This is one of those costumes that started with just one small piece and sort of grew into a huge project. As you’ve probably gather from other blogs, I’m putting together a Captain Dallas costume from the film Alien.
Always with the research…
As I started delving into this one I found that lots and lots of people had done most of the work for me, as with the Motion Tracker build it was more about sifting through the huge amounts of available images and guides and posts to find the best way I could put together the jacket at a reasonable price, and still enjoy the process.
I broke it down into three major parts. Firstly the Jacket, very important since it’s a pretty iconic look for the character. Secondly the Shirt, again this is pretty distinctive. Thirdly the less important (but desirable) extras like the trousers, shoes (blog post here about making these), belt buckle, T-shirt and of course the watch.
The Jacket that made the Jacket.
The base jacket used in the film is an RAF Mk3 Cold Weather jacket, which fortunately you can still get because the pattern is still used today (it’s slightly different, but only a very, very close inspection will pick out the differences). The major difference is the colour. Modern jackets are green, the jackets used for the props are purple-grey. Apparently in the 70’s the RAF switched from using the purple-grey jackets to a standardised NATO olive type colour, so the original colour doesn’t exist. Also the film jacket had a lot of attachments and stuff sewed to it. Along with finding one of the Mk3’s I also needed to source the other bits.
Crew Patches from Ebay.
There’s a lot of discussion on this. It boils down to the fact that there have been a few replica versions of the crew patches over the years. From what I can tell the ones I was lucky enough to get are pretty good (thought not exact). There have been ones that are very far off the originals. I was happy enough with mine being pretty close. I scruffied them up with sand paper and tea to take off the freshly minted shine.
The Colour issue.
So in the film, the jackets look a slightly different colours at different times. It seems to range from blue to brown and every shade between. this is the same in all films and depending on the lighting and filters used, and even the type of film in the camera (if they use film over digital) can affect the final colours of many things. This is why a lot of prop-replica makers have trouble accurately matching colours sometimes, and why some props that are made ‘the actual colour’ done look quite right when you see them in real life. This is something that became apparent with the Motion Tracker build too, which appears a very dark green/brown in the film, yet the actual paint colour is a pretty standard olive colour.
Again some great people on the forums had been here first and with some great natural-light photos of Kane’s actual screen-used jacket, along with the info from a knowledgeable citizen about the change from grey-purple to green in the 70’s, it’s now easy to see the real jacket colour is that blue-grey-purple look. But the problem is getting the jacket to be that colour!
I read up on dying these jackets because they are made of some pretty resilient materials, and the literature says it shouldn’t work since as best I can tell they are made from synthetic fibres. I’ve seen some amazing jacket replicas that just didn’t look right to me because they are green instead of the purple-grey, so I decided to just go for it. I mixed Grey and Purple Dylon (hand wash) together and followed the instructions, the jacket came out a very nice colour, not quite the shade in the film, but definitely close and definitely better than it being olive green. I’d say it’s a couple of shades too dark, the screen jackets had a slightly dusty look to them.
Webbing, G-suits and lacing.
So the next hurdle is the extra bits added to the jacket. Both Dallas and Kane have webbing lacing down the length of each arm. Dallas’ jacket has additional front pockets with more webbing lacing. The forums told me these parts all came from a pilot’s anti-gravity suit and there were some great photos (and name) of the exact type needed to make these fittings. Unfortunately I just couldn’t find one anywhere. I did manage to find a few surplus Chinese G-suits that were similar enough they would have worked. Unfortunately the cost was prohibitive for this project.
This left me only one option; make the parts from scratch. This isn’t really that hard since it’s just some strips of webbing loops and two front pockets and I’m not bad with a sewing machine (thanks mum!). I debated what to use for the webbing, I didn’t want the modern acrylic/polymer webbing because even though it’s really strong and great for modern stuff, I wanted something that looked a bit older, also modern webbing is quite stiff and I wanted something that would flex, so I chose 100% cotton webbing. I couldn’t find the right green so I picked a ‘natural’ colour that I figured I’d just dye the right green.
The webbing wouldn’t take the dye at all, I have no idea why, but it just came right off. I ended up using watered down acrylic paint which the webbing wicked right up. Job done. Lacing is just olive green paracord, distressed a bit with sane paper to make it look less perfect.
Last thing to do was the Nostromo lettering on the back. A friend of mine can do Vinyl cut lettering for T-shirts, so that was an option, but the original prop has a slightly scruffy look and you can see cross-hatching in the letters, presumably from the screen printing used. I’ve seen a few jackets done with the modern vinyl cut lettering and it just looked too good, too new. UPDATE – I’ve made a new post about this here with new info on making this bit (2017)
I made my own stencil! I 3D printed it complete with cross-hatching and airbrushed a custom minty-blue acrylic paint mix through it. First time I’ve tried anything like this but I’m pretty happy with the result. even the bits where I moved the stencil accidentally and it smudged just makes it feel more authentic to me.
Overall, I love this jacket and I wear it a lot now, I think it’s just having something I’ve spent so much time and effort on, makes it mean more to me than any store-bought jacket.