Link Costume (Legend of Zelda) - Step by Step
Cosplay Journal #3 - 2006 by TR Rose
Link is a costume that you can put together really quickly or add a lot of detail to - there are many ways to do this costume depending on your skill level, and you'll still look like Link when you're done. Link is instantly recognizable and still popular 20 years after his video game debut. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has been highly anticipated since its first E3 trailer - the guy is a beloved hero for the ages. This is a costume that I've seen an equal number of guys and gals attempt - you don't have to be male to dress as Link. In fact, the Japanese commercial for Link to the Past featured a female dressed as Link for the dance sequence. This is one of those characters who can be played by either gender without people giving you evil looks (as opposed to a guy dressing as Zelda).
I originally didn't think this was a "great cosplay" since the costume itself is very basic, but once I started working on the accessories and props, I started to like it more and more. This isn't the most complex version of Link I've seen, but it's not the simplest either. I'm writing this journal so you'll be able to use some of my techniques if you ever plan to make a Link costume of your own. Some ideas for materials came from the good folks in the Zelda Cosplayers thread on Cosplay.com.
My Costume Parts (click for further explanations)
- Extra Section: Tips for making your Link costume unique
After tracing and cutting out the front and back of the shirt (the front has a "V" shape cut into the front), I sewed the sides and shoulders together. I made a few adjustments to the T-shirt - I made it longer, and flared the sides out slightly below the waist. At this point, the garment looks like a long, shapeless vest. Adding the belt helps give the tunic most of its shape.
If you want to make a really fancy Link tunic, you can make the basic tunic two separate pieces - the shirt part for the top, and a gathered "skirt" for the base. The skirt part should be a very wide strip of fabric (at least twice the width of your waist), which you'll gather and sew to the top. This will give you a more flared-out base, but you'd run the risk of making it look too much like a dress. The simplest way to make this is to do a one piece tunic.
The collar was a little more difficult to make than the basic tunic. Using the "V" cutout in the front of the shirt, I drew the collar shape on another piece of scrap fabric and cut it out (1). Then I cut out another one, mirror flipped (2). Finally, I put these next to the "V" shape and cut another piece of fabric for the back of the collar that was the remaining space between the two collar front pieces (3). I sewed these three pieces together to make one big collar piece, then I sewed that to the "V" of the main shirt.
For the sleeves, I traced a regular shirt sleeve (seam-ripped from the original shirt I modified to make Leia's shirt) and traced the top of the sleeve. Then I made the sides wider and cut it out. I sewed it closed first (so it formed a short tube), then sewed this to the tunic. I added a belt I got for $1 at a thrift shop, and the tunic looked pretty good.
I purchased "real" fabric at Jo-Anns - just plain green cotton fabric that was about $2.99 per yard. Add a 40% coupon to that, and I paid less than $6 for three yards of fabric, which I'm sure will be more than enough.
The cotton fabric is easy to cut and sew. The edges will need to be finished since this fabric seems to fray a little at the edges.
Later, I decided to make a red Goron Tunic to increase my costume wardrobe. I didn't make this tunic all one piece, however - the top part and the "skirt" are separate. The "skirt" section is really just a long strip of fabric, gathered slightly, and sewn to the "shirt". the collar and sleeves were made the same way as the green tunic. For a little extra detail, I added some brown bias tape to the edges of the sleeves and the base of the tunic. I considered adding some to the collar, but it looked too bulky.
Finally, I went back and added a set of belt loops to both tunics. That was the last detail I needed. I made four belt loops per tunic (I couldn't find an official number for Link's outfit - all the reference pictures had a different number). For the Goron Tunic, the belt loops insure that the belt doesn't slip away from the seam line. The belt loops also help the tunics look less like short dresses.
The leggings also came from Goodwill. They were just regular women's stretch pants.
The turtleneck and leggings looked fine for the part, the cotton material they were made from got hot quickly. I found myself sweating a lot after a photoshoot, and the cotton fabric (especially under the boots and gauntlets) would become soaking wet. I later ordered a white spandex top and leggings from Dance4less.com.
