One Cloak to Rule Them All: Costume Patterns Inspired by Tolkien

Make a cloak, wizard’s robe and hat: Simplicity 0591 (2016) Image: Etsy.

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).

Poster for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) Image: MoviePosterDB.com.

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.

Elf queen Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) Image: New Line.

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):

Faerie Magazine issue 42 - Tolkien - Spring 2018
Faerie Magazine Tolkien issue (Spring 2018) Models: Victoria Fielder, Ian Hencher. Photo: Bella Kotak. Image: Enchanted Living.

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.

L: Sean Parker’s wife-to-be, Alexandra Lenas, is escorted down the aisle by her father, Constantine Lenas, in Big Sur, California. R: Alexandra Lenas (in Marchesa) and Sean Parker. Photos: Christian Oth and Mark Seliger. Image: Vanity Fair.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros band—and friends. Academy Award winner Ngila Dickson designed “Tolkien-ized” costumes for all 364 wedding guests, including the couple’s infant daughter, Winter. Photo: Christian Oth and Mark Seliger. Image: Vanity Fair.

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.)

Tolkien-inspired Simplicity 1552 and 1551 on the cover of the Simplicity retail catalogue, Halloween 2013. Image: eBay.

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.

Detail of Simplicity 1582 (2001) Galadriel costume. Image: Simplicity.

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.)

Simplicity 9887 / 0555 / 0614 (2001)
Simplicity 9887 (2001) Image: Etsy.
Ringwraith costume pattern for adults: Simplicity 1582.
Nazgûl view of S1582 / EA988701. Image: Simplicity.

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.

Simplicity 1582 (2014) Lord of the Rings costumes. Image: Simplicity.
Simplicity R10726 (2020) Gandalf the Grey and other Lord of the Rings costumes. Image: eBay.

In 2002, McCall’s joined in the fun with these “witches and wizards costumes” for children and adults. This pattern also includes the hat.

McCall’s 3789 (2002) Witches and Wizards Costumes. Image: Etsy.

From Burda, this fairy costume with optional hood doubles as an elven wedding dress.

Burda 2484 (2003) Fairy costume. Image: Etsy.
Burda 2484 (2003) Fairy costume. Image: Etsy.

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:

Costume sketches for Legolas, Arwen, Theoden, and Eowyn by costume designer Ngila Dickson (NYT Nov. 2, 2003)
Costume sketches for Legolas, Arwen, Theoden, and Éowyn. Illustrations: Ngila Dickson. Image: The New York Times / TheOneRing.net.
Detail of Ngila Dickson’s costume for King Theoden of Rohan (Bernard Hill) in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Image: New Line.
Poster for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) Image: MoviePosterDB.com.

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:

McCall’s 4491 (2004) Arwen Evenstar costume. Image: Etsy.
McCall’s 4492 (2004) Éowyn of Rohan costume. Image: Etsy.

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 Final Chapter: Feminine Fellowship – Simplicity 4940 (2004) Arwen and Éowyn costumes. Image: eBay.
Simplicity 4940 on the cover of the Simplicity retail catalogue, Winter 2004. Image: eBay.

The corresponding men’s costumes are Theoden, Legolas, and Elrond. This pattern is still available as print-on-demand.

S4942 / 0507 (2004)
Simplicity 4942 / 0507 (2004) Theoden, Legolas, and Elrond costumes. Image: eBay.
Simplicity 4942 / EA494201. Image: Simplicity.

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.

Simplicity 1551 (2013) Galadriel costumes. Image: Simplicity.
A costume for Galadriel in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2013). Illustration: Ann Maskrey.

Bonus: From 2014, this pattern includes Tauriel from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013), with Daenerys Targaryen (see my Game of Thrones post).

Simplicity 1347 (2014) Tauriel and Daenerys Targaryen costumes.

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?

The Return of the King: first editions of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books
First editions of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books. Image: Biblio.com.

Winter 2019 Designer Pattern Highlights

Guy Laroche FW 2018 by Richard René - V1666
Detail, Guy Laroche Fall 2018 by Richard René. Image: Vogue Runway.

My Winter patterns report comes a little late: I’ve been busy working to save a historic hotel-turned-tavern here in Hamilton. (Read my op-ed | #SaveHanrahans) Without further ado, here’s a look at the last patterns of the decade.

Vogue Patterns Winter/Holiday 2019 lookbook with V1656 gown by Badgley Mischka
Vogue Patterns Winter/Holiday 2019 lookbook with V1656 by Badgley Mischka. Image: Issuu.

