Italicised items also used elsewhere in costume, listed or otherwise
Materials used (bodysuit): Mesh bodysuit (forever21, now out of stock), black bandeau, black velvet ribbon*, needle and black thread
Collar: Black fun foam, thin card (teabag box), aluminium foil, small magnets, all-purpose glue, PVA glue
Waistcoat: Black pleather*, black perforated pleather*, stretch denim* (similar here), soft gel gloss,* blue acrylic paint* (mixed with standard black acrylic paint), shatter glass holo fabric*, sewing machine, double sided tape, foam brushes
*Affiliate links and/or let me know if you are interested in buying any of my offcuts for your own Gamora costume/swimsuit for your cat/etc..
For the waistcoat/leggings appliqué sparkles, scroll all the way to the bottom.
For me, the first step to the upper half of this costume was to make a dress form. I did this by mummifying myself in duct tape and filling the result with expanding foam, as per this tutorial.
This will give you something to fit the costume to without having to attempt pinning/sewing on yourself. Adjustable dress forms can also be bought fairly cheaply, but this method is even cheaper, customised to you, and a lot more amusing.
With the dress form finished, you can pin your four strips of ribbon, or bias tape if you prefer, in a criss-cross pattern, and stitch. I chose velvet ribbon in an attempt to get a very true black: the densely-packed fibres absorb a lot of light, and unless light is directly shining on them, very little will be reflected and picked up by the camera (unless there are still pins in it..).
The neckpiece consists of a patent-leather effect upturned collar and irregular silver hexagons, fastened over the collarbone and attached to the waistcoat front, back, and shoulders. And it’s beautiful.
I strongly recommend you make as many templates as possible before cutting this. Be sure that you have the angles right: I’ll say this time and again, but the angles (and texture) are what differentiate costumes and screen-realistic cosplay. For this reason, you should take your time over the hexagons, number the backs of them, keep them in a small container where cats can’t knock them over, and make them smaller than you think you need. One common problem I’ve seen in a lot of Gamora costumes is that these hexagons are too cumbersome. In the end, mine came out too large, too. It’s partly because Zoe Saldana is taller with broader shoulders, but it may help to think of these as small studs rather than larger embellishments.
I drafted templates in paper and newspaper before cutting the final craft foam collar.
I originally hoped to cut my hexagons out of sheet metal, after a failed attempt with grey fun foam (these are flush with the rest of the collar; foam is 2mm thick). If you want it took look like metal, making it from metal is the best possible solution – I don’t like to settle for trompe l’œil unless it’s really good/better/the best solution. Or if I have my first convention coming up really soon. In the end I cut them out of thin card and covered them with tin foil.
After making the silver hexagons, it’s time to move on to the black ones. There are at least two hexagons attached to each outer edge of the neckpiece, which should be cut separately; collar and hexagons should then be attached using a layer underneath them, so that they are flush but still distinct. On the neckpiece itself, the pattern of the silver is continued with black hexagons of a different texture to the rest of the leather. This is not a required addition, but as it is a change of texture (not colour), it is another rich detail that can be added which, whether consciously perceived or not, will add to the overall impression of your costume. These hexagons are matte; mark them out with the edge of something sharp, and avoid those areas when you cover the neckpiece in two layers of PVA glue for the overall patent effect.
The turned-up collar tapers down in a steep line until just before the insides of the collarbones, and up towards nearly the outside line of the neck; again, make patterns for your neck. This can also be PVA’d, and I attached mine by way of foam “joints” and double sided tape on the inside and underside of the neckpiece. I made the ensemble removable by fastening at the front with magnets; this was not strong enough to hold against a lot of movement, so I recommend trying velcro or another, less-futuristic feeling fastener.
And now the waistcoat.
Easily my favourite part of the costume, but also the most infuriating to make. I originally hoped to build a bra into the costume, but as I have zero dressmaking experience and conventions sneak up on you very suddenly, I settled for a regular black bra covered with a black bandeau bralette. This also functioned as the sides of the costume, which was a nice quick fix, but had the downside of obscuring some of the bodysuit’s criss-crossed appliqué, which I was hoping to showcase by creating a bra with no centre strap. Maybe next time.
