Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Bog Coat Jesus Costume

Eight years ago (Issue # 87, dated March 2000), Threads magazine published an article by Susan B. Allen about the 'Bog Coat' -- a garment named because it had been found on the preserved, ancient body of a man who fell into a peat bog some 1600 or so years ago. She showed several variations, and a schematic for cutting and directions for making one.

I always thought it would be a fabulous garment for a Biblical-era costume, and I finally got around to trying it.

Our Master's Commission Program requested a costume to be used by whoever would be portraying 'Jesus doing ministry' (as opposed to 'Jesus glorified'). There's a long story behind why it was requested, but the upshot was that they wanted something in linen.

So I scrounged the internet and fabric stores, and found some really nice stuff on sale from Michael last spring...a shirt weight cream color and a horizontal blue stripe (which was blended w/hemp). The shirt weight, once I had it in my hand, struck me as being a bit too lightweight for a robe, so I kept my eyes open and found some nice midweight linen on sale when I stopped at JoAnn's while passing through Nashville. And, it just so happened that that linen was a dead match for one of the stripes in the blue, so...we have a match. I used my favorite Bible Costume pattern, McCall's 2339 for the robe, but pulled out issue no. 87 and made a Bog Coat for the cloak.

I managed to get DS to model it for me; he kinda liked it. Our usual over-coat is a sleeveless vest; he liked the sleeves on the overcoat.

I did modify the coat somewhat...the article says to cut the neckline in a u-shape, basically the depth of the sleeves, then seam the sleeves w/the seam on the outside and put a band over it.

Instead,I cut the neckline a little deeper than the fold on the sleeves (so there'd actually be room for the back of the neck), and I cut it in a teardrop shape, so that the coat front would meet in the CF.
This is my really rough representation of the cutting changes. It's not to scale, but you can see the difference in the neckline...the original is on the left, and my modification is on the right.

And I made a facing for the neckline, since this costume is going to get MUCH abuse in its lifetime, I wanted it as sturdy as possible. And, since I wanted the coat to *appear* to be seamless, I put the seam on the wrong side of the coat and serge-finished it.

The only tricky bit (besides measuring!)is the corner where the sleeve joins the body; that's sewing a right angle to a straight line. I actually chose the wrong spot to match the stripe; it's a little off on the coat body, but it matches perfectly...on the sleeve, which no one will see.

I intended for the front of the coat to be the selvedge, but somehow I mismeasured how far to cut the sleeve into the fabric. I ended up with the coat front extending all the way to the edge of the facing. So the front edge of the coat has been turned under and machine blindstitched down.

I fringed the bottom instead of hemming it.

Now, this is not a dead ringer for the costume that I was supposed to be copying; I couldn't find the right colors of linen for that. And I realize it may be a bit out of the 'customary and familiar' Jesus other words, the decision making folks in HMC haven't seen it yet and they may not like it. So, I pieced together a more conventional shoulder drape from the leftover, which DS also modeled for me:
When he put it on, he commented, 'Oh, this is the traditional Jesus look!'.

Well, I'm don't think Jesus had earrings...but, whatever...
Between you and me, I kinda expect to see the drape on stage more than the coat. We are creatures of habit.


  1. Nicely done - I like the way you are able to get more than one look out of the costume. I do hope they like the costume!

  2. Great job, I bet they will get a lot of use. I have a question on your making baptismal robes. Can you tell me if you used a pattern and what number/company was it? Thanks ahead of time for your information.

  3. Nancy, our baptismal robes are made from an OOP Simplicity pattern, 8895. It's an African Caftan that we modified by simplifying the neckline, adding a front zipper, and sewing the side vents closed. The pattern is in storage at church, so I can't post a photo. I don't think it's available anymore; however, any simple robe pattern would do, though...