the glue is applied evenly. Then, I applied some baking paper on the velcro and use it to smooth and squeeze out all excess glue from the velcro. I used pressure to really work it into the velcro. Excess glue will stick to the baking paper. The thinner the film of glue, the faster and better it will cure.

Fortunately the logo is an easy shape to cut

Fortunately the logo is an easy shape to cut.

For best results, the glue needs to settle for at least a few minutes before laying out the pieces onto the backing. I started out with the outer circle, then the tail (B), body (A) and wings (CDE & FGH). At this point, it’s really important to use an uncut version of the logo as reference. I thought I was familiar with the logo and skipped it on the third patch I made, only noticing my mistake the next day when it was way too late to do anything about it. Can you spot my mistake? The patch looks nice enough, but it’s just wrong, so I let out a deep sigh and I decided to redo it one more time…

The parts are glued down. Can you spot my mistake? Always use a reference drawing/photo when making something.

The parts are glued down. Can you spot my mistake? Always use a reference drawing/photo when making something.

These were the last two I made. The logo pieces are correctly positioned & glued down with just enough glue.

These were the last two I made.

I enveloped the patch in baking paper. The paper is nice because it’s translucent, so you can see if anything has moved out of place without actually lifting it. I placed some stone tiles on the patch for weight and then applied a bit of pressure. I went back to check the result about 20 minutes later and made some fine adjustments to positions. At that point, it’s still possible to move the pieces slightly. After that, the baking paper and weights go back on and the whole thing is left to cure overnight.

The whole patch painted. The parts covered with paper are still black underneath. I used too much glue, so I scraped some off and left some nasty scars on the patch.

The whole patch painted. The parts covered with paper are still black underneath. This is the first prototype. I used too much glue and tried to remove some of it, leaving nasty marks.

The next day, I used a pin to mark the outer border of the patch with tiny holes in the paper. I used spray paint on the patch before cutting the round outline, so painting over the paper will hide the print, but the pinholes are clearly visible and work well as a reference for cutting the patch out once the paint has dried. Once the paint is completely dry, the whole patch can be soaked in water for a while. This will soften the paper glue and allow the paper to be peeled off cleanly, leaving a clean black rubber surface.

Home-made shoulder patches completed

Home-made shoulder patches completed.

 Until Next Time…

The next article will cover the logo belt, boots and gloves.

Black Widow costume on January 1st, 2016.

Black Widow costume on January 1st, 2016.

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.