“Historically Accurate” Merida: Progress

drawingI love Disney princesses, like… woah. I’ve always wanted to be one, and I finally did it for AWA! But of course I had to complicate things and made an original, not accurate, version for my first one. :P

There’s a lot to say about this costume. It started out with me loving Merida, and loving crazy red hair and freckles, but not wanting to do a costume that’s so incredibly overdone right now. Her everyday dress is okay, but its actually kind of boring (blasphemy! I know). One day I was at the ren fest, and I saw this gorgeous red rabbit pelt at the fur stall, and I thought, wow, this is so Merida! I knew then that I had to do some kind of alternate version of her. The other princesses had “historically accurate” fanart, why not Merida, too?

I started out trying to research the time period of the movie. No luck, and apparently other people had the same problem. The architecture and dresses and materials and just everything in the movie is a mish mash of time periods, so I had to make something up. I also had a difficult time pin pointing specific Scottish fashion. Seems that they wore the same clothes as their European neighbors and nothing super specifically Scottish. (My sources are Google and Wikipedia mind you, I’m not part of the SCA or anything like that to get super secret historical accuracy information, maybe one day). So I left it alone for awhile.

lucrezia_borgiaThen I saw the show “Borgia: Faith and Fear”, and I beheld Lucrezia Borgia. She has curly red hair and immediately reminded me of a proper Merida. And her dresses are very similar if you look past the fine fabric and poofy sleeves. Just looking at this picture, I thought, this is it! This is my version of Merida! And that time period is 15th/16th century, the clothing Italian. And since the Scottish at this time wore whatever generic European fashions were around, this could have been something Merida would have worn, assuming Brave takes place somewhere in the 1400-1500s.

danielle_everafterStill not convinced? Look at this picture of Danielle from Ever After. Yeah, that is almost the same exact dress Merida wears, and its from the same time period.


Construction Notes

First thing I made was the chemise. I found an easy tutorial on how to draft it myself with my measurements. Its made from a very light real linen. I did a tiny rolled hem on the sleeves and bottom, and also added a gold vine stitch to the sleeve ends. Other than having to be careful with tiny pleating, it wasn’t too hard.

Next was the main dress. Since the fabric is so prevalent, I really had to find something perfect. I went on a super huge fabric hunt, both in person and online. I was specifically looking for dark blue with a non-obtrusive damask pattern, with a bit of shine and thick bodied, but still had flow to it. Apparently dark blue is NOT in this season, so I never found the perfect fabric. Of all the fancy fabric and upholstery stores I went to, I ended up finding a close enough fabric at Joann’s on clearance. The design is a little light for what I wanted, but its the best I ever found and met the material guidelines I wanted. I also like the leafy nature-y design, which I think fits Merida better.

For the bodice I sort of drafted up a pattern out of linen by looking at pictures to get the seams in the right places. I tried it on, fitted, etc. until I was happy. Getting the off the shoulder look without it puckering with no pleats to help was difficult. I used the linen combined with interfaced muslin to create my lining, which I added spiral steel boning to. My personal favorite way to add boning is to sew channels and insert the boning between the 2 layers. I don’t like the external casing method as much. I made my own piping out of the gold jacquard fabric I had leftover from Sheogorath. I sandwiched the piping between the lining and outer fabric to line the top and arm openings. This was quite difficult, thankfully I have a piping foot! I also made my own little ties and sewed those directly into the arm hole edges.

The sleeves are basically big rectangles of my main material and blue velvet (remnant find ftw!), that I pleated super tiny on each end and cased with bias tape made from the main material. After added the gold piping and ties, voila! The skirt is a huge rectangle pleated to the bodice. I hand sewed the trim on the front sides as well as the side hem, and machine stitched the bottom hem using the gold vine stitch. The trim was another thing I spent a lot of time trying to find. I went to so many places and couldn’t find a non-tacky gold trim that was between 1-2 inches, and kind of celtic looking. This was the closest, and I felt the knotted look is kind of celtic… kind of. :P I probably could have ordered the perfect trim online but I had no time at this point.

The underskirt is a pleated tube skirt (yet another very long rectangle), also hemmed with the gold vine stitch. It has a drawstring waist because lazy… I mean historically accurate :P. Its this odd polyester-ish mystery material that I found at Fine Fabrics. Its kind of thick and gives body to the dress without being too poofy, and also has a tasteful shine. They didn’t wear petticoats, so this was good.

The cape turned out so well and is so luxurious! The outer fabric is black cotton velvet, and the lining is embroidered faux yellow silk. The hood is lined with the dress material bc oops, I ran out of the lining. The bottom of the cape has a strip of dress material with a celtic pattern appliqued on. I used the same leftover gold fabric as the piping. I actually used the celtic pattern from the bottom of one of the Disney store kid’s costumes since it was the only design I could clearly see. I printed it out on cardstock and used it as a template to cut out of my fabric, which I had already wonder-undered. Then I satin stitched the edges. I hand stitched on the red rabbit fur to the inside of the hood, my original inspiration piece.

The shoes are a lucky find from target. They are black suede with gold studs, and they have a “historical looking” shape. I just added fancy bronze buttons. The bow is my Skyrim hunter’s bow that I repainted and redid the ends. The wig is an Arda Merry in pumpkin. This wig is pretty much made just for Merida. I added dark copper wefts that I curled, then teased the back a bit. I left the front tame (bc she’s a proper lady here :P) and pinned it back with a vintage celtic looking hairpin. I had nice jewelry that I forgot to bring to AWA, boo.

I had a mini shoot at AWA, but will be shooting again at Horse Pens in December! I will probably improve the wig, maybe improve the bow, and not forget my pretty jewelry this time. :P

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