So it’s Halloween, and you want to go dressed as someone from the Apple TV show For All Mankind? Or maybe you fancy some For All Mankind cosplay for an event? How about making your own iconic duct tape space suit? It’s easy and cheap. Here’s how I made ours that we wore at San Diego Comic-Con.
What’s needed to make the costume
Let’s start with the things you’ll need:
- Duct tape
- Disposable coveralls
- Respirator mask (recommended)
- Foot file (helpful for detailing)
- Old gloves
- Red paint or marking pen
Only the first two items on the list are totally necessary. You’ll need duct tape, of course. The coveralls are what you put the duct tape on. The mask really makes the costume, but you’ll get recognized as wearing a For All Mankind costume by other FAM fans even without it.
Also, those are affiliate links above, so yes, I earn a tiny amount of money if you click on them and purchase. But they lead to the actual items I bought on Amazon to make our costumes. These items worked for me, so they should work for you — but you’re probably fine substituting similar items.
Spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen the show, so far the only spoiler I’ve shared is there are duct tape space suits. There are a few minor spoilers beyond this below, so if you’re worried about that, go catch-up on your viewing!
Taping the coveralls
Before I talk about how I taped the costumes, just know this. You can’t screw this up. The goal isn’t to have a perfect taping job. After all, Gordo and Tracy Stevens had to do their suits in a rush (yes they did, Jimmy — it wasn’t some NASA lie!). I needed about a roll and a half of tape per costume, so plan for at least two rolls to be safe.
The coveralls are the base layer for the costume. You want the size to be a bit loose. For example, I fit into a medium comfortably before I did the taping. Afterward, it was very snug! So that ended up as my son’s costume, while I made mine using a large size.
My approach was to lay the coveralls flat on a table, then first tape the front side of each leg, then the back side, going horizontally. This way, I hoped that I wouldn’t accidentally make the legs too tight (and this worked). I’d rip off a little more tape than needed for a particular part, then later fold the remainder gently over to the other side:
At the cuffs, my wife pulled so the elastic was stretched out, then I folded a piece of tape over the cuff and to the inside of the leg. The cuffs will snap back a bit, which is fine — the main goal is not to accidentally tape them so small that you can’t get your foot through.
After the legs, I moved up and did the front and back of the torso, again taping horizontally, then the front and back of each arm. Again, my hope was this would prevent me from making any part too tight. By keeping different sections separate from each other, I figured I’d be able to still bend and move in the suit (this also worked).
With the arm cuffs, I did the same thing as with the leg cuffs. As for the zipper, I taped on one side as close as I could to the zip. On the other side, I used tape to cover the flap that goes over the zipper, folding over into the inside of the flap.
The hardest part was the hood. I did the right side, then the left side, taping horizontally from the back of the neck to the front, as loosely as I could. Then I filled in the gaps where needed, from the neck up to the top of the head. The hood has elastic all around the face opening. Here, it was like the cuffs. Stretch the elastic out, tape over the edge and fold to the inside.
When you’re done taping, you’ll have a suit that looks great, as if is has never been exposed to the lunar surface and the vacuum of space. If that bothers you, as it did the members of my family who complained all my hard work produced suits that looked “too new,” then it’s time to rough them up. Here’s how ours looked after doing some detailing like this:
I tried various things and found the best method was to rough some tape up, then apply that in places over the tape already on the coveralls. A really sparse but effective second layer, if you will. It worked much better than trying to rough up the tape already on the coveralls.
To do this, take a roll of tape in one hand. Scrape the file across the first layer of tape on the roll, going all around. That will abrade the tape. It might even make it so then that when you pull the tape off, it’ll tear in uneven chunks. That’s great! The rougher it looks, the better. Take a strip off, place it on the suit anywhere you like, do another strip, place that randomly, and work your way around. Place as much as you like.
Now let’s talk blood. If you really are going for authenticity, then you want the suits to look like there’s been some blood coming out of them. At first, I used a red marker and just kind of randomly drew red along various seams where different pieces of the tape met. It looked OK but not great. Then I remembered I had some old tempera paint in the garage, so I used a small hobby paint brush to just dab some paint along the seams.
