Aela the Huntress from Skyrim, completed 2013

Photos by Little-Noise

Model, costume: Sylvie Kirkman

The dress is a backless halter style, cut high on the hips. It fastens on one side, and the straps at the back keep the font under tension to keep everything in place. There are underwear built into the dress as well to keep the front under tension and make sure it doesn’t ride up. The maille panels at the thighs are on straps that attach at the hip, cross over under the rear flap of the dress, and fasten to the opposite side on the front. The belt around my waist is done up last, after everything else is in place.

The actual construction of the dress was relatively straight forward, once I had a sketch and the fastening points decided – I used scrap leather, as I hadn’t worked with it before, and I was able to get a few kilos of leather from a fabric store for relatively cheap. I started by patterning out the dress and drawing in the seam/dart lines, and then using that as a guide on how to cut the leather and assemble each piece. I hand sewed the pieces together, added the underwear, and started work on the strapping. The straps and underlay on the maille panels are a pigskin lining leather.

The dress is actually quite comfortable to wear – and provided I use tape at the sides of the bust, it’s really secure, and very easy to move around in. The hip plates, once they’re attached (they snap on and off for transport), make sitting a bit awkward, but perching on a narrow chair (as opposed to a couch, for example) is fine.

The chainmail on the dress was done by hand – the rings were bought from and assembled using a 4-in-1 weave. There was a bit of guesswork involved in sizing these panels properly! I ended up widening them a fair bit, as I didn’t take into account the effect gravity has on stretching the panels down and making them narrower when worn.

The armour pieces I am very pleased with. They are made from foam PVC board (Sintra, Palite, Foamex, etc) and detailed with epoxy putty. All curved pieces were heated and shaped by hand, and I used a combination of edge beveling tools and small chisels to add detail and damage to the pieces.

The fastenings vary, but mostly involve heavy duty press studs on leather tabs, riveted to the individual pieces. I used a combination of blind and single-cap rivets.

The armour pieces were primed, base coated with a hammered finish silver paint, and weathered with black and brown acrylics to add some dirt and grime and rust. I then picked out highlighted areas with silver enamel, and gave the whole thing a coat of clear varnish.

The turquoise stones are glass cabochons, misted with a couple of shades of turquoise acrylic spraypaint (one can was bought purely because of the colour name – ‘Frazetta’) with gold and bronze applied with a sponge, then clear coated for shine. These are superglued into place. These pieces are very light, so little bits of velcro were all that was needed to fasten them to the dress.

The furry pauldrons are made with possum fur. The gloves are a slightly stretchy cotton blend, that was dyed green (badly – it’s quite uneven, but for this project it works) and scummed up a bit to match the rest of the costume. Bicep bracelets are the same sintra+faux turquoise as the chest plates.


This is one of my favourite costumes to date. There are definitely improvements I can make – for example, strengthening the strapping across the back and hips – but overall I’m really pleased with it. It fits well, is relatively comfortable to wear given how much it weighs, and the armour has held up extremely well to a number of knocks and bumps.

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