This tutorial is to show you what I've learned on how to attach/wear armor. Since I love doing armor intensive costumes this is a subject I studied and experimented a lot on.
First - there's always the easy way out on this one and using velcro.
There are a lot of pros to using velcro instead of "strapping" your armor - but personnally I find that there is too many cons to use this method on most of my cosplay. The biggest of these cons is that I usually wear sports "underarmor" (special black garment that keeps me dry and cool) and if I had velcro sewed all over my body suit, it wouldn't act as it's suppose to - and since my cosplays don't have armor in the same place, I don't want to use a different body suit for all my cosplay.
However, if you want to go that way, here are some very helpful tips:
- Velcro will not stick to fabric - no matter what you use: don't get me wrong, it will for a while - but if you want to avoid wardrobe malfunctions in the middle of a con take the time to sew your velcro to the fabric part under the armor
- Use the right velcro: there are various "strength" for velcro - choose it well depending on the weight of the piece that has to be worn - using industrial strength velcro when not needed will only put stress on your velcro pieces when removing the pieces of armor and may tear your costume. In short, the stronger the velcro - the more you put the durability of your cosplay at risk.
- Use the correct color: Velcro is sold in many colors - just make sure you use something similar to the piece it will sticked/sewed to.
Moving on to the real part of this tutorial - how to attach and wear your armor. I'll be going over the different pieces of a full plate armor set and how they should be strapped and worn. I'll also cover 2 different sort of armor for each pieces - form-fitting armor and regular armor... as you won't be using the same technics for the 2 styles.
Sabatons - Feet
As you can see on this picture - this part is about the armor you wear on your feet: the sabatons. This is also one of the section where I won't go into detail on form-fitting vs regular since they would be strapped the same. Here is how I do it:
- This strap goes behind the heel and is attached to each side of the sabaton - it will keep the armor close to your leg. However, if you've got a plate to cover your heel (like in the picture) I'd go the same way as you can see in the picture. I'd use either a snap or a buckle to attach the snap to the heel plate
- This strap goes below the toes - don't put it too close to the front of your feet though. This strap will keep the armor on your feet when walking (make sure your sabaton is either flexible or made from overlapping plates so it can follow the movement)
One more tip - use fabric elastics.
Greaves - lower leg
I consider regular greaves as armor that will not cover your whole lower leg - just the front... style that will cover the whole leg is discussed in the form-fitting section.
Regular Greaves are pretty straight forward to strap and wear - I suggest using 3 straps.
- Placed closer to the heel (bottom of the greave) and goes around the leg
- Placed over the calf - not too close to the knee (a bit higher than the middle of your greave)
- That one I use if I don't have knee armor or the knee armor is not attached to the greave - I place it a the top of my calf and the strap will have to go over the calf (as in behind the knee) as it's going to "sit" on calf and when tightened will keep the greave at the correct height on the lower leg
Another tip - use adjustable straps here (through belt buckles or plastic "snap" buckles) as elastics just don't cut here and they usually distort the greaves when not the right length (too short).
The trick here is to find a seamless way of closing the armor - here is mine: using a zipper. However there is a way to make it appear seamless and I think that in this case a picture is really worth a thousand words :)
As you can see in this picture is that you need to cover the zipper with the material you're using for your armor - however you have to leave the zipper enough space to be able to zip it up and down. That's why only the first layer of material goes the "whole" way and will meet the other side. But a second layer is needed to add thickness (enough so the thing (see the grey square in my picture) that zip will not touch the first layer (more than 1 layer might be needed depending on the material and zipper you're using). Then I use hot glue to stick the zipper to the underside of my armor piece on both side. It's a tricky method, because there's a lot to watch out for so it looks good - but it's very efficient and makes the armor really easy to put on.
Other tips on the zipper method:
- Use a zipper that will be 2 - 3 inches longer than you would need... it's going to make it easier to zip it and you can always tuck the excess zipper inside your armor
- Use only a little hotglue - well enough to make it a good bond but be careful so that the hotglue don't spill on the zipper's teeth or close to them - cause the zipper will get caught in the hotglue and be very difficult to zip.
Cuisses - thighs
As you can see in the picture - there are 3 important straps for cuisses armor.
