The Making of a Merida cosplay – Brave – Part 1

I was on the train into NYC the other day, armed with birthday money and desire to buy fabric when I decided to cosplay Merida from Brave. I’ll admit the movie isn’t one of my favorites, since I think the “plot twist” in the middle is a bit silly! But I do love the message and the character, and I think that’s what matters.

Merida has been on my “to-cosplay” list for ages and after watching a show that takes place in the 12th century  (‘Pillars of the Earth’) I was feeling pretty inspired by the simple, but flattering garments from that time period, which made Merida move up on my list.

It still wasn’t a costume I had planned on doing any time soon, but the mood for making it struck me right before a shopping trip, which is how I ended up with all the materials needed for this costume.

The urge to actually sew it hit me 24 hours ago, so I did. And now it’s well on it’s way to being complete, and I’d like to share it with you guys!

What i’m making would be classified as a medieval kirtle (is that a fun word or what?), and if you search around you can find TONS of free patterns for these online. Kirtle’s began as a  loose garment that didn’t have waist seam, later on they became tighter and dressier, and even later then that they became undergarments! They are different from tunics and chemises since kirtles have lace up closures which allow them to fit better.

See basic Kirtle


I didn’t actually figure out what this garment was called until after drafting my own pattern. But even if I had I probably would have used this method anyway, since it allows me to fit it properly and get the a good idea of the fullness needed.

I took a few measurements, the important ones being shoulder to toe (dress length), bust, hips, and torso length. Then I marked a piece of muslin with the newly taken measurements.


Then I turned the remaining fabric into side inserts.


I sewed up the side seams and added a back zipper for fitting purposes.


It’s flattering, isn’t it?

I used my usual pin-until-it-fits motto, and drew out rough arm whole and neckline placements.

Then I removed the dress and made my lines more even and defined.


For the side seams the pin line was puckered. This happens a lot, and easy to fix – but it’s also easy to forget about! If you don’t fix it, and mark the line while one side is puckered, you’ll get uneven seams later on which can lead to fit issues.


If you have that problem, fix it, then mark your line.


Beautiful. I cut that out, and sewed up the altered seams. Heres a picture of pinned vs. sewn.

Also, here it becomes obvious I have a corset on. It’s a cheap, plastic, ebay one purchased for a whole $9. The waist isn’t tightened at all, I’m actually wearing it to smooth out the pudge above my hip bone so the dress lays nicer. DSC_9663

And here is how the dress looks with two “skirt triangles” I think the technical term for these are ‘flounces’ but don’t quote me on that.


I was happy with it, so I went ahead and cut it out of my fabric!

Speaking of fabric, I adore the material I got for this. I didn’t have a reference photo with me when I bought the material, so the color is slightly off – it lacks the blueish tone Merida’s dress has, but I love it anyway. It’s very heavyweight wool (suiting?) and it has the most wonderful texture.

One of my major Merida cosplay pet peeves is people using broadcloth or very lightweight, swishy fabrics for Merida’s dress. Or even worse, materials with a sheen and glitter! We are supposed to be in 10th century Scotland, and a horse-riding-archery-master-tom-boy-all-around-awesome-strong-female-character, we would not put up with that shit.

So when I was picking materials I knew I had two options, linen or wool. But linen wrinkles like hell and my previous experience with it was quite disastrous, so I went with wool.

 I also picked up four yards of dark brown for the cape, again, I did not have reference images and for the life of me I couldn’t remember whether her cape was grey or brown. Apparently it changes between green and grey depending on the image or movie scene.


I didn’t take any pictures of the fabric cutting process, but I think it’s fairly straight forward. Here is a picture of the dress “pattern” I made up in MS paint. As you can see, the bodice is seamless but the skirt has two panel inserts (one on each side) to give it more volume.


That isn’t to scale at all – in case it isn’t clear, the skirt hem is 36″  before the panels are added, and then it jumps to being 60″, and this image only shows half of it. It’s intended to be cut on a fold which means the entire front panel hem is 120 inches. Hopefully that isn’t too confusing.

