For Alexa Suess of Greenport, childhood Halloweens did not mean visiting a pop-up store to buy a ready-made costume held together by a piece of string and a prayer that it would still be intact by dinner time.
She and her mom, a florist, would spend days designing what Suess describes as “really complex outfits.” One October she was a pharaoh and to get the specifications right they visited the local library for research on Ancient Egypt.
That early attention to detail has benefited the jeweler in both her profession and in her adult hobbies. This past winter, she built what might be her best costume yet, an authentic reproduction of the armor worn by Din Djarin, better known as The Mandalorian, the main character of the Disney Plus show with the same name.
As with everything the artist does, intricacy was important, so everything from the wear and tear on the barrel of the “Star Wars” bounty hunter’s blaster to the dirt and grease on his everyday outfit was considered.
For Suess, and many other fans of cosplay, this is the way.
“ ‘The Mandalorian’ kind of rekindled my love for ‘Star Wars,’ ” Suess said in an interview this week, days after sharing her completed project on social media, an unveiling that was met with a warm response from fans of the show and the local artist, who marveled over just how hard she worked to create something accurate. “Costuming is always one of the first things I’ve noticed in movies and TV shows … [With ‘The Mandalorian’] I saw this kit that is just so detailed and really fascinating. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to make this?’ ”
So during the slower months for her Front Street business — she is a co-owner of the jewelry store Orenda — Suess started on what she called her first “armored, very detailed build.” It was a four-month project and she estimates she spent about 350 hours making it.
“Building this and watching ‘The Mandalorian,’ putting yourself into all these stories, it’s just about fun,” she said. “It’s about being a kid again.”
Soon after completing the build, Suess partnered with Greenport photographer David Benthal on a photo shoot. She credits him with having the idea to take photographs at Rocky Point Beach in East Marion. Facing away from the water, they were able to evoke the space desert landscapes of the show, which is often described as a space Western. Even the lighting of Benthal’s photographs captures the feel of the elaborately designed series.
“We really tried to mimic the lighting, but mostly the overall aesthetic,” Benthal said. “We definitely wanted to make it otherworldly.”
Of course much of what you see on ‘The Mandalorian’ is an illusion, including the costume itself. So Suess, no stranger to working with metals, largely ditched the materials she’s more closely associated with to do what the costume designers on the show do: make 3-D printed ABS plastic look like iron armor. She shared details of the “Mandalorian Build” over the life of the project on her Instagram and hosted a livestream this week to explain it in more detail.
“The one thing I really like about cosplay in general is that you’re one person trying to emulate the skills of a whole team of people,” she said. “So usually you’d have a leatherworker, you’d have a metalworker, you’d have a tailor. And you’re the one kind of putting this all together and constructing it and taking all those skills.”
With this particular project that meant lots of finishing, sanding and painting. She also searched for materials. Din Djarin’s slugs for his rifle are made from aluminum. His spear? She made that from a steel conduit given to her by a machinist friend. In all, she said it cost about $1,700 to make. To purchase a kit would have been between $4,000 and $10,000.
For now, she has the costume on display in her house. She hopes to wear it to a future Comic-Con. Another idea is to visit children’s hospitals as the beloved character. Ultimately though, this was about the work itself.
“I really did this costume for the joy of making it,” Suess said. “It really was about the process … the problem solving.”
In a sense, that’s in line with what the show is about. In each episode, the protagonist and his lovable sidekick Grogu (aka Baby Yoda) find themselves embattled, trying to overcome the obstacle of the week.
“The Mandalorian character is a really relatable sort of figure,” she said. “He’s just a guy trying to do his job across the galaxy and we get sucked into [him] being a father and a friend and being a part of all these beautiful relationships.
“It’s a hero’s journey. A bit of escapism.”
At a time, she said, when we can all use a little bit of that.