17 May 2022

LEGO® Cloth Fest: Áron Gerencsér

Posted by Pohaturon

Some products in this article were provided by LEGO®; the author's opinions are their own.

Editor's note: It is with sadness and joy that we announce this is Áron Gerencsér's final article for New Elementary, as he will soon join the LEGO Group as a designer! We can't thank Aron enough for the immense energy and creativity he has brought to us these last couple of years and trust that New E chums Sven, Lee, Markus and Chris will welcome him warmly in Billund. We can't wait to review his first product!

What with diving deep into the world of LEGO® pieces on a regular basis, we often find ourselves up to our necks in plastic of all shapes and sizes - it’s what we do after all. However, taking closer looks at all the various new elements does also result in us handling other materials as well - albeit rarely! 

Back in 2020, fellow New Elementary contributor Tom Loftus took a look at the inner cardboard packaging you get with some sets, but this time around Eero Okkonen and I will be taking a look at another non-plastic LEGO® material: cloth!

Over the decades, cloth pieces have experienced peaks and troughs in their frequency and popularity within LEGO sets, but recently they have seemingly stabilised as being relatively common. We’ve decided to take a closer look at these elements, their history and their usage over the course of two articles, in New Elementary style.

A rich tapestry of history 

Kicking things off, we had better start with a bit of a history lesson - cloth has been part of the LEGO ecosystem for a very long time, and has served all sorts of purposes throughout that time - not just sails and minifig capes!

©1977 The LEGO Group. Source: Bricklink

While not an building element, one could say that the history of LEGO cloth begins in 1977, with 787 Play Mat with Drawstring. Designed to lessen the LEGO-related tidying headache parents had to deal with, the large piece of fabric was intended to be laid on the floor and played upon. When done, the drawstring would trap any loose bricks inside for easy storage.
Cloth jumped from merchandise to full-on element status in 1989 when fabric sails started appearing on ship sets. Made from starched synthetic fibre, these sails came in various colours and patterns, sometimes sporting liveries befitting the ship.

©1992 The LEGO Group. Source: Bricklink

The same material and production method would later be used as flags as well. These cloth pieces were susceptible to the rigours of time, and would often become discoloured, creased and frayed at the edges. This made examples in good condition more and more expensive as the years marched on - something any latecomer LEGO Pirates or LEGO Castle collector will be painfully aware of.

Around this time, cloth started spreading into the whole catalogue, even popping up in LEGO DUPLO as a sleeping bag. Cloth would continue to appear with surprising consistency and frequency in this theme, usually as blankets. Notably, it was a different material from the starched sails in the LEGO System sets, and was softer overall.

An early minifig cape from 1993. Source: Bricklink

From an evolutionary standpoint, what may have been the biggest leap in the LEGO cloth timeline occurred in 1993, when the first cloth minifig capes appeared in LEGO Castle sets. Previously, a rigid plastic piece was used to approximate capes, but this would be replaced by smaller versions of the earlier sails and flags. Starting out with a single neck hole, it would be a while until the two-hole variant was introduced, giving the fabric some natural volume when worn. Minifigs have used various cloth pieces as accessories frequently ever since without any major gaps in production over the years.
Sticking to minifig capes for a while, the next innovation after the switch to two neck holes in the late '90s was the introduction of large, popped collar sections - like in the case of vampire or Zurg minifigs - which came either as separate elements, or part of the cloth. Eventually, while the overall design remained, there was a material switch leading to newer capes being softer and more pliable. They were also a bit thicker, meaning there are both upsides and downsides to using them.

A couple of years after the minifig cape popped up on the market, the most 'clothing-like' usage of the material appeared, in LEGO Scala, in its Dolls sub-line. Vying to snatch market dominance from Barbie, the larger figures would sport complete outfits made of cloth elements. A similar application of cloth, albeit at a smaller scale, would appear in LEGO Belville later on.
A cape from 2004. Source: Bricklink

In 2004, 8790 King Mathias from LEGO Knight’s Kingdom II sported a cape, and subsequent waves in this line of buildable knight figures had more. In 2006, a torn and tattered cape piece would appear in both 8764 Vezon & Fenrakk and the 10204 Vezon & Kardas multipack, courtesy of LEGO BIONICLE. This somewhat comical piece is now highly sought-after.

