Full Circle

Constructing the Jump Suit

by Gordon Callahan

by Gordon Callahan

© 2001 D. M. Dubé

© 2001 Ken Warren

© 2001 G. Anderson

Balticon photography by Gordon Callahan, official photographer of the Balticon 35 Masquerade. WorldCon photography by Ken Warren, official photographer of the Millennium Philcon.

The suit itself is just a generic jump suit pattern, modified slightly to fit both me and the role of space suit better.  I started with a McCall's pattern for a gorilla suit, which included a simple, baggy jump suit.  At Donna's recommendation, I started working first in muslin, making a mock-up of the suit, before even touching the quilted nylon.  Among other things, that afforded me an opportunity to learn how to operate a sewing machine, how to interpret patterns, how and why to do basting stitches, and other technical skills; as well as to alter the size and shape of the pattern, and to better understand the costume I was trying to build.

The modifications I made were simple but important.  I shortened and narrowed the sleeves and legs to make space for the boots and gloves and to attach to the coupling rings, expanded the neck to make room for the neck piece, and put in a zipper in the back instead of velcro.  The neck piece, the vertical tube that attaches to the helmet, is completely detachable.  In fact, it has to be - in my early experiments with putting on the suit with the neck attached, I discovered that I simply couldn't bend that way.  The neck now attaches to the rest of the suit by velcro under the collar.  First the suit is zippered up, then I pull the the neck piece over my head and velcro it in place.

Gordon Callahan's shots show many details of the suits, but there are a couple of important details missing, as far as authenticity, which I should address.  The most important one is the ribbing/quilting in the suit material itself.  Beyond the fact that I used metallic nylon pre-quilted fabric (I have no illusions about being able to stitch that straight for that long) and the movie used leather, the suits in the movie are not ribbed all the way around.  The chest and abdomen, and the insides of the arms and legs, were smooth.  You can see in these shots from the moon bus sequence and the hotel room at the end of the film the un-ribbed areas.But I had neither unquilted metallic nylon, nor the skill and patience to assemble the suit out of still more pieces.

There are some elements I am proud of having included, too.  The mission patch, just barely visible on my left shoulder, is the real one from the movie, downloaded off the net, printed onto iron-on transfer material, ironed onto cotton and interfacing, and sewed to the sleeve.  There is an American flag on the right shoulder, though there wasn't one on the original suits.  The control pad on the left forearm is made of silver nylon and black and orange foam.  It's actually in the wrong place, but once I'd sewed and glued it on, I figured it was close enough.  And there are connectors of some sort in the middle of the upper arm I mocked up.  I didn't realize that there were similar connectors at the knees until much too late, so they didn't get added until before WorldCon.

I also attached hose connectors at the sides of the abdomen to attach black ribbed hose (one from the chest pack, one from the back pack), but wound up not being able to find good hose until after Balticon. 

The grey belts at the hips and the striping at the shoulders I did in duct tape at the last minute in the green room, though I never could convince myself I had any idea what they were for.  The hip belts just attach to the middle of the back; the shoulder stripes may even just be decorative.  They're not quite correctly placed, but this is in part because I don't have the athletic physique of the actors in the film.  Perhaps next time I'll use shoulder pads.

Finally, I am especially proud of the rings connecting the suit to the helmet, boots and gloves.  After spending hours in local hardware stores looking for some screw-on connector I could spray-paint silver, I stumbled upon some embroidery hoops in a craft store (arguably I spent more time at craft stores anyway).  Embroidery hoops consist of a pair of concentric rings, with the inner ring closed, and the outer ring open but with a screw to tighten it.  I took two hoops per connection, and glued the inner rings together.  I spray painted the outer rings silver.  Then I hemmed the end of the suit sleeve, leg or neck, and glued it to one of the inner rings.  I took one of the silver outer rings and locked it in place over the glued fabric.  Then I took the boot, glove or helmet and glued it to the inside of the other silver outer ring.  To attach the item, simply slip the outer ring onto the uncovered inner ring (glued to the rest of the suit), and tighten to suit. 

Continue on to the gloves and boots page.

Bowman walking to the Pod Bay

Bowman beyond the infinite

Floyd and crew on Moonbus

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