First, I used a tape measure to determine the size of my head where the cap should go. I cut two long triangles out of green fabric - the bottom of each triangle was half of the measurement I took. I sewed the sides together and the cap was done. If you will be wearing a wig with your Link costume, make sure that you measure your head size with the wig on - otherwise, the cap will not fit.
I used two hair clips to hold the cap on my head when I wore this costume. I fastened the clips right behind my ears.
Rather than try to find actual boots somewhere, I decided to make my own. I started off by purchasing a pair of cheap canvas shoes from Kmart, which will be used as the base. Then, I used some of the darker brown faux leather (from Ganondorf's costume) and cut out basic boot shapes a bit larger than I needed (after measuring around my legs first). Then I sewed the sides together. This procedure is almost exactly what I did for Raichu's feet, except that the Raichu costume had two pieces for boots - the shoe and the legwarmer. This boot is all one piece.
I took the canvas shoes and glued a rounded piece of foam to the top of the shoe that covers the toes. This will give the finished product a more boot-like shape and add some lightweight bulk to the shoes. Since I made the leather casing larger than necessary, there are no problems fitting the leather around the modified shoes.
Next, I hot-glued the boot fabric to the shoes. I then took a rectangular piece of fabric and glued this, wrong side up, to the tops of the boots. Then I folded these over (so the wrong side was up) to make the flaps over the top of the boots. The finished boots aren't spectacular, but they're certainly cheaper than real boots. They're also easy to walk in.
I wanted to add the buckles to the fronts of the boots, so I found two small gold decorative buckles at Hobby Lobby. I cut two thin strips of a lighter brown fabric and made two simple "belts" for the boot tops. I secured these to the boots by sewing "belt loops" with thread at the sides and back of the boots. I think it adds a nice amount of detail to an otherwise plain accessory.
The original gloves for this costume were made several hours before Comic-con, so they didn't turn out very well. I had made them out of the same fabric used for the boots - a thick, fabric-backed vinyl. This was hot and not easily sewn. The gloves were fairly shapeless and the seams began to come apart at the snipped fingers. I decided to redo them for the Wii launch event.
I used a pair of Army work gloves for the pattern, carefully removing the stitching and laying the pieces flat. Any pair of old gloves will work, although you will have to make the tops longer (so they reach halfway up your arms). I reconstructed the glove with the new, brown pieces. It took a little work to get the gloves to fit as the originals were too large for me. It's best to use a well-fitting glove as your template.
The original gloves were made of a thick vinyl fabric that didn't breathe or move well. The "fingers" split open at the sides and folded in on themselves, and the arm shape kept bending back along the seam. I redid the gloves out of a faux suede fabric - found at Jo-Ann Fabrics as part of their Halloween fabric collection. The fabric I purchased came in several shades of natural browns and had "fringe" at the bottom - I'm supposing this was designed for a Native American costume.
Sewing some parts of these gloves was very difficult as the seams are very small. Some of the stitching needs to be done by hand (around the pinky finger, for instance), and it took some time to get these right. Once I sewed the pieces together, I then fit the gloves more closely to my own hands. This was rather time-consuming, as I had to keep resewing the seams a little further in each time until they fit without being too snug. Once the gloves fit, I cut several "belt loops" in the gloves around 3" and 5.5" from the arm edge. Then I cut a few strips of the scabbard belt fabric and wove them through the loops to replicate the bands on Link's gauntlets.
The original glove is on the left, and the finished new glove on the right. Doesn't the new version look better? It's also far more comfortable to wear.
The original ears I used came from a costume shop. They're a Woochie appliance called "Small Space Ear Tips", and attach easily with Spirit Gum. However, these ears are a little small for Link's ears, so I ordered a larger set.
Cosworx used to carry a set of plastic elf ears that were worn like a headband. These have since been discontinued, but I found a great site online for all your elven ear needs. Aradanic Costumes carries seven different styles of elven ear prosthetics, including sea elf ears, hobbit ears, and Lodoss elf ears. It's a good selection for whichever version of Link you're aiming for. I picked up the set of Small Anime Ears and they look much better.
