May 14, 2013

The Hobbit Costume Projects: Fili Vest

I volunteered to build the Fili vest for Nina, a friend who's costuming this Hobbit dwarf, mainly because I wanted to make the scales trim using polymer clay. Much like what I did for the Thorin scalemail shirt for Oneal.

Looking at the official Fili image, I figured I’d have to make roughly 150 scales. I estimated I would need 7-10 pieces of 2-oz brown/copper/beige polymer clay bricks. I also figured I’d require about a yard of 54-inch wide material, preferably faux leather or costume suede. I found everything I needed at a crafts and fabric store and bought them with discount coupons.

I worked on the scales first. I had made a positive and a negative mold of the four different forms, so it was just a matter of pulling 150 positives. Bake, then paint, and done!

Scales for Fili vest made from polymer clay

It was my first time to sew a vest, and my first time to work with suede (definitely more manageable than marine vinyl). So, I was learning as I went along. More like winging it.

Guided by the measurements Nina sent me, I cut a paper pattern. I thought I had it right but after I had cut the fabric, I realized I could’ve done a Dolman sleeve instead of a regular sleeve. That would have been easier to sew, and would’ve looked closer to the Fili original. But, with no extra material to revise my design, I went ahead with what I had already cut.

Costume Suede or Distressed Suede

It was nice working with the costume suede because it doesn’t fray (didn't have to do any serging). And the fabric surface, while feeling a bit plastic-y, does not get tacky under the sewing machine’s pressure foot. I just had to guide the material so that it wouldn’t swerve too much.

Fili vest work in progress 

Fili vest without the scales

As soon as I finished sewing, I laid out the scales to check if I had enough. It turned out that I had made too many because I had counted the scales on the real Fili, without thinking that Nina’s measurements are certainly much smaller.

Attaching scales to the Fili vest

Using super glue, I attached all the scales very carefully. No major mishaps aside from the three times that I tore off a piece of finger skin that had bonded with a clay scale.

Fili Vest by Ruby Bayan Llamas
Fili Vest with natural light.

Fili Vest by Ruby Bayan Llamas
Fili Vest with camera flash.

Overall, it was an easy project – a couple hours for measuring and cutting the pattern and material, maybe three to four hours sewing the vest, and an hour gluing the scales. Preparing the 150 clay scales -- conditioning, shaping, baking, and painting -- probably took the longest in terms of manhours. But you really don’t bother counting the hours when you’re having fun!

The best part of all: bragging rights!

Costuming Vest inspired by Fili of The Hobbit

Fili, Lord Elrond, Thorin Oakenshield costumes by Ruby Bayan

Photo taken at the premier of Desolation of Smaug in Manila, December 2013 with Nina (Fili), Dante (Lord Elrond) and Oneal (Thorin Oakenshield).


Anonymous said...

This is so neat! You're very talented.

Unknown said...

I don't suppose you could (if possible) email me with details of the paper pattern you used for this, or some tips on how to make it as your is absolutely amazing! I'm cosplaying fili for London MCM Expo in May and this part of the costume is petrifying me! I have the fabric and details sorted, but the actual cutting and sewing is petrifying me!!!

ruby said...

Suzy, thanks for the kind words. Send me an email (my address is in the profile page of this blog). :)

Fantti said...

Thank you so much for this! I wouldn't have survived without your post about this costume!

ruby said...

I appreciate the kind words, Fantti! Let me know where I can view your photos! :)

Elodie said...

OMG! This works is just perfect! I've been looking on the Internet for references as I'm trying to do a cosplay of Fíli for next April in Hobbitcon (Germany) and your design is just the most perfect so far (and let me tell you that I've looked around a lot ^^)
I was wondering if you'd be kind enough to share with me the pattern you used and maybe give me some tips? (It's my first costume, so u can say that il all new at this :) )

ruby said...

Hi Elodie, Thanks for the kind words. I really appreciate it. I derived the vest pattern from a regular cardigan design. You can design yours based on your measurements. You can look up the pattern for an extended-sleeve blouse, and that will work too. Maybe even better because I thought about it after I already cut the cardigan style.

If you have questions on anything, please feel free to email me: