Padmé Amidala Episode II Traveling Costume Headpiece

Since I would be bringing R2D2 to Dragon Con 2019, Lynette wanted to make a costume that would naturally accompany him. She chose Padmé’s traveling/refugee costume from Episode II, and asked me to help figure out how to build the headpiece. I can’t pass up a challenge like that, so I agreed. The first thing I did was collect as much reference material as possible, which had already been done for me by Padawan’s Guide. Then I brought the front view into Illustrator, and traced the overall shape of the “fan” and a representative sample of the repeated pattern (hereafter referred to as ‘the flower’). I took some measurements of Lynette’s head and scaled the pattern to size. Then I exported the flower from Illustrator to a “.dxf” file, which I could then bring into Autodesk Fusion 360 to extrude as a 3D shape. In Fusion, I filled the some of the empty space inside and around the flower with my best interpretation of the “basket weave” texture from the original. I 3D-printed this, and will be using it to emboss some copper-colored foil in a later step.

For the main structure of the headpiece, I decided on 6mm craft foam. The reasons for this were mainly cost, time, and availability. Given more time, I might have sculpted and cast a resin base for the cap, and used something like styrene or foam for the fan/crest, but that would also have been quite a bit more expensive. I mainly used foam from my stash, with a couple of last-minute additions from Michael’s. For the copper, I ordered this 38 gauge copper-colored aluminum foil, and this copper tape. To create a pattern for the cap, I started with a generic plastic bust, and covered it in aluminum foil and masking tape. I sketched the shape I wanted onto the masking tape (just trying to copy the reference photos), then drew a line down the middle of the head (I would only need to produce half the pattern) and divided that half into three pieces that corresponded to the front, the middle, and the back. This is so I would be able to use the pattern for both the foam and the copper. I cut these apart, flattened them (cutting darts where necessary), and traced them onto paper. I then traced these onto 6mm foam (also flipped and traced again to get a mirror-image version of each pattern piece) and cut them out with a sharp x-acto. Each piece was hit with a heat gun and curved over my knee, then contact-cemented together.

I was originally thinking I would build the crest out of three layers – front, rear, and middle. This ended up being a bad idea, but I was able to recover easily thanks to using foam. After assembling the base cap, I cut out the first copy of the crest and cemented it to the headpiece along the middle line (ear to ear). When Lynette tried it on, she complained it was crushing her ears. I cut the crest off, and decided to ditch the center crest piece, since it wasn’t really serving a purpose, and actually causing problems. Instead, I cut two more crest pieces and cemented them on as the front and rear pieces. These pieces come together at the peak of the crest, and then get gradually further apart until they are about 3 inches apart at the ears. This leaves a hollow portion of the crest at the sides of the head, so I cut out ear holes to give Lynette some relief. When I examined the reference material more closely, I could see that this is exactly what they did on the film piece. The last thing I did with the foam was fill the openings at the sides with curved triangle pieces.

Next I cut two crest pieces from the copper foil. I first laid out my pattern by tracing my “flowers” lightly onto the back of the foil with pencil. Next, I put he foil face-down onto some foam, and gently pressed the 3D-printed pattern into the foil. This wasn’t to get the full-depth relief yet, just to give some registration indentations. Then I flipped the foil over, positioned it on top of the 3D printed flower by letting it align to the indentations, then embossed the whole pattern into the foil with a disposable chopstick. Step, repeat. I had also printed a triangle section of basket-weave pattern, which I then used to fill in the triangles between the flowers. Finally, I free-hand embossed the lines that radiate from the base of the crest.

For the cap portions, I used the same patterns I used to cut out the foam. I tried out a couple of different methods to make the compound curve, but what ended up working best was a rubber mallet and an MDF buck that I had built for forming Caspian’s leather pauldrons. Anything harder, like a steel hammer on an anvil would damage the foil. Once I got it fairly close to the right curve with that method, I embossed the lines into the cap pieces, and let that process naturally enhance the curve. After that it was a process of dry-fitting the foil to the foam repeatedly to dial-in the right shape to trim the cap shapes to, since forming and embossing changes the shape slightly. The sides were a similar process to the crest, using a new basket-weave piece printed in 3D for embossing.

I adhered the foil to the foam with contact cement, and covered the edges (and any gaps between foil pieces) with the copper tape. I also used a central ridged foil piece on both the front and back cap portions to hide the seam between the two sides.

The original headpiece is heavily oxidized/patinated, with both a black/dark bronzy color and bright aqua/green in the crevices. I first tried some cheap craft acrylic paints, but the black wasn’t covering well, and the green ended up looking white/chalky. I went back to the craft store and got some heavy-body acrylics in black and aqua/green. These made a world of difference. I did the black first. Working in sections, I would apply a heavy layer of acrylic, making sure to get it into all the low spots, then gently wipe away most of it with a damp shop towel. I often referred back to the original to make sure I was getting as close as possible. I probably could have gone even heavier with the black, even though it felt pretty aggressive at the time. Once the black dried, I came in with the green and applied it sparingly to deep crevices and corners, then dabbed it with the damp towel.

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