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:

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 /
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:

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:

Zandra Rhodes: Style Patterns

Zandra Rhodes and Rembrandt's portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet, 2014
Zandra Rhodes and Rembrandt’s portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet, 2014. Image: National Gallery.

Last week, Zandra Rhodes returned to London Fashion Week for her Spring 2016 collection. Famous for her colourful, hand-drawn prints, the bohemian cult favourite is also new to Vogue Patterns for Winter/Holiday 2015: Vogue 1472 is the first new Zandra Rhodes sewing pattern in thirty years.

Update: read a profile in Vogue Patterns magazine:

Zandra Rhodes in Vogue Patterns Magazine, December/January 2015-16. Image: Issuu.

For knitters, the current issue of Rowan Knitting & Crochet has a Zandra Rhodes jacket pattern available as a free download.

Zandra Rhodes sketch with yarn charts and sample garment - Rowan 58 (Winter 2015)
Zandra Rhodes sketch with yarn charts and sample garment in Katy Bevan, “Dame Zandra’s Knitting Circle,” Rowan Knitting & Crochet 58 (Winter 2015). Image: Rowan.

Born in Chatham, Kent, Zandra Rhodes (b. 1940) trained as a textile designer at Medway College of Art, where her mother was a lecturer, and London’s Royal College of Art. Rhodes founded her own label in order to build garments around her prints. Her first, 1969 collection, Knitted Circle, was famously worn by Natalie Wood in Vogue magazine; the evening coat is now in the collection of the V&A:

Forecast: the London bit - Natalie Wood in hand-screened prints by Zandra Rhodes - Gianni Penati, ca. 1969
Natalie Wood wears a screen-printed felt evening coat and silk chiffon dress, both by Zandra Rhodes. Vogue, January 1970. Photo: Gianni Penati. Image: Youthquakers.

Rhodes became known as the Princess of Punk following her Spring 1977 torn and safety-pinned Conceptual Chic collection, which was partly inspired by Schiaparelli’s Tears dress.

Wedding dress and dress from Zandra Rhodes' Spring 1977 collection
A wedding dress and dress from Zandra Rhodes’ Spring 1977 collection at the PUNK: Chaos to Couture exhibit, 2014. Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

By the 1980s Rhodes was designing for Princess Diana. The princess wore this pink chiffon dress, embellished with crystal beads and pearl droplets, during her 1986 state visit to Japan (now in the collection of Historic Royal Palaces):

Zandra Rhodes sketch for Princes Diana. Image: SDNews.

In 1985, Style Patterns released a handful of Zandra Rhodes sewing patterns. Rhodes was among the first designers to be included in the company’s short-lived designer line. (See my earlier posts on Bruce Oldfield and Frederick Fox.)

Update: I found a fourth Style pattern by Zandra Rhodes, Style 4398:

1980s Zandra Rhodes dress pattern Style 4389
Style 4389 by Zandra Rhodes (1985)

Style 4399 is a pattern for a wedding or evening dress in two lengths with characteristic serated frill:

1980s Zandra Rhodes formal dress pattern - Style 4399
Style 4399 by Zandra Rhodes (1985) Image: Etsy.
Style 4399 schematic
Back view for Style 4399 (1985)

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Lined Wedding Dress or Evening Dress in Two Lengths — Dress has shoulder yoke with serrated frill and pointed cape effect on bodice. Skirt has elasticated waistline. Model 1 bead trim is used on yoke and neck tie. Suggested fabrics: Lightweight silk types, crepe de chine, chiffon, shantung, lace, voile, batiste, organza. Lining: Jap silk, crepe de chine. Trim: wide ribbon and pearl beading or narrow ribbon.

Style 4400 is an off-the-shoulder wedding or bridesmaid’s dress with separate petticoat:

1980s Zandra Rhodes formal dress pattern - Style 4400
Style 4400 by Zandra Rhodes (1985)
Style 4400 schematic
Technical drawing for Style 4400 (1985)

The envelope description reads: Misses’ Half-Lined Wedding Dress or Bridesmaid’s Dress and Petticoat — Dress has flounced bodice with elasticated waist. Skirt has layered net frills, with gathered net and ribbon trim. Bride and bridesmaid’s dress has petticoat in fabric and net. Suggested fabrics: Dress, Models 1 and 2: Organza, voile, silk or synthetic sheers, lightweight lace. Lining: silk types, taffeta, satin (nap irrelevant). Net or tulle: silk, nylon. Trim: wide ribbon, sequin trim, narrow ribbon.

The third dress design, Style 4400, has a low back décolletage and multi-tiered skirt:

1980s Zandra Rhodes dress pattern - Style 4495
Style 4495 by Zandra Rhodes (1985)
Style 4495 schematic
Technical drawing for Style 4495 (1985)

You can see the same pattern with updated envelope here.

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Dress in Two Lengths — Dress has fitted bodice with elasticated waistline. Models 1 and 3 have bodice frill to waistline. Model 2 has shorter bodice frill. Models 1 and 2 have four-tiered skirt flounce. Model 3 has three-tiered skirt flounce. Suggested fabrics: Chiffon, georgette, voile, silk or synthetic sheers, organza. Also: lightweight lining fabric. Trim: wide ribbon; pearl trim (views 1 and 2).

The designs seem to be from Rhodes’ Spring 1985 collection, Images of Woman:

Zandra Rhodes SS1985 a
Zandra Rhodes Spring/Summer 1985 collection. Image: UCA Library.
Zandra Rhodes SS1985 b
Zandra Rhodes Spring/Summer 1985 collection. Image: UCA Library.

The trim and fabric specifications are catalogues of girliness: lightweight, floaty fabrics to be trimmed with the ribbon, sequins, and pearls. I love how Style 4495 suggests lining fabric as an alternative—perhaps with a budget-conscious youth market in mind.

For more on Zandra Rhodes, see the V&A’s article.