The Ocarina of Time Link wears a set of small, blue hoop earrings. I originally used a set of very tiny hoops that I had lying around in my jewelry box, but they had several problems. Aside from being too small, they weren't true hoops (they were round in the front, but the entire back was open), and they shifted to strange angles sometimes. I acquired a second, better set of earrings from Wal-Mart's jewelry section. I chose a set of silver closed hoops (about $2.97), which I then painted with blue automotive spray paint. Now the earrings, like the ears, are much more visible.
This was originally just going to be a second belt, but I decided to make this more detailed.
I used a measuring tape to get an approximation of the length for the belt. Luckily, I just barely had enough of the light brown leather-like fabric to make this one piece. I sewed up the sides and had a long, brown tube. I used a buckle from a belt I found at a thrift shop - the buckle originally faced the other way, but I used wire cutters to make some modifications. I cut the center prong of the belt in half. This made the small piece in the middle come off. I then used the remains of the prong as the middle part because it faces the other direction. This is confusing to explain, so please refer to the picture below:
The buckle on the front is purely decorative - the belt is big enough to easily slide over my head and shoulder without needing to be fastened.
I tried to fill this tube with foam, but the backing of the leather-like fabric wouldn't allow the foam to slide through. I sewed several rows of stitching perpendicular to the length of the belt to make the sections and left it at that.
The scabbard was more difficult. I had originally tried to curve the foamcore (as with the shield, above), but it curved the wrong direction. I traced the finished Master Sword on the foamcore and cut the two scabbard pieces larger than the blade, but I couldn't make the pieces join up - the curve was working against me. I wet the entire thing down with water again and managed to flatten it out. From there, I worked the correct curve into the foamcore manually using a wet washcloth and the edge of the bathtub. This took some time and patience.
Once I finally achieved the curve I wanted, I used hot glue to join the sides of the scabbard. I painted the designs with yellow paint, and added FunFoam pieces to the top and bottom (which helped cover up the messy-looking bottom of the scabbard). I wound strips of unbleached muslin around the top and bottom of the foamcore tube and hot glued them in place. I then cut two thin strips of the leather fabric and hot glued these to the belt to attach the scabbard. The scabbard is probably removable, but it holds in place well. I will need to reglue the pieces that attach the scabbard to the belt - it seems that these pieces are under the most stress.
Finally, I hot glued one of Ganondorf's spare gold studs to the front. Later, I added some more yellow designs to the scabbard and filled in the basic designs I had created earlier.
Believe it or not, the sword does fit inside the scabbard. I'm very pleased about this.
This accessory isn't part of the Link character design (although you can see something like this on the subscreens to represent the size of your wallet and bomb bag), but it will be a necessity for carrying around things like ID, keys, and Rupees (er, spending money). I basically cut a large circle out of the faux leather fabric, cut some small slits perpendicular to the edge (about an inch or so from the cut edge), and threaded a piece of leather cord through the slits to make a simple drawstring pouch. I knotted the ends of the cord together and slipped the belt through. It worked great, although I might redo this out of the fabric I will remake the gloves out of.
Following some advice I found on Cosplay.com, I purchased two pieces of foamcore for the base of the shield. I tried leaving it outside for a few days to get a curved surface, but it didn't work. However, wetting one side of the foamcore with water gave the surface a nice rounded curve. I plan to make the shield 24.5" tall and 20" wide. The raised silver edging is made from the second piece of foamcore. The Triforce, eagle, and silver designs are cut out of FunFoam sheets.
Full-size Hylian Shield
Design template - 302KB, .JPG format
I made a pattern out of newspaper for the shield outline and cut it out with a snap-off knife. I then painted one side with thinned acrylic blue paint. Only one problem - painting the front of the curved foamcore made the shield flatten out. After re-wetting the back with water, I got some (but not all) of the original curve back. It will have to do.
I traced the shield outline on the second piece of foamcore, but I didn't cut it out right away. I made the inner shield pattern again out of newspaper. First I cut out the inside edge, and then I cut the outside edge and colored the whole thing with silver Fusion spray paint. This piece kept most of its original curve.
Please note that I don't have a pattern for this to download. I eyeballed the design myself and cut it from a piece of newspaper folded in half (so it would be symmetrical).
