Monday, August 5, 2013

Sarah's Mint Green Ren Faire Gown From The Labyrinth

Sarah's Mint Green Ren' Fair Gown from The Labyrinth

Give me the child. 
Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great ... 
You have no power over me! 

 Of all the gorgeous costumes & gowns that cosplay makers create based on oodles of classic films or even animated movies, the 1 that baffles me the most about is the gown the the character Sarah wore at the beginning of the 1980s Jim Hensen Film "The Labyrinth". 

First of all... Why hasn't anyone ever done a replica of this gown??? EVER???

I've been using the internet since 1994, and since way back then I would search through gads of homepages of all kinds of things, but no one ever did this particular gown... how odd!

Everyone seems utterly obsessed with the goblin masquerade ball gown that took place in the crystal ball. But, after hundred of reinterpretations of that ball gown, why is this one so neglected?

Everyone does the gown from Ridley Scott's 1980s classic "Legend"!

So... what gives???

To start off with... -and I HATE to be the one to break it to ya...

...but... are you sitting down????

It's NOT a white gown.... not off white.... and NOT gray either...

Take a deep breath...


Yeah.... it's mint green.

For real.... MINT GREEN. 

Not only that... but, the dress is lined with pale yellow, and has double sleeves.

It seems like every so-called cosplay photo you find on either Deviant Art, or fandom hot spots on the net, IF they are reenacting the intro scene (WITH THE BOOK replica) it's a chick in some white gown...


and, coming from folks that go ultra detail galore... that's pretty sad...

Altho... I did see some dolls that got it right! :D

Sarah From Labyrinth View 2 by ~Arianne023 on deviantART

Sarah From Labyrinth by ~Arianne023 on deviantART

But, by now, even the fan art drawings are white or gray gowns...


So... um.... did you guys mix up the colors of the ball gown with the intro Ren Fair type gown, or something???

Cross Referencing The Gown 

Anyways, I'm guessing everyone is shying away from the gown, because no one is really writing much about it...

So, hopefully... if you're 1 of those folks looking to do a cosplay gown, or go to a Ren Faire, maybe you'll find this blog post...

To start off with... the story is about a character named Sarah, in the setting of in the 1980s, who's mother is passed away, and was some kind of great actress... (You can see the evidence of that in Sarah's bedroom.)

Those are context clues there, kids... ;)

So, one would speculate that the gown she's wearing might be her mother's (in the story context).

If you look at the gown, it really doesn't look anything like something you'd see ion the 1980s (I'd know I grew up in the 80s) and it looks more 1970s looking... it even looks old, and worn a bit...

(That's how you do some due diligence, kids...) So, logically, that would make sence, and fit in line with the time period, the plot, the characters, etc...

( By the way, the park where the opening scene was shot in in London called West Wycombe Park You can find a really great blog post of someone whom went out and found it here. Other locations from the film include New York State and England)

The Gown Construction

The gown has a zipper in the back, and it's form-fitting.

The seems appear to use some kind of advanced Chinese binding in the sewing.
(Now, I'm not an expert in sewing... but, you can look up binding if you don't know it... Google is your friend. But, this type of binding is different than anything I know how to do... I've seen this kind of sewing often in older vintage clothes from the 70s, 80s, 90s, but I generally never seen it now-a-days. I don't even know how to explain it because I don't even understand how it's done. The only thing I have to reference it from is Chinese binding sewing, like on a qipao. )

The torso portion of the gown reminds me of the more rare styles of qipao gowns/dresses that have a slit in the front, and don't use a side flap.

So, if you're looking for a reference on how to construct the gown, I think that might be a good start.

This was a good video for references on Qipao making:

The Sleeves: Mint Green & Yellow

There are 2 sleeves. There's a yellow sleeve that has a rounded pointed end past the wrist. Over that is the long flowing, billowing mint green sleeve, with the yellow inner lining. It also has golden pins the pin up the seem to reveal the inner lining.

 Definatly green!
The upper part of the sleeves where they meet the shoulder are decorated with either flowers or puffed fabric balloons, which are then woven or braided with some golden chords that dangle, front & back, with golden tear shaped beads or bells at the ends.

If you look closely in the film you can see that the golden chords really do wra, weave, or braids through those flower/balloon thingies on the shoulder. It's not just dangling golden strings there, hanging for no reason.

The Belt & Headdress

The belt appears to be a separate piece that is pinned on.
It's braided with what looks like the same materials as Sarah's floral circlet diadem head dress.

So, you can see a thicker more rougher textured chord, and some golden chord. Those are braided, then braided together, and sewn onto the belt.

The golden chord is also used on the shoulders, and the head dress, and the rougher chord is also used on the floral circlet diadem headdress.

Now, I'm not sure, but the floral shoulder thingies might also be the same materials as the flowers in the headdress also... 

And, some extra screen captures:


  1. Howdy! Since I am working on an imitation of this dress right now, I thought I'd share my thoughts. I don't know about the Asian dress design you mentioned, but if you look closely at the actual dress, you'll notice it has princess seams. Also, I see the dress as being more of an off white/ivory with a greenish tint, rather than flat out mint green. And I must say, I am just as surprised as you are that so few people have tried to re-create this gorgeous dress!

    1. How did it go? Did you finish your gown? ^_^

  2. I'm also surprised that I've never seen anyone replicate this dress—and I've searched! I was going to make this dress for DragonCon last year, but I ran out of time. I'm hoping to make one for this year, but once again I've waited until the last minute and I have barely over a week to start and finish it. >_<

    Some thoughts on the color confusion... I too thought this dress was an off-white for years. Only upon closer inspection last year when I was studying it for my cosplay, did I realize that it looks green even after she leaves the park. Allow an art major to break it down for you. :P "Local color" is the true color of an object—the color that it would be in full light against a white backdrop. But since most of the things we see are not viewed in those conditions, our brains learn to compensate for environmental factors so our brains perceive its local color instead of the color it actually appears to be at the moment. For example, a banana is perceived as yellow even in a dim bluish light, though if an artist were to paint that banana in those lighting conditions, they'd mix up a blue-green color on their palette.

    I think everyone perceives that dress as white because she's in a park, surrounded by green grass, so the brain (subconsciously) disregards the color green in the fabric thinking it's just the grass reflecting off of white fabric. The green tint to her dress is very pale and muted, so the brain automatically disregards it and decides that white is the local color of the dress.

    However, when Sarah gets home, she's no longer surrounded by grass and you can see that her dress is still that muted sage green color. So her dress does have a green tint, though I wouldn't say it's full-on mint green.

    Thank you for dedicating a blog post to this under-loved dress!

    1. Yeah, I agree. I was an art major (and then some) myself. ;)
      (I had my artwork exhibited in Congress when I was about 15 in the 90s, and I have 2 medals from NASA for my paintings, and a degree in Computer Animation. I used to go to the UARTS on scholarship as a kid in highschool on the weekends in Philadelphia.)
      So, I agree, but non-artists and laymen don't think the way we do, nor understand things as we do.... if they'll excuse the expression but I "dumbed it down" otherwise no one would understand.

      Thanx for taking the time, and the thoughtfulness, which is more rare in this new Century, to write out your lovely words. I appreciate this very much. *big hugs*

  3. Oh my gosh I am SO glad I found this article! I knew it was mint green and having it made by a cosplay seamstress now, and I think I found the perfect color material (her original gown looks like its a heavier material than I found but I was having such a hard time!)... I am so excited and will show my seamstress this blog post! And I will post photos of me in the dress when its all done! - Caitlin

    1. Here are some pics of the dress!