CraftingWork in Progress

WIP Weekend: Samus’ Varia Suit from Metroid

Okay, so this isn’t my own WIP, but I’ve been watching the progress of this amazing costume and it’s too good to keep hidden until CONvergence. My friend Danielle Price is building Samus Aran’s Varia Suit from the Metroid series of video games.

It’s a significant undertaking, in the works for a few months now, so I asked how it’s going so I could share it with you.

When did you first get the notion to build the suit?

“I’ve always loved the character and have thought about cosplaying her for years, but it wasn’t until back in March of this year that I was looking at youtube and saw how Bill Doran at Punished Props does this sort of cosplay foam armor making that I realized I could do this character the justice she deserves. Also, it helps that I’m 6’2″ and that’s canonically Samus’ height. ;D”

beginnings of a shinguard for an armor costume made of foam, with brushes and pins on a wood table
I’d imagine that there was rather a lot of research and testing that came before this, but she calls this the beginning of the project.

What prompted you to try building this costume in the first place?

“I’ve loved this video game since I was little… She had all the tools and skills to take on anything, and didn’t need anybody else to help her. She was strong. I really needed that when I was growing up, I guess, so it has always stuck with me.”

beginnings of a shinguard for an armor costume made of foam, with tools on a wood table
A bit more progress. The test piece with some sanding, coated in a few layers of Elmer’s glue to smooth out the surface, plus just some of the tools Dani used. The base material is closed-cell foam matting, the kind often used in gyms; you can see some at the left here.

“Samus always intrigued me as a character because in the first game, the instruction manual referred to her as “he” and it wasn’t until the end of the game that you learned otherwise. This was a woman who’s a bounty hunter and fights space pirates! There were pretty much *no* other stories with any good female role models in video games at that time.”

Multiple cowl/chest pieces of costume armor made out of foam, arranged on a stool and on the floor.
For the line work, Dani learned that by cutting a shallow line with a razor into the foam and then taking the heatgun to it, it widens.

“The trans community has sort of “appropriated” her I guess, in like, an activist way. We don’t have any good representations of ourselves. So I kinda thought being trans and cosplaying the character is just amazing. I just want to do it right.”

Costume armor shin guard.
A remake of a shin guard. I cannot believe this is made with those puzzle-piece floor mats! The channels were added with a Dremel.

Where did you get the idea to use the floor mat… stuff?

“A number of cosplayers have been using the stuff to make fantasy and scifi armor for conventions. I highly recommend Bill Doran’s Punished Props youtube channel where he’s got fantastic tutorials on exactly how to make armor like this. I’ve been working out my own process as I go, but started with all the great ideas the community has come up with. The internet and the people on it can be awesome.

A note on acquiring the floor mats: I’ve been surprised how hit or miss it is to find these things at stores I’d expect to have them. Walmart usually does, but I’ve found only *some* Home Depots carry them. I highly recommend calling ahead. Also, you’ll go through more than you think you will. Get extra.”

costume armor: jetpack and shoulder
Still rough, but the jets for the back and a shoulder piece.

How did you figure out what tools and supplies you’d need to get this project started?

Evil Ted (another youtuber and a professional SFX dude) has some great lists of the tools he recommends to make stuff like this. Most of it’s basic crafting tools which you’ll probably have some of already, but you’ll probably want to expand the toolset a little. A really sharp razor is important, so I invested in a really nice 600 grit diamond sharpener for it. The foam surprisingly just destroys razor blades and it’s imperative that it’s sharp to work right. Besides that I had to find a heat gun and a cutting mat.”
interior of a garage workshop space, with a table and shelves to the left, a pegboard with tools to the right, and pieces of costume armor hanging to the far right.
Lucky enough to have a garage to use, Dani put together her own workshop for this suit. She had been working on top of a coffee table inside the house, but the noise of the power tools, the dust, and the terrible smells of glue were starting to drive her roommates crazy.

What other resources did you find that were helpful?

“Youtube is absolutely the best for cosplay, flat out. Any project you attempt, somebody’s probably done something similar that can at least point you in the right direction.”

pieces of a futuristic, costume suit of armor hanging on a particleboard wall. Hands holding shoulder pieces  in place are seen on either side.
Its really coming together! Dani had assistants on this particular weekend.

Paint testing is now in progress, and next on the agenda for this costume is the addition of electroluminescent wire to light up the appropriate bits. Dani has left holes and channels in the pieces she’s completed thus far, and we’re all crossing fingers that the EL wire will work for its intended purpose.

Want to see the finished result? Come to CONvergence and come hang out with us in the Space Lab! She’s planning to debut this amazing armor then, and you’ll probably be able to find her either due to the EL glow or because all of us here at the Lab are crowded around her to admire the glory up close.


Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and sticky public transit and is only on her second smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around. If external links are your thing, here are links to Twitter and Instagram, and you can support her ongoing weirdness by buying her a coffee or six.

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