THE TIE DIVISION STRICT GUIDE TO TIE PILOT COSTUMING


UPDATED 2007-01-17


   When it comes to making a complete TIE Pilot uniform, I don't think there is a straight and true way to go. You gotta follow your own way, find yourself in the costume. Either you can make a regular TIE Pilot which usually means TRYING to make it a little bit screen-accurate but adding replacements for some hard and expensive parts and maybe adding some cool features yourself. Or you can make a true old TIE Pilot that's dead-on to the ones on screen. If you want to make a somewhat different suit, you can make a Baron Fel Soontir suit which allows the maker more artistic space than the others. Baron Fel happens to be a drawn figure and he tend to look a LITTLE different depending on where you see him. His suit gives a more customized and realistic impression of a pilot suit. He is also more colorful with red details from head to toe. The last way to do go is to make your own suit. If you invent a TIE Pilot by yourself and give him a history, people will be delighted to read about him and look at some of your pictures... if its a well-made suit of course. Whichever of these themes that fit you best, a well-made suit is both funnier and more satisfying to own, but can also be sold for a lot more than a mediocre suit. Hence it is a good investment to spend money on a suit which you intend to make perfect.
   I've done several imperial costumes, but I will only go through the TIE Pilot since that's what I know most about :-) This page will go through all the parts of the TIE Pilot, one by one. The focus is not to provide reference pics but to provide pics of screen-accurate merchandise and sellers who supply it. Hence, I will not display pictures of all available but unworthy products that are floating around the market. I have spent many hours comparing and searching and things don't get easier with the fact that the TIE Pilots are only seen very scarcely througout the movies, mostly only in "upper-body-and-helmet" perspective.

Prices are only indicative, and may vary

The ambition of this guide is to make a DEAD-ON TIE Pilot, hence "fairly accurate" to me is probably very accurate to some of you, think of that :-)

Before we start, click here for images of screen-used TIE Pilots

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HELMET

   The TIE Pilot helmet has a very angry look to it. This is something that very few have managed to keep when producting the helmets. It might depend on the faceplate or the relation between the dome and the faceplate, I will leave that unsaid but it is generally not transferred to the official and non-official TIE Pilot helmets out there.
   Screen-accurate: Actually, TIE Pilot helmets are APH-6 pilot helmets with a few customized parts and a stormtrooper faceplate. The customized parts are the mohawk and the details around the ears plus a few details where the faceplate is connected to the APH-6 helmet.    Several helmets exist on the market but as I said, few have manage to keep what TIE Piloting is really about. Screen-accurate helmets are the Laws / TE helmet (eBay.com: $300-$500), the Hannon helmet (eBay.com: ~$300) and of course the most accurate of them all, the Shepperton Design Studios helmet (sdsprops.com: 445). These three, and only these three qualify as of today in this cathegory.
   Customizing and worth knowing: Altmann's Armour (eBay.com: $150-$350) has a cool take on the helmet with a very angry look, however inaccurate. The MLC Mardon helmet (eBay.com: $100-$300) is a fiberglass helmet that comes primed and ready to paint. It is quite accurate but molded in one piece which the originals weren't. The original helmets did not have the "mouth" cut out but this can be done in order to achieve a cool look. A mesh grille should then be installed. Bubbled lenses can be switched for flat lenses in case of trooping. Several different motives on the helmet are available, screen-accurate such as the grey stripes or the numbers on the front of the mohawk, or custom such as small red rebel emblems (for every rebel pilot killed) or anything else, only your imagination is your limit. It is however important to stress that accessories added and motives painted should be in the same style as the original TIE Pilot. Light diods and such things should be avoided and would never be accepted and approved by me on any, accurate or custom, TIE Pilot outfit. A neck seal should be worn under the helmet, alternatively a baklava (most indicates that this was the original way during filming).

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FLIGHTSUIT

   Flightsuits during the filming of Star Wars pretty much used the same pattern ( picture borrowed from swtroopers.com, which is a great site for costume references) no matter if they were used by X-Wing pilots, Imperial technicians, AT-AT Drivers, AT-ST Drivers, TIE Pilots or Imperial gunners. Of course colors differed and the TIE Pilot's suit was black with imperial patches (one on each shoulder). The flightsuit is based on an old racing suit and has never been sourced which is why most think it was custom-made in large quantities in different colors specifically for filming.    Screen-accurate: The flightsuit is crucial for the appearance of the TIE Pilot. It should NOT be too baggy or lousely fitted but fairly tight and the right size (if anything, one size smaller than what would be ideal). If you want the absolutely best suit there is out there, you should have a look at the Corellian Exports flightsuit (corellianexports.com: $400+). Skygunbros flightsuit (eBay or skygunbros-custom-creatures.com: $125) is a very good alternative and much cheaper. They can be customized and tailored in both thin fabric (ideal for trooping) and thicker fabric (more screen-accurate). Sales of screen-used flightsuits suggests that the pilots also wore a black vest on top of the flightsuit, this has not been sourced and will not be covered in this guide, mainly because I find it totally inappropriate and quite ugly to wear. Whether all pilots wore these or not is not established. Notice the patches on the screen-used flightsuit. They look like they are hand cut and screened or printed. A recommendation though, even if you want to go accurate, is to use embroidered patches instead which can easily be found on the Internet or on eBay.com.
   The pocket sleeve (where the comm. pad goes) can sometimes be covered behind plastic. The screen-used appears to have been without the plastic so if that is important to you, check with the maker of your flightsuit. To my knowledge, CE and Skygunbros don't use plastic where as Star Fortress does. It is simply a matter of taste.
   Customizing and worth knowing:A little less accurate but still very cool alternative is the Star Fortress Reproductions flightsuit (starfortressproductions.com: $100 incl. s/h). These flightsuits are well tailored and look good (nice fabric) but are not screen-accurate (lacks pockets, other misplaced). Worth noticing is that some people advise against doing business with Star Fortress Reproductions. Several reasons exist and they will not be covered here, for more information search the Internet. I, however, have never had any problems with them.
   Customizations of the flightsuit might include adding red (or other color) stripes and maybe even a holster for a weapon. More clothes can be added on top of the flightsuit, for example a grey vest as in the case of Baron Fel Soontir.

