Shannan Costume – The Concept

As promised, here is the breakdown of the behind the scenes of my Shannan costume from the previous post.

In February of 2010, knowing my budding interest in costuming, my mother asked me to create a costume for one of the lead characters in her recently traditionally published novel, Allon, to accompany the books in publicity. For background on the character, Shannan is the female lead from Books 1-4. From birth, she is destined to bring back the return of the mysterious Guardians and help Prince Ellis take his rightful place as ruler of Allon. She is a strong, but caring girl, wise beyond her years (and needs to be to deal with a young, hot-headed Ellis!) and an expert hunter. Her grandfather, Sir Niles of Pollux, whisked her away upon her birth as she was marked for death by the Dark Way (why? Well, you’ll just have to read the book! :) ). As such Shannan lives in the secluded forest of Dorgirith away from prying eyes and invasive questions.

I was excited for the opportunity to try my hand at designing a fully-fleshed out costume and was quick to jump to my sketchbook. This particular costume is from the beginning of the book where her character is introduced. It a forester’s costume in basis, but with it being in the world of Allon, we tred to stay away from the cliched medieval look. The era of costume design for Allon is designed roughly around the renaissance period, but with a fantasy aspect as well as Allon is a fantasy world not unlike Middle Earth. Stealth and ease of movement in Shannan’s clothes would be essential. So I designed the costume to have nothing dangling off of it as not to deter movement as well as keep things in a utilitarian fashion. However, she and Sir Niles do operate out of a cave so her equipment (such as her bow) would be short range.

This was my first attempt at designing Shannan’s costume back in 2007. First I started out with sketches of various ideas I had. I liked the look of the gorget combined into the actual bodice rather than a separate piece. I also gave her wispy sleeves (as I did with other Guardian characters later on) to bring some femininity to her outfit and boots like her grandfather. The rest, I’ll admit, I generically designed.
After having designed the costumes for many of the other characters in the book, I began to realize that Shannan’s costume didn’t fit. For one, it was too medieval looking and personally, I didn’t think it looked different enough from every other female archer costume out there (sans moulded corsets and tight leather pants . No sexy Robin Hoodette here!). So rather than design something purely based on look (and my limited knowledge of archery/living like a woodswoman), I took a more method approach to get inside the costume.

I put my Weta cap on (quite literally. There’s a black Weta Workshop cap sitting in my closet. It’s my literal reality of a ‘thinking cap’. :) ) and tried to logistically think through each piece in Shannan’s costume. As such I ended up scrapping and changing just about everything!

Allon book character Shannan Costume Design

  • I changed the collar from a cowl to double funnel collar (to act as camoflauge in terms of the colour of the fabric as well as protection like a thick scarf)
  • I completely did away with the original bodice and went for a more moulded leather jerkin after a couple reference photos I came across on Google images. Shannan’s jerkin now resembles a shape similar to the one Wren, the Guardian of the forest (and Shannan’s protector in the beginning of the book), wears. The flaps at the front do not extend all the way around the back for ease of squatting (and hopefully easier movement through the back of the legs for running or jumping). However, the side flaps extend down to protect her hips and top of the breeches.
  • I kept the pleated sleeves for a few reasons.
    • 1. In a predominantly male (and secluded environment), Shannan has had to live off whatever she’s been given to wear. For the most part, it has been borrowed clothes or clothes to hide her lest she be discovered. But it’s not completely uncommon to have a woman in the woods, so she can get away very subtle hints of femininity.
    • 2. They are the same sleeves (though of lesser quality fabric) that are on Wren’s jerkin. I have no doubt that would dote on Shannan every so often to remind her that she is cared for and loved (as Shannan’s duty and future role in Allon is a heavy burden).
    • 3. If I can find the right pattern, they will move as leaves rustling in the wind so in movement, they add another level of diguise for Shannan.
  • The quiver, straps, and arrows are much the same. With being on a deadline, I had to get the costume design done first, props later. So again, I put down something relatively generic to be fully designed later.
  • I redesigned the belt from a simple leather belt to a more complex two-strapped belt similar to the ones the Guardians (but again, much more rudimentary).
  • I thought the typical laced bracers would be too generic, so I came up with a different pattern. It is designed with similar seam lines as Shannan’s jerkin (and no doubt made out of the same material – perhaps the same hide as the animal skinned to create the leather) And yes, I’ll admit they’re a variation on the bracers from The Chronicles of Riddick. *raises a guilty hand*
  • The pants and the boots are exactly the same as the original.

However, the design was still up for more revisions….

  • Mom wanted to keep the detachable cowl, so I changed the collar back to a full cowl (as in the original design) and did away with the funnel collar.
  • I changed the bracers to a more standard lace-up as I felt the buckle ones looked too bulky and “blocky” as one friend put it.
  • The boots didn’t pass inspection as I had given Shannan the same boots that the guardians do (but out of much more rustic materials). So I changed them to lace-up boots to match the bracers and front of the jerkin. For the toe of the boots, I referenced the design made for Faramir’s boots. However, I don’t think I’ll be able to find a cobbler on a budget anywhere…

Sadly, my design proved to be too complicated to actually make due to the leather jerkin. So I sketched out a new drawing  for something easier to sew, but still have a feeling of the original design.
Allon book series Shannon Final Costume SketchTomorrow will be a look at the construction of the Cowl.



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