Notes from the Boston Exhibit
The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy – The Exhibition
Arwen’s Riding Dress:
Display: The bottom of the display case is elevated above the floor by at least two feet, so eye-level for me was somewhere roughly at waist level or lower. Display case has a narrow window up the back. Good spotlight on the center front, but lighting is hit-and-miss everywhere else, and especially dark in the back.
Bring a small flashlight!
Swatches of the suede, silk, and collar texture lace on display in another case nearby (with the Requiem Dress.) Boots are present, britches not visible. Mannequin has no head and no arms (or has very short arm stumps.)
Suede – The swatch was very thin – about 1/16th of an inch thick. On the dress, every piece looked a little different than its neighbor in apparent thickness and direction of the “knap” of the suede.
Bodice: The width of the body is carried as much by the bodice side pieces as by the center pieces in both front and back. In other words, the princess seams are not particularly wide apart at waist level.
Collar: The open collar is not especially wide in front. Each side appears to curve out slightly from the center front and comes to a soft point. The collar appears fairly straight across the top. I’m 95% sure I see a seam up the back. Didn’t check if this also appeared on the facing side. At the back, the collar stands about 2 inches (maybe a little more) above the base of the neck.
Collar texture lace: The threads are gray, roughly the same shade as the suede, and are shiny. The strands of the lace are very rounded with a lot of dimensionality, so the stitching may be formed over some sort of narrow cord. No obvious core was visible in the swatch, however. If cording was used underneath the stitching, it does not appear to cross over itself since the thickness does not change at intersections.
The pattern is very free form, mostly angular shapes, but some s-curves thrown in. There were a few cells that looked to be about an inch across in their longest dimension, but most were smaller - around 1/2 inch in diameter.
The lace is sewn into the seam between the center front pieces and the collar facing. The lace continues all the way around the inside back of the collar and as far inside the front of the bodice as can be seen on the mannequin - probably covering the whole of the collar facing, however wide that is.
Front sashes: The edges look rolled and the ends look unfinished. These sashes do not appear to be as wide at the ends as the back sashes. Front sashes are perhaps one-half the width of the back sashes, and don’t come down nearly as far.
The sash fabric is at least a shade darker than that of the underskirts and has a distinct purple cast compared to everything else on the dress.
Back waist seam: Knotted and hanging on the mannequin, the back sashes lie almost completely over the center back waist seam, obscuring all but a tiny bit of it - just enough to tell that the seam comes to a point a few inches below side waist seams, as in the front.
Back sashes: Edges are finished by turning over twice, no more than 1/4th inch each time, and securing with fairly long straight stitches close to the inner (first fold) edge. The ends of the sashes are finished in the same manner. Sashes are sewn directly into back princess seams and are folded lengthwise at this point. The folded edge is at the top. The finished lower edges lie right on top of where the princess seams abut the waist seam. The folded top edges lie at the seventh baseball stitch up from the waist seam. There are wrinkles running lengthwise along the sashes from the princess seams to the knot, so the sashes could be slightly gathered in the seams, but I’m assuming this is just a result of the pull of the weight of the sashes. The sashes are about 5 inches wide where unfolded.
Underskirt: The silk underskirts appear to be serged. The sample swatch of the silk looks a little purplish compared to the suede swatch, although the skirts on the dress just look gray - *maybe* slightly lavender in comparison to the leather, but only slightly. The silk may have been given a wash in weak purple dye, but this could also be a matter of the light-reflectance quality of the silk as opposed to that of the leather. (The shiny threads of the collar lace swatch also look purplish in next to the suede.)
At the sides, the underskirts appear to end about two inches above the anklebones.
There are a great many folds and undulations of fabric in the underskirt when observed at eye level, so these skirt panels must be very full - what allows them to billow and whip every-which-way when she rides - definitely fuller than the overskirt.
The curve of the underskirt panels in the front looks steeper than on the suede overskirt panels, as the distance from the edge of the suede to the hem of the silk decreases as the panels curve up towards the center front. This may be a matter of how the skirts hang, rather than a shape issue, but it could be both.
The back panels curve up towards the center back rather than forming square corners. This curve is not as dramatic as in the front, but a gentle tapering up until the silk panels disappear beneath the overskirt before the back opening (which is obscured by the back sashes.)
Under sleeves: Edges are not hemmed nor are they the selvage, but are simply raw with some sort of fraycheck, glue, acrylic medium, etc. keeping them from unraveling. Looking through backlit portions of the sleeves from the sides and underneath, you can see the narrow, uneven band around the edge where the fabric has been saturated with something to keep the threads in place.
Outer sleeves: Now it gets really complicated. The seam where the upper and lower sleeves join is a spiral, beginning in the seam under the arm where the upper sleeve joins to itself to form a tube (this underarm seam does not extend lower than the point where the lower sleeve is sewn into it.) The spiral seam curves down around the front and side to its lowest point in the back. Then it curves up gently as it continues around to the front again as the lower sleeve passes behind itself.
The point where the lower sleeve begins in the underarm seam is quite a ways above where it again passes under the arm after spiraling around. In this gap, the upper sleeve can be seen extending around behind the lower sleeve in the front.
Therefore, in the front, the upper sleeve extends both above and below the spiral seam with the top edge of the lower sleeve sandwiched between. The upper sleeve must have an extension on the edge that meets the underarm seam from the back. This extension is what the lower sleeve hangs from where it crosses behind itself. The extension must be sewn into the spiral seam around the front and it probably tapers off with the lower sleeve, the two ending somewhere in the seam, perhaps around the side.
[See below for more discussion of sleeve pattern and construction]
On the mannequin, there was a vertical line continuing from the upper sleeve seam down through the upper sleeve extension and the lower sleeve. We think this is just a crease, since if it was a seam, then the lower sleeve would be made of two pieces and we doubt that. It could be a seam on the upper sleeve, but I think it’s more likely that the extension was cut in one with the rest of the piece.
The lower sleeves are fuller than I had thought. Their bottom edges of the sleeves come almost to the knee: about one-third of the distance from the bottom of the overskirt to the waist.
The design on the upper sleeves is done in VERY fine, narrow lines and looks painted/drawn/printed, not embroidered. Overall, the design is neither very prominent in appearance, nor very large on the upper sleeve piece. (See left sleeve side view for position and proportional size of design.)
Boots: The boots have rounded toes. In the front, the leather pieces that wrap around have stitching about ½ to 1 inch from the edge. In the back, the loops for lacing are sewn into the edge seams of the wrap-around pieces and are about 1.5 to 1.75 inches apart.
I sketched a pattern of what I think the sleeve pieces look like when flat and made a mini-mockup first of paper and then of lightweight fabric. It worked out surprisingly well, although experimentation with full-size muslins will be necessary to find the proper curves to create the right drape.
Sewing the sleeve: on the mini-mockup, which I stitched by hand, I found that it worked well to attach the upper and lower sleeves together along the entire curve first. Then sew the vertical seam to form a tube, being sure to keep the right sides together and the end of the lower sleeve (point A’) is tucked into the seam. Then sew the upper sleeve extension to the underside of the upper/lower sleeve seam.
I attempted to draw a transparent 3D image of how all this goes together, but I’m not sure it makes things any clearer
This page was last updated 04/22/08