Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Merida Costume

Sweet Daughter has been consumed with all things “Brave” since we saw it in the theater this summer, and she decided that’s who she wanted to be for Halloween. I’d started collecting bits and pieces before I went into hyper-drive on my riding habit, so I had the teal colored velour (thanks, eBay!) and the dark brown suede shoes (thanks, eBay!) when I decided to get down to business this week.

Photo found here, the Pixar Wiki site. 
You see … there was a party last night and she wanted to go, so I had to get busy.

You know what the hardest part was? Deciding where I was willing to cut corners because it was JUST A COSTUME. Quit laughing. You know who you are.

Yes, I researched it. I looked at still shots of the movie. I zoomed in on the details trying to figure out what it was they were basing her gown on. (And, no, it couldn’t have been the fancy one, it had to be the “everyday” dress.) Now, medieval fashion is not in any way my strong point, but I could tell that there was some kind of dress over some sort of shirt/shift/chemise thing. But what to do for the gown? Then it occurred to me. I’d made this tunic for a co-worker this summer. What if I just cut it floor length? And made it with different sleeves? Then the shift-thing could poke out in the gaps, and hopefully look like the movie.

So, where to start? When in doubt, go with what you know, so I grabbed the Mill Farm shift directions that are included with their girl’s 18thcentury gown pattern and lengthened the sleeves so they’d fit over the bend of the elbow and still come down to the wrist and end in a 1” ruffle. I cut them sideways so the neat selvedge edge of the muslin (yes, cotton muslin. Go ahead, say it …) would act as the hem. I used bias tape for the casing for the elastic (I know, I’m still twitching from the experience), inserted the elastic, and sewed up the arm seams. I cut the body out of the remaining width of muslin and didn’t even bother to cut in an A-line. (I know, I was living dangerously at this point, and there was no looking back.) I measured the width from the point of shoulder to where I wanted the neckline to be, and everything in the middle got cut out for the neckline (2” deep in back, 3” deep in front). I added a ruffle of some pre-pleated ruffle thing found at our local Micro-Walmart (had I been thinking, I would have cut the shift 1 1/4” narrower, and used the selvedge from the other side), some more bias tape and elastic, and I had a neck casing. Add sleeve gussets, sleeves and hem, and done in 90 minutes.


For the gown, I started with a mock-up. I measured her chest and waist, and the distance from her waist, up over her shoulder, and down her back to her … waist. I cut a piece of scrap fabric out that long and folded it in half. I added some width for ease and seam allowance, and cut an A-line shape along those measurements and sewed up the sides, leaving room for the armholes. I cut a + just big enough for her head to poke through, and tried it on over the shift. I pinned the shoulder seam, drew where the armholes should be, and marked the neckline. I also fit the sleeve pieces that were cut to her arm measurements (plus seam allowance). I marked the hem, and the shape of the upper sleeve, and then went to work on the teal velour.


I bought two yards off of eBay – they were already cut, when meant the gown wasn’t going to be any longer than about 36”. Luckily, that was just about right so SD could run around without tripping. I cut the main panels from two rectangles of fabric, and then transferred the shaping from the mock-up. From the remaining fabric, I cut 4 triangular gores, making sure the nap on the triangles went the same way as the gown. I cut a slit up the center of the front and back rectangles, and inserted a gore in each one, and one on each side.

Center front gore

Then I finished the rest of the side seams, hemmed the armholes and neckline, and had SD try it on. To say she was happy with it was an understatement.

How I love eBay!
The sleeve pieces I cut without any ease, as the velour had some stretch, and I wanted them to stay in place. I sewed some 1” wide tubes out of the scraps and used those to connect the sleeves together and attached them to the gown.

A friend of SD’s had bought a Merida costume which actually came with a wig. Since the friend already had perfectly long, curly red hair, she gave SD the wig. Add leather shoes, and a bow and arrow left over from her birthday party and she was all set.

Add a cape made from a yard of gray fleece cut into a half circle and you're ready for the cold.


  1. I can't tell which is more awesome:

    1. How awesome the costume came out;
    2. How awesome SD looks in it;
    3. How awesome a mom you are for going through all that for a costume.

    We'll just settle on the trifecta of awesome. Great job!!!

  2. I'm just going go with 'made of love and pure awesome!' I can stitch a holster, and I hemmed some curtains for my son's room, but THAT is a work of art. Beautiful.

  3. I'm just gonna see Jay G's comment, and raise a 'Man, what talent'!

  4. Wow, I'm jealous.

    I never got further than cutting eyeholes in a bedsheet.

    She's lucky to have such a talented mom.

  5. Too cool! I'm always in awe of people who can sew/knit/crochet/etc. My Oma (German Grandmother) did her very best to teach me, but I have neither the talent nor the patience to be any good at those things. I can sew a button on and fix a seam that's come undone, that's about it.

  6. Outstanding! :-) I'm convinced your creativity knows no bounds! And SD should be PROUD to have you as her mother and happy with that costume. And she looks great in it, especially with the big eyes and red wig! :-)

  7. Best Halloween mom EVER! SO CUTE!

  8. awesome seamstress-moms are awesome. gave me memories to the days when my mom would make costumes for me. :)

  9. You're a good mom Ma'am . . . . a good mom!!!

  10. Awesome! That is an absolutely fantastic costume!

  11. That is great, and she's just adorable!
    And here I am stuck trying to figure out how to decorate my hatchback for "Trunk or treat".

  12. Holy gee willikers that is awesome. Great job and what a great smile from SD.

  13. Holy gee willikers that is awesome. Great job and what a great smile from SD.

  14. Costumes can make the world look colorful and full of life.