Last modified: Saturday, January 6, 2001 6:20 PM




If you're trying to make Dave look realistic, his leggings may be the most difficult part to fix. Even though they're good sculpts that integrate nicely with the boots, they're too bulky and no amount of painting is going to change that. For a mass-produced toy, their overall look is good. But it illustrates the difference between the mass market and custom production environments: For mass production, flexible plastic is a cost-effective compromise for simulating a real-world item which is flexible and which has fine detail. While flexible plastic may seem glitzy compared to the techniques available to most home-brewers, it isn't necessarily the best solution.

One of the special problems of Dragon (and most non-vintage style) figures is that the feet aren't removeable. As Ron suggested (in the Comments below), if they were, a very workable solution would be to slide a more closely fitted legging casting on, attach foot, slip boots on. Unfortunately, the feet aren't removeable, so the casting has to be big enough to let the foot through.

To my knowledge, there are only a few other ways that leggings have been produced (commercially). Hasbro has made cloth leggings which are secured on the side by four round-eye hooks. These are made of a heavy cloth, and appear somewhat bulky. The hooks, while a reasonable compromise for ease of removal, don't even attempt to recreate authentic detail.

At the other extreme, the customizer Polo Moreno of Ape Joe produces what's described as lace-up canvas leggings. From the rather tiny picture, it's hard to see the construction details--whether tiny eyelets are used or not. I don't know how easy these are to remove. But it should come as no suprise that these guys are quite expensive at $38 (includes boots- 02/2000)-- What do you expect? Quality costs. Also since this is not mass production, there's probably a considerable turn-around time between order and delivery.

A not-for-profit customizer can look at this differently than the mass producer. While material costs may not play a big part in the fabrication, the use of a variety of materials tends to make assembly time longer and labor intensive, and therefore more costly. If you're not mass-producing, you can take lots of time, and more importantly, derive enjoyment from it. If you're a customizer, you'd probably enjoy the challenge of doing it yourself, rather than the challenge of forking over the dough.

So you can see that this is a tough problem: The ideal realistic legging would look fitted, have realistic texture, authentic lacing detail and be fairly easy to remove from a Dragon figure. Also, it would be nice if it were made of cheap, easy to find materials.

Even though I'd already come up with my own solution, I thought this would be an interesting challenge to pose to fellow customizers, so I adapted my message board to get feedback, which is archived in the Comments below. I did this mainly as an experiment in public "brainstorming". If you're reading this, you probably know more than you care to know about my thought processes. But I rarely get to see anyone else's. So for me (and I hope for you) it's interesting to see what folks come up with. Everything you're exposed to that's new to you expands your horizons, and that goes for me too.

In customizing, there is no "right" way of doing things and people's tastes and priorities are different. A lot of people may feel that the leggings are fine the way they are, or just weathered a little bit. That's a personal choice, and it's perfectly valid. You can express reasons to support why you like something, or did something one way or another, but in the end you're just expressing a preference based on what you know and like. It's not something to be argued about, or to feel defensive about.

Anyway, I'd like to thank those who participated in the public brainstorming session: Great ideas from everyone!


My first instinct was to use the miniature eyelets in cloth. You can buy brass or copper ones in small packets at dollhouse supply shops, or in quantities of 20,000 if you manufacture stuff. They aren't exactly a mainstream craft item. However, the smallest eyelets I've seen are still slightly oversized for this application. There's also the difficulty of crimping each one of them when you don't own a crimping tool (which is an expensive tool)-- and the early version of leggings has a bunch of eyelets!

From my experiment with Dave's insignia, I decided that faux eyelets, painted on, would probably work. If the paint were thick enough, you could build up fairly small rings. Acrylic bonds well to fabric too; you just have to make sure it's not too thin or it will bleed into the fabric. Also, acrylic is easy to pierce with a needle. The more meticulous modeller could create miniature eyelet castings, but they'd be fragile and tedious to make and install. Bang for buck, I'd go for the acrylic.

I was turned off by the idea of unlacing them if you wanted to get them off (even though I'd probably never remove them). One of the ideas I considered was having the "real" functional seam in the back, and having the lace detail be real, but static. Velcro or hooks wouldn't be an acceptable solution, since they would add too much bulk. A kind of kludgy solution would be to glue them at the back-- a less permanent glue and an appropriate mix of materials would make the leggings fit tight, but would be fairly easy to remove & clean up.

While trying to figure out what to use for the lacing, I stumbled across another idea: why not use elastic thread? It's about the right thickness and the white thread could be dyed or painted khaki. It also had a secondary, more important benefit: It allowed the legging to stretch! It should be possible to construct a fairly close fitted legging out of cloth, with full lacing detail, which would be removeable on a Dragon figure.

There is one major bummer: In order for this to look good, the boots have to be trimmed at the ankle. I didn't have the heart to do that to the neat Dave boots, so instead I used 21st Century Toys' Panzerjaeger's (I had a spare pair, so I didn't mind wasting 'em). The soles and some details are wrong, and they need to be repainted to russet brown, but you can't have everything! Unfortunately, 21C's US boots have legging detail molded on, including the strap, so it's probably even harder to adapt those.


