When it came time to make myself a Vault 101 jumpsuit (because it wasn’t if I made a Vault Suit, it was when), I wanted to make it as era appropriate and true to the game model as I could possibly make it. I’ve compiled my research in this post so you can read all about the Women’s Vault 101 Jumpsuit pattern, the real world inspirations that resulted in its iconic design and a few notes about my cosplay construction. This is for the Women’s version of the Vault Suit, I’ll write a follow up post for the Men’s version soon. Subscribe to our Facebook or Twitter for updates!
Blood, Sweat and a Year
It all started in 2013, it was the first year of PaxAUS and I wanted to try out some cosplay. Not entirely familiar with the Australian cosplay scene, it was decided that “half cosplay” was a good option.
I hadn’t sewn anything since high school, but I had a sewing machine available and knew enough about patterns to stumble my way though the process. In 6 weeks, I made two jackets (male and female) using a few yards of royal blue and yellow cotton drill.
To my surprise, the jackets were really popular. Event though we didn’t have full vault suits, people kept complimenting us on our cosplay, including a totally adorable kid who asked his dad to take a photo of us together (probably not age appropriate for them, but it made me feel like a disney princess! <3 )
On a high after Pax, I decided to undertake the almost impossible and spent the next year learning how to make custom clothing patterns and create two replica vault suits for PaxAUS 2014. A year felt like plenty of time, in reality, there was about to be many, many months of swearing and yelling. I was madly sewing for almost 24 hours before the convention, but we got there in the end (minus a few unfinished hems that got tucked away and covered up)
During the next few months, I’m going to share some of the things we learnt about our first year of serious cosplay construction and document our upcoming projects, including revised vault suits!
First things First, Research.
Almost every Fallout fan will tell you that the vault jumpsuit is listed as leather in the Fallout wiki. The problem with this is that from my observations, the concept art and texture files from Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas have the characteristics of cotton twill or denim.
While it’s likely that the Fallout 1 and 2 designs are either leather or cotton lycra (think cheesy space films from the 50’s) I became increasingly convinced that the wiki didn’t take Fallout 3 and NV into consideration.
I asked around a few of the cosplay forums and was repeatedly told about a quest in New Vegas that describes the vault suit being made of leather, but every time I looked at the game files, I couldn’t see the resemblance. Then one day it occurred to me that rather than reading the Fallout wiki, I needed to find out what the Fallout designers knew.
That’s when I came across an old developers diary on the Bethesda blog. It detailed the work of the Fallout 3 design team and explained the process of creating concept art based on the original games. Lo and behold, there it was, the information I was searching for, a direct quote from the lead concept artist Adam Adamowicz.
The Vault Suit – Designing, or redesigning the (fallout 3) vault suit meant adhering to canon, and updating the textures and tactile feel for the detail we can achieve now in games. I opted for a more durable denim like material, something quintessentially American and, suited to carrying out vault tasks involving heavy machinery and crawling through metal pipes.”
Adam Adamowicz, Lead Concept Artists, Fallout 3.
Sadly Adam Adamowicz passed away in 2012, and information about the art direction of Fallout is mostly in old interviews or tucked away in wikis. Thankfully, Bethesda has made the concept art for Fallout 3, Oblivion and Skyrim available to view on Flickr. The collection is staggeringly large, with over 1,000 concept sketches organised by game title. The research and development that went into the designs are inspiring and well worth a look at.
After getting this far, I wanted to know as much as I could about the concept development of Fallout 3. The search led me to a post written by Adam on his personal Blogger account, it read…
“When someone goes to the trouble to build one of your designs at home… Well, It’s like Christmas morning. On a personal level, this is the best kind of award you can receive for working on a game.”
Adam Adamowicz, September 4, 2009
Now more than ever, I was determined to do this vault suit justice.
American Denim in the 1950’s
In the 1950’s, American denim was the wonder textile of its time. Having gained popularity in the armed services and factories, advertising companies began to sell denim as casual wear. By the late 1950’s Denim was widely marketed to the growing middle classes of America.
Cowboys, greasers, work men and women, home makers, Hollywood movie stars and youth all wore denim. The utilitarian nature of denim makes it a fantastic choice for life in a vault.
