How to Make a Braveheart Brigandine

This last summer, we did a Braveheart Cosplay and LARP with our toddler boys in England (the irony of that location was not lost on us). You can find out all about the photo shoot and see the photos there, but I wanted to give more details on the brigandines, because they were quite simple and really cute, if I do say so myself.

I wanted the look of a real brigandine that would nonetheless be super simple to make (especially as I was making two!). I used a faux suede that would have great texture and be simple to sew but wouldn’t fray. It probably took about an hour and a half for each brigandine… most of that time was spent ironing the individual armor pieces. But without further ado:

WHAT YOU NEED:

-About 1/2 yard of fabric for each brigandine (for an older child or adult, you would need upwards of a yard)

-Thread

STEP 1: MEASUREMENTS

-Measure the length from shoulder to waist or however long you want to the brigandine to be. Add an inch or two (for example, my son’s measurement was about 14,” so I knew my tank should be cut 15″ lengthwise).

-Next, measure around your child’s chest and waist. Add 4-5 inches. Now divide that in half to determine how wide each piece (back and front) needs to be under the arm. For example, one of my sons is about 19 inches around around his chest and around his waist. For his brigandine, I added 5 inches to that measurement and came up with 24.” From there, I knew each piece (front and back) should be 12″ wide.

-I began by cutting two rectangles of fabric that were 12″ wide and about 15″ tall. Setting one on top of the other to keep things consistent, I cut arm holes out of this sides, and a neck hole out of the top. I measured each piece against my child to make sure I wasn’t cutting too little/too much. Note that I slit the back pieces down a little from the neck to help the whole thing fit over each boys head, but this can be done later.

STEP 2: Cut about about 40 pieces of fabric 3″ x 4.5″. You may need more or fewer, but I found that to be a good starting place for my 2T and 3T sized brigandines.

STEP 3: Now take each piece and press the sides in 1/2″. I chose to alternate mine inside out and right side out to give more difference in texture to my final shirt, but that’s entirely a personal decision. Hang in there! There are a lot of pieces, but it’s worth it.

STEP 4: Lay out a shirt panel, grab one of your pressed armor pieces, fold the bottom up about an inch or more, and pin to the bottom, leaving 3/4″-1″ on either side to allow for your seams.

Repeat on the second row, overlapping the bottom row, for lots of layers and texture. This doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect and precise. You can kind of see where my pieces alternate the right and inside out. And they aren’t perfectly uniform in size either. I apologize if you are one of those OCD-types.

 

Keep going! Whew!

STEP 5: Now set your machine to a zigzag stitch. Make it wide and very shallow (as when you make a buttonhole). Stitch the bottom corners of each armor “plate” down, bottom to top. You can even tack all four corners if you like. This is what it should look like:

STEP 6: When your plates are all in place, sew the sides and then the shoulders of your front and back pieces together to complete the shirt. As I mentioned before, if necessary, make a slit in the back piece so it will fit over your child’s head.

(We can all take a moment to ponder why I didn’t take a final picture)

FINAL THOUGHTS: As you can see, I did not put a clean finish on the collar or sleeve holes. I was in such a great hurry to make costumes for a trip before we departed, and (OCD ALERT!!), I chose to finish a project rather than do it “right.” This is not a good mantra for life, but for pieces that will only be worn once in a photo shoot, I often cut corners. Don’t judge.

That said, if you have the time and would like a cleaner “finish,” I recommend adding a bias tape collar, or at least hemming it down.

Good luck! If you give it a try, please let me know!

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