Disney Pixar’s Brave: Historically Accurate?

As the title implies, this post is about the historical accuracy of Disney Pixar’s Brave.  I wrote a research paper on this topic several years ago, which was the primary reason why I made my Merida dress. I presented my research for school, and thought, “Hey, why not make a dress to go with it?”

I already posted all about my Merida dress (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), and so this post will be all about my actual research.

So without further ado, here are my findings.

Many movies have been made about different periods in history. Each one of those movies has varying degrees of historical accuracy. Some are complete fantasy. Others are almost entirely historically accurate. And still others fall in the middle of that scale, containing historical accuracy mixed with fantasy. That is where Disney Pixar’s 2012 animated film, Brave falls on the scale. Set in a kingdom in the highlands of medieval Scotland, Brave’s fictional story is mixed with accurate costumes and sets as well as real themes and ideas that give the film a sense of believability.

According to co-director Mark Andrews, Brave takes place in 9th to 12th century Scotland.  Andrews said, “We kind of looked at the 9th to the 12th century and took all the stuff that we liked and made a fantasy Scotland” (Andrews, thesudburystar.com).

"BRAVE" (Pictured) ELINOR ©2012 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.The costumes worn by the women in Brave are very historically accurate. The rich, green dress worn by Queen Elinor, Merida’s mother, is a great example of how a woman’s dress reflected her social status and wealth. Elinor’s dress is composed of at least two dress layers: a fitted under layer called a kirtle made of a dark green linen and an over-dress called a surcote made of a flowing silk-like fabric. Elinor’s dark-green underdress (kirtle) has a fitted bodice with a full floor length skirt and long, fitted sleeves that come to her knuckles. Her over-dress (surcote) has a fitted bodice with buttons up the front, a full skirt with a long train, and flowing sleeves that almost reach the ground. The skirt has a slit up the front that reveals the dark green kirtle underneath. Surcotes were a huge sign of wealth in the Middle Ages. Fabric was very expensive, especially silk fabric which had to be imported from the East. The large amounts of fabric in the sleeves and train showed that Elinor was definitely part of nobility. The buttons on the front of her surcote were also a sign of wealth. In addition, Elinor wears a gold-colored metal belt around her waist. Richly made belts were also a sign of wealth and status (Gilbert). Elinor’s hair is very long, almost floor length, and is worn parted in the middle, and wrapped with gold ribbons. During most of the Middle Ages, married women covered their hair with veils or later elaborate headdresses. However, during the 1100’s after the Norman invasion, there was a short time when women wore their hair parted in the middle and excessively long hair was a common trend (“Jewels, Hair, and Accessories”).

Photo Feb 16, 5 21 16 PMMerida wears two dresses throughout the film. Her first and primary dress is made up of  a cream colored linen chemise and a dark blue wool kirtle that she wears on the top. Merida’s dark blue overdress has slit sleeves that reveal the gathered cream colored underdress at her shoulders and elbows. The underdress is also visible at the bottom of the sleeves and around the neckline. Merida’s fiery red hair is left loose, and she wears ankle-height brown leather shoes.

Linen was a very common fabric during the middle ages because it was comfortable when worn as the layer against the skin. Wool was also very common because it was warm during the cold winters. Linen was made from flax plants and wool was spun from sheep and sometimes goats. Leather was used to make shoes, pouches, and many other items as it was readily available.

tumblr_m83rx5iAlf1rcddv9o1_500Merida’s second dress is made of a sky blue satin or silk. It is the typical kirtle style with long fitted sleeves, a fitted bodice, and a flared skirt. The dress also has a gold panel around the hem as well as gold trim around the neckline and tips of the sleeves. Merida’s wild hair is tamed in the form of a wimple, a cloth headpiece that covered the neck and hair. There has been some debate over whether or not Merida’s wimple is historically accurate for the time period of the movie. Richard Oram, a Scottish historian said, “You can see the film-makers have done their homework, even if they’ve mixed up their periods a bit. So we get . . . high-status females wearing . . . wimples, as they would have done in the 14th and 15th centuries” (Oram). Merida also wears a tight corset underneath her light blue dress which has been a topic of high debate among historians and feminists. Tight laced corsets worn as undergarments weren’t invented until the 1800’s (Thomas). Corsets existed really only by name in the Middle Ages. What we believe was called a “corset” then was a long, loose garment that was simply pulled over the head and was not used to give shape to the body at all. Men as well as women wore them, but only those of nobility and great wealth, for they were decorated with expensive jewels and fur. Their decorations imply that the medieval “corset” was worn on top of clothing, not as an undergarment. Not much more detail is known about corsets in the Middle Ages, but we do know that the “corset” Merida wears is very inaccurate.

The production team for Brave spent numerous hours researching the Scottish landscape. The team took two trips to Scotland to help really capture the look and feel of Scotland in the film. Co-director Katherine Sarafian said, “Every Pixar film, we do our research. In our case, we went to Scotland twice, and we went way, way deep in . . . we wanted this character in the movie of Scotland.” Scottish historian Richard Oram said of Brave:

I’m a keen hill-walker, as well as an environmental historian, and I kept seeing places I recognized: in an early scene, the main character, Merida, scales a rocky outcrop that’s brave fire fallsclearly modeled on Cairngorm granite, right down to the color and texture . . .The general feel – the mix of water and hills, forest and mountains – is very good: the forests are a realistic blend of Scots pine and birch (Oram).

