Sailor Moon in the 16th Century

Sailor Moon!  Such a glorious show from my childhood!  If you are not familiar with this fun and cute anime, you can watch the first season on Hulu, or Youtube, but the quick summary is that you have five school girls who can transform into superheros with various powers.  They fight bad guys, find romance, and generally enjoy being best friends.  Good stuff!

EDIT: The internet has found my post and appears to be happily nomming away!  Exciting!  However, this keeps coming up so I’ll note it here: I am not doing ‘Sailor Moon if she had been born in the 16th century in Japan’.  I love researching Italian clothing around 1550-1600, and thought it would be fun to make a new outfit with an inspirational theme!  This is decidedly not what 16th century Japanese fashion looked like, although it would be super cool if someone else did that!

I have seen a number of medieval and renaissance reenactors cosplay as the historical versions of their favorite characters, some of which were an easy fit, like the Queen of Hearts or Belle in her simple blue dress (or many other Disney Princesses), and some of which required a bit more creativity, like Captain America, Harlequin, or other tight-bodysuit superheros.  I thought that Snow White would make a very nice SCA outfit theme, but I never quite got the motivation up to actually start making something until I saw the Viking Sailor Scouts.  That’s right guys, the 4 inner scouts plus their figurehead, Sailor Moon, as early period vikings.  Isn’t that the coolest thing ever!?  (Go check out Fortune Favors… by Lady Fortune St Keyne, she made the Sailor Moon dress and has pictures of the other scouts!)   I loved the idea, but since I do later period clothing, I decided the world needs a 16th century Italian Sailor Moon.

I brought up the idea with friends and drew up a quick sketch to show what I had in mind.  I have a few friends who are interested in making outfits with me, but are already in the middle of other projects, so they will start later.  I, on the other hand, was free to start a new project!


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Woops, the order is a little mixed up, but you get the idea: similar base kirtles with minor differences in guard/trim placement and accessories.

Step one was to make a more detailed plan:

  1. I wasn’t wild about the original idea of red trim on a blue dress.  I tried various shade combinations, but I really wasn’t feeling the red on blue.  White on blue mimics her collar nicely though, so I will do that instead.
  2. The buns/odango are an interesting element to try to mix with the braid crown hairstyle that I generally prefer with late Italian outfits.  My husband suggested flowers in my hair to represent the shiny red bun covers Usagi has.
  3. The outfit doesn’t have enough white, which is easily fixed with an apron.  I considered a white apron with red ties, to nicely create the red bow she has in the back, but I am not sure that I have seen any aprons with differently colored ties in the 1500’s (except the fancy stuff like this).  Solid maybe there.
  4. For red, we’ve got red ribbon, sleeves, necklace, and shoes.
  5. I am decidedly not blonde, and don’t feel like bleaching my hair, so wig research started at this point.
  6. I didn’t have any 5 yard lengths of blue fabric, so I decided ordering linen would be my best bet for quick, reasonably priced and accurate color.  It is probably more correct for a dress of this style to be wool. I already had the white silk for guards on hand.
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I bought the fabric for the red sleeves in a brighter shade than my plan drawing, to better match Ms. Moonie. In the lower left, you can see several women wearing this style (by Vincenzo Campi).

Here’s a few quick examples of the 1580’s working class dress genre I am going for:

Fishmonger by Vincenzo Campi, c 1536 – 1591

Fishmonger by Vincenzo Campi, c 1536 – 1591

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Scenes from the Life of the Artist’s Family by Federico Zuccaro in Florence. 1579

The Fruit Seller by Vincenzo Campi, 1536-1591

The Fruit Seller by Vincenzo Campi, 1536-1591

In a few short days, my new blue linen arrived!  I took the pattern from the blue/grey dress and altered it by raising the neckline, and making it about an inch bigger around.  I then made a new paper pattern (without seam allowance, for funsies) and then cut bodice pieces out of linen, cotton canvas, and something new and experimental for me: heavy duty felt interfacing.

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Like many costumers at the moment, I am trying to see what I can accomplish without resorting to using boning.  I am a huge fan of the super smooth and flat look for bodices, although if you look at the images above, the lower class working ladies weren’t nearly as concerned about the smoothness of their bodice.  But I wanted to experiment with the felt padding I had seen in other’s blogs, usually for the ultra flat and smooth look of the upper classes.  Since this dress is just for fun, I figure it’s alright to play with upper class techniques on a lower class gown.

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See all that sexy exaggerated smoothness?  Yeah, that’s what we’re going for here.

Hopefully the video above works.  Not that this step needs video, but I thought it would be fun.  I am using a super heavy duty interfacing.  I literally went to the interfacing section of my local fabric store and picked the heaviest versions of stabilizer and buckram.  This dress will be just stabilizer, I’m looking for stiffness and thickness through felted fibers, not glued woven ones like buckram, although I will probably experiment with that too soon.