Vogue’s cover look is a white jersey gown from Badgley Mischka. As worn on the pattern envelope by new model Shaya Ali:

Vogue 1656 by Badgley Mischka (2019)
Vogue 1656 by Badgley Mischka (2019) Model: Shaya Ali. Image: McCall’s.

The new Guy Laroche — a minimalist pantsuit with contrast trim — is the company’s first by Richard René.

Vogue 1666 by Guy Laroche
Vogue 1666 by Richard René for Guy Laroche (2019) Image: McCall’s.

René’s second collection for Laroche was inspired by art brut and the graphic potential of a blank sheet of paper. According to Vogue, he showed structured pieces for strong personalities, with details like “stand-up edging that adds a cape-like extra inch or two to the shoulders.”

Guy Laroche Fall 2018 by Richard René. Image: Vogue Runway.

From Cynthia Rowley, a pattern for the Eden dress and top.

Simplicity 9012 (2019)
Simplicity 9012 by Cynthia Rowley (2019) Image: Simplicity.

The original Eden dress in polished cotton. (The top version is a lightweight printed cotton: webstore | Rent the Runway.)

Cynthia Rowley’s Eden dress in polished cotton. Image: Cynthia Rowley / Pinterest.

This flounced dress by Cynthia Rowley is seen variously in the designer’s Inverness Fish print and bias-cut silk lamé.

Cynthia Rowley Sea Breeze dress pattern - Simplicity 9013
Simplicity 9013 by Cynthia Rowley (2019) Image: Simplicity.

Rowley’s longtime collaborator William Eadon photographed the lookbook in her hometown of Barrington, Illinois. The lookbook was styled by her daughter, Kit Keenan.

Sasha Belyaeva photographed by William Eadon in Cynthia Rowley Resort 2019
Silver Lake bias silk dress, Cynthia Rowley Resort 2019. Model: Sasha Belyaeva. Photo: William Eadon. Editor: Kit Keenan. Image: Vogue Runway.

For a subtle variation, close the front bodice seam.

Sasha Belyaeva photographed by William Eadon in Cynthia Rowley Resort 2019
Inverness Fish mini dress, Cynthia Rowley Resort 2019. Model: Sasha Belyaeva. Photo: William Eadon. Editor: Kit Keenan. Image: Vogue Runway.

These pleated trousers are adapted from Celine by Hedi Slimane.

Vogue 1661 after Celine by Hedi Slimane
Vogue 1661 after Celine by Hedi Slimane (2019) Image: McCall’s.
Hedi Slimane for Celine Fall 2019 Model: Marland Backus. Image: Vogue Runway.

McCall’s chic cover look is a version of Max Mara’s hooded cape coat.

McCall's lookbook, Winter 2019
McCall’s lookbook, Winter 2019. Image: Issuu.
McCall’s 8029 after Max Mara (2019)

Here’s the Max Mara original in cashmere twill:

Max Mara Pugnale cape in blush cashmere. Image: Matches Fashion.

Vogue Couturier patterns are the original Vogue designer knockoffs. The new Vintage Vogue is a Couturier coat from 1949:

Vogue 490 (1949)
Vogue 490 (1949) Image: eBay.
“Fashions for the life she leads” – Vogue, September 1949. Illustrations: Dagmar Freuchen-Gale.
Vogue 1669 (2019)
Vogue 1669 (2019) Image: McCall’s.
Vintage Vogue 1669 on the cover of the Vogue Patterns Winter/Holiday 2019 lookbook. Image: Issuu.

The new Custom Fit patterns are also designer adaptations. View A of V1654 is after Gucci.

Vogue 1654 after Gucci
Vogue 1654 after Gucci (2019) Image: McCall’s.
Gucci grosgrain-trimmed stretch-ponte mini dress. Image: net-a-porter.

And V1667 is a version of Prabal Gurung’s tulip sleeve jacket. (Trousers not included.)

Vogue 1667 after Prabal Gurung (2019)
Vogue 1667 after Prabal Gurung (2019) Image: McCall’s.

Vogue noted Gurung’s “sharp-yet-curvy, cherry-red pantsuit.”

Prabal Gurung Resort 2018
Prabal Gurung Resort 2018. Image: Vogue Runway.

The tulip-sleeve suit comes in many variations, such as zebra print, sequins, and an ecru check. The latter is a very fine houndstooth in stretch poly-viscose.

Prabal Gurung Pre-Fall 2018
Prabal Gurung Pre-Fall 2018. Image: Vogue Runway.
Prabal Gurung ecru check tulip sleeve jacket. Images: Moda Operandi.

With a few tweaks you can sew the look, as worn by Beyoncé.

Beyoncé in Prabal Gurung, October 2018. Image: Twitter.