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A tunic is a very simple piece of garb that is a good first step for making your own costuming. A tunic is basically a very large t-shirt.

To construct a tunic you will need the following: 1) material, 2) thread, 3) a sewing machine or needle (if you want to hand-stitch), 4) Any trim you might want to include. It also helps to have a good pair of fabric scissors, a fabric pencil or marker, measuring tape, and straightedge.

Start off by obtaining the fabric. You will need about 3 yards, just to be on the safe side. I prefer to use trigger poplin fabric, which is about $6/yd. for regular price, or as cheap as $3/yd. on sale. You can also get really good deals at the Wal-Mart fabric center if you check the clearance rack. Pick a simple color like blue, gray, red, black, green, etc. Check their trim selection and see if they have anything you like. You will also want to get bias tape for your neckline. For thread, I recommend using upholstery thread, which should be available anywhere they sell fabric, because it is so much more durable.

Next take your measurements. Measure your waist, bicep, and chest at armpit level. Tunics are supposed to be loose-fitting, so take the greater of your chest or waist and add 6-10 inches. This is how big around you want your tunic to be. For the sleeves, take your bicep measurement and add at least 3 inches, maybe more. Measure from the top of your shoulder down to mid-thigh (or however far down you want the tunic to go). Add 1-2 inches for seams to this number. Record all these measurements.

Now you have all your measurements. Refer to the following drawing to get a mental idea of what all these different numbers will work out to be.

The image to the left represents the piece of material you will cut out which will become your tunic. The marking A) should be equal to one half of the chest/waist measurement you've written down. B) should be your bicep measurement and C) should be the length of the tunic. D) is simply a personal preference which you can vary, depending on what length you would like your sleeves to be.

The black dashed lines are where you will fold the material under and make a seem. This prevents the edges of your material from fraying and making your tunic look crappy.

Notice that the head hole is shifted slightly forward. Make sure that you move your head hole an inch or two towards the front of your tunic, or it will not fit correctly.

Now that you have a good mental idea of what all the measurements mean, you can begin working on your tunic. Lay out your material on a large flat surface, probably the floor. Begin by marking on the fabric the outline where you will cut out your tunic, including your head hole. Mark on several places "This side up" with chalk, or your fabric pen. You should always have these marking visible when sewing. These markings will be on the inside of your tunic when it is complete (and they will wash out anyway.) You do not have to mark the seems. It is important to mark the outline very symmetrically and precisely, or else edges will not line up properly. Once you have done this, cut out the tunic and the neck hole.

Your first sewing step will be to sew all four seems: the two on the sleeves and the two at the bottom. Make sure your markings are visible and simply fold about an inch of material from the edge in and sew a line about 1/2 inch in from the fold.

Next, fold your tunic along the center line. Make sure you can see your markings. Now sew along the dashed lines as shown in the lower image. You do not have to sew all the way to the bottom if your tunic is long. Leaving some space unsewn will create slits which will give you mobility and keep your tunic from ripping. This will be a stress point, however, so you will want to go back and forth a few times to give it some extra strength. If you do leave a slit, you will want to fold the material under and finish the edge so that it does not fray.

Now your tunic is nearly done. All that is left is finishing the neck hole. This is perhaps the most difficult step. The easiest way to do it is to get bias tape. This is simply a piece of fabric that has 3 folds in it. Make sure you get extra wide bias tape with double fold. Fit this bias tape onto the neck hole and begin sewing it in place. It may help to pin the bias tape in place first and then remove the pins as you sew the tunic. Finish off your tunic by adding trim or other embelishments. Turn it right-side-out and your tunic is complete!