Here is what that looked like sewn together.


At this point I was feeling very accomplished, so obviously I needed to get rid of that by making the sleeves.

I did a few drawings of how they would look and took a whole bunch of really inaccurate measurements.

If you were not aware, it’s really difficult to measure your own arms.


DSC_9665In real life they ended up looking like this.

DSC_9669And then I cut it apart and turned it into a pattern.

DSC_9670Now I had a pattern – which was great, but I had to make gathered sleeve puffs. My first attempt at these went all wrong, I tried to drape gathered rectangles over sleeve rolls and they looked way too puffy.


Attempt two went much better, I simply used gathered material and pinned it over a muslin base.


The shoulder sleeve puffs were made the same way.

DSC_9683Then they were pinned to the sleevy portions of the sleeves.



And then they got sewn into the dress!



I have to hem it, add sleeve ruffles, cut the neckline and add lacing, but then it shall be done! I’m proud considering this was only a days work. Usually  it takes me weeks to make a pattern, much less have a wearable garment.

Hopefully part two will be up soon, but you never know with me.


52 thoughts on “The Making of a Merida cosplay – Brave – Part 1

  1. Rachel says:

    Angela you’re gorgeous and I love you and aspire to be able to sew and cosplay just like you

    But anyway, when you’re done with Merida, I think you should cosplay as Captain Amelia from Treasure Planet
    I watched the movie today and I just think you’d be perfect as an awesome cat captain lady ❤

    • Angela Clayton says:

      Aww, thank you so much! that’s so lovely to hear. I’m glad you like my work.

      I’ve actually gotten this suggestion before; and I would do it, or at the very least consider it if I could pull off her hair style. But sadly short hair is one of those things that REALLY does not work on me.

  2. auadb says:

    checking you blog is like opening a mistery box: I’m always full of anticipation and when I see a new post I like to enjoy it word after word.
    So, good job again, you have the thin and sweet silhouette Merida has, so I’m looking forward to see it completed!

  3. shamash says:

    Is the fabric you used knit or woven? Around how much was it per yard? It’s such a fabulous costume 😉

  4. Jaana says:

    Hi! You are amazing!!! I just have one question; how much did you need fabrics? The teal one and the white one?

  5. Andria says:

    Hello! I absolutely LOVE your work and think it’s great that you can make your own patterns. I have a small business where I have princess look-a-likes visit birthday parties. I want the rich color of the dress as it is in the movie. It must also be light weight so that my actors don’t feel like they’re steaming in the dress! Would you think that Velour or even a “non shimmery” velvet be ok?

    • Angela Clayton says:

      Hi! I’m really glad you like them. I think of velour being sweatsuit material and not very princess-dress-worthy. Velveteen might be a better option, it looks a little more expensive and is stiffer and lighter then velvet.

      Velvet isn’t very accurate, but as long as you don’t buy the really cheap type or “crushed” velvet you’ll be fine.

      If you mean her blue dress worn that she rips off, that should be made from silk or a nice stretch satin!

  6. Andria says:

    I think I’ll end up doing a mix of the two dresses. I had a terrible time finding a good color for her day wear dress (couldn’t use wool like you did because I live in texas…far too hot) so I’m using a velvet that’s the color of the “coronation” (?) dress but keeping the day dress style.

    Thanks for the advice! the velvet is working out well. And thanks for the tutorial! It’s been a great help! I’ll have pictures up on my website soon!

  7. Rose says:

    What would you suggest as a wool alternative? (boo allergies…) I found a 100% cotton twill (not familiar working with a twill weave) but it’s the perfect color! I love the heavier weight feel you have to your dress and I’d love to do something as similar as possible. I love your dress!!

  8. Rachel says:

    You are too cool for figuring all of this stuff out! I’ve never really used a sewing machine before or made any type of clothing from scratch, but I promised my sister I’d make her a Merida dress for her birthday/halloween. Luckily I stumbled across your web page and I currently have the basic green dress and one sleeve completed after just a day of work (although a very long one day haha) Your work is inspiring. Keep creating!