Construction: The first thing I did was construct a mockup to test the idea out. It wasn't intended to be a mockup, but I got the direction of the front seam wrong (The edge of the seam should face away from the lacing in both the front and back). Besides the gratification of seeing how the finished legging might look, the mockup also let me adjust the fit of the back seam to determine the shape, and test the removeability of the the legging.

The construction is very simple (other than the fact that it's hard to sew seams straight and parallel). It's two pieces of fabric per legging. The seams get sewn first: a folded over seam (2 seams) goes on the front of the eyelet side, and a couple of seams on either side of where the eyelets will be. You can do both leggings of the eyelet side on one piece of cloth-- you just cut it in half and rotate one of 'em 180 degrees. Same for the hook piece, except that the curvature of the back seams should be a mirror image.

To preserve my sanity, I decided that I would make a faux seam along the back (of the hook piece) and glue it together as the finishing step. That would allow me to sew the lacing as a flat sheet instead of as a tube. It also gives you some latitude for adjusting the fit as the last operation. Besides, if it turns out slightly off, it's not as big a deal because the seam's on the back.

Eyelets & Lacing: The painted-on eyelets aren't as round and perfect as metal ones would be, but they're awfully tiny so it doesn't look terrible (no more so than my sewing) unless you look with a magnifier. I made a spacing template from Dragon's leggings, assuming they were relatively correct in placement. After building up the paint, I flattened 'em slightly and pierced them with a needle. This made them flare and curve slightly. The raised edges were then given a tiny dab of gloss varnish.

The lacing was dyed a khaki color, although paint would probably work just as well. Before sewing the seams of the final version, I also dyed the fabric a very subtle shade browner, and then removed that color; it seemed closer to the color I wanted. (For the color police: From talking to a collector I've learned that WWII colors were far from standardized, and I've seen sargeant chevrons with color variations that were all over the place. This seems to be supported by a picture comparing the different interpretations of "khaki" at anderfront.com.)

The lacing is much easier to do if you temporarily glue the two pieces together sparingly on the inside, where it can't be seen. This keeps the length and tension of the lacing consistent. Then, before the final gluing together in the back, break the glue seam. (Also, I don't know what they did with the lace ends. I've studied these in pictures and in person, but still haven't figured it out. I don't know if anyone knows!)

Note that on the hook side, the lacing isn't actually engaging the "hook" (bump of paint). It's sewn on one side, underneath, and up the other side. While it's not "authentic", it will prevent headaches from the lacing becoming unhooked, and looks fairly convincing.

Final Touches: A couple final touches before putting it all together (you should probably do these earlier): trim the top and bottom and finish it with some non-fraying trim. The selvage of your fabric seems ideal for this. You can either sew it on, or sew the seam and glue it on. Glue will keep the cut edge of the selvage from fraying.

Don't forget the sole strap! That seems kind of removed from the main drama, but you can dress that up too. The 1:1 buckle detail is somewhat different from the simple elastic & plastic buckle that Dave comes with.


Remember what I said at the top about there not being a single "right" way of doing things? I wasn't just blowing smoke. My solution does have some significant problems and you'd be wise to think about them before investing the time.

This is one of those rare ironies, but the replacement leggings aren't anywhere near as rigid as the originals, so they don't provide ankle support!!! Dragon figures don't have the greatest ankles since the feet are made of flexible plastic and the glued-together friction fitting only has a few weak detent clicks to help it out. This means that the figure is harder to pose standing, and is more likely to fall over. One of my biiiiiiig pet peeves! I completely missed this (now that I think about it) obvious point at the start of the project, and didn't list it as one of the criteria. But it is.

The second weakness is that the paint eyelets are fairly fragile-- they won't stand up to scraping. I didn't have any problems lacing them, but it's an obvious point.

Finally, the leggings are not as fitted as I'd have liked. The main difficulty is getting the shaping of the back seam where it all comes together, and in one of my leggings, the shorter piece is too wide, so the back seam doesn't align directly on center. After you put all the seams in, the fabric (even though it's fairly thin), doesn't want to conform to the figure's calf. This takes some trial and error adjusting to keep the seams where they should be. It's mainly aggravating.



Once again, I'd like to thank those who contributed their thoughts. Some were pretty close to what I ended up making, or thought about making: I even tested making little hooks by pounding a punch into brass strip for the curvature (but gave up because it was too much work!). The idea of retexturing plastic with solvent is brilliant and bears future testing. Although it's a good idea, the fitted rubber legging depends on an improvement to the figure -- something which Dragon should consider (along with a few other improvements). Good show guys!

