I’d intended to start with a generic Jedi costume for my first Star Wars sewing project. But ever since The Phantom Menace came out when I was 10 years old there’s been once dress that I desperately wanted hanging in my closet.
Isn’t it beautiful! It’s got this Middle Eastern lady/Medieval monk style going on with gorgeous ombré dye. The thought of dying velvet scares me (if I don’t get it right that’s going to be an expensive, time-consuming mistake). But this is the costume I love most, so I decided to try it out in cotton first and then decide whether or not to make the leap to screen-accurate velvet.
At first, the handmaids’ Flame Gown looks like a fairly simple design. But when I started reading The Padawan’s Guide to this dress, including observations from someone who wore one of the official Lucasfilm Replica Flame Handmaiden costumes, I realized it’s more complex than it looks. Which only made me more intrigued, especially since there isn’t a pattern out there to work off of so I’m coming up with all that on my own. It’s a delicious challenge.
I started out by spending the better part of an afternoon pouring over photos, reading descriptions of the dress, and watching scenes from the film. Then I sketched up some patterns guides. Here’s what I have so far:
When someone wearing the dress is standing, the under-dress looks like a fairly simple sheath that gets its fullness from being gathered at the waist. But in the scenes where the handmaids run while wearing this dress, it’s clear that there’s a lot more skirt than could be explained that way. I can’t tell where the seams are on the screen-original, but I just finished making a Viking dress using a pattern with three gores to give it fullness and I think I can adapt that idea to work with the Flame Gown.
These sleeves are ridiculously complicated. The woman who wore an official replica said the inner sleeves joined the under-dress at the same place the outer sleeves do. She also said the outer sleeves were made of five pieces of fabric. There are a few scenes in The Phantom Menace that I think make it look like there are more seams than that, but I’m going to stick with five pieces: two in the back and three in the front.
The under hood fits snugly around the face and neck. We can’t tell how it fastens in the film, but Lucasfilm replica ties in back with three ribbons. This might end up being the trickiest piece to make a pattern for. We’ll see when I start trying to lay it out on actual fabric.
And finally, the over hood and obi/sash. The Rebel Legion costuming guide says this hood can either be floor-length or stop under the sash. The Lucasfilms replica stops at the sash, but in the film it’s clear this piece is the same length as the dress in front and back, so that’s what I’m planing on. I read somewhere it’s gathered with elastic at the waist, but I’m planing to leave it hang loose and just gather it with the sash.
Wow, that’s a lot of pieces. And I’d thought at first the Flame Gown was just a red under-dress and hooded over-dress! I can’t wait to drag out that huge bolt of white cotton in my closet and see if I can turn these sketches into an actual pattern.