Got your heart set on a Han Solo costume, but you’re running short on time or funds? Not to worry. A trip through your local second-hand store and a little time at the sewing machine can have you outfitted as your favorite smuggler in a jiffy. Last year, I shared a quick way to makeover two XL long-sleeved T-shirts into a Princess Leia tunic, and this is a similar project. It isn’t going to be anywhere near screen accurate, but no one will be confused about who you’re dressed as.
Part 1 — The Shirt
For the shirt, all you need is an off-white T-shirt with long sleeves, a small scrap of matching fabric (about 4×2 inches or 10×5 centimeters is perfect) and matching thread. Once you get home, pre-wash your shirt and then you’re ready to start.
Here’s how I made mine:
- I found the center front of the shirt and drew a dotted line from the collar down about 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) on the inside of the shirt. I used a water-soluble fabric pan, but a pencil will also do just fine.
- I placed my 4×2-inch (10×5-centimeter) fabric scrap on the right side of the shirt, centered to my markings.
- Next, I stitched a narrow V shape just outside the line I made.
- To open up the V, I clipped along the line I made in step one and then turned my scrap fabric to the wrong side of the shirt and pressed. (This is a very basic version of a facing.)
- To give the V a nice, clean finish, I top-stitched about a centimeter away from the pressed folded edge of the opening, and then on the interior of the shirt, I trimmed the facing close to my stitching.
- I measured the neck opening of the shirt once the V opening at the neck was complete.
- To make the collar, I cut a bit of fabric off the end of each sleeve. Since Han’s shirt has more of a three-quarter sleeve, the T-shirt sleeves needed to be shortened anyway. I cut 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) off the end of each sleeve, excluding the cuff. Most shirt sleeves are a little bit tapered, so the next step is squaring off the pieces trimmed off of the sleeves.
- I joined the two pieces I cut from the sleeves and squared at one of the short ends. This seam will be the center back of the collar. Once my two pieces were joined, I matched the center back seam on the collar to the center back of the shirt, and then stitched the collar piece along one long edge to the collar of the shirt. Most shirts will have a reinforcement strip stitched onto the back portion of the neckline. I just left it in place and stitched right through it.
- I trimmed the excess length of my collar off, leaving it about a centimeter longer than the neck opening on each end. Then I folded the collar back on itself, right sides together, and with about a centimeter of the long edge folded up, bringing the folded edge to meet the stitching line I used to attach the collar to the shirt. Then I closed up each end of the collar in line with the edge of the finished neck V opening.
- (If that last step seemed weird or confusing, it’ll probably become much clearer here.) I turned the collar right side out, and gave it a good press. At this point, the folded edge is on the inside of the shirt.
- After pressing, I hand stitched the folded edge of the collar on the inside of the shirt to close up the collar neatly.
- The last step was to hem the sleeves. I simply double folded the cut sleeve edge up and stitched it into place.
Ready for smuggling — and comfy, too!
Part 2 — The Vest
As with the shirt, the vest starts with a thrift-store find. This time, it’s a heavyweight button-down shirt that gets a makeover. Again, it starts with a pre-wash. In addition to the shirt, this one requires a bit of bias tape. Two packages should get you through with some left over. As before, this won’t be screen accurate — we’re going for a speedy, inexpensive version that’s still totally recognizable.
- First, I carefully cut away the button placket, collar and sleeves from the shirt. I set the sleeves aside to use later.
- Next, I stitched boas tape to the right side of the fabric, all the way around the cut edges. So, arm holes, front opening, collar and bottom edge.
- After the bias tape was applied, I clipped any curves and trimmed away corners in the seam allowances. Then I turned the bias tape to the inside of the garment, and stitched it close to the edge of the tape — about a quarter inch from the folded edge.
- As I maneuvered corners while stitching the bias tape facing into place, I folded the tape into a miter, and tucked the excess tape underneath it so the finish is clean.
- Once all my edges were finished, I cut poster board shapes to mimic the pockets so I could lay them out on top of the vest and get the proportions and placement just how I wanted them. (These cutouts also became my pattern pieces for the pockets.) You can use a fabric marker or a pencil to mark the corners of the pockets so you can easily sew them into place.
- I cut the sleeves open and used the fabric from them to cut the pockets. There wasn’t enough fabric to my sleeves to make the large pocket, so I focused on the front. I cut each pocket a little bigger than each of the pieces I cut in step five, and then used the poster board as a guide to press the raw edges under. I finished the top edges of the pockets with bias tape the same way I did the vest edges. Then I used the marks I made in step five as a guide to topstitch the pockets into place.
- To make pocket flaps, I cut rectangles using the width of the pocket guides I cut out of poster board. I didn’t make a pattern for these because I knew I might be tight on fabric, and figured I would just made do. (The rectangles for the pocket flaps should be a little more than twice the height you want the flap to be. If fabric’s tight based on what’s left of your sleeves, you can focus on trying to make the flaps uniform to one another, or even skip them. But they really do help sell the look.)
I folded my pocket flaps in half and stitched them closed on the sides. Then I turned them right side out, pressed, and top stitched around them in two parallel lines.
- To attach the flaps, I placed the raw edge just above the top of the pocket and stitched about a quarter inch away from said raw edge. Then I folded the flap down and stitched about 3/8 of an inch from the fold to enclose the raw edges and make the flaps lie flat.
Since there wasn’t enough sleeve fabric, that wraps the vest. (If you wanted to add the detailing on the back, you could absolutely do so by purchasing a bit of matching fabric.)
Part 3 — The Pants
The pants may require the most patience of the costume, but in some ways, they’re the easiest piece. There’s no changing needed for the actual trousers; you’re just adding the Corellian blood stripe. You’ll need a pair of blue flat-front pants, 1/8 yard of matching blue fabric, and several yards of red ribbon. I like grosgrain, but any ribbon will do.
- First, I cut my blue fabric into two strips about 2.5 inches wide, and about 3 inches longer than the outseam of the pants. Then, the tedious (but fairly easy!) process of attaching the ribbon begins. I cut mine in strips about the width of the fabric I just cut, and stitch them on one by one. I run a stitch down each side of each piece of ribbon and proceed down the strip of fabric leaving roughly a quarter inch between the ribbon pieces. You can also start with a piece of fabric 5 inches wide, sew on the ribbon and then split it into two pieces, though I find that my ribbon stitching tends to get crooked when I use this method.
- Once my two stripes are done fold back the edges and press.
- Maneuvering the trousers under the foot of the sewing machine can be a hassle. If it is too troublesome for your tastes, you can absolutely attach your blood stripe strips by hand. I hate hand sewing, so I actually open up my pants along the inseam by removing the stitching. This makes it far easier to machine-stitch the stripes into place, but it also means you’ll have to re-sew the inseam at the end. The choice is yours! You just need to stitch, either by hand or by machine, down both sides of the blood stripe, folding under at the top and bottom of the pants so there are no raw edges.
- Be sure to align your stripes down the side seam of the pants towards the back. You don’t want to stitch over the opening to your pockets!
And that’s that!
Once these three pieces are done, you’ll need to find some boots and belts to complete the look (second-hand stores are also your friends here). If you’re feeling extra crafty, you can even work out a holster for your thrifty Han Solo…and then get to smuggling some Halloween candy!
Holly Frey cohosts the PopStuff podcast at HowStuffWorks.com. She’s an avid costumer, and Star Wars has been an integral part of her life since opening day in 1977.