If you're dressing up for a Thanksgiving pageant or other event, you can make or buy the perfect pilgrim costume. There are great options for both kids and adults whether you're going for something really easy or focusing on being creative.
Making a Male Pilgrim Ensemble
By starting with some basic clothing items sourced from your closet or a thrift store, you can make your own outfit, whether it's for a child or an adult. This costume requires minimal sewing, so it's great for those without a lot of previous experience with a sewing machine. Expect to spend a couple of hours making this costume.
Things You'll Need
For this outfit, you'll need to start with a simple, long-sleeved black shirt and a pair of black pants in the appropriate size. Pick up a white dress shirt with the widest collar you can find at the thrift store. You'll also need a pair of knee-high, thin white socks, some slip-on black dress shoes, and a hat with a wide brim. The color of the hat doesn't matter since you'll be painting it.
In addition, you'll need the following items:
- 3/4 yard 2-inch-wide white grosgrain ribbon
- 1 yard 1/4-inch-wide elastic
- Sewing machine
- White and black thread
- Disappearing fabric marker
- Gold metallic scrapbook paper
- Black spray paint
- Sharp scissors
- Safety pin
- Craft glue
- 2 large paper clips
- Clear tape
What to Do
- Start by cutting the collar and cuffs off of the white dress shirt, keeping the scissors as close as possible to the seam. Pin the collar on the black shirt. You can make a small pleat behind the neck to take up an excess collar fabric in an unobtrusive way. Pin the white cuffs on the sleeves of the black shirt, allowing them to overlap if they are too big.
- Use white thread to sew the collar and cuffs on the black shirt.
- Try on the black pants. Use a pin or disappearing fabric marker to mark the pants about 3 inches below the knee. Take off the pants and cut them off at the spot you marked. Turn the pants inside out and fold the raw edges up about 3/4 inch. Use pins to hold the fold in place.
- Using black thread, sew almost all the way around the cuff of each leg. Leave an opening of about an inch between where you start and end sewing.
- Wrap the elastic around the upper calf of the person who will be wearing this costume. Add about an inch and cut the elastic to this length. Cut a second piece to the same length. Use a safety pin to help you thread the elastic through the opening in the cuff. Sew the two ends of the elastic together, overlapping by an inch, and adjust the cuff to make the gathers even. Repeat with the other cuff. Turn the pants right side out.
- In a well-ventilated area, spray paint the inside and outside of the hat. Use light, even coats to turn the entire hat black. Allow the hat to dry.
- While the hat is drying, cut three buckle shapes out of the gold paper. Gently bend the paper clips so they are slightly open. Tape a buckle shape on each paper clip and use the clips to attach the buckles to your shoes.
- After the hat is dry, wrap a piece of white ribbon around the crown. Use craft glue to attach the ends of the ribbon together. Use more craft glue to attach the buckle to the ribbon. Allow the glue to dry.
- When you're ready to get dressed, put on the white socks and pull them up to the knee. Put on the black pants, adjusting the elastic cuffs so they cover the socks. Put on the shirt and shoes and place the hat on your head.
Although sewing is the easiest way to accomplish this costume, you can also make it using fabric glue. The end result won't be quite a durable, but that doesn't really matter for a onetime use costume.
- Instead of sewing the collar and cuffs on the black shirt, use fabric glue to attach them. Keep them in place with binder clips or pins while they are drying.
- For the pant cuffs, use a straight line of fabric glue to make the casing for the elastic. Allow it to dry completely before threading the elastic through the casing.
- Instead of sewing the ends of the elastic together, cut each elastic piece a bit longer and securely tie the ends.
Making a Female Pilgrim Costume
Most pilgrim outfits for girls and women consist of a simple black or brown dress or skirt and blouse, covered with a white apron and collar. You can modify existing clothing items to create most of this outfit easily. It will take a couple of hours and some basic sewing skills.
Things You'll Need
Pick up a long black or brown skirt and long-sleeved black or brown top at the thrift store. You can either make your own apron from white fabric or pick up an apron at the thrift store as well.