 ©2010 The LEGO Group. Source: Bricklink

Capes would sporadically crop up in Constraction themes for the next few years, appearing in LEGO Legends of Chima and LEGO Hero Factory. Blurring the distinction of Constraction in 2010 was 7591 Construct-a-Zurg, featuring a large cape piece with a popped collar. Interestingly enough, unlike the softer, flowy fabric of more recent Constraction capes, this element featured the more papery, rigid starched material similar to the old sails.

In 2006 LEGO released the first set to feature cloth elements representing the wings of a dragon, setting off a trend that remains in place to this day, mainly represented year on year by LEGO NINJAGO. The set that kicked it all off was one of the first large LEGO Creator sets, and a real classic: 4894 Mythical Creatures.
©2015 The LEGO Group. Source: Bricklink

The library of cloth pieces would vastly expand with the introduction of LEGO Star Wars Constraction sets in 2015. While the line mostly provided further riffs on the typical cape, some stranger and more unique cloth pieces would appear as well, such as my favourite, shown above: Body Wrap in Dark Tan (6135360|24902) from 75113 Rey.

Constraction seemingly bit the dust in 2017, but lives on as a System-hybrid thanks to a line of small mech sets seen in LEGO Super Heroes, and more formally with the introduction of SCCBS in the recent Ninjago EVO sets. While cloth has yet to intersect this newer iteration of Constraction, soft fabric elements continue to appear across the LEGO catalogue as capes, canvases, wings, tents, and more.

Somewhere amid the Constraction cloth revolution, a smaller but hugely useful addition to the textile armoury came in the form of various kinds of nets. One could argue about whether they fall into the String category instead, but we’re casting a wider... well, net here today. First appearing in sports sets as football goals, these nets provide a number of interesting building techniques beyond their intended role and before moving onto the MOCs themselves, I wanted to quickly highlight some.

The nets I have on hand are from an older football set, and are specifically sewn into a net-shape, and the gaps are slightly too tight for a stud’s diameter to fit through; other, newer net pieces are more versatile, being more neutrally sewn and also more accepting of studs. Nonetheless, there are plenty of interesting things you can do with these nets as well. 

Áron Gerencsér's MOCs with LEGO cloth 

Let’s switch into gear and get up close and personal with cloth parts themselves. Due to the nature of my usual building style and subject matter, I often utilise Constraction cloth pieces as, well, clothing for Constraction-style MOCs. In order to avoid posting an article full of Guys in Capes™, I whipped up some new MOCs utilising some more recent additions to the LEGO cloth library.

Garu & Haru

To start off the MOCs I built for this article, we have the absolutely shocking and innovative usage of wings as wings. Please clap.

This MOC started out over a year ago as this brown moth build and then sat unfinished all this time, lacking wings. The flexible plastic pieces it uses are found in the 2002 set 7139 Ewok Attack (and to be honest I feel like those kinds of parts deserve a similar deep dive as the one we’re giving cloth parts right now !) Creating a butterfly counterpart using the blue wings of 71754 Water Dragon seemed like a logical choice, though it’s likely giving the poor moth a bad case of wing envy. 

Catching waves

Using wings for a different purpose is what led to the second MOC’s concept - a windsurfer utilising one wing from 71766 Lloyd's Legendary Dragon as the sail.


Veering back to the safer waters of using clothes as clothes, I paid homage to a longstanding tradition in Bionicle fandom: creating, and constantly re-creating, one’s “self-moc”. Think sigfig, but big.

Aside fromthe mask and colour scheme, the usage of the previously highlighted cloth pieces found in the buildable Rey figure has been the most consistent returning visual element across three iterations of this character - if you’re keen on seeing older (worse) versions, feel free to dig through my Flickr photostream.

In the second part of New Elementary’s look at cloth elements, Eero Okkonen will show off some other innovative uses of these fabric pieces!

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