The two shield pieces were glued together with 7800 adhesive, clamped down with medium-sized binder clips. I placed cardboard pieces on either side of the foamcore to keep the clips from "biting" the shield. I left this to sit overnight. The next morning, the shield was firmly glued together. However, the clips had left indentations in the outside edge, and some of the silver paint came off when I removed the cardboard pieces. I also noticed that the edges of the silver and blue pieces didn't match up exactly because they had slightly different curves. I used the snap-off knife to cut off the excess blue that stuck out under the silver. Then I took the whole shield outside, masked off the blue section, and repainted the silver. I also painted the edges and back of the shield silver to match the front. I still had a little overspray, so I had to retouch the blue sections anyway.
Once the spray was dry, I began work on the back straps. I took two pieces of nylon strap material and hot-glued it to the back of the shield - one piece to go around my arm, and the other to be held in my hand. The two pieces added stability - I didn't want my shield flopping around. I hot-glued two of the cardboard pieces (used in the gluing above) on the ends of each strap to hold it down better. I specifically designed the shield supports to carry the shield with my right arm only. Link is a lefty, after all (at least, Ocarina of Time Link is a lefty). This means that the hand grip is smaller than the arm loop.
Then I had to make the designs on the shield. I cut the Triforce pieces, the eagle shapes, and the silver decorations out of FunFoam sheets and attached them to the blue shield with hot glue. The "rivets" along the silver edge were made with metallic silver fabric paint. I then coated the whole thing with spray polystyrene to keep it waterproof and to give it a nice even finish.
The Hylian Shield is now complete.
The original Master Sword that Concolor made wound up not holding up over time. He used upholstery foam with liquid latex - but unfortunately the latex broke down after a few years. The paint became sticky and I had to throw it out.
Unfortunately, I don't have a replacement technique for the sword at this time.
Bottled Potions: Link never has an easy time finding empty bottles, does he? Why should my quest for cosplay accessories be any easier? I was basically looking for a simple clear bottle with a cork stopper. I looked at Michaels and Hobby Lobby and didn't find anything large enough - they only had tiny decorative bottles or things that looked like Love Potion bottles. After a few weeks of looking at the local thrift stores, I found not one, but two identical glass bottles with large cork stoppers. Perfect!
Now what kind of potion-like beverage would instantly give me rejuvenating energy? There's always red or blue Gatorade, or maybe... Mountain Dew! That marvelous elixir beloved of geeks everywhere, it conveniently comes in both red and green versions.
Navi: Concolor and I rigged this one up together. The base of the body is a cheap dollar-store ping pong ball. We tried to get a quantity of ping pong balls from a sporting goods store, but these all had company logos on one side. The only generic ones we found came from the dollar store. The wing frames were made of braided floral wire - three strands of thin silver wire were braided together to create a strong, flexible frame for the four fairy wings. The wing frames are covered with a thin chiffon fabric that is hot-glued in place. I decorated these with blue sparkly glitter glue to mimic the veins in the wings. The glow is provided by a blue LED that is wired to a battery located in the scabbard belt. The surface of the LED bulb was sanded slightly with the Dremel to diffuse the light (originally, the light came straight out as a dot, not a full glow). Navi is attached to the belt at one point, which makes her almost look to be floating above my shoulder rather than firmly attached to me.
Navi was definitely a two-person project - and I can't explain the ins and outs of rigging up LED lights, sorry. If you want a non-glowing Navi, you can always use a painted styrofoam ball for the body, as it's easy to stick the wires into and still gives you the right look.
Link is instantly recognizable to most con-goers (and even many people in the real world), but that doesn't mean you have to do his costume as simply as possible! There will usually be more than one Link at any anime/comic convention (sometimes there are dozens of Links), and you probably want to stand out from the rest, right? Depending on which game version of Link you're cosplaying, he has had a variety of different weapons, items, armour, and boots along the way. Why not make a prop, weapon, costume, or accessory that you've never seen before on a cosplayer? Here are some suggestions.
The most famous version of Link (at the moment) is Ocarina of Time Adult Link (which is the version featured in this tutorial). This specific form of the character has also appeared in Super Smash Bros., Super Smash Bros. Melee, and Soul Caliber 2. The second most popular form of Link is his new Twilight Princess style that includes a more detailed costume and chainmail underneath his tunic. This version also appears in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Some Link cosplayers carry representations of the Hylian Shield and the Master Sword. Most Links don't carry any props at all, and some just carry a generic prop sword rather than something that looks like the Master Sword. The shield (if they have one) is usually too small for the person carrying it.
