This month marks the 20-year anniversary of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. The trilogy first hit cinemas with The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), followed by The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003).
The costumes and art direction won the ultimate recognition when The Return of the King swept the Academy Awards in 2004. On the trilogy’s design team were costume designer Ngila Dickson, armour designer Richard Taylor, conceptual designer Alan Lee, and jewelry designer Jasmine Watson (Xena, Narnia), whose elvish pieces were inspired by Art Nouveau and Aubrey Beardsley.
The films’ fairy-tale aesthetic has an enduring allure. J.R.R. Tolkien was the theme for a recent issue of Faerie Magazine (free download here):
The romance of Tolkien also makes it a popular wedding theme. For their Lothlorien-style wedding in June 2013, Facebook billionaire Sean Parker and songwriter Alexandra Lenas hired Ngila Dickson to design their guests’ outfits.
For those with smaller budgets, DIY options include unofficial, Tolkien-inspired costume patterns. (Unlike Dickson’s Xena costumes, there was no official Lord of the Rings licensing.)
Here’s a look at some highlights, going back to the first instalment of Jackson’s trilogy — wizards, elf-queens, and a whole lot of cloaks.
From 2001, this Simplicity pattern for a Middle-earth cape, tunic, and hat must have anticipated The Fellowship of the Ring. Includes Galadriel, a Black Rider / Ringwraith, and… Radagast the Brown? (The wizard was not seen on-screen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.)
Twenty years later, this pattern is still in print. Later rereleases, such as 2016’s (see top of post), highlight the ever-popular Galadriel and Gandalf the Grey.
In 2002, McCall’s joined in the fun with these “witches and wizards costumes” for children and adults. This pattern also includes the hat.
From Burda, this fairy costume with optional hood doubles as an elven wedding dress.
In November 2003, in the lead-up to the release of The Return of the King, Ngila Dickson’s costume sketches were featured in the New York Times:
In 2004, after the trilogy concluded, Simplicity and McCall’s released more Lord of the Rings patterns for elvish and Rohan costumes. McCall’s Return of the King costume patterns, for Arwen and Éowyn, are not as easy to identify from the envelope:
In their marketing materials, Simplicity alluded to The Return of the King as “The Final Chapter.” These women’s costumes include Arwen and Éowyn.
The corresponding men’s costumes are Theoden, Legolas, and Elrond. This pattern is still available as print-on-demand.
Did you know there’s even a typeface called Galadriel? This pattern from 2013 includes two Galadriel looks. The grey coat is from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), whose costume designer, Ann Maskrey, later worked on the Celtic fantasia of Britannia. This pattern is still in print.
Bonus: From 2014, this pattern includes Tauriel from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013), with Daenerys Targaryen (see my Game of Thrones post).
A new Lord of the Rings series is currently filming. From a certain studio that will remain nameless, it’s set to premiere in September 2022; the costumes are by Kate Hawley (Crimson Peak). Will 2022 bring more Tolkien-inspired patterns?