The Art of Darkness

This Year’s Costumes

November 11th, 2019 by Cobwebs

DuoIt’s time for the annual costume recap! Every year I spend entirely too much time making costumes for Shadowboy and a friend’s nephew, then have professional photos taken. This is the year that made me question that decision.

The friend’s costume was easy. He wanted to be a vampire in the classic mold, and that’s just a hop, skip, and a frilly shirt away. I used Simplicity 4923 for the shirt, Simplicity 4762 for the vest, and McCall’s 4139 for the cape. He supplied the trousers and shoes.

Shadowboy’s was…it was a whole thing.

He wanted a costume that could double as an outfit for RenFaire, and since he has a strong interest in music–and despite playing D&D and supposedly knowing better–he decided that he wanted to be a bard. Rather than trying to put something together piecemeal from several patterns I decided to do the complete set using AlterYears Easy Renaissance Noblemen’s Outfit PAY-038, where “Easy” should be read in the most sarcastic air quotes imaginable.

Y’all. You all. You. Guys. I have been sewing for 40 years. I have made some complicated stuff–hell, I made my own wedding dress. I know my way around a pattern. This pattern sucked. It suuuuuucked. As I tried to work through it I honestly began to suspect some kind of Kinks/Oasis/Ramones situation where the person who drafted the pattern and the person who wrote the instructions absolutely fucking hated each other, to the point where they not only refused to collaborate, they were actively trying to undermine each other. It’s not that the pattern/instructions were unclear, it’s that they were literally wrong. Like, the notes on the pattern pieces might tell you to cut four pieces, but when you followed the instructions you only used two of them. The pattern has different cutting lines for fabric and lining, but the instructions make it clear that they actually should be the same size. The instructions for resizing the pattern for a custom fit very much do not result in a custom fit. Even the suggested width for pleats was wildly inaccurate. The entire exercise was infuriating. If you decide to tackle this pattern–and remember, this is the one labeled “easy”–my suggestions are as follows:

  • If you’re a beginner, stop here and find another pattern. No, really. This will end in tears.
  • Read the instructions very thoroughly. Make note of discrepancies, like the 4 1/2 yards of lining you need for the pantaloons that the materials list doesn’t mention. Compare the instructions to the notations on the pattern pieces and consider the differences.
  • Ignore any alternate cutting lines for fabric/lining on the pattern. They are scurrilous lies.
  • Make a mockup out of cheap muslin first. Being severely strapped for time I omitted this step and it was bad. There was much, much ripping of seams and re-cutting of “custom” pieces and planning of subtle vengeance. Work with the mockup until you get the fit you want and then use those measurements to cut your good fabric.

In summary, I paid 40 American dollars for the privilege of having my blood pressure spike and I do not recommend this.

I’m not entirely happy with the result so I’ll probably re-make the whole thing at some point using the lessons painfully learned from this exercise, but it’s good enough for Halloween. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Anyway!

I decided that he needed a hat, and since he had indicated that he wanted kind of a mismatched look I used some brocade left over from the vampire’s vest and knocked together a hat using McCall’s 4805. I also had enough fabric left over from the doublet and pantaloons to make a short cape, which I did freehand.

The photos turned out reasonably well, so I don’t have to commit Halloween seppuku. Here’s the rest of the set:

Vampire 1

Vampire 2

Bard 1

Bard 2

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