- One strap just below your crotch that goes all the way around your thigh
- One strap closer to your knee - again goes all around your thigh
- The most important strap, this one is placed at the top of you plate and will be attached to your belt
The importance of the 3rd strap is that for this kind of armor (cuisses) the thigh does not provide any part of the body the plate can "sit on"... it's always going to fall if you don't have that 3rd strap attaching it to your belt. Another tip - is don't make the 1st and 2nd strap too tight... it will not be confortable to wear - since there a lot of movement at the thigh level and we're talking about big muscles (meaning that when flexed they grow in size significantly), it's better to allow some space as far as strap length is concerned.
Form Fitting Armor
No real trick here - use the same technic as the greaves armor.
The tassets are just armor plates that are hanging off the breatplate. So the 1st and 2nd strap are either attached to your breastplate or our belt. A quick tip however - attaching those to your breastplate with actual straps (instead of using something like snaps or glue) will help in keeping your mid-body flexible... meaning make it easier to sit down :)
Vambraces - lower arm
Another easy one - as you can see in the picture - using grommets and a single strap to bring both side together is an easy way to attach vambrace. On the other hand, if you need to use straps... I recommend using 3 straps: #1 near the hand, #2 near the elbow, #3 in the middle. Why the 3rd one you ask ? - depending on which material you're using (speaking from my experience with foam) it may distort your vambrace because there's no support in the middle to bring the side together... so using that 3rd strap will make it look better.
Form Fitting Armor
Again - using the zipper method explained in the greaves section will work here... make sure to position the zipper on the inside (not below your arm, but on the side facing the other arm) as this is the place where a seam is less likely to get noticed.
Also making the vambrace "closed" (no seam) will also work... however you have to think that you hand need to get through it for you to be able to wear it - so measure that hole at the end of your vambrace so your hand can squeeze through, but will not be big enough for the vambrace to fall easily. Depending on the material you're using, cutting a notch at the end will help squeeze the hand through with keeping the hole quite tight - doing this will only work on flexible material (like foam : P)
Vambrace Guards - elbow
As you can see on the picture - I recommend using only 1 strap here... positioned in the middle of the elbow (where it flexs). This only strap will keep this piece of armor in place correctly. However, better strapping would be to include one at the top (that would go over your biceps) and one at the bottom (that would go over the top part of your lover arm). This would secure this piece of armor adequately - but since most of my vambrace guards were not made to be flexible (using glue and foam), it would have put to much stress on the piece and torn it... that's why I sticked to the 1 strap instead of using 3.
Vambrace Upper Cannons - biceps
This piece of armor has the same problem as the cuisses - on the biceps it will not find any place it can "sit on" and will always fall to sit on your vambrace guards and that doesn't look good and it impairs movement of the arm. The way to keep it in place is to use 2 straps (as shown on my picture):
- The most important one - that will keep the upper cannon in place - is attached to the top of the upper cannon and connected to the Pauldron. If you don't have a pauldron to connect it to - it needs to go to the gorget or directly to the breastplate
- If the piece doesn't go all the way around the biceps, 1 strap is needed here on the side to help keep it in place
Form Fitting Armor
As for form fitting armor - I would only use the 1st strap (attached to the pauldron) 'cause I'm assuming the upper cannon is going all the way around the biceps. I would also recommend making the strap not as tight as you'd think... leave a little bit of slack - it will help you move your arm a bit farther.
Pauldrons - shoulders
The pauldron is a pretty easy to wear - however it's a bit hard to keep at the right place... mostly because on Anime characters, they are usually pretty fancy and oversize. The trick is the 2 straps you see in my picture:
- This is the most important strap - it's stuck to the top of your pauldron and attached to a gorget or one of the shoulder strap of the breatplate. It's going to keep the pauldron from falling.
- This one is mainly for stability and to keep the pauldron from moving from front to back while wearing the armor and moving your arm. It should be at the bottom of your pauldron and go around your biceps (if you're wearing upper cannon, the strap should go under your armpit).
Breastplate - Torso
The breastplate is pretty self-explanatory - if not, look at the picture you see the straps pretty clearly.
However - a note on form-fitting armor... usually a form-fitting breastplate will have to be broken down in various pieces to be truly form-fitting and enable movement. For an example you can check my gallery to look at either my custom mando (look at the back) or at Cecil Harvey Dark Knight reference pictures. In these cases I like to use what I like to call a "straps net" - which is essentially a net of straps that will sit on your shoulder and tie around your waist (like a breastplate) to which the piece of armor are going to be stuck to. The number of straps and how they are positions is really based on how many pieces of armor you have to wear and how they weight. The trick is to have just enough, since you don't want the straps to be showing too much between the pieces, but for them to be able to hold the armor in place.