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 Galadriel costume for adults - Simplicity 1582 (2001)
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 / Black Rider view of S1582 / EA988701
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.

Wings Not Included: Faerie Costuming

Detail, Simplicity 8629 by Firefly Path. Image: Simplicity.

This Halloween, a look at faerie costumes.

Jareth’s fairy ball in Labyrinth (1986) Costume design: Ellis Flyte and Brian Froud. Image: The Atlantic / TriStar Pictures.

Part Tinkerbell, part Titania, today’s fairy look can be traced back to Brian Froud and Alan Lee’s 1978 book, Faeries. Froud collaborated on the costumes for Jim Henson’s cult fantasy, Labyrinth (1986), while Lee became best known for his conceptual design work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The year before Labyrinth, Ridley Scott’s Legend (1985) introduced the Tinkerbell-like Oona. Costume designer Charles Knode had previously worked with Scott on Blade Runner.

Annabelle Lanyon as Oona in LEGEND (1985)
Oona (Annabelle Lanyon) in Legend (1985) Costume design: Charles Knode. Image: Pinterest.

The ’90s soon brought Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991), with Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell. In this Dream-inspired couture editorial by Koto Bolofo, the opening image channels Peter Pan — or is it Puck, with a McQueen-clad Titania?

At the Jardins de Giverny in Atelier Versace and Givenchy haute couture by Alexander McQueen, L’Officiel, September 1998. Photo: Koto Bolofo. Editor: Guylaine Tilleau. Image: jalougallery.

At the end of the decade, Michael Hoffman’s big-screen version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999) — the first in over sixty years — featured costumes by the award-winning Gabriella Pescucci (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Age of Innocence).

Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999) Costume design: Gabriella Pescucci. Image: IMDb.

Froud and Lee’s Faeries was reissued for its 25th anniversary in 2002, the same year as Koto Bolofo’s “Tinker Belle’s Forest” editorial in Vogue Nippon.

“Tinker Belle’s Forest,” Vogue Nippon, March 2002. Photo: Koto Bolofo. Editor: Nikki Brewster.
Vogue Nippon, March 2002. Photo: Koto Bolofo. Editor: Nikki Brewster.

Founded in 2005, Faerie Magazine recently featured Los Angeles’ Firefly Path on the cover. (Free download here.)

Faerie Magazine issue 39 - summer 2017
Firefly Path with Fancy Fairy Wings on the cover of Faerie Magazine, Summer 2017. Photo: Ether and Smith (Ellen McGowan). Image: Enchanted Living.

In the new millennium, fairies became an otherworldly ingredient in the urban fantasy subgenre. Holly Black’s children’s series saw a film adaptation as The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008). HBO’s True Blood introduced “the Fae” a few seasons into the show, with costume designer Audrey Fisher dressing her fairies — Claudine, Maurella, even Queen Mab — in ethereal pieces from designers like LA’s Sue Wong and Marianna Harutunian.

A glimpse of Claudine (Lara Pulver) in True Blood, season 3 (2010) Costume design: Audrey Fisher. Image: HBO.
s3 e12
Lara Pulver as Claudine in True Blood, season 3 (2010) Costume design: Audrey Fisher. Image: IMDb.
"Soul of Fire" (s4 e11, 2011)
Maurella (Kristina Anapau) wears Sue Wong and Marianna Harutunian in True Blood, season 4 (2011) Costume design: Audrey Fisher. Image: Marianna Harutunian on Etsy.

In 2015, the New York Times’ T magazine featured Faerie Magazine in its Holiday issue:

"The Faerie Fantasy," T magazine, Holiday 2015
“The Faerie Fantasy,” T magazine, Holiday 2015. Photos: Marko Metzinger, Lynn Theisen. Image: The New York Times.

The next spring saw a new BBC production of Shakespeare’s Dream, adapted by Russell T Davies and with costumes by Ray Holman (Torchwood, Fleabag).

Maxine Peake as Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream
Maxine Peake as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2016) Costume design: Ray Holman. Image: BBC.

And now the Seelies, as the Fair Folk are known in Shadowhunters, have their own spinoff trilogy.

The Fair Folk (season 2 e14)
Lola Flanery as the Seelie Queen in Shadowhunters, season 2 (2017) Costume design: Shelley Mansell. Image: fandom.

Fairies have long been a fancy-dress standby, but a more recent trend is fairy costume patterns for adults. This empire maxi dress from Andrea Schewe adds wings, cape, and a crown for tissue lamé.

Simplicity 9454 by Andrea Schewe (2000) Image: Etsy.

Disco fairy rings are in store with this Simplicity design from the mid-aughts. From Elaine Heigl Designs, it has a ruffled skirt, corset, and top for sheer knits. Wings not included.

Simplicity 4902 by Elaine Heigl Designs (2004) Image: Etsy.

Also from Elaine Heigl, this fairy costume has several variations, including trousers. (“Purchased Wings.”)

Simplicity 3632 by Elaine Heigl Designs (2007) Image: Etsy.

In the teens, Cosplay by McCall’s released patterns for a horned headdress, and DIY fairy wings with matching hat and stockings — this last by cosplayer Becka Noel.

M2101 Hornery (2017) Image: Cosplay by McCall’s.
Cosplay by McCall's M2104 - Ala Glow by Becka Noel (2017)
M2104 Ala Glow by Becka Noel (2017) Image: Cosplay by McCall’s.

Simplicity has licensed several Firefly Path designs, including this highly detailed fairy princess ensemble. For your faerie wedding, designer JoEllen Elam Conway also sells Firefly Path bridal gowns and capes in her Etsy shop.

Firefly Path pattern Simplicity 8629 (2017)
Simplicity 8629 by Firefly Path (2017) Image: Simplicity.

How on-trend is faerie dressing? Out this month, Vogue’s latest book is Fantasy & Fashion.

Happy Halloween!

Saoirse Ronan in Chanel bridal couture by Karl Lagerfeld, photographed by Steven Meisel for Vogue, December 2011
Saoirse Ronan wears Chanel couture on the cover of Vogue: Fantasy & Fashion (Abrams 2020). Photo: Steven Meisel. Editor: Grace Coddington. Image: Vogue.com.