Brave is one of my favorite Disney movies. Since the moment I saw it I know I wanted to cosplay Princess Merida one day. A few years after the movie came out and I finally did it. This cosplay is one I’m very proud of.
For this project I was very torn on if I wanted to go more historically accurate or Disney accurate. I decided on Disney accurate but might do a historical one in the future. For the base dress I used Butterick B4827. It’s a very simple dress and doesn’t need as much fabric as some others in the same style. To be honest it’s one of my absolute favorite dress patterns. For Merida I altered the sleeves, did a straight hem vs keeping the train, and changed it to a zipper back vs lace up. If you don’t want to deal with the sleeve alterations McCall’s M6817 already has the sleeves done for you.
I made this dress out of a teal linen blend and white loose weave cotton. The linen is more of a medium weight fabric which gives it some nice weight and hangs really well. I also used a 22-24″ invisible zipper and leather cord.
So the base of the dress is done exactly to the pattern. The only difference from the pattern is that I straightened the hem instead of keeping the train. The top of the dress will need a V cut into it for the tie. I adjusted the front facing to have the V as well to make sure everything gets nicely finished edges. I used an awl to open up the holes for the leather cording to lace through. Awls are nice because they let you get between the weave of the fabric to open up a hole. This keeps the structural integrity of the fabric vs cutting open a hole.
The top ruffle is a rectangle that’s the length of the neckline plus an additional 3-5 inches. I folded the strip in half and then did a basting stitch along the open end so that I could gather it up. Once gathered I sewed it into the neckline. I sewing the neckline facing in first and used the ruffle stitching also as a type of top stitching.
The sleeves are the parts of this dress that had the most altering and planning required. I used the B4827 sleeve pattern as the base for the teal “outer” sleeve parts. The white top “under” sleeve that’s at the shoulder is made using the slash and spread method to make it bigger and puffy. This is a really great tutorial on the slash and spread method.
The white sleeve part near the elbow is just a rectangle. I made slim strips that connect the outer sleeve pieces.
I figured out where the strips needed to connect and sewed them in place. Then I connected the pieces all together to make a full sleeve. The sleeves inset into the dress per the pattern instructions once they’re all put together.
Once the sleeves are both in I fit the dress for the back zipper. This is easier when you have someone to help you but it can be done by yourself. I highly recommend using Wonder Tape to help you inset the zipper. It’s made such a difference for me in making zippers a lot easier to deal with.
The only thing left is to hem the sleeves and the bottom of the dress. Then the dress is done.
I decided that I wanted the bow and quiver for this costume too. I made the belt & quiver out of leather. The arrows are dowel rods with feathers glued on and the bow is made of PVC pipe, a scrap of pleather, and string.
So I did some research on hip quivers and in the end decided to go with this version:
I found all of the dimensions, pieces, and info for the quiver from the Evrard de Valogne Flickr page. It was really helpful and the perfect resource.
For the arrows I got some dowels from home depot. I sanded down both ends to a bit of a point (not too sharp) and then painted them brown with acrylic paint.
I then took some craft feathers and cut one side of the feathers off. Then i glued 3 half feathers to one side of the dowel rods to create the arrow fletching. You can make these more realistic by adding in the string that gets woven around arrow fletching but I decided not to do that part. I grabbed up some left over felt pieces and wrapped up all but one of my arrows in it then stuffed them all into the quiver. The felt helps to place them around the quiver so they look good and to keep them in place.
One of the arrows I then turned into my photo prop arrow. I fletched it like the others but on the opposite end I sprayed it with some Great Stuff Expanding Foam. Once that cured I carved it down into an arrow head shape. I coated it in Modge Podge before I painted it up with gray acrylic paint.
This is the only arrow I have that can be removed from the quiver. It’s important to know (and to remind con security) that the arrow is made without a notch at the fletched end. This mean it 100% CAN NOT be shot from the bow. This arrow is only for photo posing purposes only.
As for the bow, it’s PVC Pipe that is shaped by hand with a heat gun. This process is time consuming and kinda frustrating. You have to heat up the pipe with a heat gun (a hair dryer will not work as it doesn’t get hot enough). Once the pipe is hot enough it will start to bend. While it’s hot you have to bend it into the shape you want and hold that shape while it cools down. As it cools the pipe will harden back up but will keep the new shape.
Make sure you wear gloves and some kind of breathing respirator or mask. The pipe gets super hot and lets off some gross chemicals/smells as it does. Also make sure to go slow with the shape. You will have to do a lot of adjustments to make sure the curves look good and are as even as you can get them on both sides.
At the ends of the bow you will want to make a small and flat piece. This is where the string is attached. Before I strung the bow I painted it up. I used 2 different brown acrylic paints. One as the base color and the other to add in wood texture with. Go light on the texturing because it is really easy to over do it. Once the paint is dry you can add your string.
For the string I cut a notch into the flat ends of the pipe and I placed the string end into that notch. Then I glued the string end down before wrapping and gluing the string around the flattened piece. I did this on one end before running the string down to the other end and repeating the process. You want to try and make the string as tight as you can get it because it will loosen over time as you pull it back for photos.
The handle part in the middle is a scrap pieces of brown pleather that I blued on and then wrapped it with some extra leather cord. Make sure to glue the cord down really good because it can un twist and come off as you flip the bow around in your hands. It’s important to remember (and remind con security) that this string is in no way able to fire an arrow. The type and tension is in no way correct for a functioning bow.
That’s everything for this costume. Now you get to go run around the woods and be the best independent princess you can be!
If you have any questions about anything ask away in the comments. I’m always happy to answer questions. 🙂