Now that I know which material to use, it’s time to plan out the colour and style. Most of the denim available today is not your grandaddies denim. Lycra is often added to modern denim to give it some stretch and a better fit. 1950’s denim was made from cotton and was dyed using a blue pigment called Indigo. Depending on the number of applications, Indigo can dye a variety of shades from light blue to a very dark blue. The appeal of Indigo when it was first used to dye denim was the low price. Over time, as denim became more fashionable, indigo was sought after for the way that it faded with wear.
Denim is a surprisingly complex topic, and I’ve spent hours reading about vintage looms, the history of Levi Strauss, selvedge, the resurgence of Cone Mills and how Japanese denim is or isn’t superior to American Denim. This is the point where it gets to me. Pampered modern ladies and gentlemen, trying to live the “good old days” (minus the hard work) are debating denim like a posh person would debate wine. The denim that I’m after is for post-apocalyptic life in a vault, not 2015’s hot list of “lumbersexual” must haves. So, I’m going to keep it simple.
My Denim Wish List:
- The denim should be cotton, preferably without any stretch. Saying that, some stretch is ok because the game models have a pretty snug fit.
- The denim should be heavy enough to be used in workwear, this will give it a nice drape and will hold the turn up cuffs nicely.
- The denim should be a mid to dark shade of indigo, so I can fade and age it later. A synthetic dye process is ok, in a world with BlamCo Mac & Cheese and Nuka Cola Quantum, Vault-Tec would have loved it.
After thoroughly examining the game files (I’m very well acquainted with Amata now) I’ve found that there’s three types of stitches on the female vault suit.
Running from the top of the pants to the side pocket is a felled seam (you can see these on jeans) after the pocket it looks like a basic seam. I’m not sure why it changes, but it shouldn’t be hard to do, especially with the pocket to cover any lumps in the fabric. The inner line across the back doesn’t appear to have a seam and resembles decorative topstitch (like the design on the pockets of jeans)
The top line in the back looks like jodhpurs. This could indicate that the inner curve has a reinforced section inside the suit (which makes sense for hard wearing work pants) or it’s just to look cool and retro futuristic. I won’t go as far as adding details to the inside of the suit, nobody should be looking there.
Below the belt looks like a fly closure and above it is an exposed zip. While it’s called a jumpsuit, it could easily be made as a shirt and pants (this would be better for bathroom breaks). I also found a vintage denim jumpsuit on Etsy that has a belt section around the middle, this could be used to switch the closure from fly to zip. It could also add some structure to the suit and help it sit better. Heavy denim will weigh down the suit from the shoulders, a belt section should help to distribute some of the weight and avoid a saggy bum.
Looking at the texture file, I can break the suit down into its major features.
- The front of the bodice has a princess seam with the side darts converted into a separate panel. These join together with felled seams.
- The yellow strip is set behind the denim and has a double top stitch down the sides.
- The side pockets and cargo pockets also have a double top stitch.
- Down the middle front and back of the legs is a single top stitch.
- The yoke of the pants is curved with a felled seam running along the sides.
- A regular seam joins the front and the back pieces (apart from where the yoke is)
- The back of the bodice has an area of topstitch underneath where the numbers go
- The arms have have patches towards the shoulders with a felled seam running down the top of the arm and a regular seam under the arm.
I want my vault suit to have a vintage look with a fitted bodice (top part) that has a tucked in appearance at the high waist (around the belly button) and a loose fit dungaree style leg. You can see the difference between modern jeans and vintage jeans in the video below. I’ll be aiming for a style of pant that’s close to a vintage pair of jeans. Fit will be everything in this outfit, if it’s too tight the side pockets and knee patches will look frumpy and if it’s too loose, the top of the bodice will sag around the bust.
Now that I know the kinds of materials I need and the style I want to make the vault suit in, it’s time to take my measurements and turn them into a basic body sloper. A sloper is a template for pattern designs and will be the basis of my pattern pieces. I’ll be documenting the process in an upcoming post. In the meantime, I highly recommend reading Building Patterns: The Architecture of Women’s Clothing written by Suzy Furrer. I will use this as a reference for the next steps.