Joanna the Bishop commands you: Needles up!


I love Halloween. I love everything about it. I love inventing costumes and adopting a new persona for a while. This year, I have decided I want to be a bishop. The reasons why is something I won’t address right now but in later updates.

So what do I wear and where do I find it?

I’m sure there are ready-made adult bishop costumes out there and that if I looked around, I could find plenty of material. Yet you never get exactly what you want, which is why I am making my own costume.

Yes, I will be sewing my own vestments, and this is from someone who has next to no experience sewing and who has never sewn a piece of clothing a day in her life. I thought it would be fun to try something new at the same time as doing something I love to do. I might like it.

The hardest part will be sewing the cassock. The design is simple-it is a robe that buttons in front. The hardest part will be sewing on the mini-cape and the collar.

I still have that nagging question: How big?

I will start off by measuring my height, the lengths of my arms, the circumference of my upper arms and shoulder, and my neck and wrists. I will draw out the front and back separately on design paper before I cut. When I cut, I’ll add a few extra inches for wiggle room. It is easier to trim the fabric than to add on. Those part I get.

When I make the front and back, I am just concerned about width. I don’t know if the width of the yard of fabric will cover me, or if I will have to sew attachment strips near the seams because it just…doesn’t…quite make it around. I will be duct-taping my chest, so that won’t be an issue, but that still leaves the rest of me. I want there to be two seamless front and back sections joined at two seams at the sides.

If I have to expand the width of the fabric, what do the seamstresses around here recommend? I don’t suppose it would kill me to do the fabric in three or four sections instead of two. Many graduation gowns are sewn that way, but I still would like to avoid that.

The “shape” of the cassock is a flowing robe, and like I said, I won’t have to worry about chest measurements because I won’t have a chest. I still want it to have the sleek look and not look like a sack. So now I have to worry about “shaping” the cassock without making it skin-tight, which might mean expanding the width of the fabric again. Grr, I’m back where I started.

I’m still undecided on the sash because I cannot decide whether I want to tie it or sew it closed. If I sew it closed, I will need to take hip measurements and make sure I can slide into it easily. This will mean top-of-hip, bottom-of-hip, and around-the-hips measurements. If I go around the hips, my sash will slide down to my ass. If I do below the hips, it will fall off my ass. My best bet is doing it (partially) above the hips, but then it might be too high up and I don’t want to strangle myself.

Trial and error, I suppose. I’m excited nonetheless. I think this will work out well.

Is there anything else I should know about sewing or adapting clothes for larger people?

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One comment

  1. jaed · October 16, 2011

    Fabrics come standardly in either 45″ or 60″ width. (This is notional and they can actually be a couple of inches narrower.) This gives you 85-114 inches, more or less, taking into account seam allowances.

    (Items are usually cut out with the width of the fabric running from side to side – this has to do with the grain of the fabric and the way it naturally falls. It depends on the fabric, but some weaves fall oddly and bunch up if you have the width running up and down instead of side to side. So the width – 45″ or 60″ – is the critical number for your width, and the number of yards of fabric you have is the critical number for how long the thing will be.)

    It may be helpful to take a shirt and skirt or a dress you own and check their measurements laid out flat – this can give you a starting point if you already have some clothing that fits e.g. your shoulders the way you want the cassock to fit. I’d very much recommend making a pattern, in paper or scrap fabric or something, and pinning it together and trying it on. It won’t flow the same as the real fabric, but will give you an idea of how it’s going to look on you so you can fix any problems before cutting the fabric. Also it will help to use a large seam allowance (this is the distance between the edge of the fabric and where the seam goes). If it’s an inch or more, this makes it much easier to correct problems and enlarge it a bit in a needed spot.

    And about the sash…. may I recommend velcro ;-).

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