One notable inaccuracy of the landscape in Brave is the fire falls that Merida climbs toward the beginning of the film. These falls may be the “rocky outcrop” that Richard Oram mentions in the quote above. Co-director Mark Andrews said that, “The fire falls in the movie–there are no fire falls in Scotland, but there are fire falls at Yosemite National Park. It actually happens” (Andrews, veryaware.com). So even though the falls don’t exist in Scotland itself, they are based on a real place.

Standing_stonesA recurring landmark seen in Brave is particular circle of rocks located in the woods around Merida’s castle. The rock formation is formally called a stone circle. Stone circles are made of large pieces of stone that have been cut and planted upright in the ground in a circle formation. Around one thousand three hundred stone circles and henges exist in Britain (including Scotland) and Ireland in various sizes (“Odyssey”). Their original purpose is unknown, and many legends surround the stone circles. Some of the most famous stone circles are on the Orkney Islands, found off the north coast of Scotland. Callanish StonesOrkney’s Ring o’Brodgar and the Standing Stones o’ Stenness are two of the most famous stone circles on the Orkney Islands. The Ring o’Brodgar is believed to have been built around 2500 BC to 2000 BC and is around three hundred and forty-one feet wide. It is believed to have originally contained one hundred and sixty stones, though now only twenty-seven stones remain (Towrie). In his book, Around the Orkney Peat-Fires, William Mackintosh describes the Stones o’ Stenness in this way: “Even in daylight the place has something uncanny about it. The Standing Stones o’ Stenness, mouldering, scarred and grey with age, rising as they do from and unbroken bed of heather always have a weird mysterious appearance.” This description fits with the feel of the stone circle in Brave and explains why Merida’s horse, Angus, was so startled by the stones that he threw Merida off his back.

CASTLE!!!!!Merida’s family’s castle is quite historically accurate in the way it was designed. The walls are made of stone with wooden doors. Stone castles replaced castles that were entirely made of wood in the 12th century.The stable where Merida keeps her horse, Angus, is located inside the castle walls, but not inside the castle living space. The majority of stables in medieval castles were kept inside the walls so they were protected in the event of an attack.

The first room inside the castle gate is the great room. The great room is lit by natural light by day and candles and torches by night, as it would have been in the Middle Ages. The walls are adorned with tapestries and stone carvings. The great room serves as the throne room, dining room, and entertainment room when needed. At dinner time, a large table is brought into the great room and Merida’s family eats around the table together, each with their own chair. When the three clans visit the castle, multiple tables and benches are brought into the room to seat the many guests. In the middle ages, only the nobility used chairs, and benches were much more common (Gravett 43). Thus, the bench seating for the clan guests is accurate.

brave-disneyscreencaps.com-1426A set of stairs in Merida’s castle leads to the bedrooms and family room. Merida’s bedroom as well as the master bedroom both contain fireplaces, candles, and torches for light in the evenings. The rooms are sparsely furnished with wooden chests and four-poster beds. Likewise, the family room has a fireplace and wood furniture. Family rooms were common in the Middle Ages as a place for the family to gather for storytelling, music, playing chess and many other activities. Chess was a very popular game among both peasants and nobility (Dixon 18). In Brave, we also see Elinor stitching her tapestries in the family room. Making tapestries as well as embroidery and music were extremely common pastimes for noble women in the Middle Ages.

Screen shot 2014-04-01 at 8.59.12 PMOne slight inaccuracy in the castle design is the use of glass. Glass in the Middle Ages was very expensive, and thus was used very sparsely in castles. Merida’s bedroom has a relatively large glass window with ironwork in front of the glass. The family room and master bedroom both have three long, rectangular windows with glass panes and ironwork. The long rectangular style window was much more likely to have been used than one large window like Screen shot 2014-04-01 at 9.02.23 PMMerida’s, however there is no reason that larger windows wouldn’t have existed. In the film, there is also a small window with glass in the door to the family room. This window is used to tell the story of the film several times during the movie, however in reality, glass would have likely been too expensive a commodity to have been used on a door.

44ea0497975b51a42ad0888115d6abbeThe food eaten in Brave is accurate for what would have been eaten in medieval Scotland. Multiple times during the film, we can see Merida eating apples. Fruit, such as apples, pears, and cherries, were very commonly eaten and grown in orchards outside the castles.  During the family dinner scene, Merida’s little brothers were complaining about eating Haggis, a type of pudding that was cooked in sheep stomach lining and mixed with spices, onions, oatmeal, and suet, which is a type of animal fat. On the website iGourmet.com, Haggis is described as “a national culinary icon in Scotland.”

brave-disneyscreencaps.com-1190Merida and her brothers are seen several times throughout the film trying to steal a type of sweet cookie with icing and jam on the top. Recipes for these cookies, called “tipperary biscuits,” are still around today (allrecipes.com). During the dinner scene, King Fergus is shown eating a type of cooked meat. Meat from all sorts of birds and animals were eaten in medieval Scotland, including beef, mutton, and sometimes venison if it was caught on a recent hunt. Fish were also a very common meat in Scotland. Herring, pike, bream, and salmon were all common types of fish (“Scotland’s History”). The abundance of salmon in the stream that Merida catches with Elinor would have been highly likely. Today, Scotland is one of the top exporters of salmon.

brave-disneyscreencaps.com-4207The most obvious inaccuracy with regards to food and meals in Brave is the use of forks. The movie shows the table set with three-pronged forks, however forks were not used in the Middle Ages. Spoons and knives were used, but forks were unknown at that time.

