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Bilbo!    Bilbo Baggins!

 Well, it looks like I'm doing a repro of Bilbo's Party outfit. The aim is to take it to CC24 next Memorial Day, but I'm hoping to get it finished and useable well before then.  So off to crawl through the movie and zoom in on all the costume shots. Unfortunately most of the good shots of the vest when Bilbo is in the kitchen, is in soft focus! Means you can't see a lot of any seam work. <sigh>. But, first off to work out the layers. Bilbo wears a white shirt, a silk waistcoat, velvet trousers (drop front), and a velvet jacket. Then to start examing colors, designs, hunting for fabrics, can they be dyed, and what are the construction aspects of the clothes! Of course has lots of exhibit pics that show wonderful detail - but not of the back of anything. So more scouring and capping and zooming in.

White Shirt | Waistcoat | Trousers | Jacket | Final Bits

shirt and vest close upWhite Shirt

     The shirt is a white shirt with a standing collar (no collar band) and two visible covered buttons. One button is at the base of the collar and the other is just at the neckline of the vest. Bilbo is never seen without the vestWhite shirt on, not even in the gallery stills <sigh>. There is no way to tell if the shirt is buttoned all the way down, or just a short placket like Frodo's original white shirt was. So, my decision is to make it a placket front like Frodo's, since they wore similar 'elegant' clothing.

    I'm using Butterick's pattern for poet/pirate shirts (Butterick 4486), but I've made a few changes. They want the front to be not just split down the center, but actually notched open and then laced. Not for Bilbo! I simply split it to the level I felt like, and created a continuous placket to bind the edges. I've put one self-covered button at the base of the collar and the other will be positioned when I get the vest done. I also added a shoulder yoke across the back, because Bilbo has one and all it takes is tracing the top part of the back piece and stitching it on at the right place. Not exactly rocket science to create (just remember a seam allowance as you have to flip it up).  I also brought the armscye in to where my shoulder point it (ok, just off it) rather than keep the drop shoulder of the pattern. While a drop shoulder is wonderfully historically accurate, Bilbo didn't really have dropped shoulders - he just had very rounded shoulders and his shirt slid to the sides occasionally and looked that way. They are actually just off his shoulder point when the shirt is sitting correctly. And of course I've had to adapt the cuff to a proper hobbit cuff. So Butterick provided a good starting place, and the changes weren't really all that difficult. I'm just using white shirting cotton, so there really isn't anything to see in a pic of fabric. But at least it's done!
bilbo cuff        cuff w/button on extender tab
cuff detail: is there a tab with the button, or does it overlap?

further research shows a definate tab that extends the button over.

Waistcoat original fabric?

   Ah the elusive search for fancy fabric! I managed to find what I'm certain is the original silk jacquard  by Henry Bertrand silks ("Leinster"). But they are only wholesale and won't deal with the public, so I can't get it. What I've wrestled with is where to compromise. If you look at the exhibit pics from Neiman Marcus (acs), you can see the design is very frondy and perhaps somewhat dimensional (matelasse? the original isn't, so if it is dimensional, it must come from the design teams' dying and distressing work to create the effect). And if you look at the portrait in the "Official Movie Guide" but Brian Sibley (p49) it looks very red and very shiny. Thing is, the color changes a lot - in the kitchen scene it looks darn near terra cotta! But they did a lot of color tweaking in the movie so you can't always go by that. And in the ACS pics the lighting and tweaking there has turned the pics a little orange. So... how to find something that is shiny, red/terracotta, and frondy.  that I can also afford. I hit my local Joann Fabrics and the web. I found a number of possibilities, but none of them were great. I found one that was very posible: good color, very shiny (good price), but somehow the patttern was all the same size - it just didn't have the different scale that the original had. Then Jonatha found an amazing fabric at Hancock Fabric. It's all polyester so it's definately shiny, it's a matelasse,  and it's really frondy. Actually, it's the closest to the original design I've seen anywhere! Problem is that it's the wrong color - it's gold. Lovely for Eowyn's Coronation dress, but I want a vest for Bilbo. And polyester doesn't dye after the factory. But Jonatha discovered that it does paint. And she found a lovely product called 'dye-na-flo' paint that is transparent and doesn't effect the hand of the fabric  and works on poly!! She did a few dye tests on the fabric, and it's amazing! Ok, so we want to blend between two shades she found, but this stuff is even mixable like dye. Way cool. So.... as soon as my next flyer comes in with a coupon, I'll see about getting the fabric. This is what it looks like.
vest fabric gold    paint tests
upholstery mattelasse "Derby" #813253N - painted in 3 different reds with Dye-Na-Flo
to see other fabrics that we considered, <click here>


vest full front
As you can see, this vest has a standard notched collar that has been rounded to mimic a shawl collar; but it is made of two pieces and swings out to 1/2 way across the shoulder line. The crossover hits at about armpit level. It's double breasted with 3 rows of buttons and two flap pockets that are set midline to the lowest set of buttons. The length is about mid-hip level. there are no signs of front fitting darts. back vestYou can see in this back shot, the wrinkles at the neckline are from the actor reaching backwards - not any sort of gathering at the neck. There is a center back seam and a back adjusting belt  that hangs loosely. The belt appears to be tacked at the ends, not coming out of any darts or p-seams. There appear to be no shaping darts or extra seams here. So there are just the two front panels, two back panels, collar and back belt. And from the scene with Gandalf's numinous growth, the front corner of Bilbo's vest flips up in the wind so we can tell that at least the front facing is the same fabric. Whether it is entirely self-lined, or simply self-faced, we cannot judge.