I cut the back out of the same plain pleather as the shoulders (and spraypainted the reverse side black too). I sewed it to the collar and pinned it to the leggings. I could have added more detail, but I didn’t, so there’s not much to say; here’s a reference of the back (albeit on a doll) and my finished product.
The shoulders were one of the most fun parts to make. They’re black leather with some gorgeous ribbing. The extra sewing is an optional extra, of course, but, although the black ribs are the same colour as the black leather, it’s all about texture, texture, texture for me.
This part is tricky. My sewing machine, for one, couldn’t agree with sewing these so close together, so a lot of it was done by hand. You can create these ribs by folding the material over, sewing a seam a couple of millimetres from the fold line, and then unfolding the fabric and flattening it out, like so.
Starting from the outside edge, the pattern is roughly a seam the width of two ribs, stitched down the middle; then two closely-spaced ribs; a gap, a rib, then a gap; and finally two more closely spaced ribs. The rest of the way towards the collar is unblemished leather. Here’s what I ended up with:
My outside rib is a little too prominent for my liking, and some of the stitching is clumsy, especially a couple of lines I botched on the machine, but overall I was pleased with the effect.
Now onto the main event! The waistcoat front required practise patterns in scrap fabric, card, or paper, just like most other parts of the costume. The basic shape is two slightly angled strips which split off at maybe a 130 degree angle and curve down to meet the leggings. They’re made of waxed denim and trimmed with perforated leather. I waxed the denim at home, which I’ll get into in a moment.
For these seams, place the denim and leather surface to surface, face to face, stitch the seam along the back of the leather, then unfold. Try to keep the pattern of the holes (if using perforated leather) in line with the edge of the denim, in exactly the way I didn’t. Then, fold the side not attached to the denim under and hem it. The curves are much trickier, and, as I have no experience, ended up fairly puckered, but I sorted them out as best I could within the time I had.
To wax the denim, I used the method outlined in this video. As I don’t live in the US and couldn’t get hold of the typical recommendation of otter wax, this method of using acrylic paint and gel gloss worked well for me. On my first coat, the denim looked far too bright a blue, so I mixed up another batch with more black. I would loved to have gotten it darker still, so that it didn’t ‘read’ as blue, but I didn’t want too much of a discrepancy between the colour of the waistcoat and the leggings (which, although a dark blue, were also still too light for my liking!).
And finally, the pièce de résistance: the waistcoat and legging details. There have been a lot of different methods used for this, from snakeskin to painting, but before I learned that the original costume was painted on using stencils, I decided on this method.
To me, Gamora’s detailing looked like a combination of a animal skin and a pixelated pattern; a natural material likely used in clothing and armour the whole galaxy over, and a digital-seeming fabric which was futuristic and alien. Either way, it stood to reason that this pattern should shine, be reflective, interact with the light around it as it seemed to in the promotional images. Even after finding out the print was 2D, I was determined to stick to this interpretation; I was convinced it would look fabulous when captured on camera.
And boy, was I right:
After a lot of research, I decided on black shattered glass holographic fabric. This is comprised of very small, reflective circles, which allowed me to replicate the pixelated pattern of the on-screen costume with 95% accuracy. They also read as black in some lights, white in others, and phrased through blue and orange in others still. I mostly wanted the blues that are echoed in the rest of the costume, but there’s such a thing as being too picky; I only found this fabric in the form of a pair of leggings from Australia.
Next came the laborious but utterly worthwhile process of mapping out the pattern on Photoshop, which I did with the help of View>Show>Grid.
I have made all of the patterns I created available for free on dropbox here.
Next came the even more laborious process of cutting out all of these segments using nail scissors, then glueing and stitching them onto the waistcoat and leggings. But I couldn’t have been happier with the final results.
It would, of course, have had a much nicer shape had I had time to create side panels and attach them, but the less material the better for dancing, at least. It’s always worth noting that although almost every part of the costume is black or dark blue, it doesn’t show up as a homogenous blur, even on low-quality cameras. Same colour, different materials, creating different texture.
As ever, comments and questions are welcome. Happy cosplaying!