Legends play a big role in the story of Brave. Merida states in the opening of the movie that, “The story of how [her] father lost his leg to the demon bear Mordu became legend.” Queen Elinor gives Merida lesson on selfishness in the form of a legend about an ancient kingdom. Merida’s lackadaisical attitude about the legend prompts Elinor to respond that, “Legends are lessons, they ring with truths.”

will-o-wispTwo important themes and ideas in Brave stemmed from Scottish legends and mythology. The magical “Will o’ the Wisps” are rooted in Celtic legends as well as scientific reality. Co-director Mark Andrews sums it up best in an interview. He said,

The will o’ the wisps are in a lot of Scottish folklore. They were said to lead you to treasure or doom–to change your fate– but they’re an actual phenomenon of swamp and bog gas seeping up through the earth and interacting with the natural resources to create the blue flames. People would follow these lights thinking they were little fairies, and basically drown or get sucked down into the bogs. [So] we made the wisps like actual little spirits (Andrews).

MorduEven the ideas of the evil bear Mordu and Queen Elinor’s transformation into a bear originated from Celtic mythology. Director Mark Andrews said, “I think the bear aspect . . . there’s all these things in Celtic mythology about transformation into animals, so that was something that we pulled from and put into the film” (Andrews, veryaware.com).

Girls didn’t attend school in the Middle Ages since an education was not important for women during that time. Girls of nobility were taught how to sew, spin thread, and weave fabric. They were also taught correct manners and proper behavior.

The movie’s focus on a headstrong female character would more than likely have been accurate in Scotland. Scottish historian Richard Oram says, “The fact that the film has a strong woman at its centre may be quite accurate: we know very little about women in medieval Scotland, but those we do know about seem to have been pretty feisty.”  Merida’s betrothal to one of the three lord’s sons is also a large theme of Brave. In the Middle Ages, marriages were very often arranged for monetary gain. A noble woman’s family usually gave a dowry of land to their daughter’s spouse, so who a man married was Tapeta Brave 3D (created full3d)a big deal (Amt). Young Dingwall, son of one of the three lords, said in the film (of the arranged marriage), “Why shouldn’t we choose?”, his father’s response was, “But she’s the princess!” At this, young Dingwall commented back to his father that he “didn’t pick her out, it was [his father’s] idea.” A woman could marry at the age of twelve, and boys could marry at the age of fourteen (Macdonald 24), thus Merida’s betrothal while she was a teenager was not uncommon.

Merida’s reluctance to marry makes sense. Once a woman was married, she took on all the responsibilities of a wife. In the Middle Ages, “marriage was a full time job. A wife had to help her husband run his business or manage his land while he was away.” A woman in medieval Scotland could refuse an arranged marriage if she had the courage to do so (Scott), however such an act was seen as selfish. Co-director Mark Andrews said, “You had this very traditional society that she wants to break with and find her own sense of person, so by having her mother, i.e. society, be in her way of what she’s not ready to accept yet, she gets a little selfish and she gets desperate” (Andrews, veryaware.com).

Though we can see why Merida might have wanted to retain her freedom, her refusal to marry was also a refusal to accept responsibility. A refusal to grow up and do what many women before her had done. She selfishly and stubbornly insisted on living at home and was willing to go to great lengths to get her way. The movie makes the viewer sympathize with Merida and view Queen Elinor as a mother unwilling to listen to her daughter, when in reality, Merida was the one at fault.

brave-disneyscreencaps.com-2746One thing that I didn’t have in my paper but discussed in my presentation is a particular symbol. There is a symbol, I assume one that represents Clan DunBronch, that combines a celtic knot pattern with a bear. You can see it a little bit behind Merida and her family during the scene at the Highland Games, and it is also the design on the hem of Merida’s skirt at the very end of the movie and in the Disney Parks.

An artist's rendering of Merida's dress at the end of the movie where you can clearly see the bear design on the hem.

An artist’s rendering of Merida’s dress at the end of the movie where you can clearly see the bear design on the hem.

While researching, I came across an Screen shot 2014-02-03 at 11.20.16 AMonline eBook that had this symbol in one of its preview pages as shown at the right, and I was shocked at it’s resemblance to the symbol in Brave. I don’t know if the filmmakers knew this symbol existed while they were making the movie, but regardless, it just adds one more tiny historically accurate detail.

So that’s what I have for you! I hope it was enlightening, or at least showed you maybe one or two things you didn’t know about Medieval history! I was truly amazed at how accurate even some of the tiniest details of the movie turned out to be! Disney Pixar’s Brave is filled with numerous historically accurate details, from the costumes and setting to the themes and ideals. Though it contains a few inaccuracies for the sake of storytelling, Brave’s overall historical feel makes the viewer feel as if they are really in historical Scotland. The research completed by the producers before creating Brave is especially evident through the amount of historically accurate detail portrayed in the film. So even though Brave is historical fantasy, you can learn a great deal about life in Medieval Scotland by watching the film.

Hope you enjoyed it!

Taria

“Hard work does not necessarily guarantee success, but no success is possible without hard work.” 

Dr. T. P. Chia

Bibliography

Amt, Emilie. Women’s Lives in Medieval Europe. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Andrews, Mark. Interview by Bruce Kirkland. “Brave Accurate, Just Not Historically.”  The Sudbury Star. 25 June 2012. <http://thesudburystar.com/2012/06/25.brave-accurate-just-not-historically&gt;. (25 Feb. 2014).

Andrews, Mark and Brenda Chapman. Interview. “Scottish Story of ‘Brave’ Springs from Reality.” <http://movies.inquirer.net/?p=5204&gt;. (4 March 2014).

Andrews, Mark and Katherine Sarafian. Interview by Courtney Howard. “BRAVE’s Katherine Sarafian & Mark Andrews Talk Technique, Inspiration, & Strong Heroines.” Very Aware: The Movie Blog. 21 June 2012. <http://veryaware.com/2012/06/interview&gt;. (24 Feb. 2014).

