The Ladies' Tea Guild

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

New costume finished!

Trevelyan's Miscellany, 1602.
Well, it's finished *for now*, anyways!  My oldest nephew has been showing signs of an interest in history for the past few years, and has really gotten into Medieval, Renaissance, and WW2 history lately, exactly as my brother did when he was the same age.  Just as I did for my brother, I intend to encourage this interest in any way that I can.  I gave my brother a lot of history-related books and magazines when he was younger, and he's started passing them on to my nephew, so I have to take a slightly different tack!  This year my nephew turned 10, and asked my brother to take him to the local Renaissance Faire for his birthday.  My brother and I usually go together, and in costume (of course!).  I happened to overhear my brother agree to take my nephew to Faire, and I said "We usually go together, and we dress up, so if you're coming with us, I should make you a costume."  I expected my nephew to say "Well, I don't know ..." but he immediately said "YES!"  Good thing I hadn't bought him a birthday present yet: his costume would be his present from me!

I should point out that I have never made children's clothing or men's clothing before; I've only altered men's and children's clothing.  I also didn't have an Elizabethan boy's costume pattern!  Luckily, my nephew's birthday was in June and Faire didn't begin until September, so I had all summer for research and sewing.  I knew I wanted to make his costume as historically accurate as possible -- not that my nephew would care, but I care because I'm a historian and my "name" is on it -- without breaking the bank or making my nephew die in layers of heavy wool.  I found some nice linen and cotton-linen blend fabric at JoAnn's that I thought would make him a good shirt, doublet and breeches, without being too hot.  The pattern was harder to come by; all the patterns I was seeing in the store had a different look than I wanted: I was going for simple country boy in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, not knight-in-shining-armor or mini-henry-the-8th.  A friend of mine who was in the Society for Creative Anachronism has a copy of the book _The Tudor Tailor_ and offered to lend it to me for taking notes and making copies of the scaled patterns in the back.  I jumped at the chance and I'm glad I did!

My nephew in his costume
Scaling up patterns is also something I have no training in, so it was more hours spent in research as I looked up instructions on the Internet and tried to work out how to do it in my head.  I didn't do it exactly the way I was "supposed to" because all the instructions said to scale up the pattern to its original size and then re-size it to the measurements you need for the person who will actually wear it, and I kind of scaled it up directly to my nephew's measurements ... I made sure to add several inches to each seam just in case I needed the extra when fitting the muslin, and I also wanted to leave enough in the seams that I could let them out as my nephew grew.  I made a muslin and did one fitting on my nephew for the shirt and doublet, and then used the muslin as the lining for the doublet.  The breeches I just made and lined without trying them on him, and almost had a disaster the night before the faire when they were too small!  The darn kid grew between my taking his measurements and finishing his costume ... Luckily I had left several inches in the waistline and waistband so I could let it out (then it ended up being too big ...).  Next time: fittings for everything!

I didn't have space to set up my sewing machine at home, so I ended up sewing the whole thing by hand, with French seams on the shirt, and overcast seams on the doublet and breeches because of all the extra fabric in the seams.  He wore the costume with tall black socks and plain black sneakers (from the women's section at Target ... shhh!) and looked really good, if I do say so myself!

I didn't end up being able to make him a hat (which his costume really needs), and because I had to let his breeches out at the last minute, they need a few extra buttons and buttonholes, instead of the safety pins that held them on him all day, but basically, my nephew has a pretty good Elizabethan costume!  I'm especially proud of the fit of the doublet, which I was nervous about.  My nephew grew so that I couldn't put buttons and buttonholes on it (not enough overlap at the center front), so I sewed ties on to keep the front closed, and it was fine.  He likes the costume, wanted to enter the costume contest with it (unfortunately we missed the entry time and only got to see the end), and got a lot of good comments from other people at Faire.  I consider it a success!  Now ... to make a costume for his brother and sister ... 

1 comment:

Steph said...

He looks very handsome! Well done.

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)