Buckskin is soft and fluffy, but also very durable. To make buckskin visit my previous 'ible Making Buckskin or braintan.com. Buckskins have been worn as clothing and used to make bags, shoes, and so much more for millennia. This dress is a very straight forward design only requiring two deer hides (in fact, the dress is only two pieces, of course you may need another hide depending on hide size and body size).
- 2 - 3 buckskins (tanned deer hides)
- Sharp scissors
- awl (or anything that will poke holes in buckskin, ex. sharp nail)
Step 1: Pattern
For a pattern, find a dress that fits well enough and trace that out as a pattern. The simpler the dress the better. I used a fabric dress that I had made from an old scarf. Anything that is more or less shaped to your body will work. If you absolutely can't find anything for a pattern, you can very carefully measure yourself and then lay out a dress using these measurements, but that can be a lot work with a lot of room for error. If your hides are not big enough to cover your body using this pattern type, there is a simple four piece pattern that can help. Cut the top of the front and the back, shoulders to waist, and then then cut the bottom, waist to hem, in a second piece. Sew the top to the bottom of both the front and the back respectively so that there will be a seam all the way around the waist, then proceed as normal. (It may be easier to think of this pattern as a shirt sewn to a skirt, more or less)
Cutting and sewing buckskin is not like cutting and sewing fabric. Buckskin is very three dimensional and varies in thickness. This is all very important to keep in mind when cutting because if you cut your pieces out of the edges of a hide where it's wavy and thin it will result in a final garment that is not as strong as it should be, is difficult to sew because of the thickness, and will not lay smoothly on the body. It is worth not squeezing every possible inch out of the hide and just using the good thick consistent part.
Around the edges on the sides, I left about an inch for seam allowance. I left the necklines very high and cut them down to shape later. Something to remember when sewing buckskin is that there's no need to leave a hem allowance because the edge won't fray like fabric, although binding the edge can be a very nice touch. To cut the hides, I used a very sharp scissors that I keep for cutting fabric and leather.
Step 2: Lacing the Sides
The sides of this dress are laced. Lace is made but cutting a thin piece off an edge of a hide. In simple terms, lace is leather string. Use an awl, or anything sharp, to punch holes along the side of the dress and thread the lace through. It's just like sewing fabric, but on a much larger scale.
Step 3: Fitting
To check the fit, I tried the dress on, cutting a slit in the neck line to fit my head through. I discovered that the dress needed a dart in the front and the back on the arm holes because there was a loose wrinkle as the shoulders curve into the arms. This step will really be dependent on your body shape. A dart is made by taking out a triangle of leather and sewing the edge together.
It is also time to cut the neck to shape. The lower edges that I had left rough at the bottom, I also cut smooth.
The shape the back without a lot of complicated sewing, is cinched with lace.The lace is threaded through the seams on the side and tied in the back (see picture for clarification). I used three laces, because it just seemed to fit. This part is all personal taste.
Step 4: Wear
Enjoy wearing buckskins...