F L A S H G O R D O N :
T H E M O N G O G U A R D U N I F O R M P R O J E C T
For the 35th Anniversary of Flash Gordon a lifelong ambition to recreate a screen accurate recreation of Flash’ Iconic costume from the last third of the movie is at long last being fulfilled.
This project was initiated two years ago and gained momentum thanks to the generous contributions of Flash archivist Bob Lindenmayer, who is in possession of one of Sam J. Jones screen-worn tank-tops, preserved in excellent condition –
In fact, for what at first glance appears to be a simplistic design, it quickly becomes apparent that faithfully reproducing the detail present was going to be challenging. Like most of Danilo Donati’s designs for the movie, they are elaborate and intricate handmade creations achieved only with time, patience and considerable expense.
For example, the ‘Sun’ motif on the vest is comprised of hundreds of hand-sewn glass bugle beads, giving it an asymmetrical finish and making it problematic to render accurately. This, plus obtaining contemporary fabric to match the distinct weave and colours of the vintage would take painstaking research.
Thankfully, the release of the film on Blu-ray revealed more details than ever before, giving clarity to overlooked aspects of the costume such as the parallel ‘twisted’ seams in the pants that both Flash and Prince Barin wear versions of –
Once this information had been accumulated the next step to aid a potential tailor would be drawings to show the extent of the detail required. Dozens of preliminary sketches were completed the old fashioned way (freeze frame) until the specs could be translated to finished drawings –
As the search for the fabric and beading commenced, regular correspondence with Bob provided the ultimate starting point – resin casts of the buckle symbol taken from a screenused belt! These sharp castings were two of only three pulled and the kickstarter to take the project from page to reality –
With a professional seamstress hired (Stephanie at Sew2it) willing to accommodate all the specifics involved, a workbook was assembled with all of Bob’s incredible reference photos plus drawings and screencaptures for a complete package was finished while the quest to find fabrics and matching accoutrements began in earnest –
Once the manual was in Steph’s hands the decision was made to work from the ground up, so the next (often trickiest) aspect of the costume to address were the boots. once again, more study was needed to obtain the closest match possible –
Screencaps showing boot details in the Flash/Barin fight scene
And after an exhaustive search of similar models (Pirate/Buccaneer, etc.) nothing came close enough to the cuffed patent boots with heels and smooth soles until a company called Renboots popped up in a websearch. Their custom Lancelot model with its 5″ cuff looked extremely close in design to the Gordon boot but could it be produced in patent hi-shine? Thankfully their outstanding customer service met all the requirements of the order, even providing a ‘Theatre sole’ to match the screenworn ones and would be custom made to UK size 9 –
After much painstaking trial, the all-important chest motif was complete! Accurately reproduced from bugle beads as per the original (see comparison pic) the motif is shown alongside the candidate for the final tank fabric – a double-knit jersey from Calico Laine.
The 35th Anniversary event would provide unprecedented access to the actual tunic used in filming. I took the opportunity to match my fabric colour to the genuine article and was mystified to discover the real tank seemed to have a fine rib and had some some sort of vinyl backing. I knew there was no way I could replicate this so was happy just to match the shade of red.
The original screen-used tank top on display – an awe inspiring sight!
Meanwhile the restoration of the belt buckle casting had taken some time but was now in great shape and was painted beautifully by my modelmaking pal Alex Clayson –
Determined to make all the details as accurate as possible I started contacting metal companies to cut sheet brass in the right thickness and shape for the buckle plate. I had estimated the thickness to be 3mm but that turned out to be way too thick and heavy so a 1 1/2mm replacement was sent out which was perfect. I had requested the corners be blunted and they ended up rounder than I would’ve preferred but I was very satisfied with the finished buckle!
With the deadline of Comic-Con getting closer I was relieved to hear that Steph was ready for my final fitting. I took the buckle along to get an idea of how the finished outfit would look even though the belt itself would be the last thing to be made. I was overjoyed to see the finished tank and threw on the buckle for some trial pics –
Next came the fitting itself – I had taken along the boots for the first time as I was keen to see the whole ensemble. My primary concern was that the chest motif not look undersized like the first rejected attempt but put together the proportions looked spot-on –
With minor adjustments made and the belt material chosen I left satisfied this costume was going to be fantastic when finished. Steph mentioned she had ended up using jodhpurs as a pattern base for the pants as they had similar structure. She had worked out that the arched tramline seam on the inside leg was actually created by a patch which made perfect sense. Meanwhile back home I got busy online looking for a suitable hairpiece. I was resolute that it look natural and not a copy of the version used in TED. After some serious researching I selected a relatively inexpensive lace front in blonde. A trip down my local barbers to cut of the excess and I was ready to start make-up tests…
I had prepared by watching some tutorials on contouring in an attempt to use highlights to give my face some definition and make me look a bit younger than my 42 years. Luckily my wife is a makeup artist and together we trialled a few different things to make me look a bit more Sam Jones-esque but ultimately, less makeup, shaving my beard and simply darkening my eyebrows gave me an overall look I was satisfied with –
And so onto the con, where It was so gratifying to have so many people call out ‘Flash! Ahhahhh!’ as I walked by. Many attendees remarked they had never seen anybody tackle Flash cosplay before and congratulated me on the accuracy of it. When I bumped into a fellow cosplayer dressed as Ming we caused quite a stir and a great photo op.
Though I was very pleased with the result and overjoyed by the response the outfit got there are some things I would do differently in future should I wear the outfit again – small learns like parting the hairpiece in the right place gluing down at the neck and making the belt from stiffer material for two would’ve enhanced the look – (as well as losing at least a stone in weight) but what was really missing was the prop of the gold sword. Hopefully somebody soon will offer one of these and next time I can really act the part besides look it. I would also love to do a pro photo shoot with Jo Rutherford once I have the sword as I think she would do the character justice.
I hope you’ve enjoyed coming along on this journey with me and please do come say hello if you see me at a con in the UK as I love talking about this stuff. It seems I’m not the only one as Flash cosplay is a steadily growing trend – below is a gallery of other fans creations –