These days it’s hard to find anyone who can sew, let alone someone to actually design costumes. Renting costumes is sometimes an option, but a fairly expensive option. One advantage of doing shows with young people is you can sometimes convince the parents and, if the kids are old enough, even the kids themselves, into getting involved in the making of costumes. Try calling a meeting of all the parents of the actors and/or the actors for a costume brainstorming session. Often there are costume items in people’s closets, attics, or grandparent’s attics that can be borrowed for the production. Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and yard sales are always good places to find unusual costume pieces.
If you have a chorus and you want to costume them all in the same thing, consider buying matching colored T-shirts and using fabric paint or glue on decorations to make them distinctive. Sewing a simple A-line skirt is one of the easier patterns for people who have a machine but not a lot of skill. Also a full-length gathered skirt is an easy piece to make and can turn a modern dress into a turn-of-the-century costume. Even people who can’t sew can usually think of inventive ways to decorate existing pieces.
MEDIEVAL AND FAIRYTALE COSTUMES
Medieval costumes can be a bit more challenging than digging through closets or scouring the Goodwill. Here are a few hints for easy-to-create costumes:
Boys Medieval/Fairytale Costume
- Pants: Use girls' leggings or tight sweatpants for medieval costume. For fairytale (1500-1800 A.D.) cut sweatpants or dress pants to just below the knee and sew elastic so that it is tight just below the knee; wear with knee socks.
- Tops: Use turtlenecks or long-sleeve T-shirts with a tunic. Women’s white blouses with puff sleeves also work for a boy’s fairytale costume.
- Tunics: Measure two pieces of cloth half the circumference of the boy’s chest/waist (whichever is wider) and the length of shoulders to mid thigh. Add two inches all around for seams and hems, and cut. Sew the top of the tunic together, leaving space for the head to come through. Sew the sides together, leaving space for the arms and also a side slit near the bottom. Fold under and hem the neck area and the arm holes (put it on the boy first to make sure it fits). Hem the bottom and the side slits. Add a regular belt or a rope belt at the waistline.
- Decorations: Buy inexpensive Christmas ribbon and use it to decorate costumes using hot glue or fabric glue.
- Shoes: Girls’ or womens’ boots usually fit boys. A size 10 women’s boot fits a men’s size 7 or 8. There are also simple patterns for vinyl boot covers that go over regular shoes.
Girls' Medieval/Fairytale Costume
- Dress: Gather a piece or two pieces of cloth that is long enough to go from the chest (below the breast, empress line) to the floor and wide enough when gathered to go around the chest with a 6” to 9” overlap. Sew a wide ribbon to the gathered waist of the skirt. Stitch the front of the skirt to the front of a long sleeve blouse or T-shirt and pin or velcro the back of the skirt waistline to create a high “waist."
- Headpieces: Pin a sheer scarf to hang from the back of a ring of artificial flowers or a thick, circular tube of scrap cloth or Poly-fil. An old shoulder pad covered with cloth also makes a cute medieval “hat." Glue it to a thin headband or pin it on with hair pins.
- Decorations: Glue ribbons to shirts or headpieces.
- Shoes: Ballet-style house slippers work well for medieval roles and are inexpensive.
THE ONE COSTUME
If you’re going to sew costumes for a show, the most adaptable costume is a simple loose-fitting smock with elbow-length sleeves, floor-length for girls, thigh-length for boys. The girl’s smock can be belted at the waist or high waist for medieval and fairy tales and, using rope, can be crisscrossed across the chest for Greek (“Midsummer Night’s Dream”). For boys, it can be worn alone for Greek, with tight pants for medieval, or with blousy pants for Persian (“Aladdin”).
Knit fabrics have a nice flow. For girls, the liner fabric SilkEssence comes in shiny colors that look very royal.