As I’m starting to write this post, it is early July of 2022, but my eyes are already on 2023. If you wonder why, you can try guessing my age and number of girlfriends I’ve had so far01Yes, mostly for the lack of trying. It’s cosy living under the rock. I should definitely go out more.. The “deadline” for the project is Tuesday, February 21st 2023, known to Catholics as Carnival — or rather, the Saturday before, because that’s when the costume parties become socially acceptable. But since Robe of Archmagi appears to be a major project, starting over 6 months in advance makes sense.
For reference — here’s robe of Archmagi according to the Dungeon Master’s Guide:
R&D begins: Estimating the Cloth Requirements
I like to YOLO a lot of things that shouldn’t be YOLOed (and I’m also not willing to get some prototyping material on top of the cloth), meaning that we’re going to estimate and buy the cloth first. The estimates assume 1.6-1.8m wide rolls of cloth, because that’s what I was rollin’ with at the time.
There are four layers of white + one layer of red. Let’s save the red for last. It’s going to be completely covered by white robes, so it requires no effort. Nobody will be able to tell if I speedrun the red part in a single afternoon. Costs me nothing to make an estimate, though, so let’s say 3m for now, and we’ll revise our estimates later when we do the white layers.
Let’s start by the inner-most (and the longest) layer. White 1 is pretty long, gets wide at the bottom. Sleeves are pretty damn wide as well. My artificer cosplay took 3m for the sleeveless coat (which was also double-layered on the chest because inner pockets). Easy 3.5-4m of cloth.
White 2 is probably goes down to the knees (and has those big shoulder pieces, the lowest set). I’ll be generous and say I’ll be able to survive with 1.5m on that.
White 3: when bouncing this plan off a friend, we agreed that layer 3 is the layer on which the hood resides. This nets this layer a 1.5m estimate as well. 0.5m is budgeted for the hood and can be moved around, based on which layer the hood gets added to.
White 4: the outermost layer. It’s about as long as white 2, but also comes with some big ass shoulder pieces. Let’s peg that at 2m.
All in all, that’s 4 + (1.5 x 2) + 3 = 10 meters of cloth.
This may end up getting real expensive real fast.
Estimating the Cloth Type
Now that’s something that’s hard to tell from the picture. Robe of archmagi is — according to documentation — made out of “smooth, soft, very high quality” cloth. Probably not very heavy, likely not thick. The reference picture itself could be interpreted as both thin or thick, but further research puts things very firmly in the “thin cloth” camp.
But I slightly disagree, especially since February is usually also relatively cold. Thicker it is.
In theory, thin layers would help with attending some local cons in the summer. In practice, with 4 layers, I don’t reckon thinner layers will help that much.
But the closest cloth&sewing supplies shop says that “thick” and “smooth” are pretty much a “pick one” kind of deal. But we can kinda work around this issue a little by sewing a thin and smooth cloth over a coarser and thicker one. I’ve done that before with a cloak: it has a thinner, smooth inner layer and thicker blue outer layer. The inner side behaves about the similar way that I’d want:
The downside of this approach is that I’m going to need more cloth. To be specifically, 20m if I’m cutting corners with the robe only having outer smooth layer, or 30m if the robe is to be smooth on both sides. I happen to know price per meter for the cloth used in my artificer costume because it was very nice, about 10 cents shy of 7€/m. I plug the number into my calculator.
My wallet is understandably not very happy, but we have a plan of action. I hit the store and have to immediately compromise, because the smooth white(ish) cloth I used for my cloak is nowhere to be found. I have to settle for something that’s a bit better at being white at the cost of being slightly less soft, being slightly more sensitive to wrinkling, being slightly more translucent, and being a bit more expensive. Fortunately for me, there’s a sale going on, and that results in me getting 30m of cloth about 25% under the expected cost, at about 150-160€. A small W.
By the way — yes, I did briefly consider going with silk. I considered it for about 20 seconds, until I saw a double digit price starting with 3. I’ll cheap out, thank you very much.
Other design considerations
If I am to go around conning in that robe during the summer, I most definitely want to have some cooling going on. On this year’s NMN con in Ljubljana, water cooling (featuring a 1l bottle, power bank and a 5V water pump) has proven itself as a feasible solution to the heat stroke risks, with semi-frequent (about once per hour) sink visits for coolant changes (cold tap water).
This means that a belt is required. There were artists who have traveled the road before, for example Leo from Artstation:
On this painting, the belt sorta works — but it’s not very realistic. For the painting itself, you could make an argument that maybe the belt is a simple loop that magically shrinks and tightens, pressing the robe to the body … but that excuse won’t cut it for our real life thing. I am also not a big fan of having belt on layer four (having it over layer three would allow me to hide the belt ends under layer four), but then again … if belt is on layer three, then layer four will also cover the water tank.
Now that we got the “idea” phase settled (sorta), we can start doing R&D … which is generally going to happen as we go. There are three areas that are in need of attention as far as I can see now:
- The golden trim
- Working with layered fabric
- Props + cooling
Each area will probably be extensive enough to deserve its own post … except pattern, where #yolo strategy is tried and tested way of getting ‘better than nothing’ results for little upfront effort.
As I’m ending this post, it’s very much no longer July 2022, the work is … very much behind the plan, and while I intended to start with the golden trim R&D first — if I don’t start working on all areas in parallel, I’ll never be done.