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501st Legion: Star Wars Costuming Group

Updated on April 14, 2014

Star Wars "Bad Guys" doing Good Things

The 501st Legion, also known as Vader's Fist, also known as the Fighting 501st, is the ultimate Star Wars villain fan organization. The mission of the 501st Legion is to promote interest in Star Wars, facilitate high-quality costuming, and contribute to communities and charities through volunteer work.

Learn more about life as a member of the 501st and how you can get involved below.

image source

Inside the 501st Legion

an interview with my friend Jon Kendrick

I asked my friend Jon Kendrick if he'd share some of his personal experiences with the 501st Legion with me for this post. He was happy to help, and here are his responses to some questions I had for him.

What is your costume/character and how did you choose that one?

My main costume costume is a Clone Trooper from Revenge of the Sith. He is the leader of the the 327th Star Corps. His name is Commander Bly. When I saw Attack of the Clones for the first time I knew I wanted to build that costume. As I started building it in 2005, Revenge of the Sith came out and and I saw Commander Bly shoot Jedi Aayla Secura in the back during Order 66. He had a long rifle and two side arm blasters. I thought this must be one tough Clone. I want to build this!!!

What type of activities have you done with the 501st Legion and what are your favorites?

Activities I have been involved in? Well that's a hard one. I have been a member of the 501st since late 2002 so in 12 years of being a member I have done many many troops. In 2007 I joined the Great Lakes Garrison and marched in the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade. I have attened and trooped at many conventions but my favorites have been the Star Wars Celebration. Conventions #2 & #3 were here in Indianapolis and #5 and #6 were in Orlando, and I have attended all 4 and trooped with my brothers and sisters of the 501st. Fast forward a little to 2013 here in Indy at the State Museum. We had the "Where Science Meets Imagination" exhibit and we trooped over the summer. I trooped many times over the summer. My favorite part was trooping with my 7 year old son, Hayden, who has a homemade Boba Fett costume. Hayden is a member of a group called the Galactic Academy. That group focuses on kids under the age of 18 who wear Star Wars costumes and attend events. In addition to these events we have done baseball games, the Indy 500 Parade and many other events. Our next one is the Naptown Girls Roller Derby.

What do your family and friends think of your dedication to your costume and the 501st Legion?

My family fully supports me. My children all have at one time or another have trooped with me. My wife is running our Table at the Naptown Girls event where will raise money for a charity by having an event called Blast A Trooper, where people can donate money and get to shoot nerf guns at Stormtroopers and Clone Troopers, and maybe even Darth Vader himself. My mother and father have been my biggest supporters. They took me to my first Star Wars movie in 1983 (at the age of 5) to see Return of the Jedi. That Halloween, my mother also made my first costume... Darth Vader. After that I was hooked.

How much time/money have you put into making your costume authentic and comfortable?

The amount of money I have in my costume is kind of tricky. I was able to make some trades for some parts. Other parts I had to make myself. Other parts I had to pay cash to someone who makes the parts themselves. If I was to put a value on my costume I would say about $2000.

Are there any funny incidents you've had in costume that you'd like to share?

The only really funny story I have is not one that happend to me, but happened to one of my best friends. We were doing a costuming event at a restaurant called Scotty's Brewhouse during a local convention called Gencon, and we were taking photos with people. My friend Justin had a woman who had taken several photos with him, one more provocative than the next. Next thing we know, she starts stripping his costume off. All we can hear is Justin screaming "I'm married... I'm married!" Justin's wife found this quite funny.

Last question. I know the good guys like to say "May the Force be with you." Is there something different the 501st uses as a slogan?

No, pretty much "May the Force be with you" is a pretty standard greeting. I have a good friend of mine who always sends me a Christmas card and signs it MTFBWY.

Some photos from inside the 501st Legion - photos belong to Jon Kendrick, used with his permission

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Five Fun Facts about the 501st

I've learned some interesting and important things about the 501st Legion. Here are some things you should know.

  • The 501st Legion is not affiliated with or sponsored by Lucasfilm, but it is Lucasfilm's preferred Imperial costuming fan group.
  • The 501st Legion is available for appearances. You can request one here.
  • Members of the 501st Legion do not charge for appearances. Instead, they encourage you to make a donation to your favorite charity, in the name of the 501st Legion.
  • Most members of the 501st Legion research and build their own costumes.
  • The 501st Legion is just for Star Wars "bad guys" ages 18 and up. Good guys can join the Rebel Legion, and kids can join the Galactic Academy.

501st Legion Bad Guys - photo by Dean Michaud, used under CC license

501st legion
501st legion

MTFBWY

May the Force be with you...

Sand People from German Garrison - photo by Crosa, used under CC license

Darth Vader helps with Toys for Tots - photo by Mike Bryan, used under CC license

Darth Vader hands out toys
Darth Vader hands out toys

Start your own costume

The 501st is not sponsored by Lucasfilm, and does not build or sell costumes. Most members make their own costumes, and the 501st does provide great resources for learning how to design your own armor. But if you're looking for a shortcut, you might consider a costume replica like this one.

Stormtroopers of the 501st Legion - photo by Gordon Tarpley, used under CC license

Stormtroopers
Stormtroopers

Here is list of sites related to the 501st Legion and other Star Wars cosplay resources.

501st Legion, German Garrison - photo by Crosa, used under CC license

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