Most Link cosplayers have the standard green (Kokiri) tunic. If you want to stand out, the easiest thing is to make a different colored tunic (red, blue, black, purple, light purple). Link's costumes have slight variations by game. Some versions of Link wear just the green tunic, others have a long-sleeved brown, white, or light green shirt under the tunic, some wear pants/leggings and others have bare legs (I recommend wearing shorts under your tunic if your costume doesn't have pants - preferably something that matches your tunic color). Some tunic designs have sleeves and others are sleeveless. Some Links wear gloves/gauntlets and others don't. The belt and cap designs vary between games as well. If you want to challenge yourself with the clothing aspect of the costume, Twilight Princess Link appears to have chainmail between his tunic and white shirt.
The best advice I can offer you is to choose one version of Link and stick with it. You'll have a much better costume if you decide on one specific incarnation of the character and match it as closely as possible. Be consistent with your sword and shield designs, as well as any items you carry. For example, Windwaker Link doesn't carry the same shield as Ocarina of Time Link. Your costume will be more polished if you keep to the same theme with every part of your costume. The average person might not notice or care, but the hardcore fans of the series will notice the difference, and it will make your finished costume that much better.
Every game features very different standard shield designs (check the official artwork for the 8-bit era games since the designs aren't clearly visible in-game), and some games feature extra shields like the Mirror and wooden versions. Sometimes there are special boots like the Iron Boots and Hover Boots. There is always a variety of weapons in any Zelda game. Link has been known to wield boomerangs, hookshots, clawshots, grappling hooks, bow and arrows, slingshots, bombs, giant hammers, Bombchus, Deku Leaves, magical Staves/Canes, Fire and Ice Rods, and other assorted weaponry. Although many games (Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess) have featured the Master Sword, there are also blades like the Kokiri Sword, the Biggoron Sword, the Giant's Knife, and other unnamed swords from earlier games in the series - not to mention all the swords Link can have in Soul Caliber II. Windwaker Link can even take his enemies' swords!
And then there are accessories! What about something from the Happy Mask Shop like the Keaton Mask or the Bunny Hood? Do you dare make the evil Majora's Mask? You could add a Goron Bracelet or a set of Silver Gauntlets to your costume to show how strong you are.
If you're cosplaying OoT Link, why not carry an Ocarina? I ordered my ocarina about seven years ago (coincidence?) from Songbird Ocarinas, a great company that makes real instruments modeled after those in Ocarina of Time. It looks like they're styled a little differently since I got mine, but they still look great. These are made of clay and have a beautiful tone. If you don't want something this elaborate and you just want a prop, you can find cheaper plastic ocarinas here: http://store.yahoo.com/toysfromthepast/ocarina.html and here: http://www.shop.com/op/aprod-~ocarina?search_form=1
And then there are the items. Want a bottled potion? Check craft stores and secondhand shops for clear, medium-sized corked bottles, add water and food coloring (red, green, or blue). You could carry around a plush chicken and pretend to stab it with your sword. You could make your own fairy from a large pom-pom and felt for wings. There are items specific to certain games, like the Wind Waker (baton). You could make dungeon-exploring items like maps, a compass, silver keys, and a Boss Key. Remember all the items you had to retrieve in order to progress on your quests? Spiritual Stones, Pendants, Medallions, even Gold Skulltulas would work with a Link costume. What about a Piece of Heart, or the Triforce itself?
If you're really feeling ambitious, you could make one of the alternate forms of Link from Majora's Mask like Deku Sprout, Zora, or Fierce Diety Link. Or team up with three friends and go as the Four Swords Links - one each in red, blue, purple, and green. You can keep the costumes and props simple as long as they are the same (although in different colors) for each person in your group.
Just because you're doing a common character doesn't mean your costume has to be boring! With some unique accessories, any Link costume can stand out from the crowd. Good luck!
Questions or comments on the tutorial? Contact TR Rose!
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