Making a Renaissance Elsa: The Details

The concept drawings

I had an idea for a Renaissance Faire Elsa that I could wear in high heat and still be comfortable. I did some research and with the knowledge of what people tend to wear to Renaissance Faires from my years of going, I came up with a style that I have not made or worn to Faire. Landing on this “milkmaid” design, I then gathered materials.

Considering that it can be 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more with 100% humidity, I needed a fabric that would wick sweat, help stay cool, and aid in bug repelling. Linen is the only fabric that fits that bill. If you’re wondering, linen is a bug repellent, one of the reasons it was so prevalent for women’s petticoats pre-1950. I landed on 5.3oz linen for both the overdress and underdress. They both came from; the colors are Optic White and Allure. Read to the end to hear my tale of woe with sunblock so you can avoid my folly and save your clothing.

You can read my pattern review of Simplicity 1773 for the alterations I made in this Sewing Pattern Review Post. This post is all about the construction and detailing of the dress.

The final ensemble
Original shoe and the “Uni Blue” shoe.

I built this costume from the feet up. Starting with Elsa’s shoes, I looked for a shorter boot in light blue that I could paint snowflakes on. I could not find a pair and am convinced they don’t exist. But I did find short white cowgirl boots that had light tan engraved filigree on them. This I could work with. Needing a way to make them blue, I purchased Angelus leather paint in White and Uni Blue. Then I set to work painting them.

The online picture of Uni Blue made it look perfect, alas, it was not. The color was far too dark, and I needed to cut it with the white. Finding the right mix, I painted the shoes with one coat of straight Uni Blue, two coats of the proprietary mixed blue, and then painted two coats of white on the filigree (painting snowflakes over the engraving would have looked uneven). I followed the engraved pattern; this was no small feat. The shoes took a total of 12 hours to paint the two coats of white.

The finished painted shoes

Moving to the white underdress! I made the dress with humongous sleeves that I gathered into a wristband that had a ruffle. The ruffle was made of a simple rectangle of fabric that was 2.5x the length of the wristband it was being gathered into. To close the sleeve, I used a sparkly rhinestone button and a thread loop for the closure. I am ALL about thread loop button closures these days. Truly. I cannot extoll their virtues enough.

To the gathered strips on the bodice, I added silver ricrac trim to just the straight part of the neckline. I’m usually not a fan of ricrac, but I was pleasantly surprised by the look.

Then the hem. I wanted a hem that was detailed in some way without needing embroidery. In my stash I had more of the ricrac silver trim, the robin’s egg blue satin ribbon, and the blue cording. I laid them out and then sewed each on. In hindsight I should have used pins to put them in place accurately; true laziness got in the way, and they are a bit uneven in layout.

For the back, I didn’t have the 20” long zipper the pattern called for. Instead, I installed a 16” zipper and added four buttons to the top. Again, with thread loop closures.

Before and after the dip-dye

On to the blue overdress! Let’s start with the skirt. After attaching the skirt to the bodice, I wanted to add an ombre/gradient effect to the hem. Before turning the hem and adding any details to the dress, I dip-dyed the hem in a bath of navy blue and aquamarine RIT dye. This is always scary; one slip or splash and you could ruin the look!

After this, I was then able to move onto the detailing of the dress. While the skirt is simple in construction, the hem needed significant detailing to come to life. I wanted diamonds of the “Forest Spirit” symbols around the skirt. Happily, there are four “Forest Spirits” and the diamonds fit perfectly along the hem with four to a panel. I hand-embroidered the diamonds, making eight of each symbol to go on the eight panels of the skirt. I then sewed them on with a matching satin stitch via machine.

70 diamonds and their application to the ombre skirt
The completed skirt, the hem is huge!
For scale of how big the skirt is!

The lines in between the diamonds are also a simple satin machine stitch. I also added 34 smaller diamonds around the hem below the machine satin stitch to give even more dimension. The final touches to the hem were the teardrop beaded trim (it’s a type of lampshade trim) and thousands of rhinestones, both horse-eye and standard round.

The bodice, sleeves, and belt came together much quicker than the skirt! I dip-dyed the sleeves at the wrist, though not as dark as the hem, and I dyed the belt a slightly deeper blue in the same dye bath.

The detachable sleeves feature the same thread loop and sparkly rhinestone buttons as the underdress sleeves. The connection point to the dress straps are also thread loops with small rhinestone buttons as well.  The belt has a center beaded applique that wonderfully ironed on. I then sewed 4mm white pearls to accent the waist further.

Layout of diamonds on the sleeves
Final sleeve detail: pearls!
Detail of the completed belt.

When it came to the bodice, I knew I didn’t want a standard grommet closure – it was too plain and industrial for Elsa. Instead, I made a ring closure. Each ring is sewn on with ¼” grosgrain ribbon that has been sewn with multiple stitch lengths to ensure they don’t rip out. I then covered the ends of the grosgrain loops with the blue satin ribbon, which I sewed to the entire top of the bodice and down the center front of each side. But that still wasn’t enough for me. I added white diamonds to the bodice, satin stitching them BEFORE I applied them by hand. With the boning in the bodice, it was impossible to satin stitch them directly on. As icing, I sewed more 4mm pearls around the bodice diamonds and down the front of the dress.

The layout for the ring closure and the ribbon placement
Rings are on and ribbon is ready to be sewn down
Completed bodice and belt
The new and improved undress!

And now for my tale of woe. The original undress was only worn once. Due to Avobenzene in the sunblock, HORRIBLE bright orange rust stains appeared around the entire neck after coming in contact with water in the wash. Light natural fiber fabric and this chemical do NOT mix. I needed to use mineral sunblock and I didn’t know.

I remade the underdress, using slightly different trims from my stash, which was serendipitous. The new trims and the fixed fit were even more appropriate and pretty for Elsa.

I ended up dying the old underdress an eggplant color to cover the stains. And yes, Avobenzene will never be in my Renaissance Faire self-care routine again.

The original undress has been dyed a deep eggplant to cover the Avobenzene stains

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