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Inspired by The Fellowship of the Ring, and not having the hair to be Arwen, I decided to build a ďBorowynĒ costume.
Like lots of people, I went to see Lord of the Rings, and fell utterly in love with it all. I adored the hobbits, loved the special effects, but most of all I loved Boromir. And, playing a warrior in our local roleplaying group, I decided that what I wanted most was a Boromir outfit.
Iím was a fairly experienced dressmaker at the time Ė Iíd made a few evening dresses, some tabards and tunics for our LRP group, costumed a couple of shows and even made a wedding dress once. Iíd never done anything where Iíd had so little idea of where to start before, and the idea of all the fabric decoration was scary.
Of course, I differ from Sean Bean in a few ways. Iím five-foot-six, nine stone and a girl, and Iím not on the same budget as Peter Jackson. At my disposal I had forty pounds worth of fabric vouchers that I got for my Christmas from my Gran, and just about an entire cowís worth of black suede which had been a birthday present.
So, armed with cash and cow, I set out to make my very own ďBorowynĒ costume.
The Silk Tunic
As far as I could tell, the tunic in the movie was wine-red silk, embroidered with gold beadwork. Having reddish brown hair, I clash something rotten with burgundy, and decided that Iíd rather use dark green, and that green and gold was far too Irish for my tastes. I managed to find forest green silk dupion at £5 a meter in my local fabric shop, and bought four meters of it, then decided on silver beadwork, and the long arduous task of hand beading the sleeves began.
I drafted a very basic sleeve head, then extended it to be a mid-length tube sleeve, which fell to just below my elbow. It was designed to be worn over mail, so is much broader than my actual arm. I marked out a grid of points an inch and a half apart all over it, and sewed a single silver seed bead on at each grid point. Every fourth bead I worked a star on, using twisted silver 7mm bugle beads and seed beads to make a snowflake pattern Ė you can see this on the photo, but itís not very clear. Round the lower edge I worked a half-snowflake at every bead to make a border, then embroidered a few more bringing it up to a point on the lateral sides. As you can see in the photos, itís not a perfect copy of Boromirís, but itís close enough.
I beaded around the standing mandarin collar as well, with a single line of snowflakes going all the way around.
I then cut out the body. Itís a very basic tunic stretching to knee length, and itís split front and back. Itís lined in a dull green cotton that I had lying around the fabric bin, but the sleeves and the collar are lined in the same silk. I made up the body, attached the collar and the sleeves to their own linings, sewed the sleeves and collar onto the body, then hand stitched the lining of the body to the sleeve and collar linings at the armholes and the neck.
For the fastenings down the front, I decided to use (eek!) popper studs at one-and-a-half inch intervals. Shame on me, but itís quick and convenient, and they donít catch on armour. To make them look a bit nicer, I embroidered little snowflake designs around them in bugle and seed beads.
That was the silk tunic done. I moved on to the leather.
The Leather Surcoat
Working from one of my historical pattern books, I cut a very basic doublet shape, with very little fitting at the side seams. I added a long skirt piece to each body piece, meaning that I had eight pieces Ė four upper body going to my waist, and four Ďskirtí pieces stretching to a little below my knee. It took a hell of a lot of leather- six skins about four foot square.
I seamed them down the sides, but left the skirts split front, back and at the sides. As it was leather, I didnít bother hemming it, but instead ran a fine silver embroidery thread all the way around the neck, front and bottom of the skirts.
For closures, I used popper studs again. I have no defence. Some day Iíll replace them with metal frogs, when I find the right ones. They look quite like big silver buttons.
Thereís no point in making the costume if no one gets to see it Ė and, fortunately, there was an adventure on that very weekend. I signed up to play my character, and put my kit on.
The first layer was a black silk shirt that I love, which I covered with a front lacing black leather bodice. You canít have too much armour on your chest, I find. I then put my Ďgambesoní over the top of that Ė as it doesnít show, itís thoroughly non-authentic, and consists of an old leather jacket that I covered in studs. It stops the mail rubbing on my shoulders, and fills in the gap between my sleeves and my vambraces.
My legs had my favourite pair of kit trousers on Ė a soft blue-grey cotton pair that I made when I went to my first fest-style event. You can just see them on top of my second hand brown boots in the full length photo.
Then, the mail shirt. This I made a few years ago during exam season; I destroyed my hands, but at the end of it I had a persian weave mail shirt. No european ever wore anything like it, but itís far lighter than standard 4-1 mail, and being a bit of a lightweight I like my mail to be wearable for six hours at a stretch. The links arenít riveted either, but it still weighs about 2 Ĺ stone. I have to belt that round my waist to stop the full weight of it resting on my shoulders.
Silk and leather went over the top of the mail, adding another Ĺ a stone to the ensemble. I borrowed soft studded leather vambraces and greaves from my friend Jez, and added my back-scabbard, two belts, a side scabbard and my shield (made out of paper mache and an old belt!).
By this stage I was six inches shorter than Iíd been before the kit went on, but I felt fine.
I donít like to think about how much the cow must have cost, but I figure I could do it again for about £60 worth of heavy hides. The silk was £20, but that was in the sale, and I went through four tubs of bugle beads and three of seed beads (£16 or so). Popper studs were about £5 total; proper fastenings are going to cost me a lot more, some day.
So, for just the tunic and the surcoat, itís cost me about £40; if Iíd had to buy my leather too, it would have been £100.
I wore the kit a couple of times, and, suddenly, everyone I knew wanted one as well. Iíve made one in black velvet with silver beads, one in blue velvet with gold beads, one in burgundy and gold and one in green suedette with gold beading, and a darker surcoat.
Itís really worn in nicely now; the silk and the leather have softened, and itís my best kit.
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