Here’s a close-up of how some of the suit looked after the roughed-up tape and paint was added:
My mistake was I did way too much paint, at first. Less is more. Just put it in a few places. Originally, I hoped to be screen accurate with my placement, but it wasn’t possible for me to figure out all the places where blood was leaking or match that precisely. And it’s not necessary to be that precise to get the look down good enough.
I ended up using duct tape to rip off some of the excess tape. Just put a little over a spot where you might have too much paint, pull, and most of the paint will come off. If a little is left, that adds to the realism you were after. You can also apply some additional “weathered” duct tape over any areas that might look too heavy with paint.
Gloves and shoes
For the gloves, I had some old thin gloves that we just covered loosely with duct tape. If you want to get really accurate, it looks like Gordo and Tracy had more “claw-like” gloves with two or three fingers taped together. I was fine just covering each finger up very loosely, as well as working back along the glove. Loose. Loose! You’ll probably be taking these gloves on and off a lot, so you want to be able to remove them off easily.
As for shoes, just put duct tape over the top of whatever shoes you are comfortable using. I wore a pair of slip-on Vans. The duct tape came right off them when I was done.
The mask will be the most expensive part of the costume. You’ll also probably find that you’re either not wearing it a lot or taking it off a lot because you’re going to get hot. So … it’s kind of optional to get. But I think it really makes the suit look complete, especially for photos.
The mask will come with two big filters, which you don’t need to fit. Gordo and Tracy certainly didn’t use these. The middle of the mask may have a vent cap installed. If so, remove that because unlike Gordo and Tracy, you’re going to want to breathe! Now you’re ready to put the mask on, but it will probably take some practice.
We found it best to make the straps as loose as possible, slip them over the back of your head, then slowly bring the mask down over your face. Alternatively, put the mask on your face holding with one hand, then bring the straps over the back of your head. If you try to tug the mask over your head with the straps tight, chances are you’ll pull the hood down and cover up your eyes and most of your face.
Finally, if you can’t find the exact mask I found, there are plenty of other similar ones. I never found one that seemed precisely like what was worn in the show, but ours were extremely close to it.
You’re going to get hot
Hurray! You’re all done and ready to run out onto the Moon. If you thought the heat of the sun would be bad, you know, melting the tape of the suit to your skin and all, that’s nothing compared to the heat your own body is going to produce.
Duct tape isn’t not a particularly breathable fabric. So all the heat your body generates? That’s staying in the suit. You’re going to sweat, and that’s staying in the suit, too. Then when you put on that mask? You might get so hot that it will fog up. OK, to be fair, this photo was taken after we’d literally been running in the suits. Still, they get hot:
To cope, wear the lightest clothing you can underneath, something that dries quickly (I wore running shorts and a technical running shirt). Don’t be afraid to remove your mask when needed, perhaps putting it on only for those extra special moments like getting that perfect photo. Make use of the fact the suit has a giant zip and open it up to vent from time to time.
And have fun! It’s a sacrifice, but you’re going to look good, at least to other FAN fans. You’ll make that suit sing! Potentially, those who aren’t familiar with For All Mankind will either think you’re wearing a firefighting suit or responding to a hazmat situation. For those people, be sure to get them in the know by telling them For All Mankind is must-watch TV.
Some last things & costumes in action
After making our suits, I later came across this wonderful Variety interview with For All Mankind costume designer Jill M. Ohanneson, who explained that her inspiration for creating them came from learning about people who made cosplay costumes out of duct tape
After doing research online and finding how people built things from duct tape for Comic-Con and parties, I watched their process and how they layered costumes. That was my starting point.
Wow, I had no idea! I love how it’s come full circle, fans using duct tape to create costumes leading to an actual costume that requires duct tape for fans to make! It’s a good article, so give it a read — plus it covers how VFX supervisor Jay Redd added in the blood effects that made me wince in pain just watching.
Finally, as mentioned in the opening to this post, we made our costumes for San Diego Comic-Con, where For All Mankind had its first-ever panel (you can watch some of it here & let’s look forward to them coming back!). We wore them for about six hours, walking from our hotel, through the trade show floor, waiting in line about two hours to get into the panel room, through the panel itself, then back through the trade floor and to the hotel. They held up! They’re durable! And that was after filming our homage to Gordo and Tracy, a simulated run as if we needed to get to the panel in 15 seconds:
Happy cosplay, Bob.