Dixon, Philip. Knights & Castles. Sydney: Weldon Owen Inc., 2009.

Ford, David Nash. “Early Kingdoms of Scotland.” Early British Kingdoms. 2001. <http:// http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/adversaries/kingdoms/scot498.html>. (25 Feb. 2014).

Gilbert, Rosalie. “Rosalie’s Medieval Woman.” 2003. <http://rosaliegilbert.com/index.html&gt;. (10 March 2014).

Gravett, Christopher. Castle. New York: Alfred A Knopf, Inc., 1994.

“Jewels, Hair, and Accessories of the Middle Ages.” 21 Sept. 2011. <http://sites.tufts.edu/ putajewelonit/2011/09/21/glossary-of-english-hairstyles-headdresses/>. (24 Feb. 2014).

Macdonald, Fiona. First Facts About the Middle Ages. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1997.

Mackintosh, William R. Around the Orkney Peat-Fires. <http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/standingstones/index.html&gt;. 24 Feb. 2014).

Oram, Richard. Interview by Laura Barnett. “A Scottish Historian on Brave.” The Guardian. 30 August 2012). <http://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/aug/29/scottish-historian-view -brave>. (24 Feb. 2014).

“Scotland’s History: Food and Drink.” Education Scotland. <http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/scotland’shistory/medievallife/foodanddrink/index.asp&gt;. (24 Feb. 2014).

Scott, Amanda. “Women’s Rights in Medieval Scotland.” The Medieval Chronicle. August 2010. <http://www.themedievalchronicle.com/septoct01/Women_Rights_Scotland_JulyAug 2010.html>. (25 Feb. 2014).

“Scottish Food.” igourmet.com. <http://www.igourmet.com/scottishfood.asp&gt;. (24 Feb. 2014).

‘Stone Circles of Scotland.” Odyssey: Adventures in Archaeology. <http://www.odyssey adventures.ca/articles/stone-circles/article_stonecircles.htm>. (24 Feb. 2014).

Thomas, Pauline Weston. “Stays to Corsets–Fashion History.” Fashion-Era. <http:// http://www.fashion-era.com/stays_to_corsets.htm> (10 March 2014).

Towrie, Siguard. “Orkney’s Standing Stones.” Orkneyjar: The Heritage of the Orkney Islands. <http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/monoliths/index.html&gt;. (24 Feb. 2014).

Walker, Jane. 100 Things You Should Know about Knights and Castles. Essex: Miles Kelly Publishing, 2001.

Williams, Brenda and Brian. World Book looks at The Age of Knights and Castles. Chicago: World Book, Inc., 1996.

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Grommets, Eyelets, and Anvils, Oh My!

To the beginner, grommets and eyelets seem daunting.

Or maybe it’s just me. I don’t know. But the first time I made a corset, the thought of figuring out how to insert grommets scared me. Too much was unknown for me to get a good understanding on how they worked, and I’ve found I like to have all the information I need before jumping in with a new project. So I put off corset making for a while simply because grommets overwhelmed me.

Pretty much my entire sewing experience has been learning by doing. Just jump in with two feet and see what happens. So far I have yet to cause any non-repairable damage to things I’ve been making, which mostly means a lot of prototyping before I work on something I would really hate to ruin.

photo-1In the case of corsets, my prototype was in the form of my Clone Trooper corset. I didn’t actually intend for this to be a wearable item when I first started it in white cotton just to experiment with the pattern (New Look 6480), but it was going so well I decided to cover it with Clone Trooper fabric (bed sheets). This corset gave me a good handle on the basics of corsetry, or in this case, fitted and structured bodices. Each time I make a corset, I become more and more comfortable with modifying the shape, how to get the best fit, etc. So as far as making corsets, just jump in with a pattern and experiment.

So when it came to eyelets or grommets, I knew the best way to figure it out, was just to research a little bit and jump right in . . . on a prototype (because I’m not THAT brave ;)

First off, some background information. The names “eyelets” and “grommets” are typically used interchangeably, but they do refer to slightly different things. Eyelets are usually found only in small sizes, but grommets have a larger range of sizes and can be up to several inches wide. Grommets also often are installed with washers on the back that help hold everything together.

grommetpliers

These are the pliers I purchased, but I used different nickel eyelets.

On my Clone Trooper corset, I purchased silver eyelets and installed them with a snap and eyelet pliers kit from Michaels. With the pliers, you use the punch feature on the pliers to punch a hole in your fabric, put the eyelet in the hole, and then squash the eyelet flat with the pliers to keep it in place. Two or three eyelets came out ok, but others came out super crooked, and there were several that fell out of the corset when I put it on. I had to cut a few off the pliers with wire cutters because they got stuck. Yeah, I wasn’t happy. After a little more research, I figured out that I wanted grommets with washers, and that the better way to install them is with a hammer and special anvil.

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The disc on the right is the anvil, and the rod on the left is the setter.

So now I knew what to buy, but where on earth do you buy it? I bought an anvil and setting tool from Tandy Leather on Amazon in size #00 (3/16″) grommets, but it didn’t really work very well. The anvil was little bit too big for the grommets I purchased, so the grommet wiggled around inside the anvil, which made them come out wonky. So I ended up buying an anvil tool from Hobby Lobby. It was made for eyelets a size smaller than the grommets I had purchased, but it worked much better because the grommets didn’t shift inside the round anvil while I was setting them. I still used the setter from my Tandy tool and the anvil from the Hobby Lobby one.

I bought two-part grommets, also in size #00 (3/16″) from Gold Star Tool.com. They worked ok, but they still didn’t always come out right.

