Shannan Costume – The Jerkin

Part 4 of the Construction behind my Shannan, the Daughter of Allon costume.

This was undoubtedly the most unique and hardest part of the whole costume. I searched high and low through my references to find something that would work against the stereotypical female doublet grain. I knew I wanted the bottom to be longer and the top more simplistic, but things were starting to look hopeless as I racked my brain trying to come up with something. My beginner skills at costume design were starting to show. During a google image search I happened across an illustration that became my design focal pointJerkin

Sadly I cannot find the the artist who did this piece so I can give proper credit (if you know who did this, please leave me a comment so I can credit them!). I’ll admit that I copied down the jerkin almost exactly, mainly because I was trying to figure out how the artist designed it in the first place.


I had an intention to change the shape once I figured out the final design, but the more I worked with it, the more I thought it fit Shannan’s design. In the end, I kept the shape of the illustration’s jerkin, but changed quite a few other things. The changes made were:

  • The lacing was replaced with D-rings and straps
  • The jerkin’s bottom were cut into side flaps only to protect the hips rather than a full skirt
  • Top was raised higher to protect the collarbones
  • Different colour and fabric
The jerkin proved to be a tough little piece to do as shown in both the illustration and my sketches. It’s all one piece (all the lines are seam lines) and goes over one’s body like a vest, pulled together by straps in the middle. In addition, I wanted the jerkin to be made out of leather, preferably a soft, supple leather. I looked at fake leather, upholstery leathers, even elk hide. But the prices were just astronomical for my meager budget. I was beginning to wonder if I would have to scrap the jerkin all together and go with something simple. But nay, I stuck to my guns. I wasn’t going to compromise the design and end up with something that looked like I just stitched it together for a romp at the local comic convention. I wanted this to be a screen-worthy costume. Mrs. Elrod came up with an interesting design for a more rustic looking jerkin with military-esque straps pulled across the body. I’ll admit it took a bit to talk me into it as it was such a departure from the designs I had drawn up. But it was between that or no jerkin at all and that just wouldn’t do. So I surrendered to Mrs. Elrod’s sewing expertise and away we went.
At Goodwill, we stumbled upon a rich suede coat that featured stitched panels. It gave it a look as if hides had been stitched together. It was a very light beige/cream colour, so I had a mind to dye it. Upon closer inspection, we found the jacket was from Hening Furs. I went onto their website to discover that coats similar to it run about $1,500! In the end, we managed to procure the coat for a whopping $30! What a steal! But yes, it’s true. We planned to cut it up, dye and distress it all in the name of costuming. Here’s some closet-ups on the jacket we procured on our last Goodwill excursion. It’s a heavy little bugger (and way too big for me). So here it is folks, the $1,500 coat that we cut up in the name of costuming…
IMG_2123 IMG_2124 IMG_2128The pattern, on the other hand, turned out to be a headache. It was nigh impossible to find a pattern anywhere near my sketch. We scowered through every pattern book we could find as well as online. I even bought a dress at Forever 21 that I thought might work, but ended up not being the right cut (sadly, I couldn’t exchange it back for cash to put towards the costume). After a couple weeks of searching we returned to Goodwill and found a long dress that had some close seam lines. It wasn’t completely ideal, but it was the closest we could find.
IMG_2188Using me as a mannequin, Mrs. Elrod drew the lines on the bottom of the jerkin that we would use to cut out the final piece.
IMG_2730IMG_2733IMG_2732Mrs. Elrod then cut out the silken lining from inside the suede jacket and cut off the arms. When I returned the next day, we went to work on adjusting the coat to fit me. We also discovered that the coat pockets were cut shallow. We weren’t sure what to do with them, so put them on the Do-Later list and continued on with the adjustments.
IMG_2804Mrs. Elrod then penciled in where the middle trim would run for the straps to be attached to.
IMG_2808 IMG_2806We adjusted the front middle and back middle seams to overlap (as stated before, the jacket is entirely too big for me). The sides were also taken in lest the dreaded ‘tent’ form under my arms. The jacket was to fit snugly, but not form-fitting. In the beginning of the book, Shannan is still hiding in the woods and attempting to hide herself from prying eyes. This includes hiding her shape to a point to disguise her feminine nature. Now, this was a bit troublesome for me as I am 21 years old and Shannan is 15. As such some of my curves were going to be harder to hide than others.

We put the pink pattern over the coat (along with the costume pants and boots, which I’ll be discussing in another post).IMG_3078IMG_3080IMG_3079A few weeks later Mrs. Elrod had transformed the cut up Hening coat into the final jerkin, complete with trim, D-rings, straps, shoulder pads (yep,…shoulder pads. Apparently my shoulders are a littletoo feminine for a strong archer like Shannan! :P ), and a bum-flap. I hadn’t drawn one in the design, but when we actually looked at it on me, the pattern just didn’t feel right. I’m rather partial to the bum-flap now. It, plus the flaps on each side make the jerkin feel like it has a bit more of a nature-inspired leaf pattern.
 And here is the final jerkin!

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