Tiny Bits o' Brass
Saturday, 26-Feb-2000 08:31:29
    Message: writes:

    I've recently bought a pair of WW2 leggings as I haven't been satisfied with the available options, so this question is timely. I really can't stand the rubbery options, and the cloth versions (love the "bra-hook" reference!) are way too sloppy. All the options leave the leggings looking either huge or loose - and they were TIGHT!
    Having said that, I do have a supply of small eyelets, and though setting them is a timely and inefficient chore and they end up being too large by about 100%, I still prefer the look of metal and cloth.
    So, dove in last night, and decided to "modify" a pair of leggings from one of the Hasbro WW2 sets. Of course, have to do a later version with fewer eyelets(per American GI In Color, Woodrow and Hawkins) so there's room. I ran a line of grommets up the side (if you've ever thought recent Hasbro materials were thick, try this - they're flimsy). Then, on the back side, I cut small figure eights out of brass, connected them using eyelets, then folded them over to make hooks duplicating the manufacture to the original - and I have to say they capture the look well. Lacing them proved to be an issue (no reference on how to tie these handy - HELP!) and the Hasbro fit is so loose that I had to ad lib a bit on placing the eyelets so that all is sufficiently tight. Also must mention that doing one legging took in the neighborhood of an hour and a half - and I still need to have a go at the strap on the bottom.
    So, I'm afraid I can't offer much towards improving the rubber versions - I like the look of the 21C best, but am going to next attempt to sew a better set from scratch sometime (this year).
    Thanks, Jim-Bob, for the site and the inspiration and the "gauntlet!"


Friday, 25-Feb-2000 13:52:07
    Message: writes:

    I would make them like Dragons only thinner and more closely contoured to the leg. Make the foot able to come off like the Dragon hands do, put the pants on, next the legging, the foot then the boot, slide the strap over the boot and you're done. To take it off reverse the steps and if the foot comes off with the boot it's no big deal to pop it out later. The problem I see with Dragons design is the ankle joint it has to go over. The 21st Century boots with leggings are tapered and I think look good except for the green color. My real leggings are tan colored and are WWII vintage. I have never seen green leggings. The 21st boots will work on dragon figures but you have to heat them up to get them on and off. Heating them makes the material more stretchy to get over the ankle joint. I repainted mine with acrylic hobby paint and they hold up pretty well.


Thursday, 24-Feb-2000 19:43:18
    Message: writes:

    Take an Ace Bandage(You know, those strechy ones the doc wraps your arm in if you sprain it) Take it and cut to desired size, chheck if it goes all the way around the boot. While holding it around the boot, sew the sole strap thing on, or atleast mark on the bandatge where to sew it. Sew it on. Take thick string, like dental floss, and sew it through the Bandage all the length of the height. Pull it on the figure, pullthe boot on, pull sole strap thing over boot heel. Note: short boots like Adventure Team style are good with this.

    Omar S

Thursday, 24-Feb-2000 18:11:20
    Message: writes:

    Leggings---Oh boy! The customizer's nightmare! Problem is a customizer wants everything to be 100% correct-only in 1/6 scale. Of course, the grommets on the market are too big, and then you have to come up with a post for the other side?!?! Quick and easy solution? Make the leggings out of correct color & weight (1/6 of course)- mark the grommet placement w/ a marker (to simulate a grommet), then sew through the center with correct color & weight thread. Sure, this sounds tedious, and you can't readily take off the leggings, but I've done this, and it does look alot more realistic than the vinyl one-piece'rs or a fabric legging with metal fasteners. And besides--if you're a customizer, the thrill of it all is putting it together, again and again!!

    James aka GIjOEdad

Thursday, 24-Feb-2000 15:18:33
    Message: writes:

    The main problem is the lack of texture on the leggings. One solution would be to treat the part you want textured with
    a solvent (liquid model glue, acetone etc.), let the rubber soften and then place something textured against it to emboss
    some texture on the rubber. It works, you just need to find the right kind of solvent to soften the material and the right
    kind of textured item to do the embossing.



Wednesday, 23-Feb-2000 18:27:43
    Message: writes:

    Dear Jim,
    I have had this problems since I started to collect custom figures; I remember that five years ago I purchased a ton of canvas leggings from JoBros. The second type, I've had from my friend Luciano, who has realized a nice canvas type, very well done (peraphs you see in the scan of mine that you have); the problems, for these ones, are the shoes: the only which fit are the WW2 Cotswold shoes, not very well detailed. Now I've resolved the problem by purchasing a little stock of loose US boots with leggings, from 21st Century WW2 sets. They are surely the best scaled boots and with a little time to dedicate them, only to repaint both the boots and the leggings, they are probably the best on market. I hope I've helped you!


Wednesday, 23-Feb-2000 09:49:53
    Message: writes:

    The first problem that I see will be getting those darn little grommets. Then again I've already bugged you for info on those before. Hasbro's WWII figs have these made out of cloth and I believe they used those bra style clips (or equivilent) instead of the laces. I don't know off hand because I'm writing you from work and the stuff's at home. making the leggings from cloth would not be the cloth it's in the grommets. My opinion anyway.
    PEACE Brotha!

    Victor Mula