The legend of Robin Hood has been around for hundreds of years. Even King Henry VIII knew of the legend and in 1510, he and his friends dressed up as Robin Hood and his merry men.
It wasn't until 1883, however, that Howard Pyle, an American writer and illustrator, would pen The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and give us the lovable outlaw that we know today.
I remember well when I was first introduced to the legend of Robin Hood. I was a very young girl and happened upon the movie, The Adventures of Robin Hood. I was instantly smitten not only with Robin Hood, but with Errol Flynn, the actor who starred in the movie. Both Robin and Errol became lifelong romantic fantasies of mine. Much to the chagrin of my mother...
It is only natural then that at some point in my life, I would want to dress up and portray one of my favorite heroes.
I present here, my fantasy & costume of Robin Hood. This costume is made up from a combination of items that I've either sewn, handcrafted, found used at thrift shops or purchased new on the internet.
I hope you enjoy it and make one for yourself. Perhaps, make a few for your friends and start your own band of merry men. You're never too old to play!
Basic Sewing Tutorial:
Simplicity pattern M5214
Fabric and notions necessary - see pattern envelope
Horn buttons or toggles
Metal decorative studs
Simplicity pattern 4219 (Optional - any long sleeved button down shirt with pointed collar will work)
3 - 3/8" x 36" dowel rods
Feathers for fletching
Hot glue gun
Craft knife or coping saw
Thrifted or Already Owned Items:
Leggings or stretch pants
Long Bow (Black cord elastic)
Leather belt pouch
Quiver (Costumes Cosplay Arrow Shoulderback Design Medieval Vintage Faux Leather Quiver https://ebay.us/hDJcPM)
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Step 1: Designing and Sewing the Costume
Before you begin: If you are new to sewing or need a refresher, here is a good Basic Sewing Tutorial on Instructables.
Designing and Sewing:
I started by making a (very) rough drawing of how I imagined the costume to be. I already had McCall pattern 5214 and could see that view B was the basic shape of the doublet that I'd drawn. I followed the pattern directions but eliminated the standing collar and the belt. I also eliminated the sleeves because I knew that I'd be wearing a long sleeved shirt beneath the doublet.
I chose a soft faux leather fabric for the doublet and used 3/4" x 3 3/4" pieces of grosgrain ribbon to add the decorative tabs. You can see by the photos how I made the points on the ribbon. Press each fold with your iron for crisp points. At the end points, I pushed in a metal triangle bronze stud for added bling. The studs are easy to push through the fabric. Then you just fold over the little metal pins to hold it in place.
I sewed the skirt of the doublet, attached it to the bodice and added more tabs for decoration.
TIP: Add all of your decoration to the outside of the doublet before attaching the lining inside.
Step 2: Doublet Fasteners
The fasteners for the doublet are made from leather lacing, vintage plastic "bone" button toggles and faux leather triangles added for decoration. There are no exact measurements for this part as you'll need to add or subtract according to how long you need your lacings in order to fit your own figure. You'll also have to decide which side you want your buttons on. Men usually have theirs on the right side while women's clothing have their buttons on the left side. Why you ask? Well, some sources say that men tended to dress themselves and were right handed, making it easier to button and unbutton clothing by themselves. Other sources give reference to it being easier for a man to unbutton his coat with his left hand as his right hand may be busy wielding a sword.
Women tended to be dressed by servants. It would be easier for the servant to dress her ladyship if the buttons were opposite her right hand as she stood facing the lady's left side.
Whatever the case, the general directions for the fasteners on our doublet are these:
Take a piece of leather lace and form a loop. On the side of the opening that you will have no buttons, you'll want your loop to be long enough to go around the button on the other side and not overlap the doublet fronts. It's easiest to figure out how long you need this loop to be if you bring the center fronts of your doublet together, make a long loop on one side, hold your button on the opposite side, loop the lacing around the button and then cut the lacing where the loop meets at the back end where it will be sewn onto the garment. Open up this lacing loop and measure. This measurement will be how long you need to cut all of your lacing pieces. Cut all of your loops and stitch down over the grosgrain ribbon. I found that using a seam measure tool and placing a marker dot on each of the ribbons helps to make all of the loops come out even. (See photos)
On the side that has buttons, the leather loop should line up with the edge of the doublet as it really has no purpose other than being decorative. Stitch down the loop at the edge of the doublet front. You may eliminate the loops on the button side all together but having them there adds to the symmetry of the costume. Stitch your button toggles in between the sides of the leather loop on the decorative loop side.
At this point, I added little faux leather triangles over the grosgrain ribbon. Again, this is just for decorative effect.
To make the triangles, I took a short piece of grosgrain ribbon to use as a pattern and cut my faux leather the same size as the ribbon. Cut the faux leather piece in half to make two squares, and then cut diagonally across the squares to make the triangles. Stitch your triangles over the grosgrain as shown in the photo.
Finish the doublet by following the pattern instructions for lining.
Congratulations! Your doublet is finished!
Step 3: Hat and Shirt
I used this Instructable by kylegilbert to make my hat but made a couple of modifications.
First, I shortened the length of the front point on the pattern by approximately 1 1/2".
