Grand Admiral Thrawn Cosplay, part 1

This is the first of a set of tutorials in a series of posts detailing the construction of my genderswapped Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn cosplay.

You can find the beginning of the series here.

Stay tuned for the rest over the next several weeks!

No Imperial officer would be fit for service without a few small items, including their iconic rank badges, and that belt secured by the silver buckle with the concentric circles on it. And no Grand Admiral Thrawn would be fit to hold that title without those signature golden epaulets he wears on his shoulders.

When I got started making my own version of Thrawn’s outfit, I knew right off that I had to include those details. However, I had previously attempted to make the rank badge and belt buckle out of Sculpey clay, then paint and glue the pieces together once they were dry. Let’s just say it didn’t turn out quite as I’d hoped. Besides the fact that none of the little colored pieces were exactly the same size, or equal distances apart form each other, the whole thing just looked plain tacky.

That’s when I was saved by this set of videos on how to DIY a Thrawn cosplay that’s really accurate, awesome, yet still very budget-friendly (ah, the pains of the teenage fangirl! 😉 )


Seriously, what this guy has done is just plain awesome. And I have to be completely honest here: many of my techniques and ideas for the details of this costume are totally stolen from him. There were a few things I made up on my own, and they mostly pertained to the genderswapping part of things (since I’m trying to get mine to be a more feminine version, and he did the regular, standard, male version,) though I did also adjust a couple of things to make it fit better with the Rebels version of Thrawn.

On to the details!

I already knew that I was basing my outfit on the version of Thrawn seen in season 3 of Star Wars: Rebels. Of course, one of the first places to look for great photos when you’re doing something like this is the Star Wars official website. And some of the best resources there for cosplayers are the character designs.


However, you do have to be careful relying too much on these, as there are sometimes details that are off a bit. Whether this is on purpose or simply a mistake or due to the fact that those are just models for the characters, and not necessarily the complete version that you see in the show. (Though, I have to admit to being suspicious that it’s actually the first, cause it just seems to me like something Mr. Filoni over there at Lucasfilm would do.) For example, the character design for Thrawn shows him with the wrong rank badge.

Here’s one from the actual show where it’s right.


There we go! And this picture also gives us a lovely view of Thrawn’s belt and epaulets.

You may be asking yourself, “What in the world could look enough like an Imperial rank badge to make a convincing replica, yet still be affordable and easy to find?” Well, thanks to those awesome videos above, I now know the secret!!

The answer: a pack of Eclipse gum.

That’s right, something so completely ordinary and Earth-bound as a pack of gum can because a great replica of an Imperial rank badge. So I followed the details in the video, and voila!


1. The supplies I used to recreate the badges. 2. Has anyone else ever noticed how much this gum looks like an Imperial rank badge?! 3. You’ll have to do several coats of each kind of paint to make sure it’s solid. 4. The finished product!

Next up, the epaulets.


1. My work station all set up to get started cutting up with container. 2. Here’s the pattern I made by eyeballing the dimensions of Thrawn’s epaulets, and measuring over and along my own shoulder (the dimensions I finally came up with were 2 1/2 by 5 inches.) 3. Both pieces cut out. 4. Time to add the yellow fabric! 5. Both epaulets covered in yellow fabric and secured with hot glue. 6. & 7. I added a few coats of yellow paint (leftover from the rank badge). 9. Once the paint was dry. 10. The epaulets are done! (And yes, I did somehow manage to skip from 7 to 9…not sure how that happened…. 😮 )

Once again, following the video above, I made these myself out from things that cost less than $4 all together. I made a few adjustments to match the Rebels version of Thrawn, specifically turning the epaulets so that they ran over the curve of my shoulder, instead of down the length of it, and leaving off the tassels completely. Once I covered the plastic pieces with the yellow fabric, I decided to cover them with a few coats of yellow paint leftover from the rank badges as well. (This was partly do to me having drawn the shapes of the epaulets out on the plastic with a thick black marker, which meant that you could still see the lines through the fabric. Whoopsies.) However, I’m very glad that I did this, as it gives them a more solid, molded look, and you can barely even tell that it’s fabric underneath. It also made the color much stronger. Eventually I’d like to go back and add a coat of metallic gold paint as well, so that they match better with the look seen on the cover of the brand-new Thrawn novel by Timothy Zahn (which I am dying to read, by the way!!)

Now, the belt.

Once again, going by the instructions in the video above, I created a great replica of the belt buckle. (Honestly, this may be my favorite detail I made. It turned out fantastically, and looks almost spot-on!)

Now here is where I had an idea of my own, and I’m so glad that I did. In the video, the instructions say to simply use that same plastic container that you made the epaulets from. And I fully intended to go that route.

However, as I was digging through my craft bin, my eyes landed on a plastic BlueBunny ice-cream carton that someone had thrown over there. Has anyone else noticed how the sides of those containers have a slight curve to them,? Hmmm….that could prove useful! Especially since those belt buckles have a curve to them as well!!


1. I sketched out a pattern about that I thought the buckle should be, based on pictures of several Imperial officers, including Thrawn and his ‘sidekick’ Governor Pryce. 2. I traced the pattern onto the wide part of the ice-cream container using a permanent marker. 3. I cut out the pieces from the carton. 4. After cutting out two pieces traced from the pattern I made, I went back and trimmed the corners a bit so that they were rounded and not sharp, just like the on-screen versions. 5. Here you can see the slight curve going across the length of the piece. 6. I applied several coats of metallic silver paint, until it was opaque. 7. The washers I found in my dad’s stuff (you only need one big and one small one; there are four here because I made two buckles.) 8. You can see the contrast between the color and texture of the washers and the main buckle pieces. 9. After gluing on the washers and covering the whole thing in another coat of paint, and Imperial belt buckles are done!

Now remember, when you paint these you’ll have to do several coats, since the plastic that carton is made from is translucent. Also, remember to brush the paint in the same direction, and try to go all the way from one side to the other with each stroke so you can’t see the brush marks as well: you want it to look like a solid piece of metal. This is especially important when you’re adding the little circular detail to the middle of the buckle (which I created by stacking two metal washers I found in my dad’s assortment of random hardware bits, using glue to first stick them to each other, then to the buckle itself.) I had already applied several coats of the silver paint to the buckle before adding the disk, and once the glue holding the disk to the buckle was dry, I added a couple more over the whole thing together, to keep the color consistent.

After completing the buckle, I now had to make the belt itself, and connect the two pieces into one. This was an incredibly simple process and turned out beautifully in the end!


1. I cut a strip of leather-look upholstery fabric (which I found in the remnants bin at my local Walmart) that was a smidgen narrower than the height of the buckle, and a few inches longer than my waist measurement. 2. The difference between the front and back of the fabric. 3. You’ll need some velcro to fasten the belt with. 4. I used hot glue to fix the buckle to one end of the belt, then to attach a piece of velcro to the back of the buckle and the other end of the belt. 5. I hand-sewed around the perimeter of the velcro that was attached to the belt, since the hot glue doesn’t hold very well when it’s been fastened and unfastened multiple times. 6. Fits perfectly! 7. The finished product.

The accessories are done!!

You can now check these off your list:

  • Imperial Rank badge (with Grand Admiral status)
  • Golden epaulets to wear proudly on your shoulders
  • Black leather belt with silver belt buckle

Next up: making the dress!

This article was written by Shay S., Creator, Chief Editor, and Podcast Host for The Elven Padawan, and first appeared on

6 thoughts on “Grand Admiral Thrawn Cosplay, part 1

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