This is part one of a tutorial for a Greek-inspired costume made of a cloak and a dress.
The dress is a simple toga, constructed using modernized techniques such as gathering and buttons for a secure fit that can be worn without fear of slippage! It was constructed using polyester chiffon, but would also work with any light-to-medium weight fabric.
It’s also advisable to wear some sort of modesty covering underneath the toga if using a sheer fabric. I decided to pattern a slave style skirt, but you could also pair your toga with leggings, shorts, or even a lining skirt made of your toga fabric.
I would also highly suggest finding a rolled hem foot (for hemming the chiffon) and a teflon foot (to handle vinyl more easily). You don’t need the special sewing machine feet, but they do help immensely!
The pattern for the toga is incredibly simple. I started by taking the full 5 yards of fabric and wrapping it around me in various ways until I found a satisfactory wrapping method which stays true to the form of the toga, but is also slightly more flattering to the female form. I also added in a couple of gathers for convenience and even draping!
To begin, you need to figure out where to gather your fabric so it sits properly at the shoulder. Do this by test-wrapping your fabric. Knot one end of the fabric -- this will be your starting point. Place it on your shoulder, then follow the diagram below:
Once you have your toga wrapped, mark the fabric where it sits on the shoulder, as well as the place where you pin your fabric to itself to secure the toga.
Now extract yourself from the mound of fabric and lay it out as well as you can, identifying which parts of the fabric meet up at the shoulder. Mark these as straight lines from one selvage to the other. Cut out half of the fabric between the two shoulder markings, as indicated by the pattern above. The easiest way to do this is to line up the selvages of the fabric and cut along the fold between the markings!
Now, cut off the selvages and hem them to just past the shoulder marking (we’ll finish the hem of the skirt later). I used a rolled hem foot on my sewing machine; you could also use a serger or do a traditional double-folded hem by hand. We’re going to gather everything in the next step, and hemming before gathering is much easier than hemming afterwards!
Then, gather along the shoulder markings. If using a lightweight fabric such as chiffon or voile, sew three lines of basting stitches approximately ⅛” - ¼” apart. For heavier fabrics, only sew two lines of stitches.
You should end up with something like this!
The narrower shoulder piece gathers down to about 4”. The full-length shoulder piece gathers down to about 8”. Fold the full-length shoulder piece in half so that it can meet up with the narrower shoulder piece.
Now we can bind the gathered edges! I used vinyl, although any heavyweight or well-interfaced fabric will work.
First, cut four rectangles slightly wider than the width of your gathered fabric. My rectangles were 4.5” by 2”.
Make two loops by sewing the short ends of the vinyl together with right sides facing outwards.
*Remember to always sew vinyl with your teflon foot, or by coating the top of the vinyl in vaseline. You don’t want the vinyl to stick to the sewing machine foot as you sew!
Push one of the vinyl loops over the narrower gathered edge of your fabric. Use wonder clips, binder clips, or paper clips to secure the chiffon in place (pins will create permanent holes in the fabric), and sew with a long straight stitch.
We’re going to put buttonholes into this edge piece, so we need to trim out all the excess chiffon. Turn the vinyl wrong-side out and trim the edge of the gathered chiffon close to the seam.
Flip it back around and sew the final edge closed. Now the vinyl will lay flat enough to sew in buttonholes!
Follow the same method with the middle shoulder gathers (except for the trimming) -- encase the gathers in the vinyl, and sew each edge down.
Finally, sew buttonholes and buttons!
Wrap the toga around you again to check the fit, and ask a friend to help out. Stand on a chair while your friend marks the hemline of the skirt. Hem any remaining raw fabric edges.
The final step is a fastener for the front of the toga! Mark where you safety pin the fabric to secure the toga, and use your choice of fastener. Small buttons, toggles, and clasps work well here. I used two small bits of ribbon that closely matched the chiffon fabric, and simply tie them together tightly to secure the dress!
Onto the cape and hood! Here’s what you’ll need:
Most explaining for this section will be done in diagrams, as the fabric pieces were too big for understandable pictures.
Here’s the pattern for the cape:
Before you cut *ANYTHING*, take your cape fabric and pin the shoulder attachments to your dress form’s or your shoulders. By doing this, you create a deep “U” that affects the hem of the cape.
Trim the hem to your liking. If you trim the hem so it hits just above the floor, your final cape pattern piece will look like this:
Place the fabric on the lining, right-sides together. I used polyester crinkle as lining. Then sew around the edges as indicated by the blue dashed line. Don’t sew the red part!
Clip your seam allowances and turn the cape right-side out. Finish the red part of the seam by hand with a ladder stitch!
Next up is the hood! Another rectangular pattern, this hood starts out as a 60” by 30” piece of fabric. Fold the selvages together and sew along them to create a tube.
Trim & finish your seam allowance, then hem the top and the bottom. And that’s it! All you have to do is put the tube over your head and let it rest on your shoulders!
Alternatively, you can line the hood for a heavier drape and more opacity. I self-lined it with more polyester dupioni.
The cape and hood sit on my shoulders with the help of a harness system. I used vinyl for the harness, and lined the larger pieces of vinyl with some fabric scraps I found in my stash.
You’re going to need, at minimum, three straps: a strap that goes across the back, and two straps that go around your arms. I added some longer cross-straps for decoration, but they are entirely unnecessary.
So let’s start with the thicker long strap. Measure your shoulders, and cut the long strap accordingly.
Lay the vinyl strip on your lining fabric. Mark approximately ¾” on each side of the strip and cut it out.
Now, fold the lining fabric so that its raw edges are hidden underneath the vinyl strip. Secure with paperclips or binder clips, and sew with a long stitch ⅛” from the edge.
Measure around the point where your arm meets your shoulder, then cut out two rectangular strips with that measurement, plus 1” for seam allowance (one for each arm). Sew them into a loop with ½” seam allowance.
Press the seam allowance down and top stitch over top of it to make it lay flat.
If desired, stitch ⅛” from the edge of the vinyl to give the strip a more cohesive, leather-worked look.
Finally, attach them to the edges of your base strip with your sewing machine, making sure to use a long stitch, a leather needle, and a teflon sewing foot. Work slowly if your sewing machine is not constructed to handle many layers of thick fabric.
Follow a similar method for additional straps: measure the area where they need to sit, cut rectangular strips, top stitch, and sew down to the base strap. Once I attached all of my straps, my harness looked like this!
Now attach the cape to the harness. Again, use binder clips to avoid unsightly holes in the pleather'!
The cape will need to withstand a lot of movement and strain. To counteract this, sew two straight lines and an “X” shape in between them. This stitch pattern is often used in backpacks and other heavily used items and is resilient against stress.
Attach the hood to the same spot as the cape. And give your sewing machine a pat afterwards toughing it through so many layers of fabric!
As a final touch, I hand sewed a brooch to the crossed straps in the front of the harness. The one little detail really brought the whole look together!
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