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Creating and implementing multiple armor/clothing sets

SuperAdrianna
polycounter lvl 7
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SuperAdrianna polycounter lvl 7
I'm using Maya and UE4. I need to swap out lots of different clothing items on a single character. I'm not sure the best way to tackle this problem in a way that I can have a huge variety of items without fighting the rig too much.  

All the tutorials I've found about this suggest using the character mesh and tweaking it into the armor shape.
Pros: Animations will look correct and I won't need to rig or paint weights
Cons: May not be able to push the designs far enough to look distinct from others. I may be limited in the shapes I can achieve. Hard plate will deform in the same way as soft cloth. 

Would it be faster to model the armor from scratch and paint weights for every item?
Pros: I could get the distinctive shapes I want and I can make them deform in ways that make sense on an individual level. 
Cons: Significantly more work. Animations will need to be carefully examined for every item.

Is there another way I haven't considered?

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