Here are the first several paragraphs of the article about costuming/cosplay that I wrote for Middle-earth Madness from J.W. Braun and the staff of the world’s most recognized Tolkien-based website, TheOneRing.net.
Middle-earth Fans: Dressing the Part
By Nancy Steinman
The history of costume is long and detailed, a tale that can only be unraveled with much research and knowledge, not only of fashion, but of geography, politics and court intrigue. It has subtle influences on society that are lost on much of the modern world. But in Middle-earth, what one wears is greatly determined not only by which race you are, but where you hail from and the type of lifestyle you lead. Elves from Rivendell wear styles different from those of Lothlórien or the Greenwood. The garb of men from Gondor, Rohan, and Harad are all quite different. There is even a distinction between what the Rangers of the north and south wear. Hobbits have a style all their own, as do Wizards. And the dark forces are completely different again.
While Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens were still penning ideas to bring their vision of The Lord of the Rings to the big screen, others were already busy sketching and designing the garments that would clothe the characters they would bring to life. For Academy Awards® winner Richard Taylor, co-founder and creative director of Weta Workshop, and costume designer Ngila Dickson, there was no detail too small to be overlooked, from the hair on Hobbit feet to the intricately etched designs on armor and everything in-between (and over-and-above).
As the first trailers and stills for The Fellowship of the Ring hit the theaters and the internet, a new wave of costumers was born. Images of leather bracers and flowing velvet sleeves sparked the imagination of both men and women, many who had never picked up a sewing needle before.
Maggie Allen, a costumer who founded and runs “The Costumer’s Guide,” a well-respected costuming reference website, says that the costumes in the Star Wars prequels and The Lord of the Rings were “the one-two punch that got so many people into costuming.” She adds, “I can’t think of any other movies at that time that were so seminal in inspiring so many people to costume.” One of Allen’s favorites? Arwen’s “blood red” dress, which wowed fans from the moment it was seen in the first trailer. Designed by Dickson, it’s probably one of the most re-created costumes from The Lord of the Rings films. Speaking about the fans embracing her costume designs for the movie, Dickson said, “That is fantastic, because you cannot imagine how terrifying it was some days, when we would be looking at something and saying, ‘Is this what everybody sees in their mind’s eye?’” (From The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine, Issue No. 3)
For myself, when I saw a picture of Éowyn’s shieldmaiden dress, I had to try and recreate it. The pale flowing gown, the sleeves bound with cording, and the leather bodice were exquisitely rendered, but it was the costume’s embodiment of the heroine’s combination of vulnerability and strength that made it even more compelling. Without having a pattern, using pieces of other garments for the lining, I created and quilted the corset and then modified an existing pattern to make the dress. I hadn’t sewn anything more complicated than pillow covers since sixth grade home economics class. My experience was a story I heard repeated over and over as I interviewed other costumers.
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