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...MAKING A COSTUME - FENCING
(click image for picture)



 

 

    Fencing is my favorite sport, at least it used to be. If you're interested in fencing also, you can learn a little more about it on this page. I'm only going to talk a little about the uniform here.

    Fencing uniforms are quite easy to make for a  person who's at all familiar with sewing. All that's required is the appropriate shirt pattern, some kind of fasteners such as buttons, snaps or Velcro, and maybe a double ring buckle if that's desired. Cut a shirt pattern out, leaving lots of extra fabric in the front of the for the lower apron. If the uniform is intended for saber anly, then the apron is not necessary and the front can be cut as a waist coat.

    The fabric used should be something like duck or canvas, a medium duck or denim being preferable. The fabric is going to serve as some protection against the opponent's weapon, so keep that in mind. Make the front of the unform, and the fencing sleeve double for added protection against strikes from the blade. The free arm and he back ar best left as light, single thickness material in order to facilitate breathing of the material (sweating).

    The apron part of the uniform will have to be fitted to the person it's intended for. Then a strap of the same material is sewn to the apron and attaches at the waist in the back by the double D ring buckles or Velcro. It only requires that the buckle be accessible to the wearer, although fencers are inclined to help one another in times such as these.

    The front flap of the breast torso cover is just the front part of the shirt without being sewn at the seam on the left side for right handed fencers, and on the right for left handed fencers. The opening should be away from the opponent so his (or her) blade doesn't penetrate the opening. The far fencer in this picture is a left hander wearing a right handed uniform, whereas the close fencer is dressed appropriately. Use whatever kind of fastener you want here. Buttons and large snaps are more decorative, but Velcro is easy to open and close.

    The collar is a mandarin type, meaning it stands up. To make a mandarin collar, use your shirt pattern as usual, but instead of sewing "ears" on it, cut the collar where it would normally fold over into the collar shape, and stitch together. Remember to leave your 5/8's excess for sewing the halves together, and sew them from the back (inside) as you normally would. A quick survey of the web will provide you with some good pictures that will better show what I'm talking about.

    Although the mask has a padded bib to protect the neck, this mandrin collar (which runs from opening to opening, across the front of the jacket) is added protection in case the opponent's weapon should find its way under the bib, which has happened on occassion.

    For the trousers I bought some white denims and cut them off below the knees, and made a strap from the material used for the jacket (or from the cut off part of the trousers), and fastened it to the bottom of the cut off trousers. The overlap of the strap has Velcros to keep it in place. I also sew in some elastic so there's some flexibility to this strap.

    When cutting the trousers, keep in mind that when the fencer lunges the trousers are pulled up the leg. It's not convenient to stop and pull one's trouser leg back in place while fencing. So measure the cut while the fencer is in the lunge position rather than when he's standing.

    Other than a pair of white tennis shoes and a pair of long white stockings, that's all there is to a fencing uniform. 

    Here's another little trick you might try if you don't have access to a fencing glove (I made lots of these). Take a pair of soft gloves (I prefer leather, but those purchased are generally made of the same material as the uniform), then using the material you used for the jacket, cut a funnel that fits fairly tightly over the forearm and attaches to the glove. This glove extension can be long or short, I've seen both. I prefer to make them so there's a seam along the length of it so the glove can be easily put on and taken off, and so it can be adjusted tightly against the forearm. This is especially helpful if the fencer uses the epee.

 

 


 

 
    I always wanted a smoking jacket, so I made one for myself lining it with a bright red sateen. It's being used by this young man at the moment, and it's long gone from me now having been lost with my other fencing equipment, someone feeling they needed it more than I did.

    What has a smoking jacket to do with fencing? I designed a patch for the club I taught for (as an assistant instructor in lieu of dues), and embroidered several of them for members of the club, and for myself. One of these patches I still have, amazingly. With close observation one can see the faint outline of the patch on the left breast of the jacket.

