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Who would fly into combat without shields wearing only a pair of coveralls and a big black helmet?  Why, only the Empire's finest of course!  

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The Helmet

The helmet is constructed of recycled pieces from other helmets.  The faceplate is of course from the stormtrooper helmet.  The main body of the helmet is the same helmet used by the Rebellion, which is actually an APH-6 helmet that was used by the Air Force in the sixties.  The helmet was modified to create a wide "mohawk" from the brow to the back of the head.  Several screw heads are visible on the helmet where the connections were made.  The ear tabs also include some type of nut on some of the helmets.  Most make this modification using an acorn nut.  

Unlike most Star Wars helmets, there are several decent licensed versions of this helmet available.  They include a Deluxe (fiberglass) or Classic Action (spun-vinyl) version, both by Don Post.  Both of these helmets look very accurate, but have been out of production for several years.  The Deluxe version comes with a chest box, but is pricey (last auction ended at $800).  The Classic Action version is minus the chest box but is easier to find and runs from $100 to $300 on the secondary market.  Although I'm not sure of the source, I've heard that Don Post had an original helmet on hand while creating the molds for both of these helmets.

Another alternative is the Don Post standard.  This is smaller than the original helmet, but still looks decent for the price.  Tends to go for $40 to $80 on eBay.  They are out of production but can still be found without too much trouble.  Rubies is currently  producing this helmet using the old Don Post molds.  I haven't seen these, but reviews are mixed.  Main complaint I hear is that the helmet material is very flexible and subject to warping.  

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Screen used helmet from
2002 Christies auction


Promotional picture
from Magic of Myth


Front view of Don Post
Deluxe helmet


Side view from
Magic of Myth exhibit


ANH pilot with painted
frown and chin


Side view from
promotional picture


ROTJ screen used helmet from 2002 eBay auction


ANH pilot with pinstripe
helmet detail


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The Uniform

Imperial TIE Pilots are seen wearing a black coveralls with insignia patches on the sleeves.  This uniform appears to be identical to the jumpsuit worn by the Death Star Gunners, AT-AT Drivers, Rebel Technicians, etc.  There is a great reference pic of the Tie Pilot and AT-AT Driver in the Visual Dictionary.  The first pic below shows my take on these coveralls using reference pics and the Marmit TIE Pilot figure.  Based on this link, I think a racing coverall was used during filming, but this is unconfirmed.  Note that the suit shown at this link is a custom suit that does not have all the pockets, but it has several key elements, especially the collar fastening.  

I'm not aware of the correct suit being found currently, but most troopers use a flight suit.  Personally, I think unlined coveralls look more accurate, but you'll still need to add pockets.  There are plenty of online sources for around $30 to $40, but they will require some minor modification for accuracy (like adding pocket flaps).  Try All Seasons for coveralls, or Ted's Surplus and Ranger Joes for flightsuits.

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Here's my take
on the coveralls


Picture from the
Visual Dictionary


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The Chest Box

Perhaps the most interesting part of the costume is the chest box.  Lots of buttons, switches and hoses for the kiddies to play with.  This appears to be something that was built by the prop department.  You can find a good template for the chest box at Bubba's Barnyard.  The box is adorned with three rocker switches (two gray and one white), two circular switch covers, four rectangular switch covers, white pin-striping, two gears, and two unknown circular objects.  

As far as I know, no one has identified the rocker switches, but the switch covers can be found at Switchzone or Digikey.  Some variation in the color of the switch covers can be seen in the pics below.  The gears can be found at some RC car suppliers.  

The chest box is connected to the helmet with two ribbed hoses.  The originals were spiral wound wire covered with a thin plastic.  This is hard to find in the right size, so most people use drain pipes from the hardware store.  You can also try rubber hoses from breathing masks like the types military pilots used.  

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Chest box from the
Don Post Deluxe set


Chest box from
Magic of Myth


Front shot from a
promotional pic


Side shot of chest box
from Magic of Myth


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The Body Armor

TIE pilots wear two pieces of armor; a chest plate, and a back plate.  Both of these pieces are nearly identical to the stormtrooper armor, with some minor modifications.  The back armor had the recessed rectangle filled in, and the front armor was built-up to support the chest box.  And of course, both are black instead of white.  Like the stormtrooper, the armor is connected by ribbed shoulder straps, but the TIE pilots added rectangular pieces with beveled corners at the connections with a fastener (see first two pics).  

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Shot of left side of armor from Magic of Myth


Shot of right side of armor from Magic of Myth


Good shot of the flat
rectangular portion
of back armor


Good side view of armor
with chest box connection


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The Commlink

TIE Pilots are seen with a wrist commlink tucked into a pocket on the left sleeve.  The pocket is a window style pocket.  I have no idea if this is a found item or whipped up by the prop department.  These are pretty easy to make yourself if you have a vacuforming machine.  Apparently the one at the Magic of Myth exhibit is the X-Wing comm, and the TIE comm was black.  I don't have any screen caps but would welcome any to add to the site.  

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TIE Pilot commlink from
Magic of Myth exhibit


TIE Pilot commlink from
Magic of Myth exhibit


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The Gloves

TIE Pilots can be seen wearing black leather gauntlet gloves.  The gloves have a smooth finish on the gauntlet, with vertical finger stitching, and no buckles.  The best match I've found are the gloves from Excalibur Leather.  These are a bit pricey at $58 with shipping, but look reasonably accurate.  These gloves are also close, but they are also kind of expensive.  If accuracy's not a big deal for you, most motorcycle shops have similar gloves.  You can also find cheaper gauntlet gloves at Stompers Boots or ToughGloves.

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TIE Pilot gloves from
Visual Dictionary


TIE Pilot gloves with
stitching outlined


TIE Pilot gloves from
Magic of Myth exhibit


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The Boots

The general consensus on the boots is that they're WWII German Jackboots, with a straight cut across the top and a rounded toe.  Sportsman's Guide often has East German surplus jackboots that are a close match (see my boots below).  The only problem is that they are often out of stock.  It is interesting to note that the boots on the TIE Pilot in the Magic of Myth exhibit is not wearing Jackboots, but instead what appears to be conductor boots.  Since some of the details of the exhibit have been jumbled (see Commlink above), it's not clear if these are screen used.  It appears these were the boots that Marmit detailed their sculpt from for the 1/6th scale figure.   

An alternative boot is a motorcycle style boot.  You have two options.  One is a harness boot, while the other is the conductor boot.  The harness boot has a harness assembly, and a square toe.  The conductor boot is much closer, but usually has a buckle at the top of the boot on the outside (which you could remove).  

There are also some black work boots that are close, but these are hit and miss, and are usually not completely flat across the top.  Try Wal-Mart or a western store.  

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My Jackboots from
Sportsmans Guide


My Jackboots from
Sportsmans Guide

TIE Pilot boots from
Magic of Myth exhibit

DS Trooper screen
capture of boots

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The Belt

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 looks to have been made of stainless steel or nickel.  


My belt made from
Tandy materials


Belt on TIE Pilot from
Visual Dictionary

Reproduction 
greeblie for belt


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My Costume

Here's a pic of me in my costume.  Includes a Classic Action helmet, East German Jackboots, homemade belt, Brand X chest box kit and Brand Y armor assembled by me, gloves from Excalibur Leather, and coveralls from All Seasons.


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Screen Captures
     

     

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