Sunday, 21 February 2016

Creative Costumes the Thrifty Way!

Once upon a time it was only around Christmas that parents and often grandparents had to put their thinking caps on to come up with some costume or other for school, or any other club that their offspring were involved in
How things have changed!
We now get Roman day, Medieval day, World book day as well as Nativity plays and days when a child can pay something into a charity fund and then wear a costume of their choosing. Now don't get me wrong, especially where learning history is concerned, I do think getting into character does help events stick in your mind, but I do sometimes think that it's getting a bit out of hand.
Since Christmas I have made, or at least almost made six costumes , and we're not even at the end of February yet!
It's okay for people like me who love nothing better than designing and making things, and who have a ready supply of fabric and patterns and what's more time! However for parents who both have to work, what a nightmare it must be! The temptation to go out and buy costumes that will probably never be used again must be very tempting, so here's my guide to making something for nothing.

Sheeting...... My go to fabric with loads of uses.

To start with its extra wide so a metre goes a long way. It comes in masses of colours. Unwashed it is quite firm, but give it a rinse and it drapes quite well. And of course charity shops are a brilliant source for sheets for very little money and often they are in prints as well as plains.

So when you need a cape, a long dress or tunic it's the perfect fabric.

This Grim Reaper outfit was made for a Halloween costume, so not strictly for school. The pattern I used was for a hoodie which I printed off the Internet for free. I merely lengthened it and  tapered the sides out towards the bottom to give room to move. I made the hood a bit bigger and more pointed towards the back. It took one metre if sheeting which I got from EBay for £3.99.
But the best bit was that when a Harry Potter outfit was needed, I just cut the robe down the front to turn it into school gown. I did line the cut edges  and the hood with some burgundy sheeting, but they could just as easily have been simply hemmed.

The scarf was a remnant of fleece with some tape sewn at intervals to represent the stripes. Grandad found a wand like stick and just polished it up with some briwax.

The Peter Pan costume was for World book day. The green tunic made from an XL mans tee shirt! Loads of these in charity shops for a few pence. The neck ribbing could just be cut off and a small slash made down the centre front so that the sides fold back. Again, I made a collar, but it wasn't really essential. The cap was made from an old felt coat, and the feather from a piece of child's craft felt just cut to shape and cut all around its edges. We had some old green tights which we cut the feet off and hemmed to the right length and school plimsolls would have been just as good. I make children's slippers which I used to sell, so I had some mock suede to make his boots from.

This Zombie costume was literally made from several old white tee shirts, cut into bandage widths and sewn on top of a long sleeved top from Primark, about £2. The leggings were made from a free pattern again on the Internet and the jersey was a remnant off the market for a few pence.
Of course we are very lucky that the boys mummy (no pun intended) is a bit of a whizz with the make up. I think he scared a few people on his way to school!

This costume again started with the black sheeting. A full circle with a hole to put his head through and then raggy strips of old white tee shirt and the black sheeting to represent the feathers. Black leggings were again mine with feet chopped off. We did buy the yellow socks and found the feet on ebay for a song.

Not to be outdone our youngest grandson has also started his journey into dressing up.

Cut up man's shirt, tea towel and a remnant of faux suede for a waistcoat made this a very economical outfit.

Here cheap tee shirt and leggings, black gloves, socks (his own) and pants with just an orange hairband as belt and pieces of craft felt made into cuffs and mask. Another free pattern on the Internet. I made the badge on my embroidery machine, but it could just as easily have been drawn on a piece of fabric with paints or felt tip pens.and then tacked onto the tee shirt.

So as you can see with a little bit of imagination and a few cheap bits and pieces its quite possible to make something very effective and unique!

Hope this has been a bit helpful if you're trying to come up with some ideas.
 I'm off now to finish a medieval knight and a tin man.

PS. Well that turned into Medieval Knight, Tin Man and Stick Man, as youngest decided he would dress up for World Book Day after all.....

But for once no sheeting! Instead all the outfits were based on long sleeved tee shirts and leggings, readily bought at places like Primark.
The Tin Man had an added jerkin made from fake silver leather which I also used for the funnel hat.
The Knight is just grey tee shirt and bottoms, which can be worn again, with a tabbard and a separate hood covered in a cheap mesh fabric for the chain mail.
The Stick man is simply the long sleeved tee shirt and leggings decorated with wood 'knots' and felt leaves with a bit of soft wire sewn between the double layer of felt to make them stand up and a pill box hat again with the felt used to create the look of knotted wood.
I made all the tee shirts and leggings, again because I had the jersey fabric and have an over locker which means a pair of leggings takes less than an hour to make, but these would have worked just as well with bargain basement tops and leggings,
Its the details that make the outfits really.

Well I am off this time but to catch up on all the ironing that has been left this week while I sew, or else I will be packing for a trip to Scotland with very rumpled clothing.

Have a great weekend and a productive week

Jenny xx


  1. We have world book day next week, and yes Harry potter seems fav in our house!, have a nice weekendxx

  2. What fab costumes and so easy to do as lots are just things you may have in the wardrobe which need a small adapation too. Clever you!
    Lisa x

  3. Thanks Lisa, it really concerns me the pressure that's put on young families nowadays to join in everything whether you have the means to pay for it or not. My point was to try to help people see that perhaps you can still let your child take part in these activities without spending £20 a time on cheap and often dangerous (as I am sure Claudia Winkleman will wholeheartedly agree)costumes . Mainstream children's clothing us rigorously controlled, so using what you may already have in their wardrobe is both thrifty and safer.

  4. Hi Jenny...I hope you are well. Golly lady you really have got a fabulous talent...such gorgeous costumes, they are all just marvellous. How clever you are.
    Hugs Debbie xx

  5. Wow, I am so impressed with all the wonderful costumes you made!! We don't have many plays at school in Norway, but we have one coming up in June. Thanks for sharing and inspiring. Pam in Norway

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