How to Make Colonial Costumes With Homemade Items

Simple clothes can be turned into colonial costumes.
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Before you can make a colonial costume, you need to determine what type of person you would like to dress up as. Unlike today, people in colonial times wore specific clothing that was based on age, gender and status. If you want to make a colonial costume out of fabric or old clothing, it is easier to make a costume for a person of lower status than for a person of higher status, since the gentry wore more elaborate clothes made from expensive fabrics. Looking at pictures of people in the various colonial costumes can help you get a better idea of the style of clothing you need to create.

1 Age

Young children, up to the age of seven, wore a cap and a gown or shift, regardless of whether they were boys or girls. After this time period, children began to wear the same clothes as adults, just sized to fit their smaller frames. Most males wore a shirt, pants and a jacket while most females wore a shift, up to five petticoats, a stay, one or two pockets on strings, an apron, stockings and a cap.

2 Status

People of higher status tended to wear more clothing than those of lower status, and their clothing was made of more expensive materials. A farm wife would typically wear a shift, linen stockings, linen stay, leather shoes, a plain pocket, underpetticoat, plain linen cap, linen petticoat, linen short gown, linen kerchief, linen apron and straw hat. Conversely, an upper-class woman would wear garments made out of silk instead of linen, including silk stockings, buckled fabric shoes, an embroidered pocket, hoop petticoat, underpetticoat, silk petticoat, decorated stomacher, silk gown, lace neckerchief, lace apron and silk hat.

3 Women's Costume

The shift women wore under their other clothes is similar to a very simple nightgown, which you could make out of cotton or linen. The petticoats are similar to lightweight skirts, also made of cotton or linen, and they tend to be one size fits all tightened by a string at the waist. The top petticoat is the fanciest one and should be made out of colored fabric. Pockets are simple pouches that hang from a string that you tie around your waist. You wear them underneath your petticoats. Add an apron around your waist, a stay or corset covering the top of your shift and a mob cap and you have your costume.

4 Men's Costume

Men's shirts were usually made of white cotton or linen with lace for more formal occasions and of rougher fabrics like wool in brown, white, red or blue, perhaps with a striped or checked pattern. They typically had three buttons, each with two holes, made of pewter, bone, horn or wood. Collars were rectangular, pockets were not attached to clothing, shirts went to mid-thigh and ended with a straight edge. You can repurpose men's shirts by altering them to fit these requirements, replacing the buttons, removing the pockets and trimming the collar and tails of the shirt. Add a handkerchief around your neck and wear knee high stockings with knee-length pants fastened with ties or buttons at the knee and a leather or cloth jacket open at the front to complete your costume. Wear your shirt out to hide the front of your pants so you don't have to worry about getting every detail correct.

Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.