  9. Kym says:

    Any chance of renting it from you???? I have a dress that I have already but it is more in line of a wench or ren fest ish. I need to turn it into Meridia by adding sleeves to it and doing something with the bottom. Any suggestions?? I can send you pictures of the dress. I am not looking to perm change the dress, only to do something to make it more like her dress. email me:

  10. Kristie says:

    This dress is perfect! I have been scouring internet fabric stores for the right fabric and am having such a problem finding the right fabric in the right color. I want to use wool, and I am so jealous that you found the perfect blue/green color in it!

  11. Iira says:

    This blog is so amazing 🙂 You are so talented!!
    I have one question. I’m doing Merida cosplay too, but I can’t find any good pattern to the dress. Do you know any? What pattern did you use? or did you even use 😀

  12. Krista says:

    This is fantastic! Wanted to pipe up and say those triangle inserts are called “godets”. They’re my favorite way to add fullness to a skirt, they’re unexpected and change the drape of the fabric in fabulous ways.

  13. LadyD says:

    It looks fabulous. I’m making a dress in similar cut but with different colour fabric. I’m interested that everyone I’ve seen making the dress has made the ruffles in the sleeves as part of the dress….rather than seperate. Is this for an ease of wear thing? I was just going to wear my long sleeved Chemise underneath the dress for the overlay effect.

    • Angela Clayton says:

      Very much for an ease of wearing. I have other dresses that consist of a chemise and overdress and I find them hard to manage. The chemise adds a lot of bulk underneath the sleeves and keeping the sleeve puffs even requires quite a bit of upkeep throughout a day of wearing.

      It definitely can be done, but in this case I wasn’t worried about historically accuracy at all so I went for convenience.

      Also with the fabircs I used it was a really hot, heavy, wool dress. I didn’t want to add another layer in case of heat stroke!

  14. Meli says:

    Can I just say you’re so incredibly talented! Ive only had a few sewing classes, but I’m attempting to make this costume for Ren Fest. Thanks to your super detailed help (and after plenty of mistakes), its actually pretty good! Thank you so much for posting this! I can’t wait to see what amazing things you make next!

  15. Mika says:

    Hi Angela,

    For the skirt of the kirtle, I was wondering, did you put two inserts on the front side, and two on the back as well? I couldn’t see the back, so I’m not sure how many triangular inserts there are in total for the greel wool dress. It would be greatly appreciated if you could please enlighten me. Thank you in advance! 🙂

  16. Alexis says:

    This is incredibly informative and perfect because I needed a good merida tutorial. I have to say though you are my favorite type of person because your tutorials are so detailed and fabulous that I am now going to stalk your blog…. I hope that doesn’t sound too weird. Anyway thanks for the great tutorial

  17. Melanie says:

    That is absolutely gorgeous!!! And exactly what I need as a guideline for my own Merida cosplay next year! I’m an absolut beginner in sewing, so I hope I don’t mess it up…could you please please tell me how many material you used just for the dress? I have a pattern that is okay but doesn’t provide the flowiness (?) of the skirt so I want to add these triangles you added. An answer would be soo nice!!!

  18. Courtnie says:

    Hello! I absolutely adore this! I was wondering if you used one piece of muslin for he outline or two. I’m just having a very difficult time imagining how the fabric pictured with the markings on it translated to being on your body. Thanks!

  19. Jennifer says:

    Hi Angela, I have a question about how the dress closes in the back. I don’t think there is a closure in the back of your dress? How do you get the dress easy on and off? Is there some stretch to your fabric? The fabric I’m going to use doesn’t have stretch. Anyways, thank you Angela for making this tutorial! You’re my inspiration 🙂 p.s sorry if I made mistakes, English isn’t my first language haha 🙂

  20. Daniel Staley-Nyers says:

    A very good dress tutorial, you must have put in a lot of hard work, 1 issue is that he wig doesn’t look the slightest realistic and obvious you don’t have red curls.

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