<details and mockup work>


cotton velvet

    Bilbo's trousers are the same drop-front breeches worn by all the hobbits. However, Bilbo is a rich, gentlehobbit who is not likely to wear such banal fabric as linen or wool. Oh no, Bilbo has velvet trousers! In charcoal grey. How convenient, Denver Fabrics has the most luscious Italian cotton velvet in charcoal grey. The trousers, although we never see the top since the waistcoat covers it at all times, may be assumed to follow the same pattern as Frodo's: two flap buttons on each side, self covered (I'm betting these buttons probably aren't functional, but rather attached to the top and the trousers have a more prosaic movie closure of either velcro, snaps or hooks and eyes underneath. Mustn't risk popping a button!) and side slit pockets. Also, while most sewing patterns for drop front breeches have a waist band, hobbit trousers do not. Neither do they have any adjusting lacing at the small of the back. There is, however, a small V-notch in  the center back and the X-back suspenders button on. Bilbo also has fancy grey shank buttons with gold roping around on the side hems. At the moment I'm planning on using the pattern from Simplicity's Pirates of the Carribean set (Simplicity 4923).  There was a Victorian men's pattern that I also considered, but I felt it would be easier to make the pirate trousers a little longer (with no knee band) and they looked a little straighter legged than the Victorian which looked a little more tapered. Otherwise, the construction on them looked pretty much the same.

    The mockup is almost ready to cut to the velveteen, and I've got some really cool buttons painted up for the legs. Still have to adapt the suspenders.



Party jacket    Bilbo's party jacket resembles a Victorian smoking jacket from the front. It has a simple single breasted front  with two gold buttons and a shawl collar. The top button is almost level with the middle wasitcoat button and the lower one at the bottom edge of the waistcoat. The cuffs are not simply turned back, but are backed with the same quilted fabric as the outer view. The collar and cuffs are made with a quilted silk jaquard that is actually a shot silk (changeable silk, iridescent silk - pick your prefered term) of green shot with gold and quilt stitched with gold. And the entirjacket backe jacket and cuffs are edges with the same shade of greeny-gold rope piping. The jacket itself is maroon velvet. 

     The front of the jacket is fairly simple: no darts or additional seams.  The sleeve appears to be a single piece sleeve rather than a more common 2-piece coat sleeve. The back of the jacket, however, may be a bit more involved. And here we differentiate between the movie and the Toybiz figure. The Toybiz action figure of "Party Bilbo" indicates that the back of the jacket has a belt with two gold buttons, although when Bilbo turns to hide from the S-Bs no such belt is in site. The action figure also indicates a center back vent. This is up for debate. Is that dark line a center vent, or just a fold? In other shots, there's no sign of it, but this looks awfully dark to be a fold. And see? no back belt.

The other issue up for debate is the piecing of the back. Unfortunately much of the scene is in somewhat soft focus, and velvet 'eats' seams. Is that a princess-seam line coming off the armscye and allowing some flare over the hips? The wrinkles looks suspicous, but other shots indicate a smooth back line.  Here's a shot of him extending his arm: clearly it is a one-piece sleeve (the second seam would show here), but is that really a princess-seam coming off the armscye, or an artifact?

is that a p-seam??      sleeve closeup


Denver Fabrics (since I was buying the charcoal velvet) didn't have a maroon velvet, but they did have a raspberry. While the raspberry is way too pink to match the movie color, Jonatha (bless her heart!) was already dying some other fabric bronze for me and said that if we (she!) overdyed the raspberry at the same time, it would deepen the color and turn it very close. Close! It looks like an exact match to me. Incredible. And it still has the luscious feel of cotton velvet. The lining fabric has been a little more difficult. I have not been able to find the original fabric (even if I could get it, which I likely couldn't) since most shot silk is taffeta and notjacket fabrics jacquard woven, and silk jacquards are not usually shot. Maybe she had it custom woven? So the decision was which is more important: the iridescent quality, the color or the pattern. There are many swirly fabrics out there, I found quite a few. Thai Silks has a nice silk jacquard in a swirly pattern that was deemed to be really close to the pattern used, but it would need to be dyed and would come out flat and not have the iridescence of the shot weave. Joann Fabrics carries a polyester (Signature Silkessence - upholstery weight) that has a slightly bigger swirly pattern embroidered on (rather than woven in) and actually does come in an olivey green shot with gold. So it looks like I'm going with the poly so I can have a close pattern with the right color and changeable quality. I'll have to give on the fiber since I don't think a flat color would look better even if it were silk.
    The pattern is likely to be quite a mix. After all, Bilbo's jacket front is very plain: no shaping at all,  and that can be from either an interesting women's coat (Butterick 4354) or a Simplicity smoking jacket (However, I used my mother's old out of print Simplicity 7075 shawl collared jacket). But the back has a lot of fitting issues- whether there is a back vent or not, and whether there are princess seams in the back or not. To get a fitted back and a plain front will take fussing with two different patterns. probably. At least there's only the 1 underarm seam. So we'll see, I haven't gotten that far.

 <Further details>

 Final Bits

    Of course Bilbo's hair is not the same style as mine (even if the color is almost close). I found a wig online that looked possible. Wellll, it's a little short but the color is good. So we'll see. I also found a wig at a store that might be better, but I've already spent $50 on the first wig and since they aren't returnable I'm not sure I want to buy another. Luckily the one from the dance store is only $20. We'll see.

    And there is the furry feet issue. I've already made foot-wigs for Dora Took, so that's really pretty easy. I'll need to make another pair in a whiter color for Bilbo. It's just a matter of putting a good movie or two in the dvd and sitting down with the knit-picker (micro latch-hook tool) and latch-hooking hair/wool onto some netting. The ears I still have from Lederkram (wonderful hobbit ears!). And of course I need to find a green paisly scarf for the ascot. That shouldn't be too difficult, I'll just have to actually go into a store and look!

So this is progress so far. It's coming along.

last updated
April 6, 2006