CMS-GST-00KAfter a little more looking, I finally found the perfect grommets and setter from CorsetMaking.com! The setter
fits a size #00, and the grommets that come with the kit, along with the ones that Corset Making.com sells are perfect. Every single grommet comes out right.  I use the punch that comes with the kit, and it makes the perfect sized hole.

If you think you will be making several corsets in the future, it is so worth it to buy this kit. I cannot recommend it enough. Don’t waste your money on bad setters just because they’re a little cheaper! Your bodices will thank you.

A tutorial for inserting grommets can be found on the “Adonising” Dressing for Dinner blog here. I wish I knew the author of the article but didn’t see her name!

So that’s that on grommets. I hope this information can find its way to someone who needs it so that you don’t have to search for hours to find this information like I did. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

Until next time!

Taria

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

Walt Disney

A Look Ahead

2014 is over. What?! So crazy all that has happened in 2014, most of which I already talked about in this post, so I’m going to instead focus on what I hope to do in 2015.

Cosplayers always have a list of characters they hope to cosplay. And it’s usually a long list. I am no exception to this stereotype. I remember when I first started learning about cosplay I thought it was crazy how people would make 10-20 cosplays over the span of a couple of years. Then I actually made my first cosplay and I totally understand. Once you see what you can do, you just want to keep going. It’s an obsession in its own right.

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Image creds to Jon Fiedler

One of my main character goals for 2015 are fairies. Two fairies to be specific. Tinker Bell and Zarina, aka the Pirate Fairy. I have wanted to cosplay Tink for a longggg time. Back when I was five or six, I was Tinker Bell in one of my ballet recitals, and I was on cloud nine the whole time. There’s just something about Tink I’ve always been drawn to. I’m hoping the shape of my dress will be close to the one pictured on the right. I believe it is Tink’s dress in a parade in Tokyo Disney Sea, but I’m not sure. I just like the overall shape of it better than her dress here in Disney World.

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Once I saw The Pirate Fairy earlier this year, I knew I wanted to do Zarina too. The design of her outfit is just so awesome! Periwinkle from Secret of the Wings is in my mind for sometime down the road, but she’s not immediate like Tink and Zarina. I finally  purchased the wings of my dreams a few weeks ago, so the door to the fairy cosplay world is wide open.

 

I think one of my favorite Disney movies is latestWreck It Ralph. Vanellope is just amazing. Earlier this year I lost my voice, and as it was on its way out, I got this squeak like Vanellope. And it was amazing. Vanellope is one of those characters that isn’t super high on my list, but she’s one that whenever I see mint hoodies I always think about her. So maybeee this year if the mood strikes me I’ll do her, but nothing is definite.

 

I really really want to make a Flower Maiden dress like the Flower Maidens in the Disney World parade, Festival of Fantasy. I am obsessed with these dresses. Anyone that knows me knows about my obsession and rolls their eyes. Yes, the dresses are all the colors of the rainbow. Yes, they’re poofy and slightly gaudy, but THEY’RE FLUFFY AND COLORFUL AND TWIRLY AND I MUST HAVE ONE. The bad thing is, it’s a huge undertaking. So much fabricccc. So I don’t know if it will happen this year, but I certainly hope it will and will try my best.

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VERY HIGH on the priority list are Jedi Robes. I will turn 18 this year, which is the age for acceptance into the Rebel Legion: a Star Wars costuming organization. I have been waiting and waiting to be old enough to join, however I still don’t have a costume to join with. I hope to one day add Ahsoka and cosplay her for events with them, however I don’t think she will be finished by my birthday, which is when I would really like to join. I have the proper hairstyle for Siri Tachi, a blonde Jedi from a few different Star Wars novels, so I’m using her outfits as my inspiration. She has a couple of different robe colors and styles from book covers, so there are a few different options with her robes. I have enough skills now that Jedi robes should be a breeze, I just have to, you know, actually make them.

Siri_Tachi SiriTachi_BritneySpears SiriTachi-SOTJ-1

Ahsoka_Tano

Speaking of Ahsoka, I need to kick her into high gear. I finally have funding and knowledge under my belt that I need in order to make her properly, I just have to, like the Jedi robes, actually make her. I’m wanting to do a latex headpiece, so I know that is going to take a lot of time to do. And frankly, even though I know how to do it, the thought of all the sculpting and mold-making really scares me. So we’ll see what happens with her this coming year. Maybe I’ll at least get the fabric bits done!

So I think that’s about it! My cosplay “list” is wayyy longer than what is listed here. I have so many cosplay dreams it’s crazy. I can’t wait to see what 2015 holds!

May the Force be with you!

Taria

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Merida’s Hair . . . It’s Full of Secrets

Merida’s hair. The nemesis of cosplayers everywhere.

I mentioned in my final Merida post that I was still looking for a wig for her. And I kept looking for about another month and a half.

People I asked where they bought their wigs generally couldn’t remember or would give me a generic answer such as “Oh it’s just a cheap wig off Etsy.” Unfortunately, there are a bunch of cheap Merida wigs on Etsy. Many of them are from China, so I didn’t really want to risk buying yet another bad wig I would have to pay return shipping on overseas.

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She’s the best. <3

Finally, I found a girl on Instagram who bought her wig from Wig Secret. I liked the way it looked, I could see a real picture, and I knew that she liked it. I had looked at this particular wig before, but I just didn’t know if it was exactly what I wanted or not. I liked the way it looked on her, and I was tired of looking and didn’t want to take a risk.

