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The best tactical minds in the galaxy, or just fodder for Vader's mood swings?  This of course depends, but one thing is for sure, the imperial officers look sharp standing up, or lying dead on the deck.  Here's a few pointers to help perfect your imperial officer uniform...

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The Hat

No officer is complete without his hat.  With the exception of some of the higher ups in A New Hope, all of the officers in the original trilogy are seen wearing the hat.  The hat was a custom piece, but according to the Magic of Myth book, was based heavily on military caps common in Europe during WWI and WWII (see the first pic below).  Some of these hats had a wrap-around portion that could be unfastened and pulled down to fasten below the chin to keep the ears and face warm.  This feature was deleted from the Imperial hat, but most of the other elements are very similar.  The rosette on the hat was mimicked with a series of metal discs, each successively smaller than the underlying disc.  A recent discovery from the RPF suggests that this is part of a pulley system from on old record player.  I bought a custom machined greeblie, but they can also be made using washers.  Check eBay or drop me an email.  

If you are interested in making your own hat, I recommend reading this tutorial posted by Kathy VB on the Midwest Garrison forums.  The tutorial does not include a pattern, but it's still a great start with lots of good info.  You'll of course need a sewing machine.  

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A British railroad hat similar
in style to the Imperial hat

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The Uniform

The Imperial officers uniform was custom made for the films, but Lucas has been quoted as saying they were based heavily on the German uniforms of WWII (see first pic below).  Funny thing is, Hitler was so taken with the British uniforms of WWI, that most of the Nazi garb is British in style.  Starting from the bottom, the pants are riding breeches in the classic Jodhpur style.  Jodhpurs were based and named after a city in India, which is likely where the colonial British adopted the design.  When designing your breeches, I recommend adding a loop of elastic at the bottom of the pants to loop under you foot.  This will make putting your boots on much easier, and keep the pants in your boots and not bloused over the top of the boot (an Imperial fashion no-no!).  

The tunic is similar in style to a double breasted jacket, and not much more complicated for a tailor to make.  Just be sure to point out the pockets for the code cylinders.  When making the collar, the use of a stiffening material is recommended to help your collar stand straight and stay that way.  Kathy VB has also posted a tutorial on the Midwest Garrison forums for a uniform using a modified Simplicity pattern 7274 for a Civil War costume.  Sadly, it seems this pattern is no longer in production.  I bought this pattern, but never used it since my tailor was able to custom make the uniform from a mess of pictures and drawings I provided.  You could also try eBay, but watch out for unscrupulous dealers!  

The uniform came in a variety of colors, with the most common being an olive gray.  Black was also seen, as was a white tunic with black pants.  See the pictures below.  Also, most of the uniforms were seen with a stitched seam down the front of the tunic, but Moff Jerrod can be seen with two seams in the picture below.  Other variations have been noted, such as a stitch down the back of the tunic on some, but not on others.  Also, Tarkin is seen with a white undershirt, but most other officers do not appear to wear one.

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German WWII uniforms like the Imperial uniforms


Uniform with no seam
down the back


Uniform with one seam
down the front

Uniform with 2 seams
down the front


Olive-gray uniform 
from Magic of Myth book


Black Uniform
(Stormtrooper Officer)

Black and White
Uniform

Tarkin with white
undershirt
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Code Cylinders and Rank Bars

Most of officers in all 3 movies are seen with code/rank cylinders of some kind, aswell as rank badges.  Non-canon sources list these as code cylinders for passage to secure areas, but they appear to also be an indicator of rank.  Refer to these Technical Commentaries for a great explanation of the cylinders and how they relate to rank.  Common lore is that they were old school chalk holders, but it turns out they are British Dosimeters used to measure radiation exposure during the Cold War era.  The clips on the screen versions have a brass or bronze color, but some have a silver looking clip as well.  

The dosimeters are next to impossible to find.  So chalk holders are a decent substitute.  Most new chalk holders are plastic and don't look right, even when painted,  However, you can still buy metal chalk holders at Bender-Burkot (see below).  As I write this, they appear to be out of stock.  If you need some, I have some extras for sale.

The rank bars could have been custom made or a found item.  One of the mods at ASAP (MJF) found some switches in a  switch catalog (see page 19, item AT4116) that appear to be a very close match to the colored squares.  According to MJF, the backing plates may have also been part of a switch assembly.  NKK switches has a $50 minimum order, but you can find a list of distributors here.

Also, here's a cool site with some good measurements on the rank bars and cylinders if you would like to make your own (look on the bottom right for "Imperial Officer's Uniform".

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Rank bars from
Visual Dictionary


Close up of dosimeters
from the movie


Metal chalk holders
from Bender-Burkot

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The Gloves

Although not seen in ANH, several of the officers in ESB and ROTJ can be seen wearing gloves.  These gloves are short and end just past the wrist.  They don't appear to have any stitching detail on the surface.  You can find suitable gloves at Stompers Boots or ToughGloves.

   

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The Boots

Like the their uniforms, the German WWII dress boots were based on British design.  They are the classic riding boot design without lacing or buckles.  As far as I can tell, only black boots were used.  To get the proper fit, the boots should extend just above the top of your calf.  These types of boots can be found at tack shops, and occasionally at western stores.  You can also find them online at places by searching for riding boots.  You could also try a synthetic boot from Grand Prix.  I hear the synthetic boots are nice, but they are slow on the delivery.

As an interesting sidenote, there are several officers that can be seen roaming the halls of the Death Star without boots on.  Instead, they're wearing black dress shoes.  Although shoes may be canon, no officer worth his pension would be caught dead in anything but boots!

Although not entirely accurate, German jackboots could also be used.  Refer to the Death Star Trooper page for more discussion on this boot.

 

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The Belt and Boxes

The belt is a 2 inch wide leather belt with a rectangular belt buckle.  Tandy Leather has everything you need to make this yourself, including a 2 inch belt blank, a square buckle blank, and one bottle of black dye.  To make the belt, you'll need a punch for the buckle holes.  Also, if you buy the belt blank without the snaps, you'll need snaps and a snap setter.  

Based on the pictures in the Visual Dictionary, the buckle was slightly curved (along the shape of the stomach), and may have been made of stainless steel.  The officers are not typically seen with the silver belt boxes, but Admiral Motti can be seen with two in the Alderaan destruction scene as shown below.  To my knowledge, they have not been positively identified as a found item, but most folks think they are electronic project boxes, or otherwise called metal enclosures.  My rough scaling places them at 3.75 x 2.5 x 1 inch.  


Pic of my belt made with Tandy stuff and greeblie


Pic of Admiral Motti
belt with belt boxes

Belt buckle from Visual Dictionary pic.  Likely ROTJ

Close up of greeblie
for the buckle

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Weapons

Officers are rarely seen with holsters, but several of the Stormtrooper Officers in the black uniforms can be seen with holsters (check out the officer who gets nailed after the broken transmitter incident in ANH).  The holsters seem basic in style and are brown with two retaining loops at the top for attachment to the belt.  The holstered weapon is the Merr Sonn blaster, which is similar in style to Han's blaster.  


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Reference Images
       
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