Secondly, I cut out two sets of pattern pieces just as though I were going to make two hats. I stitched both like the pattern suggests but then put the two right sides of both hats together and stitched around the outside edge, leaving a 6" opening so that I could turn the whole thing right side out. I now had a much sturdier and lined felt hat.
Pressing all of the seams flat and steaming the fold line made a really nice Robin Hood hat. Instead of cutting a couple of slits to insert a feather, I simply used a little hot glue down inside the fold where it wouldn't show and stuck in a couple of pheasant feathers that I had.
Shirt: (Sewing Optional)
I used Simplicity pattern 4219 for my shirt. This is actually a Victorian styled poet's shirt and has voluminous sleeves. I've always wanted one! Knowing that I'd be using arm guards to pull in the puffiness so I could shoot my bow, I went ahead and made it to use for my costume.
Any long sleeved shirt with a pointed collar will work for this costume so don't feel that you have to make one!
Step 4: Accessories - Adding the FUN Parts!
These are the accessories that I used to create my costume. If you have a different vision of what your costume should look like, go for it! Be creative, scrounge through your closets and thrift shops and use what works for you. It's all about fun!
Tights or Hose:
One thing every Robin Hood is known for is his tights. Back in Medieval times, everyone wore hose that was held up by ribbons. Today, a pair of leggings, opaque tights or even stretch pants will do the trick for this costume. I found a pair of olive green stretch pants at Goodwill for 44¢ and went with that. (They photograph as brown... I don't know why!)
A wide belt with large buckle looks great with this costume. I had an old Calvin Klein wide studded belt in my stash and used that.
Knee-high boots from your closet or thrift store work great! Mine were in my closet.
I used a long bow that was actually in the house that my parents bought before I was born. (I guess I was destined to play Robin Hood)
Word of warning concerning using a bow for costumed play - please don't use nocked arrows with a real bow string! This makes it a weapon and not a costume. For my own bow, I strung it with black elastic cord. It's available at Walmart or Hobby Lobby. Very light tension to this elastic. You have the look but not the danger! Be safe!
If you don't have a long bow, a recurve or child's bow set will work just as well. This isn't the SCA... this is just fun costumey stuff!
I made my arm guards a few years back as part of a pirate costume. They aren't archers arm guards as the buckles are on the inside of my forearms instead of on the outside but I used them anyway. A couple of pieces of leather or fabric laced up the back would work too.
I purchased the quiver here. It was inexpensive and had the look that I wanted.
Step 5: Arrows - a How to for Costume Arrows
No Robin Hood costume would be complete without a few arrows sticking out of a quiver. However, since I didn't want to hurt myself or anyone else while wearing my costume, I came up with an idea of how to make some (safer) arrows. I guess you could still use these to "poke your eye out" so caution is advised.
I started with 3 dowel rods that were 3/8" x 36" . Using a pencil sharpener, I put a point on one end of each rod. A little gray craft paint on the points make them look (sort of) like metal target tips.
Next, we'll need to add some fletching. Fletching is the feathers on the other end of the arrow. I took some black feathers and using a craft knife, stripped one side of the feather off next to the quill. I cut them to length and in a sort of shape that I thought would look somewhat realistic. Using a hot glue gun, I glued 3 feathers to each dowel rod, with the quill side down and about 1/3 of the way around the rod for each feather.
TIP: Use a pencil tip or bamboo chopstick to push the feather quill into the hot glue. It's called HOT glue for a reason! Take it from someone with blistered fingers...
Paint the back end of the "arrow" where the nock would be. If you don't need to add a nock at the end of your arrow, please don't - for safety sake.
If you simply must nock your arrows for realism... Using a coping saw or craft knife, carefully cut out a small groove about 1/4" deep in the end of your dowel rod. Sanding the groove helps the elastic cord to not get stuck when releasing an arrow. If you do decide to point or shoot your arrows from your bow, be aware that the elastic cord is not very strong but can make your pointy stick arrows go about 4-6'. Far enough to hurt someone. So, again I say, if you do not need your arrows nocked then don't. Better safe than sorry!
Mine are only nocked because I needed to actually shoot them for a photo shoot and movie trailer.
TIP: When adding your arrows to your quiver, it's helpful to have something pushed down into the bottom of the quiver to keep your arrows from either sliding out when you bend down or jostling around when you walk. I used a plastic soda bottle shoved down inside the quiver. The arrows fit tightly in around the bottle and stay where I put them.
Step 6: Finishing Touches - the Goatee and ALL DONE!
Ah, the goatee!
The ultimate Robin Hood accessory.
Being a woman, playing a man's part, it goes without saying that I must purchase my goatee.
I purchased mine on Amazon. If you do the same, you'll need some spirit gum adhesive and remover to first make it stay on your face and then to remove the glue from same after the mustache and beard pieces have been taken off. I've included links for the goatee and the spirit gum in the supplies list at the start of this tutorial.
There you have it, your very own Robin Hood costume. I hope that this ible has helped you to creatively design your costume. Now, go out and wear it with pride at a party, or surprise your partner with a Medieval feast (in costume), or perhaps, just run through the woods and make-believe you're in the 12th century! Whatever you decide to do, do it with swagger. You're Robin Hood!
Second Prize in the
Book Character Costume Challenge