I ordered from Wig Secret’s website, not their eBay. I forget the exact math, but it was cheaper to order directly from their site versus their eBay store. I purchased their Lioness wig in Fox Red. It has the length and fullness that Merida needs, but it’s more of a red color than orange, as you can see in the picture with Merida in Disney World. Merida’s hair is usually a little curlier on the top, but her mother had helped her wash it recently, so the curl was relaxed on a little bit. I was blessed to be able to attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party back in October after my birthday, so I chose to attend as Merida. More on that in a later post.

Hope this helps anyone looking for a Merida wig! Merida is my favorite character to be. She’s just so fun, and the accent is amazing.

As Merida would say, “Be brave, warriors!”

Taria

I-will-fly-chase-the-wind-and-touch-the-sky-2

Image credit to Ginger Disney Princess on Tumblr

 

Long Time, Some Progress

My apologies for not posting for a few MONTHS! Yikes! School and business ownership have completely taken over my life.

Yes, you heard me. Business ownership. Yes, I’m crazy. I’ve mentioned on here before that I have thought about using my costumes to start a princess party business, and me and my long time best friend finally did it. We officially opened for bookings on May 5th of this year (Revenge of the Fifth for all my Star Wars fans), and finally had our first party in July with the addition of our Snow Sister characters.

It’s a bit surreal having people coming to you asking to hire them when you’re not even out of high school. Or writing a paycheck to your brother. Or just attending business meetings at your county Town Hall. It’s awesome, but sometimes really odd to think about.

IMG_8246So here’s a bit of an overview of what all has been going on since I last posted:

In June I had the wonderful privilege of attending Star Wars Weekends in Disney World to meet up with some of my AMAZING friends I have met through Instagram. I will have a big post about that sometime soon.

IMG_6989I also found a wig for Merida, thus completing her outfit. I also finished Ariel’s “Kiss the Girl” dress and Elsa/the Snow Queen, bringing my costume count to five (including Rarity).

After the addition of our Snow Sisters, our business promptly took off, eliminating any weekend time I previously had for sewing. I haven’t worked on a major project since Elsa in July, and I miss sewing terribly. I have a number of projects planned for my Christmas break that I’m super excited about.

IMG_0213My mom also surprised me by taking me and my business partner/best friend to Disney for my birthday at the beginning of October for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. It was so amazing, so I’ll have a big post on that in the future too.

I’ve been catching up on my blogging and hope to never leave you hanging with an extremely long gap again. Here’s a glimpse of some things coming in the next few weeks:

  • My final Merida wig and where to purchase your own
  • Merida cosplay pictures
  • A detailed walkthrough of my Ariel costume and pictures
  • A detailed walkthrough of my Elsa/Snow Queen costume and pictures
  • Background and information guide on grommets and eyelets
  • My adventures at Star Wars Weekends and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
  • My future Disney plans

My goal is to have a new post every 1-2 weeks. We’ll see how long it lasts, but I’m stocking up on posts now so that hopefully I can stay more consistent.

Thanks for hanging in there!

Taria

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”

Colin Powell

Merida Progress 3: Finished!

This is the third and final post on my Merida dress. Part one can be found here and part two is here

As the title says, this post is my third post about my Merida cosplay. I finished Merida back in the beginning of April but didn’t get a chance to do a final progress post about her. As of this moment, I am still searching for the perfect wig for her (more on that later), but I have a few pictures of the finished dress.

I left off in my last post after I finished making the blue bands that go over the cream parts of Merida’s sleeves (you can read about that in my Merida post #2). After I had all 14 bands, I pinned them on the sleeve portions to figure out where to sew them down. Three bands were pinned on each of the top sections and four on each of the elbow sections. I pinned the pieces, held the piece on my arm where it would end up, and looked in the mirror to see if I had placed them correctly. After several adjustments, I finally had them right and sewed them down individually so they wouldn’t shift when I sewed the sleeves together.

Photo Apr 10, 6 06 11 PM

After that was all finished, I assembled the sleeve pieces, but I didn’t sew it into a tube shape quite yet. I knew that the ruffle around the hand portion of the sleeve would be a lot easier to work with if I attached it before sewing the tube shape. To start off, I took two long strips of chiffon about 2 inches wide, folded them each in half, and then gathered one side with two long, straight stitches. Then, I cut two 2 1/2″ strips of my blue fabric that were the width of the bottom of the sleeves.Photo Apr 12, 5 37 28 PM

With the sleeve laying right side up, I laid the piece of chiffon upside down on top of the right side of the sleeve, so pretty side of the chiffon pointed toward the top of the sleeve and the raw edges aligned with the raw edges of the sleeve. Then, I put the 2 1/2 inch strip of blue fabric on top of that, WRONG SIDE UP. The picture shows the sleeve before I put the blue strip on top of the chiffon, but this should at least give you the right idea.

 

 

Photo Apr 12, 6 30 22 PM

 

After the chiffon and two layers of blue were sewn together, I flipped it all around so that the chiffon now pointed in the right direction and the blue strip that was facing wrong side out was now right side out on the back of the sleeve. After that was all finished, then I sewed the sleeves together to make the tube shape and then attached them to the dress.

The last major hurtle in my way with this dress was the neckline. To finish the neckline, I knew I needed a facing. For those that don’t know (it took me a few months cosplaying to figure it out), a facing is where you cut a piece of fabric that has exactly the same curve as your neckline. You sew it to the neckline with the right sides together so that when you flip it right sides out, you have a finished neckline. I’m not going to get into how to put in a facing here, but a google search of “Make a neckline facing” brings up tons of great sewing blogs that can help you.