 


 


    At one time I was putting on some fencing demonstrations, and for my costume I used available material and came up with what you see in the next few pictures. I made one similar to this for the other person in the skit, his was made of purple velvet, very beautiful if I do say so myself. That costume disappeared before I had a chance to take pictures of it. Again people feeling they deserve what I consider mine more than I do.

    The shirt of this costume is nothing more than a poplin shirt of a color and kind a workman might wear. At the time that's all I had to work with. Everything else consists of bits and pieces of fabric found here and there, and a lot of lace. The idea is to use the imagination. The best of material will be of little purpose if the vision is no good.

 

 


 


     Again, just a pair of poplin trousers with a lot of colorful scraps and a lot of elbow grease applied.

 


 

 
    This cape was not assembled from scrap as were the other pieces. I used a lot of sateen, and made this cape double thick, the inside being the same as what you see in the collar part of the cape. 

    It can't be seen in this picture, but there's a gold chain attached to the neck of the cape, with fancy clasps holding it to the fabric. The purple vest was even more impressive than this one. I just wish I've been able to get a photo of it before it flew the coop.

 


L

 

 
    Where can you find a musketeer hat? I don't know, so I made one (two in fact). For mine I used some pieces of vinyl that somehow missed being used as a seat cover, and sewed it into what you see here. For a plume I took several colorful feathers and tied them together forming a long plume.

 



 


     What is a swashbuckler without a good pair of high top boots and a sword scabbard? Here again I used scraps of various material, matching the rest of the outfit, to make the necessary accessories. The boots, if viewed closely in the photo, are lined with yellow sateen, like that of the cape. These are only the tops of the boots that fit over a pair of shoes giving the effect of boots, while the top of the boot covers, being extra wide, fold over to the outside revealing the inner liner. 

    People in those days wore such boots so that when the streets became sloppy, they could pull up the overhanging part and make them into waders.

    An interesting side note on this time of romantic history. Although the people, even the men, wore more frills and lace than a bride at a catheral wedding, they didn't consider baths of value, believing that the more they smelled of perspiration (stank), the more sexy and attractive they were. How times have changed. I'm supposing that the perfume and soap makers of those days didn't fair too well. 

 
    Part of the skit involved me using this small shield, while my opponent wielded his sword and a left-handed dueling dagger.
   A note on the length of the sword. Today the length of a fencing weapon is 35 inches. There's a historical reason for this precise measurement. At one time dueling became so commonplace that anyone with ambitions of being "the" great swordsman would challenge anyone for any reason to a duel. This became so prevalent that the challenged would have to place his appointment with death on his calender because he had so many prior challenges. We see this same attitude enacted in our old west, the young guns ready to draw on anything that moved.
   In order to gain the advantage, swords were becoming so long that they drug the ground. The government, in order to put a quell the lengthing swords, made it a law that if a person had a sword longer than a yard when they entered the walls of a city, that sword was to be broken. So it's for this reason swords to this day are one inch shorter than a yard stick.

    This costum is not for fencing per se, but for kendo, a Japanese form of fencing using split bamboo swords. This is not truly what they wore, nor was what we demonstrate anything near what kendo is actually like. But the need for protection is even greater than that with our traditional fencing.
 
 



 
    A final note of interest regarding fencing. You may have seen the villain in the movies with the name Doctor Von Shiller or something of the sort, speaking German, and with a scar across his cheek. There's a reason for this scar.
    This is called the "Heidelberg scar." In Heidelberg Germany there was (and maybe still is) a university where the best of doctors were trained. It was the custom of these doctors to have what might be called a duel, with the intention of losing to their "opponent." They would get drunk, then wear a mask to protect their eyes only, revealing the cheek part of their face. Then with swords sharpened at the tips they would swing at one another's face until a cut was produced. Why, you might ask, would they do such a thing? It was believed that if a doctor was unwilling to go under the knife himself, then he shouldn't be cutting on his patients. And for this reason it was not popular to have a doctor who was void of the Heidelberg scar.
    Just some more useless knowledge you probably wish you were still without.



 
 
 

 


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