Research: Merida from Disney’s Brave

Brave 1

Merida from Disney’s Brave in her green dress.

I’ve been striving to become a better costumer, not only sewing wise but also with patterning and accuracy.
I’ve learned that something costume contest judges really enjoy seeing is historical accuracy. While I’m not a historian, I’m fine with research. So to begin my new adventure I’ve decided start with Merida from Disney’s Brave (which is an excellent movie if you haven’t seen it. It’s quite beautiful and has a nice story.). Brave is set in medieval Scotland, however like with all movies Disney-Pixar took some artistic liberties and combined centuries according to Scottish historian Laura Barnett the women’s clothing looks to be set in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Now let’s begin with what would have been worn as undergarments in Merida’s time.  In much of medieval Europe the undermost garment was called a Chemise. This is a simple linen dress made to keep body oils from getting on the finer fabrics of the main dresses, it was also used by the poorer classes as sleepwear. It’s safe to assume that the creme ‘puffs’ on Merida’s sleeves are puffs made from the chemise.  While the image bellow shows the chemise that Merida wore under her formal gown, it’s safe to say the one she wears under her everyday gown is either the same one or very close to the same. She is also shown wearing a corset here, but we all know she would never have worn one with her everyday gown, even if it is period.

Merida's Formal Undergarments

Merida’s Formal Undergarments

Next we move on to the main dress that Merida is seen wearing. This is called a Kirtle. These gowns were either loose or fitted and were generally ankle length, though some had trains for more formal occasions. The fullness in a Kirtle’s skirt is made from adding gores, which are triangles of fabric added between panels on the skirt, this adds fullness but doesn’t bulk up the waist. The Kirtle would have been made of wool which was in abundance at the time and helped to keep the wearer warm.

Merida's in movie dress compared to her 'disney princess' dresses.

Merida’s in movie dress compared to her ‘Disney princess’ dresses.

Merida also wears a belt with her green dress. While we can assume that with her in movie dress this belt is for function and is used to hold her quiver, in her more formal gowns (and her Disney princess re-make) one could argue that her belt is more of a Girdle, which is used to fit a gown and to symbolize purity and is worn only by virgins. Either way both would have been made of leather. Merida’s shoes would have most likely been Turnshoes, which are made of leather as well.

Finally Merida’s cloak. This again would have been made of wool, but it would also have been lined in fur. Cloaks were worn whenever one went outside to keep them warm and to keep their fine dresses clean.

Hope this helps with all your Merida costuming needs.
Next I’ll be posting what materials I’ll be using for my Merida cosplay.


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