Galactic Costuming: Alexina Duncan’s Amazing Hera Syndulla Cosplay

How one fan suited up as the ace pilot from Star Wars Rebels.

Galactic Costuming is a feature that highlights members of fan groups from around the world who, literally, wear their love of Star Wars in the form of trooper armor, rebel pilot flightsuits, and much more.

For many fans, Star Wars is always there and always has been. It’s part of everyday references or accessories, it’s a go-to comfort blanket, and it’s omnipresent in childhood memories. Alexina Duncan was immersed into worlds of science fiction and space fantasy from the very beginning. “My very first memory cuts in partway through The Empire Strikes Back, and I remember explaining to my dad that the Millennium Falcon is pretending to be rubbish to escape from the bad guys. I was maybe three, and I already knew the story!”

Alexina Duncan dressed as Hera Syndulla.

Photo by Alexandra Lee Studios.

Hera Syndulla looks at a holographic projection of several Imperial star destroyers in Star Wars Rebels.

Duncan’s carried a torch for Star Wars ever since and, as of recently, she’s showing her fandom by wearing lekku. Let’s back up. Duncan submitted a Star Wars Rebels Season Three (arriving on Blu-ray and DVD this week) Hera Syndulla costume to the Rebel Legion in early 2017 and got approved in March — just in time for Celebration Orlando. As a member of Elstree Base, the United Kingdom branch of the Rebel Legion, Duncan has participated in at least three troops so far and is looking forward to more. But mostly? She likes the community aspect of the costuming organization.

“I’ve been in and out of fandom for around 16 years, but I’ve never really felt fully a part of something until now,” Duncan says. “I admit that I mostly made a costume for submission incidentally, but the moment I went on my first troop it was a revelation. I was immediately welcomed, not only by my fellow rebels but also by the UK Garrison who were on the same troop.”Alexina Duncan in costume as Hera Syndulla next to other fans in costume at a convention.

The internal community among the costuming fan groups is one aspect, but there’s also an external community that comes with meeting others while in costumes. Participating in events has given Duncan fresh perspective on characters and the way fans value them. “You forget sometimes that these aren’t just characters that you love and characters that you are working hard to painstakingly create, and that all of that hard work means that to someone, somewhere, you’re almost literally bringing this character to life. By adopting this character [Hera] and this costume you are channeling all of that importance,” she explains.

To summarize, as Duncan tells, “It’s all so much more than just dressing up as space characters.”

Hera Syndulla's costume, including the lekku created by cosplay fan Alexina Duncan

But, of course, dressing up as a Star Wars character is part of joining a costuming organization, and Duncan chose Hera. She says one of the biggest challenges with bringing the ace Twi’lek pilot to life was translating her animated design to a grounded look. She had to find a balance between screen accuracy and reality and spent about six weeks constructing every aspect, including Hera’s lekku.

She got a head start on the lekku (no pun intended). Duncan recalls, “This was actually the very first thing I made, around two years ago before leaving them and the idea of making Hera aside. Hera has such a distinctive, almost sweetheart framing shape in her lekku that making them myself seemed like the easiest way to capture that. More than anything I wanted to see if I could make them. I essentially sculpted out a form and then used that for a negative cast by painting on layers of liquid latex. I’ve since refined the process and the shape, but I am so pleased with them.”

Duncan got to stretch new skills and techniques with all the costume’s details such as the earphones (she used a combination of thermal plastics and foam for them), vest greeblies, and the comms on her gloves. The fabric aspects, however, were familiar to her. She’s a trained costumer but hasn’t worked as a fabricator or maker in years, so she had to retrain herself.

“I was more than a little rusty. The fabric components were a case of brushing up my long unused skills from beginning to end. I draped and drafted all of my own patterns from scratch, including the flight cap for a perfect fit. I had never made gloves before, and that was definitely a process I would like to improve in the future as the ring finger gusset somehow ended up twisted,” Duncan says.A Hera Syndulla costume under construction.

Hera’s animated flight suit meant Duncan had to do some creative planning. “One consequence of Hera being an animated character is the lack of seams, other than a very few design features,” she says,”This meant I had to think my way through darts, seams, and fastenings and weigh up whether or not I could have a seam here or there. For instance: Hera has no shoulder seam, so that radically impacted the drape of the pattern and how the fabric lies, but side seams on the flightsuit are inescapable. Knowing that I would be wearing the costume for several days back to back, I made sure that everything was finished for comfort and practicality. Which is to say, I had fully functioning pockets and a very great many invisible zips.”

All in all, Duncan wanted to showcase Hera, her favorite character, in the best possible light. She thinks the community experience of belonging to a costuming group is worth all the effort. “It really captures the love and hope at the very core of Star Wars.”

Amy Ratcliffe is a writer obsessed with Star Wars, Disney, and coffee. Follow her on Twitter at @amy_geek.

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