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ARMOR AND CHESTBOX

Both armor and chestbox have been thoroughly discussed throughout the years. One interesting discussion was about the third hose (that the action figure for example has). Some have seen it, others not. It is now believed that the TIE Pilots from the first movie (ANH) did NOT have it and the ones from the third movie (ROTJ, they don't appear at all in ESB) have it.
   Screen-accurate: Shepperton Design Studios has the very accurate SDS armor and SDS chestbox and has, as the first producer on the market, chosen to include the grey hose. A problem is that the SDS armor and chestbox show some inconsistencies to the so-called "screen-used" props displayed at the "Magic of Myth" exhibition. If this is due to the decay of the original props or misconceptions of SDS remains to be determined (among other things, the greeblies on top of SDS chestbox lacks on the MoM chestbox).
   The back of the armor tends to look the same no matter who you purchase from, the front is where the differences occur.
   Several great producers of armor exist (it is probably the easiest thing to find accurate). eBay user Portumac's fiberglass armor (eBay.com; ~$300) is fairly accurate and is high-quality and very glossy. EBay user trooperellis armor (eBay: $100-$300) is also fairly accurate armor and in plastic and the accurate Laws / TE armor in plastic is also a very wise option.
   Traditionally accurate (before SDS presented his take on the chestbox which SHOULD be the most accurate) chestboxes are eBay user Trooperellis' chestbox (eBay: $50-$150) (fairly accurate) or the Laws / TE chestbox (eBay: $100-$200) (very accurate). Several others exist on the market as well, just stay out of the Don Post DeLuxe chestbox though and its replicas since it's oversized and inaccurate. Compare the colors on the buttons to a screen-used when buying since they sometimes tend to be wrong.
   Customizing and worth knowing: Customizations might be weathering the armor or painting it with a motive giving the pilot a more battered and veteran expression. The chestbox might be equipped with lights but only sparsely, we don't want him to look like a clown :-) One might also add elastic straps under the arms so that the front and back of the armor becomes more rigidly attached to the body.
   An interesting though on the chestboxes is that the screen-used generally look much smaller. Compare to the pictures of the screen-used outfits that exist on this page... If it is an illusion or not is however hard to determine.

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COMMUNICATION PAD

   The communication pad is an accessory that actually was used in filming (in opposite to sidearm and imperial cylinders that often are added to fan costumes). Two color themes appear, thanks to unknown for the great visualizations!
   Screen-accurate: Resin-made and fiberglass-made are available on eBay. Trooperellis comm.pad is a good and accurate cast which comes unpainted. Other comm.pads are available as well, just search eBay.com regularly or search the Internet.
   Customizing and worth knowing: The Corellian Exports' comm. pad is curved in order to fit the shape of the arm but nothing indicates that the screen-used ones where shaped like this so that only makes it less accurate. Other customizations might be coloring it in a new scheme or attach it in a new way (normally, it should be slided into the sleeve pocket which should be sized so that the majority of the buttons can be seen through the "window".

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GAUNTLETS

   The gauntlets are one of the few things that are really hard to find completely screen-accurate. The TIE Pilot's gloves are believed to be motorcycle gauntles.
   Screen-accurate: Identical gauntlets with the same pattern have not been found and none of the costuming companies make even fairly accurate gauntlets. After years of watching the gauntlet market I found a the english Kombi gauntlets, a pair of new-in-baggie motorcycle gauntlets from the 60's and 70's that after some small alterations look identical to the screen-used gloves. Apparently, these also existed in a version with a zipper so they might have existed without the strap as well, thus being identical to TIE Pilot gloves without any customization. eBay.co.uk or eBay.com is what I recommend in order to find a pair of these.
   Customizing and worth knowing: Finding a pair of black leather gloves is not that hard, none that I have seen are however within the range of acceptable.

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BELT

   Standard imperial belt worn by imperial commanders, technicians etc...
   Screen-accurate: Make sure that the round metal detail next to the buckle is present. These are easy to spot on eBay and also easy to reproduce, find a method that suits you.

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BOOTS

   The real deal is called Knobelbechers which is an old german army boot. Several different Knobelbechers exist and I don't know the name of the exact model but I have narrowed it down to a model that looks very much like the original TIE Pilot boot.
   Screen-accurate: The strap however seems to be hard to spot on the TIE Pilot boots but one of the reference pictures shows it.. Notice the sole pattern which is in common for all the boots that look like the TIE Pilot boots. Also pay attention to the fact that the toe part of the boot points up which also is a characteristic of the TIE Pilot boot. Finally, the heel is quit high. One of the pairs I have have a manufacturing date in 1968.
   Customizing and worth knowing: No special source known, check eBay.de for best results. Loads of other black boots is available for anyone that is not interested in accuracy :-)

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   As usual, this page is in no way a definite source and I strongly urge anyone who sees errors, missing facts or anything else that is worth to contribute with to contact me at:


Thank you for reading and enjoy!