Second October Project: Merida

I don’t quite remember when I got the idea, but for at least a year or two now I’ve been wanting to make a Merida costume that I could use for Halloween, comic/anime cons, and any other event that seemed like it needed a kick-ass Disney princess. If you’re not familiar with Merida, she’s this awesome Scottish lass from Brave who don’t care about no marriage traditions, she just wants to shoot her bow and explore the majesty that is Scotland in the 15th(ish) century:

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Photo from disney.wikia.com

I’ve been slow to get started on this costume because I’ve been under this sort of Halloween curse for the past 5 years or so, where I really want to dress up in costume for work but it always somehow turns out that I have the day of Halloween off. Sometimes it’s because of the way my work schedule worked out, or like last year, because Halloween is on the weekend. When I realized back in the spring that Halloween 2016 would be on a Monday I finally purchased the fabric from fabric.com to start my costume.

My goal was to make it semi-historically accurate, but still accurate to the character. On the historically accurate side I used 5 yards of wool from fabric.com, since that’s what a Scottish lass would wear; I planned on using hand-bound eyelets for all of the closures; and I used a pattern that is similar to a cotehardie for the dress body. I referenced the cotehardie instructions from The Fashionable Past’s blog post, but I reused the pattern pieces from my 12th century bliaut since the basic dress body shapes are very similar.

To keep the dress looking movie-accurate I used stormy colored wool (it’s sort of a navy-gray-green mix); drafted my own pattern for the segmented sleeves; added the laced cut out to the front neckline; and closed it with lacing up the back so that the front would have the solid look of the movie dress.

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The white chemise underneath is a separate garment, for ease of washing, that I threw together from white linen that I found in my stash (and couldn’t remember what it was originally purchased for). The body is two simple rectangles sewn together at the shoulders with a wide-cut neck, and the sleeves are two very wide trapezoid shapes sewn to the body with gussets.

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I started the wool gown over the summer, but halted construction to work on my polonaise for Rufflecon, while hoping I could still get both gowns finished in time for their respective events. By the time I got home from Rufflecon I had only two weekends left to make the chemise, do fitting adjustments on the gown, hem it, make the sleeves, and put about 4 dozen hand-bound eyelets into it to be ready for Halloween. Work was very busy at the same time, and I actually worked myself so hard that I wasn’t sleeping much and ended up having to take a sick day because my exhaustion got to me and I felt like I was coming down with the flu or something. That gave me a day to sit on the couch and hand-sew, which helped me finish it. But luckily I didn’t end up actually getting sick. I was excited that I was finally going to get to dress up for Halloween!

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In the staff room at work.

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Photo from one of my coworkers.

The wig was a $13 ebay find. It’s a little short and a tad top-heavy, but for $13 I was happy with it. For people that knew Merida, it left no doubt as to who I was dressed up as. One patron asked to take my photo so he could show his daughter who is a huge Brave fan. Other people thought I was Fiona from Shrek (in human form), despite Fiona’s lack of curly, unruly hair.

There are a few adjustments I’d like to make before I wear this again. The chemise sleeves need to be shortened a bit, and I’d like to gather them and/or add a cuff at the wrist, because these kind of billowy sleeve hems are no good for an archer. I also need to acquire a bow and quiver, especially before I cosplay with this. Because I threw this together so fast at the end, my eyelets in the back are a bit messy and uneven. I wish I had just done side-lacing because, as I found Halloween morning, this is impossible to get into by myself. I had to put it on backward and then try to turn it around after I had loosely laced it and ended up getting a bit stuck in it at one point. I had to ask one of my coworkers to help me tighten it and do up the last few eyelets once I got to work. I can’t change the eyelets at this point, but at least I’ve learned for next time. No more back lacing gowns!

I’m taking November off from sewing to participate in NaNoWriMo, and to let myself recover from the marathon of October. Once December rolls around I already have plans for a few small things I’d like to work on before the year is over, but you may not hear from me again until then!

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12th Century Bliaut

Way back in May or June I started this dress for a historical costuming demonstration at my library. I got caught up with other projects after the demonstration, but I’ve been slowly working on it bit by bit ever since. I was trying to get it 100% done by the end of December, but I finished the last couple of eyelets at the beginning of January, and I finally finished the sash today.

I didn’t use a pattern for this dress, but instead used this tutorial by Izabela of Prior Attire. The shell of the gown is made of navy blue wool. The lining and the kirtle are made of linen. I wanted silk for the sash, but the fabric options in my area are a bit limited, so I settled for a gray poly with a silk-like texture for now.

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Linen kirtle.

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Gown before lacing.

For some reason the gown is very hard to photograph, especially on the dress form. It doesn’t help that the navy is so dark that it always seem to show up black.

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Finished set.

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The trim around the neckline are just ribbons that I picked up at a trim store.

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The dress opens on the sides to allow it to slip over the wearer’s head. I put hand-bound eyelets in using an awl and used leather cord to lace up the openings.

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The long trailing sleeves are drapey and dramatic.

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I’m waiting for snow to try to take some worn photos of this. The giant storm that’s hitting the East Coast decided to give us a miss.

Next project is more wool and linen: an 18th century menswear set. I’ve got the waistcoat half done and the frock coat cut out, so hopefully it won’t be another two months before I have an update to post.