My neckline by this point didn’t follow the pattern neckline because I had raised and cut and altered it so much, so I knew I would need to trace my neckline to make my own facing pattern. I traced my neckline onto freezer paper (any paper works, I just have a huge roll of freezer paper) with the v-slit and made and installed the neckline facing and under-stitched the facing (again, Google can explain), thus finishing the edge of the neckline.

Photo May 25, 3 38 38 PM

I knew that my method of adding the ruffle that I used on the sleeves wouldn’t work on the neckline because of the v, so I just finished the edge first then added the ruffle afterward. I gathered yet another long piece of chiffon along with a rectangle piece that I used under the v. I sewed the gathered rectangle piece to a piece of my cream cotton so that all the gathers would stay in place, I then sewed the rectangle to the middle of the long gathered strip so that they were connected on the inside. I pinned the gathered chiffon to the neckline and topstitched it on, sewing all the way through the neckline so that stitching showed on the outside. No one notices anyway. I did have to go back and open out the facing and sew the chiffon down one more time to just the facing (no stitching on the outside of the dress) because the chiffon kept wanting to flip outward at my shoulders.

Photo May 25, 3 38 56 PM

Two of those blue threads are the gathering threads, one is the topstitching thread, and the one closest to the bottom is the stitch that holds the ruffle down to the facing. My serger didn’t like that cotton rectangle once it was sewn to the dress, so the inside looks uglyyy.

Photo May 25, 3 40 21 PM

While I was working on the sleeves, I began the process of slowly hand sewing around holes that I punched in the back of the dress to lace the dress. I didn’t have any good grommets on hand at the time, but I still wanted to have the dress lace up, so I decided to hand sew around the holes. I had some eyelet pliers that were terrible at putting in eyelets, but the punch function on them worked pretty well, so I punched the holes and then hand sewed around them. It was actually really relaxing and fun to do while watching a movie. I miss hand sewing (until I do a cosplay that requires a ton of it and I’ll never want to hand sew again *ahem* Elsa *ahem*). In all, there were 40 hand sewn holes, but I’m extremely happy with the way they came out. A much more natural look than if I had used grommets.

Photo May 25, 3 40 51 PM

I hand sewed in a modesty pannel into the back of the dress, which is essentially a rectangle sewn in behind the laces. Super easy, cut 2 rectangles, sew around them right sides together leaving a little hole, flip right side out, and then I topstitched around the whole thing and hand sewed it behind the laces on one side, the other side is loose.

And that was it for Merida…except her wig, which I am still struggling with. I tried twice to get New Look’s Diana 3 in Fire Red, but both times it was out of stock. So then I tried a wig from Amazon, but the original picture online was very over-exposed, so the wig was too dark. So I’m back to square one and after spending $15 shipping my dark wig back to the UK, I’m scared to buy another one. Grr.

So that’s all for Merida for now! I’ll be sure to post after I get my wig and have a photoshoot. In the meantime, here’s a picture of the full dress from the day I gave my presentation on the historical accuracy of Brave.

Photo Apr 16, 3 25 50 PM

Thanks for reading!

Taria

 “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

Vince Lombardi

Merida Cosplay Progress

Sorry about the super long post! I’ve had some technical difficulties lately so my efforts to post more regularly were postponed due to the postal service (see what I did there :)

In my last post, I talked about my current Disney Cosplay, Merida from Disney Pixar’s Brave. I am making the dress to accompany a research paper on the historical accuracy of Brave, which at this point is fully written turned in. I will post that here later this week.

I have come to realize that finding the perfect fabric for Merida is quite the process. I finally decided to make my dress out of microsuede, which is a man-made polyester suede-like fabric. You’ve probably seen it before in the form of furniture slipcovers.

I found some microsuede online from Big Z fabric. The fabric was on sale for $7 a yard. That was a really good deal to me after looking at other prices, even of other types of fabric.

After I received my sample, I decided to order 10 yards of the fabric, 7 yards for the dress, and 3 to make extra “skirt inserts” called godets for an extra full skirt, something I’ve never tried doing before, but I decided I wanted a fuller skirt than I got using my pattern.

Long story short, Big Z ended up with our old address and the postal service took 2 weeks to forward the fabric to our new address. So in all, getting fabric for Merida took about a month. Eesh.

In the meantime though, I was able to work on a few things. I cut out my Merida pattern again with a thigh length skirt to use as a practice lining. I raised the neckline and got that all figured out… after I seam ripped out the pattern pieces that I stupidly sewed in incorrectly. I put the side back piece in the front and the side front piece in the back. Needless to say it didn’t fit at all, and after 10 minutes of staring at it I finally figured out what was wrong. I hate stupid mistakes. XD

I also painted something I’ve been meaning to paint for some time. I can’t reveal it yet, but I will post it here when I can. In the meantime, here’s a picture of the colors I used. :)

Photo Mar 23, 9 33 02 PM

After I finished painting, I had a little time so I decided to cut out a circle skirt. I’ve been wanting to make a Minnie Mouse inspired skirt for a few months, so after a trip to Joann’s with my bestie, I impulsively splurged and bought the fabric. I don’t regret it.

So my cut out skirt is now hanging in my closet aka sewing room waiting for me to finish it. It will be a few weeks before I can finish it due to Merida taking all my time.

Photo Mar 23, 11 33 59 PM

Speaking of Merida,

Photo Mar 27, 10 22 46 PM

 

After my fabric arrived, I was able to cut out my entire dress one evening in about 4 hours. There was a bunch of fabric to tackle, so it took longer than my prototype! I also ended up with at least 4 yards of extra fabric that I can do some fun stuff with.

 

 

I remembered to take better pictures of my fabric cutting method this time. I discovered that if you stick the pins down into the carpet at an angle, the fabric stays down. If you ever try this method, you will see what I mean.