In addition, you'll need the following supplies:
- 1 yard white felt
- 1 yard white cotton
- Small piece of fusible interfacing
- 3 yards of white ribbon, medium width
- Small piece of 1/4-inch-wide elastic
- Sewing machine and white thread
- Safety pin and straight pins
- Measuring tape
What to Do
- Start by making the collar and cuffs for your pilgrim outfit. Measure the person wearing the outfit from shoulder to shoulder. Cut a circle of white felt with this diameter. One easy way to cut a circle is to tie a string to two pencils. Make sure the string is the radius, or half the diameter, of the circle you want to draw. Place one pencil in the middle of the fabric and keeping the string taught, draw a circle around it with the other pencil.
- Fold the circle in half. Place the black top on it, lining up the shoulder seams with the fold of the circle. Cut the circle to match the neckline of the top. Cut a vertical slit up the center of the circle in the front. Pin the collar to the black top and use white thread to sew it to the top. Make a bow with about 1 yard of the ribbon and hand sew it to the front of the collar at the top.
- For the cuffs, simple cut bands of white felt about 4 inches wide. Wrap them around the sleeves and cut off any excess. Sew them to the black top.
- To make the bonnet, cut a circle of white cotton that is about 20 inches in diameter. Measure the head of the person who will wear the bonnet. Take 3/4 of the head measurement and cut two rectangles of white cotton that are this length and about four inches wide. Cut a piece of interfacing to approximately the same dimensions. Use the iron to fuse the interfacing to one of the rectangles.
- Fold both rectangles in half and gently round one of the corners. Place the rectangles with their right sides together. Sew a seam around the rounded edge along the length of the rectangle. Leave the straight edge open. This will be the brim of the bonnet. Turn it right side out and iron it.
- Use your sewing machine to gather the circle of white cotton loosely. Adjust it to fit the circumference of the head of the person who will wear it. Line up the raw edge of the brim with about three quarters of the gathered circle. Pin in place and sew. Iron to make sure the brim stands out properly.
- Clip the gathering threads at the back of the bonnet and fold under the raw edge of the remaining portion of the circle. Sew a line of stitches about half an inch from the folded edge. Trim off the excess fabric. Cut a piece of elastic about 4 inches long. Sew one side of the elastic to the bonnet right where the brim ends in the back. Use a safety pin to thread the elastic through the casing you made and then sew it in place on the other side.
- Attach two 1-yard ribbons to the bonnet, one on each side.
- To wear the costume, put on black tights and black shoes. Put on the top and tuck it into the black skirt. Tie the apron around your waist and put the bonnet on your head.
This costume is a bit trickier to make without sewing. Instead of making a bonnet with fabric, you can create a paper version typically used for a preschool Thanksgiving costume. Simply adjust the size to fit the person who will wear the costume.
Instead of sewing the collar and cuffs on the top, attach them with fabric glue. Use binder clips or pins to hold everything securely while the glue dries.
Buying a Pilgrim Outfit
If you don't have the time to make a costume, there are lots of great options available for purchase. Consider some of the following:
- Pilgrim Boy's Costume - Designed to fit boys sized four through six or eight through 10, this classic pilgrim costume from Amazon is a great choice. It comes with black knickers, a black shirt with a white collar and cuffs, a belt, and a tall hat with a buckle on it. It retails for about $20.
- Girl's Pilgrim Costume - Featuring a long black dress with an attached apron and a white bonnet, this simple costume from HalloweenCostumes.com comes in three sizes to fit girls from sizes four to 14. It retails for about $20.
- Adult Pilgrim Woman Costume - HalloweenCostumes.com also offers a nice pilgrim outfit for women. It comes in a standard size to fit most and features a black dress with attached apron. There's also a classic white bonnet. It retails for about $35.
- Colonial Pilgrim Man Adult Costume - This standard-size outfit from Amazon is designed to fit most men. It comes with a black shirt with wide white collar and cuffs, black knickers, a belt, and a tall pilgrim hat. You can wear your own black shoes and white socks. This outfit retails for about $20.
- Plus Size Pilgrim Woman Costume - This plus size costume from HalloweenCostumes.com comes with a long black and white dress and attached apron, as well as a white bonnet. It retails for about $40.
- Plus Size Pilgrim Man Costume - Amazon.com offers a plus size version of a men's pilgrim costume. It includes black knickers, a black shirt with white collar and cuffs, a belt with a gold buckle, and a tall pilgrim hat. It retails for about $30.
Add Another Dimension
Whether you choose to make or buy your pilgrim outfit, you'll find that dressing up adds another dimension to your Thanksgiving celebration or other event. Have fun learning about the first settlers and how they dressed.