MS paint drawing

Lol, I will replace this MS-paint drawing with something nicer later, but hopefully, it gets the idea across.

Imagine trying to wrap a piece of paper around a cylinder or tube.  It will wrap around quite easily, since it only has to bend in one direction.  Now try to tightly wrap a sheet of paper around something with more curves, like a vase.  If you try to make it tight around any concave curves, it will buckle and create big ugly wrinkles in the paper. You can fix that by adding something to fill in the concave sections, supporting the paper evenly and essentially forcing the curvy vase to become a tube.  The firm stabilizer is going to act a lot like paper if I try to wrap it around my decidedly not tube shaped torso.  This issue has been discovered by other costumers who have tried to use buckram or any big firm sheet of material to support their bodice: they get big ugly wrinkles under the bust.  I think I first saw this ‘fill in the concave bits’ idea on Laurie’s beautiful gown (, then recently some really neat ideas on using a padded stomacher and buckram ‘boning’ by Lindsey (, and just a couple of months ago I saw Shushanna’s lovely gown where she experimented with the heavy interfacing (

I am trying a combination of the above techniques, and my bodice will be layered from the outside in with blue linen as my visible fashion fabric, then cotton canvas for lacing strength and protection against stretching, then an all over layer of poly felt interfacing (if you happen to know where I can get some seriously heavy duty wool felt to use next time, leave me a message!) then a few additional layers of felt in the under-bust area, then finally a white linen lining.

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You can see the built-up layers of felt on each side.  I tried to use up the odd pieces of interfacing left over after cutting out the bodice pieces.

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I love trying a bodice on for the first time!  I am still getting a bit of curve in the bust, but not enough that I am going to worry about it for now.
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The shoulders are not curving with my body, so I took out some material there so they would curve a bit more.
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The straps were also hitting my arm-shoulder joint, and I know from experience that will lead to bruising, so I trimmed them down to be a little narrower.
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Woot woot bias tape!  I made some bias for the bodice.  It started out about 1 inch /25 mm wide, but I think that the narrower trim will look better for this project.
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I ended up not quite going with either of these, instead I followed the outer shoulder trim down the side of the bust.

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Yay fitting!  The shoulders look much nicer now, although I can see where the last few inches of the front panels is threatening to buckle, so I added another layer of felt there.
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I saw this blog post a while back about extant Victorian dresses, with straight hems following the grain, and any excess fabric taken in at the waist.  The time periods are wildly different, but I thought it interesting enough to try.  I swear I have seen the technique elsewhere too, probably on pinterest.  (Again, message me if you know where a similar idea is demonstrated!)  The basic idea is: hem the bottom of your skirt, gather the waist evenly around your mannequin (or your actual body) and tie, mark the waist with chalk, following the edge of the bodice, and then lay the fabric out flat so you can smooth out the chalk marks.  I didn’t cut the excess, just folded it down where the chalk marks are and hemmed the raw edges.

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That folded edge of the skirt can be sewn to the bodice edge with whip stitches.  I don’t typically gather the fabric first like many people do for cartridge pleating, since I prefer the slightly more random look that most Italian portraits have.  I did about 3-4 stitches per pleat.

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Once the skirt is all attached to the bodice, the dress is done!

On to the wig adventure!  As you can see, I do not have the long blonde hair of Usagi, so I am going to fake it with a wig.  I have never worn or worked with wigs before, but the internet has the following advice for me:

  • I need to pin my own hair down tightly to my scalp, pin curls seem to be highly recommended
  • Then put a wig cap on top, matching the wig color if possible, and make sure all stray hairs are tucked away
  • Put the wig, and make sure that all the hair combs inside the wig are nicely secured through your own hair, and add some bobby or hair pins around the hairline to help keep the wig from moving around or falling off
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In case you are curious, this is the ‘Leia’ wig in pale blonde by Arda Wigs.

In case you are curious, this is the ‘Leia’ wig in pale blonde by Arda Wigs.

So the wig comes with a part all the way down the back of the head, starting a couple inches back from the hairline.  This is not a typical feature of wigs, usually if you tried to force a part on a wig that was meant to be worn down, you’ll get a grid of weft lines showing through.  This wig was already good to go, except for the very front hairline.  Arda Wigs has a bunch of tutorials, including this handy one that shows pretty much exactly what I did to make the parting I needed for this Sailor Moon wig.  I took pictures as I went, but for an explanation, go check out the video, it tells what to do perfectly.

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I did a twist around the hairline, and braided the remaining hair behind the ears, mimicking the exact same technique I did when I had longer hair.  The two braids were then wrapped around my head and secured in place with several hairpins.  I had planned on using ribbon to make taped braids as you often see on Italian ladies, but I ran out.  Pearl headband instead!