Photo Mar 27, 6 09 27 PM

So I got the whole dress cut out and then I needed to figure out how do do my godets. Basically, I needed a pattern for a pizza slice shaped piece of fabric, I just needed to know how big to make it.

When you put a godet into a skirt, you sew the seam part of the way, and then you add the triangle of fabric so your skirt is more full.

You can google more about godets if you’re still confused, but hopefully once you see mine, you’ll understand it a little better.

Photo Mar 27, 8 28 52 PM

First, I taped together two long strips of my freezer paper I use for making patterns so that I had a big piece of paper to make my pattern out of. Wrapping paper works well for this as well. I laid the paper out on the floor and put my front and side front pieces on top of it. To figure out the size of my godets, I laid my front and side front pieces so that the bodice sections matched up. I just matched up the notches in the pattern and worked my way down the dress until I got to about thigh length down. Then, I spread out the skirt sections until I got the side front piece spread out as much as I wanted, in this case, I only wanted it to make a right angle with the front piece so that my final skirt would be a full circle. You can look at the picture to see what this looked like. I just sorta winged it, I had never done this before. Basically, you’re figuring out how big you want your triangle pieces to be.

At the place where the front and side front sections intersected, I put a mark with my white fabric chalk so that I would know where to sew in the triangle later. I put a pin at this point through both layers of the fabric and the freezer paper and then pushed the pin into the carpet to secure it. Then I pinned the skirt panels at a few points again through the fabric, paper, and carpet so that it all stayed out. Then I used a pen and traced the triangle made by the skirt panels onto the paper. I did this very roughly. I also roughly drew a curve at the hem to close off the triangle. I then cut out my triangle pattern, folded it in half, and evened it out. I used this pattern to cut out 4 triangle pieces.

Photo Mar 27, 8 30 55 PM

Once those were cut, I serged the edges of all my pieces with my serger. Seeing all the pretty edges makes me happy. :)

Photo Mar 29, 10 13 00 AM

Then I sewed all the pieces together, but I made sure to stop sewing at the marks I made at thigh level between the front and side front pieces and the back and side back pieces. I sewed the side pieces entirely together. Here’s a picture of what that looked like with everything all spread out before the godets were put in. So you can see the side pieces are sewn completely together and the rest stop at around thigh level.

Photo Mar 29, 2 29 33 PM

After the pieces were sewn together, I put in the godets. I looked at this tutorial by Fashion Sewing Blog TV to figure out how to do it, and they all came out really well!

I was pressing seams on the dress for a good hour. This fabric is so stubborn that you have to iron the seams down on the front and the back to get them to lay semi-flat. It looked much better with them pressed though.

I traced out the neckline of the dress and cut it out twice of some scrap fabric to see if I could make a clean neckline without having to line the dress. The facing pattern that came with the pattern didn’t work at all even with the regular neckline, so I knew that especially with the raised neckline I would have to make my own facing. A facing is a piece of fabric that is cut with the same curve as a neckline to help hem the curved edge. You can google “sewing a neckline facing” for more information, but they’re completely necessary to get clean edges on curved pieces. This was one of the skills I was missing when I tried to make Ahsoka, and so I couldn’t get the armholes hemmed properly.

Anyway, the traced practice neckline worked really well, so I need to do that again for the real neckline and that should work. Cross my fingers. :)

I started on my sleeves the other day. You can read all about my sleeve pattern drafting on my previous post. I’m following Angela Clayton‘s method for my Merida sleeves. You cut out the basic sleeve pattern out of cotton and then put gathered chiffon fabric on top to create the “poof.”

Photo Apr 03, 10 14 56 PM

I gathered the chiffon using a long straight stitch on my machine. When I first started, I only used one line of stitching per gathered side and the gathers turned out bigger and more like folds. So I pulled out the gather and stitched another line of long straight stitching to make softer gathers. Then I pinned the gathered chiffon onto my cotton sleeve piece. So prettyyyyy. After it was all pinned, I stitched the chiffon directly to the cotton and then serged the edges so that the chiffon wouldn’t fray.

Once all four sleeve pieces had the chiffon on them, I started on the little blue strips that Merida has around her sleeves. I experimented with folding a piece of fabric in half right sides together, stitching it, then turning it right side out, but this method didn’t work because of the thickness of my fabric and the length of the strips, so I went with plan B. I cut 16, 5 inch by 1 inch strips and serged the edges to prevent fraying. I later found out I only needed 14 strips since Merida’s top sleeve portions only need 3 each instead of 4. I also wish I had made about 6 of them around 7 inches long for safety. But, they worked out.

Photo Apr 06, 6 43 51 PM

I folded the edges of the strips so that they met in the middle, right side out. I pinned the sides in as best I could until all 16 looked like the picture. Yes, my hand was cramping quite badly. But I watched Captain America while I did it, so it was bearable. I ironed the strips and removed all the pins except the two in each end to make sure that the folds stayed put.

Photo Apr 06, 8 02 17 PM (1)

After they were all ironed and the pins removed, I hand stitched the two ends together without catching the outer layer of the strips. This way, no stitches are visible on the outside of the strips. A successful experiment, to say the least. :)

Front and back of two of the strips.

Front and back of two of the strips.

Photo Apr 10, 5 29 19 PM

All 16.

That’s it for now! The dress will be finished by this Wednesday April 16, so post #2 will hopefully be up next weekend. I hope this post helps any aspiring Merida cosplayers out there! Feel free to ask any questions! :)

Just Keep Swimming!

Taria

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” 

Colin Powell