Finding Storybookland Braveheart

Brave Hearts and Brigandines

When it comes to movies, I love the epic films, especially the ones that pretend to be historical. Films starring Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson are especially high on the list, and if Hans Zimmer or James Horner write the score, my heart will be shredded in forty-seven bits by the time the credits roll. Of course, after I pick all the popcorn crumbs out of my yoga pants, the rational part of my brain demands a Wikipedia search to find out if there ever actually was a gladiator who fought an insane, incestuous emperor (It was a bit amusing find to confirm that Commodus was even more bizarre in real life than his fictional depiction); whether William Wallace actually flashed his backside to the English (I’m glad we didn’t actually know the baldrick for his sword was made from a strip of skin he pulled from another human. Yikes.); and whether Frodo actually did have sad, blue eyes. Frodo was real, right?

But let’s face it, whether Scottish warriors actually did paint their faces blue or not, tiny boys in kilts are literally the cutest thing in the entire world (actually, the only thing cuter than a wee boy in a kilt is two wee boys in matching kilts), so I’ve been planning this ever since I had a second son.

The boys absolutely loved the face paint…. after the fact. At the time, one squirmed so much it was difficult to apply. The other had to be bribed BIG time to allow any on his face at all. We only talked him into half a face. Who cares? It was awesome.

Finding Storybookland Braveheart

Finding Storybookland Braveheart

Finding Storybookland Braveheart

Finding Storybookland Braveheart

Finding Storybookland Braveheart

This wee laddie steals my heart on a regular basis

Finding Storybookland Braveheart


Finding Storybookland Braveheart



Let’s talk about KILTS: I’ve had a picture of Mel Gibson staring woefully back at me sitting in my Pinterest Costume Inspiration folder for a year. And it’s been on my mind even longer than that. I absolutely planned to just make a pleated skirt with velcro closures and maybe a sash until my husband looked up some video tutorials on how to make an authentic great kilt, which does not actually involve any cutting or sewing- the sash and “skirt” are all one piece that you lay out on the ground, pleat, lay on top of, belt onto yourself across the middle, and bring the top ends together and fasten at the shoulder… wait, am I losing you? I’m confusing myself…. But if you watch a youtube tutorial or follow a diagram, it will make more sense. I chose to lay out my mini-great kilts, pleat them, straight pin all the pleats, iron all the pleats, and then sew them in place so I wouldn’t have to do so much work on the day of the photo shoots, but I still found the simple design perfect for what I was doing. I used around 2+ yards of length for my wee gents, probably 25-30″ width.


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.

STEP 1: Measure your child’s chest and waist. Add 4 inches. Now divide that in half to determine how wide each piece (back and front) needs to be under the arm. CUT 2.

STEP 2: Cut about about 40 pieces of fabric 3″ x 4.5″. You may need more or less, but that is a good starting place.

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.


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. When your plates are all in place, sew the sides and shoulders of your front and back pieces together. If necessary, make a slit in the back piece to fit over your child’s head.

Final thoughts: As you can see, I did not put a clean finish on the collar or sleeve holes. I was in a great hurry to make costumes for a trip before we departed, and (OCD ALERT!!) in such cases, I have chosen the importance of finishing a project rather than always doing 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.

Finding Storybookland


Napoleon Dynamite!

Just kidding. But seriously, why don’t you go make yourself a dang quesadilla?

Bonaparte. Napoleon Bonaparte.

So we are in a quasi-historical kick right now, and I’ve been wanting to try the Tiny General out on my own tiny general… mostly because I wanted to put fringy shoulder pads on him, because I have always secretly wished I could be a man from two hundred years ago and wear fringy shoulder pads (more properly known as Epaulettes. What did we do before Google?), because I am mildly obsessed with them.  Also, I figured I could use the same costume if I ever did a George Washington photo shoot.

We began shooting in Paris at the Military Museum where Napoleon’s tomb is (a slightly strange place, but worth the visit if you are ever in Paris), but it was cold. So cold we had the kids in lots of layers, snow pants, and snow boots (now you know how far behind on posting I am– six months!). Anyway, our Emperor was too cold to go through with it, so we diverted our retreat back home to make a pass through Waterloo and tried again with much greater success.

Finding Storybookland

Finding Storybookland

Finding Storybookland

Finding Storybookland

COSTUME: Jacket with tails and epaulettes (Martha Stewart has a great tutorial for a Napoleon costume), white or khaki pants, optional waistcoat and belt

PROPS: Sword

LOCATION: A field is perfect, but this could also be done in studio if you want to recreate the look of the Portrait by Jacques-Luois David

Finding Sotrybookland

William Tell Themed Children's photo session

William Tell

Okay, time for some honesty: Over the course of the last year, we’ve undergone a bit of a change. No, we’re not sending the toddlers out to LARP conventions… not quite… yet. Keep checking back, though.

I’d say the transition we’re making right now is more from fairy tale to legend. The stories, the culture, the history of civilizations. When we began themed photo sessions, every one was purely fanciful and magical and began with, “Wouldn’t it be cute if we dressed the kids up as ___” or “We must buy this toy! I’m sure we can work it into a photo shoot!”Now more of our photo shoots start with “Kids, would you like to learn about ___?” And it’s becoming one way of connecting them to this crazy world we live in. Not that we’ve given up on the fairy tales (Star Wars is gonna happen, baby!); just that there’s a bit of a bigger purpose rising out of this hobby, and both we and the kids are loving it. The costumes and pictures are becoming just a bit more gritty, and the locations are– as much as possible– authentic (at least for now, while we live in Europe)

Enter William Tell. The story goes that the tyrannical Austrian overlord in Altdorf, Switzerland had a pole erected with his hat atop and forced all the townspeople to bow to it (There’s an ego for you!). When strong, brave, legendary crossbowman William Tell refused to bow, he and his son were sentenced to death unless– in a sick stunt devised by the overlord– Tell could shoot an apple from the head of his own son. Fortunately, he was as great with a crossbow as everyone said he was, so he succeeded and saved his son. The story goes on with more great feats he accomplished in the fight for eventual Swiss independence.

True story? Don’t know. What I do know is that these are the kind of stories that belong to every culture around the world, and are inextricably linked with history and civilization. Learn them, and you learn about people.

Our middle son loves bows and arrows. He has ever since we shot Robin Hood three years ago, so we thought it would be fun to try him out on a crossbow. We drove three hours south to Altdorf, Switzerland for this photo shoot. Of course the clouds came down and covered the mountains and rain sprinkled down as we took pictures, but the boys loved playing with the new crossbow and arrows, and balancing the apple, so I call it a win. Here are the photos, followed by my gear list.


William Tell Blog Findingstorybookland3


-Pants, Tunics, Cloaks, and a Medieval Hood (It was near freezing, so we layered the kids up and let them wear snow boots)



-Apple (Possibly two, one with an arrow through)


-A forest location would be perfect, or any place that has old rock walls or ruins.