With the dress and hair done, I made some very quick and simple sleeves, and was ready to try everything on!  But first:

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Middle: Susanna in the bath, around 1570, Bassano, gotten from the fabulous Anea (Anea Files, near the bottom of the page).

The bodice is not nearly as rounded as that nifty Bassano painting, and the skirt looks particularly deflated, but oh well, the top is still quite structured, and happy to stand up on its own if sat upon a table (right).

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Yay completed dress!  There are some changes I think I’d like to make, but I will wear it a few more times to decide first.

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I really ought to make a petticoat someday, I think it would add some lovely fullness to thin dresses like this one.

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Such lovely lavender growing near my house right now!

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After a few hours of wearing it, I discovered that my extra layer in the belly area was insufficient to prevent buckling. Upside is that it is at least below where the apron sits, so isn’t visible. Without all the extra padding inside, I guarantee I’d have some very big wrinkles right in the middle! I may add more padding or perhaps a few bones, or maybe shorten it at the wrinkle, it doesn’t really need to be longer than that anyway.

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Super excited about how well this came together!  I look forward to wearing the Ascension-day apron with this some time, it will match the color scheme nicely!


20 thought on “Sailor Moon in the 16th Century”

  1. Jessica Norris says:

    This looks fantastic, yet again! :) What a great idea to create a historical costume based on animé.

    I’m very interested in the felt padding concept. I feel like it might be a much more comfortable way to get some bust support without having to have a crushingly tight lace, for a small bust. Will watch out for any future reviews of this technique! :)

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  3. Pauline says:

    This is amazing! Congratulations on your work!

  4. Lady Catford says:

    Check on line for wool batts and also needle felting kits These contain unspun wool which can be felted by you to the thickness needed.

    What you have done to the bodice is genius at work.

  5. Emma Lawrence says:

    I love this it makes me wish I was better at pattern making. you look FAB ;)

  6. saroful says:

    Shorten the bodice, definitely. And next time I think maybe cording instead of the felt; I find that my corded bodices behave like it sounds you want the felt-lined one to. Other than that, this is fantastic and inspiring.

  7. Blossum says:

    Looks like that would have taken a lot of time and effort. Although it can’t be classified as cosplay it is still very lovely.

  8. Chantie says:

    This is so inspiring, I love it so much!

  9. Lady Runa says:

    “Costume Close-Up – Clothing Construction and Pattern 1750-1790” (Linda Baumgarten & John Watson with Florine Carr) shows on page 12 that the skirt is constructed as follows (paraphrased): hem the skirt straight along the bottom (add decorations if desired); while model is wearing outfit, drape skirt around to ensure hem is parallel to floor; fold the extra fabric at top to inside and stitch to bodice, pleating evenly around. I’ve made an outfit in this manner and it works well. So yes, you used standard procedure for attaching a skirt to an early period gown.

  10. Julie Caskey says:

    Loved this dress so much! I decided to make a Dragon Ball Z “Goku’s Uniform” in an Italian Style. I will be posting pictures soon! Great work as always!

    1. Morgan Donner says:

      Oooh, neat! I look forward to seeing the pictures! An orange Italian sounds fab :D

      1. Julie Caskey says:

        Hey! I’d love to show you some pictures but I cant seem to upload them here. Do you have an email address I could send them to?

  11. Rose says:

    How clever. Most beautful photographs as well. You look lovely posing.

  12. Carol Salloum says:

    Love your work, thanks for taking the time to discuss your process. I was looking for information on the chemise you wear with the Sailor Moon outfit. Thank you!

    1. Morgan Donner says:

      I never did do a write up on that chemise! It’s a lot more German flavored than Italian, but looked nice with the outfit. It’s just rectangles joined at the armpit/neckline, gathered and smocked. Any particular information you were looking for?

      1. Carol Salloum says:

        Rough measurements of the front/back and sleeve pieces. Did you construct like Jennifer Thomas of Festive Attyre?
        or more like the image 5 in this document By Baroness Rainillt de Bello Marisco?

        1. Morgan Donner says:

          Ahh! It’s assembled like the second link, which was very simple to put together, but does mean that the shift wants to always be quite curved around the neck, which can be annoying if I want a slightly more square neckline to match a dress.

          The sleeves are made with 36×26 inch rectangles, and the torso rectangles are each 46×45.

          Hope that helps!

          1. Carol Salloum says:


  13. Marie says:

    I just recently found your youtube channel and came snooping on your website. I love you rendition of Sailormoon! I am think of doing something similar with a video game character in 16th century inspired gown. In the research and design phase and I stumbled came across your lovely page. I like how you have the bodice corseted on the backsides. I would like to add that to my design, however,you did not mention how you constructed it. It was briefly mentioned that the bodice came from your previous blue/grey dress. Is there a specific term used for that kind of lacing? All I have found is the style of the bodice is Tudor? I just started getting my feet wet in this and I am new sewer. It will be a project I that will have to take my time with. Thank you in advance!

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