Blue Velvet Tabard, Part I: Fabric and Design


For Halloween this year, my daughter (naturally) wants to wear her princess costume. Since we always do family costumes for trick-or-treating, I figured I’d wear my Grey Lady outfit and go as a queen, and my husband could be the king. He’ll basically put on anything if it makes our daughter happy, so while I’m sure he’d have preferred to wear a basic white shirt, maybe a basic cape and a plastic crown, I wasn’t going to let him off that easy.

I knew I wanted to make something in blue or gray to complement my own outfit, and I thought that drapery or upholstery fabric would work well for stiffness and texture, so I went off to the local mill-end fabric store to find some. Unfortunately, blues and grays are apparently not popular right now, at least not in an appropriate pattern (stripes and polka-dots are not going to work!), so I was about to leave when I saw this hanging in the apparel section:


It’s exactly two yards of a 55″ wide embossed velvet. It’s a short-pile velvet so I don’t think it’ll crush easily, and it doesn’t have any stretch to it but feels like it’ll be easy to handle. The only problem is that my husband is a big guy– 6’3″ tall– and I’m not absolutely sure that two yards will be sufficient for what I have in mind. Technically there’s enough for a half-circle cape about 40″ long, which would be fine, but kind of boring, even if I were to add some kind of sash to the outfit. He needs something more structured.

After scouring the internet for inspiration, discarding the idea of making a buttoned doublet (too much trouble) or adding panels to a tuxedo vest (ugly), I came across this fabulous pattern from MoiRandalls for a Musketeer-style tabard/cape combination. The sample looks perfect, and the sketches make the sewing process look easy. However, since I know I don’t have enough fabric to construct the actual pattern, and I don’t have the energy for finding a coordinating piece of fabric to go with my original, I’m going to wing it without the formal pattern. I’m grateful for the inspiration, though!

The original pattern looked like a long rectangle (hole in the middle for a head) with two quarter-circles added to the back for a cape. I decided to stick with the long rectangle part, since that forms the base of the tunic, but reduced the arc of the circular sections to allow me to fit them onto my fabric. Based on my calculations, I should be able to fit a 67-degree arc (assembled from four pieces) into my fabric– less than the total half-circle in the pattern, but still reasonably full. Because of the nap of the velvet the pieced-together cape might look a little weird, but it’ll pass muster.

As you can see, I’m cutting the front tunic-section 27″ wide, which will be more like 24″ once I finish the edges. I’m taking advantage of the full two-yard length to make the tunic 36″ long (35″ after hemming), which should hopefully hit him about mid-thigh. The front will be belted in so it’ll wrap around the hips and look like a tunic, and the back cape will hang loose. With this pattern, I’ll be taking full advantage of every inch of fabric– always nice to know it’s not going to waste!


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