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.
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.