Published Nov 14, 2016
How to Assimilate Your Kid
There's plenty of time for costume making during quarantine!
By StarTrek.com Staff
I have been upgrading and adding to my own Borg costume since 1993, most recently winning the Star Trek Las Vegas Convention Costume Contest in 2011. I have photos up around my home of my kids and I in costume. About a year ago, my 11-year old daughter Cleo was looking at a photo of me in my Borg costume. She asked me to make a Borg costume for her that she could wear to the 2016 Star Trek Las Vegas event.
Struck by a bolt of fatherly pride, I agreed. Cleo had previously attended the convention in a mini Seven of Nine outfit her mom made for her, commercially available kids' uniforms, and a closet cosplay Gia (from the TNG episode ">Thine Own Self"), but creating a Borg costume for her similar to mine would be a big step for her beyond what she had worn before.
I began by asking Cleo some questions, like... How did she want it to look? Did she want to design it herself? What kinds of pieces and components did she want to have? She told me that she wanted it to look like mine, and that she wanted lights, a claw, and a voice changer. I had a bag of spare parts that I had collected over time from thrift stores, surplus stores, and other sources that we used to start to get some ideas. Cleo wanted to design the Borg suit herself, but we agreed that I would do the work dangerous to little hands, like drilling, cutting and sawing pieces to fit.
The major components of my Borg costume are BMX armor for the chest, hockey pants, baseball and roller blade padding for the legs, a padded martial arts helmet, and a leaf blower tube and toy mechanical claw for the left arm. With about eight months to go before the convention, I had plenty of time for more thrift store visits to find child-sized pieces of what I needed.
About a week later, Cleo's nine-year-old brother Allan learned that Cleo was working on a Borg costume, and he decided he wanted to be a Borg too. In short order, the remaining kids, seven-year-old Spencer and three-year-old Phoenix decided that they also wanted to be Borg in Las Vegas. Now, my challenge was to thrift enough components to make four kid-size Borg costumes in time for Vegas.
Within a few weeks, I found four kids' sized pieces of BMX armor that I would use as a base for the costumes. I soaked them in the bathtub overnight to clean them and to remove the logo stickers, and then I let them air dry for a couple of days. After the armor was dry, I went outside to spray paint them black. I also went thrift shopping for kid-sized shin guards. I found some large plastic cups that I could modify for Borg arm pieces, and some robot claws at the dollar store. I also had some electronic voice changers that I had picked up previously at after-Halloween sales, and some battery-operated LED lights from Ikea and the dollar store.
As I helped the kids design their costumes, I kept in mind that as kids, they would get tired and not want to wear them if they were too heavy or cumbersome, and that the costumes would need to be easily removable for restroom visits. Instead of an extra layer of modified trousers like mine, I opted to go with the simple solution of black leggings for the kids, with Velcro strap-on components on top, with black turtlenecks as the layer below the BMX armor. I was able to find leggings, turtlenecks, and black boots for everyone at thrift stores.
After a couple of trial fittings, it was time to add parts for detail. Over several months, I raided my bag of spare parts and some other thrift-store finds. Each kid in turn picked out what they wanted on their Borg suit, and showed me where they wanted the components to go. Safety goggles in place, I used my Dremel tool to drill holes in the armor and leg pieces, and then I used wood screws to attach the used pieces of toys, tubing and other parts to the chest, leg, and arm pieces. I found some kid-sized toy helmets that I attached light-up goggles to for the headpieces, attached the LED lights to the inside BMX armor, and the voice changers to the outside of the chest units on the elastic connecting the front to the back.
Thinking ahead, I knew from experience how challenging it can be to have only one "real" arm with the other in a Borg prosthetic. I realized that the kids would want to take their left arms off at some point, so I attached a plastic connecting latch with a male and female side to the top of the arm, and to the back of the torso armor. When the kids wanted to use both hands to eat, play with a toy, or the like, I wouldn't end up lugging around four Borg arms. Instead, I could clip them to their backs, and they could keep their arms with them, without the arms becoming cumbersome.
Soon, the outfits were done, and it was time for a field test. A nearby town was holding a "Halloween in July" festival, with a costume contest. The kids entered in their Borg costumes and I accompanied them as Lore in his black Borg outfit from the TNG episode "Descent, Part II." They were a big hit, with lots of people asking for pictures with and of them, and they were happy to win the kids' division of the costume contest that afternoon.
A month later, we piled into the minivan to head toStar Trek Las Vegas for the 50th-anniversary convention. The kids had a great time, and they enjoyed showing off their costumes and getting photos with other fans; Deep Space Nine's Nana Visitor even tweeted a photo of them during the convention. Cleo wore her Borg cosplay trick or treating this year, and the lights in the chest and helmet not only made her safe and visible, but lit her way from house to house as well!
Eric Allan Hall has been costuming since 1987. A lifelong Star Trek fan, he's been featured in his Borg costume in the documentaries Trek Nation, by Rod Roddenberry, and in William Shatner’s Get A Life. Transplanted to Utah from the Seattle area in 2001, Eric has attended about 80 conventions since he first started cosplaying – often with his family.