Saturday, 6 October 2012

How to make an African costume.

how to make an African costume

Last week I had an email from Brown Owl. It said that for next week's brownie meeting, all the girls were to dress up, if they could, in an outfit from a continent that they would be allocated this week. That's fine I thought - we have Jamaica T-shirts for America, and a Flamenco dress if I was lucky enough for her to get Europe. But, no. Things are never that simple. Her six got Africa. Fantastic. What to do for a girl who's as ginger and pale as they come, with no item of clothing in her collection that is remotely African?

I thought about an Egyptian costume, or a belly-dancer from Morocco, but this looked too much like hard work to me. We do have a lion outfit made for a dance show, from when she was four years old, so that's no good.

Yesterday I googled images of African dresses, hoping for an epiphany. That's when I saw it - animal print dresses. I had a vague recollection of buying some animal print fabric some time ago for a costume that didn't happen (because although I have all these amazing intentions, these things have a habit of not happening). There it was, in the drawer, intact in the bag I had bought it in, never to be opened. I prayed to the god of Dunelm that I had bought enough to do a dress for a rather spindly 8-year old. It looked like there might be enough, so I got cracking. And this is what I made. 

The top is made from a square panel of fabric. For a 24" chest, I cut a panel of 28" x 11" and turned the top 1" over to stitch down to make a hem along the top. 

I then cut two strips of 18" x 3" and folded each in half and stitched down to make the straps.

Then I hand stitched them at angles to the front centre. So it makes a top like this. It rides up a little over the tummy so if you don't want this to happen, make your panel deeper.

African costumes for children

For the skirt (for a waist of 22"), I cut a panel of  29" x 25" and, again, folded the top 1" over to hem it at the waist. In hindsight the skirt gapes open quite a lot (she'll have to wear leggings underneath) so increasing the width from 29" for another four inches or so would have been better. 

African costume for kids
The headdress is a piece of fabric 25" x 16", wrapped over the front, gathered at the back and tied with a strong bobble. 

To make it work, I intend to wrap it round her, and tack it together with a safety pin in each of the top and the skirt. It's too tight to consider velcro and if I avoid using fastenings which need to be fixed in place, I can adapt it for the younger girls to save me going to all this palaver again. Saying that, this took about an hour using a sewing machine. 
The Dad was very impressed. I showed him these photos when he got home from work and he asked me who had made it for us. Cheeky sod. But it is very easy - even I can do it.

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  1. Good work. I am in awe. There is no way I could do it. Luckily I have a mum and sister for dressing up days!

  2. Nice job there missus. Would look cool as a summer dress :)


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