Sequin Mail: Drafting a Cowl Neck “Chainmail” Tunic

When I began devising my plans for a complete “Wagnerian” outfit to wear to the Met concert celebrating the legendary German composer, I knew I wanted to include some sort of chainmail aspect to represent Medieval knights, which are so gallantly (and infamously) portrayed in many of Wagner’s operas. A showpiece necklace from Afghanistan was at the top of my list.

Thank you, Aunt Countess and Uncle Kim !

However, I struggled to devise the rest of the outfit due to the very specific nature of the necklace. And so, I looked beyond my closet and found a mesh fabric with matte silver sequin paillettes sewn onto its entire face for a reasonable price online.

Looking through historical fashion plates gave me the idea of imitating the drape of chainmail coifs (hooded headwear), but I didn’t want a full suit of armor. No, a simple, sleeveless cowl neck tunic was my intention…

And excerpt from “Pictorial Encyclopedia of Historic Costume” by Albert Kretschmer and Karl Rohrbach
And excerpt from “Pictorial Encyclopedia of Historic Costume” by Albert Kretschmer and Karl Rohrbach

While there were many patterns on the web for cowl neck tops, I didn’t like any of them ! Therefore, I decided to draft a pattern on my own using newspaper. There’s a wealth of knowledge out on the web for creating patterns and this article was particularly insightful in helping me create my cowl: https://www.threadsmagazine.com/2013/11/18/how-to-create-a-draped-cowl-neckline

Preliminary pattern pieces

After several knit mock-ups, I began what I thought would be a messy cutting process and prepped my work area with black garbage bags before tediously snipping around the sequins. Spoiler alert: hardly any sequins fell from the fabric !

The mesh selvedge was suitable enough for the facing so I placed the upper part of the front pattern piece on top of the mesh. What a time saver !

The sequins along the seamlines were promptly picked off to avoid getting caught under the sewing machine needle before I stitched the two sides together. Ta-da !

At this point, the tunic was too long. A bib hem seemed like the perfect solution to mimic the drape of the cowl neck…

Drafting a hem piece was easy enough, however, in hindsight, it would have been better to eliminate all the “place on fold” edges and create full sized pattern pieces; cutting was a one-side-at-a-time job and flipping the uncut sides distorted the shape of the pieces somewhat.

Helpful hint: to check how the lines/curves of a foldline piece will look when doubled, place a mirror next to the edge of the pattern piece and examine its full shape.

I paired my sequin tunic with faux leather pants using StyleArc’s Margaret pattern, a too-tight disaster that was salvaged by the longer hem of the tunic ! Whew !

StyleArc’s Margaret Pant

And what would a Wagnerian-inspired outfit be without a Ring ? Although it wasn’t fashioned from the gold of the Rhine, this antique pearl ring belonged to a relative of mine.

While modern, my outfit gave me the right representation of Wagnerian interpretation. I also learned that pattern drafting wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined. Hojotoho !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

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