Colonial Boy Costume


As October begins, I want to revive a post from my previous blog, Straddling the Gap.  This young man is my son, who is now a sophomore in college.  I made this costume for him when he was in the 5th grade for Colonial Day.  However, this experience in costume making was very insightful for me.  I learned several things:

1.  It doesn't have to be expensive;

2.  The workmanship doesn't have to be perfect unless it will be worn repeatedly; and

3.  The number 1 rule of making costumes - it only has to look good from 10 feet away.

The story of this costume was the classic last minute deadline. I knew there was a Colonial Day coming, but didn't know the exact date.  My son was pretty low key about the whole thing (let's face it, he is still pretty low key about everything).  The night before Colonial Day I realized we didn't have a costume.  In less than 3 hours and for less than $10, I made this costume.

The trick to costumes is getting something to look like the real thing from a distance.  At Goodwill I found a small man's white dress shirt, a large brown t-shirt, brand new baseball socks, some black shoes and a straw cowboy hat.  At JoAnns I found some brown felt, a remnant of white gauze, buttons and a small glue gun.  I also had a pair of Christian's khaki school pants which still fit, but were too short.  I started by cutting them off at the knees and hemming them.  They are inside-out in this picture.

Then, I took the brown t-shirt, cut it right up the front and cut off the sleeves at the shoulder seam. I also sewed some non-functioning buttons up the sides. Voila - commoner Colonial vest. Does it matter that there are no hems where I cut? No - it's a costume.

Because I didn't have a white button shirt in my son's size, I used a men's size which was too big.  No problem - I cut out the middle section of the shirt and sewed the bottom back on.  Yeah, there's a horizontal seam on the front of the shirt, but I managed to match the buttons up and there was a nice hem in the bottom of the shirt. 

In order to create puffier sleeves, I cut the cuffs off the sleeves and put in elastic at the wrist.  I cut the gauze into a triangle for a neck kerchief to go under the shirt - like an ascot.  Then it was time for the hat.  I started with this straw cowboy hat:

I measured the diameter of the hat across both ways (think of it like a circle that is raised in the center), and cut a piece of brown felt in the shape of that circle.  I folded the felt in half and marked an arc of the radius from the center of the circle so I could cut it.

See the dots marking the semi-circle?  Then came the fun part with the hot glue gun.  I started at the center, and working my way to the outside in all directions, I glued the felt directly onto the hat.  There were a couple of times I cut some of the felt because it got too bulky.  I'm sure someone else could cut the felt with more precision, but by this time it was 10:30 p.m.  After covering the hat with felt, I took the brim in the front on both sides and sewed it up to the top of the hat to make a tri-corner hat.  I used quilting thread and sewed it on each side with an X.  Add the long white socks and black shoes.

The next morning my guy was proud to wear his Goodwill-2 hour assembly costume:

Approximately 8 years later, I used the same costume hacks to turn him into Alexander Hamilton:


That is a blue sport coat with the lapels ironed up, a piece of cream cotton wrapped around his neck and tied like an ascot, a large button down brown shirt with the cuffs pulled to the outside, a pair of Dockers cut and hemmed at the knee and long black dress socks with black shoes.  Everything came from Goodwill.  Using upcycled items makes it easier to ruin them for any subsequent use as regular clothing.

When he was in 5th grade he said lots of the other kids had store bought or rented costumes, but his mom was the only one who sewed a costume :D  (I'm not sure I would hold this up as my best example of sewing.) As Alexander Hamilton in high school, the girls were impressed!  Victory for the crafty working mom!!

Remember - it's a costume.  Whether you are making it for trick or treat or for the stage, it only has to look good from 10 feet away. 



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