Children may need an historical costume for school projects, dress-up play, or Halloween. Fortunately, there are shortcuts to a costume that looks good, is comfortable, and still captures the spirit of times past. Follow these easy directions for Native American or pioneer costumes.
Native American costumes
A “leather” dress or shirt can be made with brown flannel or synthetic suede fabric. A basic biblical-type costume pattern from any commercial pattern catalog makes a good guide for this costume; simply adjust the length to fit the child. Your pattern should not include any hem allowances at bottom or sleeves, because the sleeves and hemline will be fringed, not hemmed. Cut out front, back, neckline facings, and sleeves. Sew dress or shirt following pattern instructions except for hems.
Now comes the fun part-making the fringe. Use a dressmaker’s pencil to mark a line three to five inches above the bottom of the dress or shirt and above the bottom edges of the sleeves. Using sharp shears, cut perpendicular to edges from edge to marked line. Make cuts about one-half inch apart all around hem and sleeves. For decoration, get a bag of multicolored pony beads. String a bead or two on some of the fringes and tie a knot in the fringe to secure the beads. The dress or shirt is complete.
An even faster costume can be made of synthetic fleece. Buy a yard of sixty-inch fleece fabric. Fold fleece in half and cut a neck opening along the fold at the halfway point. Mark a line five to six inches above the two bottom edges (the edges opposite the fold.) Cut fringe from edge to the marked line, spacing cuts about an inch apart. Children can wear this poncho over brown pants or leggings and a brown turtleneck for a cozy fall costume.
Pioneer woman costume
Pioneer women made do with what they had. We can do likewise when making a simple pioneer woman costume. A woman’s short skirt can become a girl’s long skirt. Make darts or tucks in the waistband to fit the skirt to a girl’s waist. Add a long-sleeved blouse from the girl’s own clothing. Add a purchased sunbonnet or make one from a pattern. Finish the outfit with an easy shawl: cut a thirty-six to forty-five inch square of fabric. Hem the edges, or trim with pinking shears or scalloping shears. Fold the shawl into a triangle to wear with the costume.
Pioneer man costume
A solid or plaid long-sleeved shirt and a pair of loose-fitting trousers (perhaps an older sibling’s?) form the base for a pioneer man costume. Use black elastic belting to make suspenders. Sew the suspenders loosely to the trousers if you want to remove them later. Add a straw hat or wide-brimmed black hat, since pioneer men needed protection from the burning sun while working outdoors.
Most public libraries have books about costumes for children or costumes for the stage. Publications for elementary school teachers sometimes include inexpensive classroom ideas, e.g. paper Pilgrim hats or grocery bag costumes. Check with a nearby librarian or teacher for some extra inspiration.