So, you want to join the 501st Legion? Well here is the ultimate step-by-step guide to how you too can become one of the members of the fighting 501st. The path of the Empire is a challenging one; it takes time and commitment to completion of a canon costume. You will have moments where you will ask yourself, “What the heck was I thinking?” But in the end, you will feel the pride that comes with completion of an approved build!
1. Decide to join.
2. Go to the 501st website and find your local 501st unit.
3. Look up and attend a 501stevent in your area. Get to know the members and let them get to know you.
Before I started trooping in costume, I attended several events as a non-costumed handler, which involved me helping members get on their costumes, keeping them hydrated, helping with crowd control, etc. This allowed me to gain rapport with my Garrison mates and grow even more appreciated for what they did.
4. Look over the Costume Reference Library for approved costumes. Remember, the 501st legion is only the bad guys! You won’t find Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia as one of your options.
If the Costume Reference Library feels a little overwhelming, don’t feel bad. It’s a lot of anyone to go through. When I first decided to join up, I knew that I wanted to do a character out of Clone Wars the Animated Series. The first thing I did was visit a bookstore and I bought the Star Wars Clone Wars Character Encyclopedia. I found my character on page 53 and I used that as my main reference point for my entire build.
5. Pick a costume to build.
Here are some things to think about when choosing a costume:
- How much money are you okay with spending? (Building an approved costume can range from $180 to $3,000 depending on who and what type of materials are used.)
- Are you okay with having “impaired” vision / line of sight?
- Do you care if you can sit down?
There are several things like impaired vision, movement, and comfort that thousands of members are willing to give up in order to wear their costumes. Personally, my Clone Trooper Denal is restricting in my movements (don’t ask me to run, that’s for sure), but I’ve learned my limits and I don’t even notice it anymore.
6. Visit your local Garrison’s website and sign up for the forum.
7. Visit the detachment that is affiliated with your costume and sign up for the forum (you can locate this by looking at the Costume Reference Library of your chosen costume).
8. Introduce yourself to your future legion brothers and sisters. Let them know what costume you are interested in and what you are looking forward to.
In my original intro, I told everyone I wanted to build an Animated Captain Rex and participate in Star Wars Weekends. My future squad mates told me that was impossible and if that was why I was building a Rex, I needed to switch gears (Disney supplies their own Rex for that event and I would not have been allowed to march). Thanks to their advice, I changed my build to an Animated Clone Trooper Denal and I participated in every Star Wars weekend in 2011.
It’s also a good idea at this point to find out who your Garrison Membership Liaison (GML) is. Talk to them throughout your build and get their insight to make sure you are on the right track for approval.
9. Ask questions and listen to the advice of the Garrison members. They were once in your shoes and will help you out!
10. Research your costume and the cost involved. Before you buy anything, make sure you consult your local Garrison mates. They know who and what to avoid in certain costume builds.
11. Start getting to work on your build. Attend armor parties in your area and get it done! Be patient though. Some builds can take as little as a few days (Tusken and Jawa) or as many as a couple of years (Bounty Hunter). It’s a good idea to post up pictures on the forums and show off your progress.
The thing to remember is to not stray from official references. Looking at other costumes is fine, but put your main focus on official references. Over the years, certain costumes have had their CRL changed so what one person was approved under might not be approvable anymore. A good example of this is Jango Fett. At one point, you could be approved in Jango Fett with a black or grey vest and now to get approved it has to be grey.
If you have an idea that you think could improve the functionality of your build, don’t be afraid to try it. Just because you haven’t seen a member do it yet, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. A good example is when I was working on my clone trooper. I was extremely dissatisfied with the shoes. I was given instructions to purchase brown loafers and spray paint them white. Naturally, the paint would crack off and it was a constant process to keep them looking good. I set out to find a pair of white leather shoes that had the same shape as my character. I found some on the internet and gave them a shot. In the end, they not only passed but now other people are following my example and getting the same shoes for their builds.
13. After you have your costume ready, go to the main 501st website to apply for membership. Your GML will contact you for photos of your build after they receive your application.
14. Sit and wait for your approval.
If you don’t get in on the first try, don’t get discouraged! Make the changes they request and resubmit. Some costumes are known for being more difficult to get through approval. My husband had to submit his Jango Fett three times before it was approved.
I look back at my first build and I realize just how much I learned from the experience. My 6-year old son has started to build costumes of his own by watching mommy and daddy and taking notes on how to do it himself. My husband and I both have learned important lessons from our builds, including how to have more patience and ask ourselves “What would MacGyver do?”