Time taken: 2 afternoons (approximately 7 hours).
Materials: 2m light cotton drill in scarlet 1.2m wide, 0.5m gold acetate satin 1.2m wide (I hate acetate), thread, cardboard, Mod Podge (which you may not need if you’re cleverer than me).
Tools: Scissors, pen, metre ruler, pins, sewing machine, ironing board, iron.
Techniques: Basic sewing, applique, buttonhole making.
Difficulty level: Fiddly but ok if you’re determined and careful.
Here is the reference pic I was using. I also have a back view that shows that the back of the skirt has the same pattern on it.
First, buy your fabric. I bought 4m each of the scarlet drill and the charcoal heavy linen, and 2.5m of the gold acetate satin. Realistically, I think I could have got away with 2m of the scarlet because the skirt didn’t take as much as I expected and there isn’t a lot of scarlet in the top part. I don’t think Cullen would be wearing the full Chantry regalia under his breastplate and pauldrons (and I don’t want to cook my model), so I’ll be making the charcoal over-robe with a few scarlet accents on the visible parts such as the mandarin collar, but it’ll mostly be plain and as lightweight as possible.
In the game, Cullen is able to fight, run and move quite easily even though he’s wearing a floor length skirt. This implies he’s got room to spread his legs in there, yeah? Yet when he’s standing, his skirt doesn’t drape like a full one. I figure that splits up the sides would allow a decent range of movement, and the over-robe will cover the splits when standing. So I opted for a wraparound arrangement with two basically rectangular pieces. My IRL Cullen is of average height and medium build, and I ended up making each rectangle 98cm long (plus seam allowance) and 60cm wide. this allows for about 12cm overlap between the two pieces, and for the splits to close when he’s standing still.
It’s worth noting here that in the ref pics, it looks like there’s a seam down the centre of the bit you can see on the skirt, so I actually cut four pieces then sewed them back together with a modified french seam to make a visible join.
Then I had to make a couple of cardboard templates. First there was the one for the gold panel at the bottom, which is pretty straightforward using a metre ruler and a pen. The way I work out the dimensions is to scale from the reference pic. So, if the skirt is 10cm long on the ref pic and the gold panel comes to its point 1cm from the bottom, I know that the point is 1/10th from the bottom and can transfer that to the big one. On my skirt 1/10th is 9.8cm from the bottom, so that’s where the point will be. It seems to work. I used the same method to make the template for the sunburst:
Which was a bit more complicated but more or less the same technique, just messing about with ruler and pen and scale till it looked right. Then I cut out the sunbursts from the scarlet fabric and the gold panel from the acetate, and put them aside.
The next step involved making my own bias binding. I expect you can buy bias binding in gold, but I wanted all of mine to match and you have the thin stuff that goes on the sunburst, thick stuff that goes on the edges of the robe and collar, and then a few applique bits as well. So I bought one lot of acetate satin which should be enough to do all of those jobs. Did I mention I hate working with acetate? Acetate sucks donkey balls to work with, it’s fray-ey and slippery and doesn’t hold a press, and I hate it. I really do. I’d rather use a natural fibre but I’m not made of money and also weight is a consideration here and anyway the shop didn’t have any, so I held my nose and bought the bloody acetate.
Anyway, to make bias binding I cut strips of the acetate on the bias, four times as wide as I needed them to be. Cutting on the bias helps stop the fraying, which is important when you’re working with small fiddly things like the sunburst. Once I had my strips, I pressed them in half lengthways with the shiny side out. Then they were pinned on to the edges of the sunburst (right side to right side) in preparation for being sewn on. I did them one side at a time because I figured it’d be easier to deal with if I didn’t have too much pinned, slippery acetate sliding all over the place.
While I was at it I pressed the large panels at the bottom of the skirt and pinned them in place. I can’t stress enough how important pressing is for this sort of work. It just makes everything both easier and more accurate. Here was how it looked when I finished that day:
The next day I started by sewing the acetate binding to the sunbursts, using a straight stitch about 5mm from the edge. The corners are fiddly and need some care. I used separate strips and needed to make sure my stitching would overlap enough to hold the binding on, without going too far.
Once the binding was all sewn on, I pressed it to the outside, folded it under, pressed it again, and pinned it in place. You can see in the photo that the right sides have all been done, and the left sides are waiting their turn.
Then I stitched around the whole thing, again about 5mm from the edge, to hold the binding in place. Bloody acetate (oh how I hate it) doesn’t hold a press well enough to do sharp points, so when I pinned the sunbursts on to the skirt, the tips were still quite unfinished looking.
However, once they were sewn onto the skirt itself, using a stitch about 1mm from the edge, I was able to carefully trim away the extra bits and frayage with a pair of scissors, and then painted Mod Podge along the very edges of the tips to prevent further fraying. Mod podge dries clear and I was pretty happy with how it fixed the acetate problem.
Finally, I sewed the large gold panels into place. This can’t happen till the sunbursts are on, and again, pressing helps.
At this point I needed my model to check sizing. I had decided that ties would work better than buckles or buttons for this, because over the top of it will be hard plastic armour, and I didn’t want anything that would dig in. Also, ties make it adjustable. So I made two long straps and pinned them where I thought they should go, and tied them onto him while he stood around trying to cook dinner and freaking out about pins. A little bit of length adjustment (front needed to be about 1.5cm shorter than the back because of bums) and then I could sew the straps on as well – more or less like apron ones.
To make it so the two pieces don’t separate when being worn, I put buttonholes 12cm in from the edges of the front panel, and sewed belt loops in the same place on the back one. This allows the straps to be threaded through the panels before being tied, and the front one to overlap the back one at the top.
My model declared it comfortable and serviceable. And then he chased me around the house in it. Because he’s awesome.