I was on the train into NYC the other day, armed with birthday money and desire to buy fabric when I decided to cosplay Merida from Brave. I’ll admit the movie isn’t one of my favorites, since I think the “plot twist” in the middle is a bit silly! But I do love the message and the character, and I think that’s what matters.
Merida has been on my “to-cosplay” list for ages and after watching a show that takes place in the 12th century (‘Pillars of the Earth’) I was feeling pretty inspired by the simple, but flattering garments from that time period, which made Merida move up on my list.
It still wasn’t a costume I had planned on doing any time soon, but the mood for making it struck me right before a shopping trip, which is how I ended up with all the materials needed for this costume.
The urge to actually sew it hit me 24 hours ago, so I did. And now it’s well on it’s way to being complete, and I’d like to share it with you guys!
What i’m making would be classified as a medieval kirtle (is that a fun word or what?), and if you search around you can find TONS of free patterns for these online. Kirtle’s began as a loose garment that didn’t have waist seam, later on they became tighter and dressier, and even later then that they became undergarments! They are different from tunics and chemises since kirtles have lace up closures which allow them to fit better.
See basic Kirtle
I didn’t actually figure out what this garment was called until after drafting my own pattern. But even if I had I probably would have used this method anyway, since it allows me to fit it properly and get the a good idea of the fullness needed.
I took a few measurements, the important ones being shoulder to toe (dress length), bust, hips, and torso length. Then I marked a piece of muslin with the newly taken measurements.
Then I turned the remaining fabric into side inserts.
I sewed up the side seams and added a back zipper for fitting purposes.
It’s flattering, isn’t it?
I used my usual pin-until-it-fits motto, and drew out rough arm whole and neckline placements.
Then I removed the dress and made my lines more even and defined.
For the side seams the pin line was puckered. This happens a lot, and easy to fix – but it’s also easy to forget about! If you don’t fix it, and mark the line while one side is puckered, you’ll get uneven seams later on which can lead to fit issues.
If you have that problem, fix it, then mark your line.
Beautiful. I cut that out, and sewed up the altered seams. Heres a picture of pinned vs. sewn.
Also, here it becomes obvious I have a corset on. It’s a cheap, plastic, ebay one purchased for a whole $9. The waist isn’t tightened at all, I’m actually wearing it to smooth out the pudge above my hip bone so the dress lays nicer.
And here is how the dress looks with two “skirt triangles” I think the technical term for these are ‘flounces’ but don’t quote me on that.
I was happy with it, so I went ahead and cut it out of my fabric!
Speaking of fabric, I adore the material I got for this. I didn’t have a reference photo with me when I bought the material, so the color is slightly off – it lacks the blueish tone Merida’s dress has, but I love it anyway. It’s very heavyweight wool (suiting?) and it has the most wonderful texture.
One of my major Merida cosplay pet peeves is people using broadcloth or very lightweight, swishy fabrics for Merida’s dress. Or even worse, materials with a sheen and glitter! We are supposed to be in 10th century Scotland, and a horse-riding-archery-master-tom-boy-all-around-awesome-strong-female-character, we would not put up with that shit.
So when I was picking materials I knew I had two options, linen or wool. But linen wrinkles like hell and my previous experience with it was quite disastrous, so I went with wool.
I also picked up four yards of dark brown for the cape, again, I did not have reference images and for the life of me I couldn’t remember whether her cape was grey or brown. Apparently it changes between green and grey depending on the image or movie scene.
I didn’t take any pictures of the fabric cutting process, but I think it’s fairly straight forward. Here is a picture of the dress “pattern” I made up in MS paint. As you can see, the bodice is seamless but the skirt has two panel inserts (one on each side) to give it more volume.
That isn’t to scale at all – in case it isn’t clear, the skirt hem is 36″ before the panels are added, and then it jumps to being 60″, and this image only shows half of it. It’s intended to be cut on a fold which means the entire front panel hem is 120 inches. Hopefully that isn’t too confusing.
Here is what that looked like sewn together.
At this point I was feeling very accomplished, so obviously I needed to get rid of that by making the sleeves.
I did a few drawings of how they would look and took a whole bunch of really inaccurate measurements.
If you were not aware, it’s really difficult to measure your own arms.
Now I had a pattern – which was great, but I had to make gathered sleeve puffs. My first attempt at these went all wrong, I tried to drape gathered rectangles over sleeve rolls and they looked way too puffy.
Attempt two went much better, I simply used gathered material and pinned it over a muslin base.
The shoulder sleeve puffs were made the same way.
And then they got sewn into the dress!
I have to hem it, add sleeve ruffles, cut the neckline and add lacing, but then it shall be done! I’m proud considering this was only a days work. Usually it takes me weeks to make a pattern, much less have a wearable garment.
Hopefully part two will be up soon, but you never know with me.