Sunday, July 17, 2011

Open-Ended Costumes

[Open-Ended Play Series, Part 7]

(Rich getting baptized by fire into our 'style' of homeschooling at my baby sister's Egyptian Feast.)

Our family LOVES to play dress-up. still… Growing up, we had a toybox chock full of wonderful dress-up clothes. Most of the items were thrift store finds which made them perfect for open-ended play. Mom also had a knack for putting together simple (VERY SIMPLE costumes)… With a few basic pieces, we could pretend we were just about anything.

One multi-use item that comes to mind was a red taffeta skirt. We used it as a saloon girl costume (back in our naive young years when we had no idea what a saloon girl really was), as a southern bell (by adding a tutu underneath to make the skirt flair out) and as a cape.
In college, my sister and I even used it to outfit my hubby, then beau, as a Spanish torero for a costume party we were attending. :sigh: I love him...

Here’s a short list of great additions to any child’s costume collection:

• longer skirts, preferably with elastic waist or wrap style so it can grow with your kids.
• vests (these can be used for both boy and girl costumes and if it is generic enough, can also span many different genre’s of make-believe play)
• hats: any themed hats make great additions. bowler caps, 3 cornered hat (colonial or pirate/sailor applications), vintage women’s hats, etc.
• Capes: a simple black cape can turn a little one into a super hero, knight, king, opera cape, etc.
• longer women’s coats. We had a blue and red long coat. They doubled as women’s coats over fancy dresses or when studying colonial America as the patriots and the British)
• Gold metal chain link belt (as a medieval belt for either a fair maiden or knight)
• sports jacket (I just found one that is several sizes too large for my oldest son and know that with three boys it will get a lot of use).
• a pair of suspenders.  This has so many applications and after reading some books about the War for Independence a few weeks ago, my boys are obsessed with this item from the dress-up drawer now!

By encouraging creativity in multi-uses for costumes, we can help our kids to think creatively and come up with their own unique combinations. The sky really is the limit on this and the possibilities endless! I’d love to hear about any favorite costumes you all had as kids or that your kids use.

A current fave in my house are daddy’s old tie’s and some kids suit coats that we found at Goodwill.  Of course, Keegan also is enjoying using a pair of tuxedo pants and pretending they are 'golfer slacks' while he goes outside and braves the 100+ degrees to hone his skills! ;)  The ties also quickly come off and are used as reins for their stick horses...

And because I'm feeling all nostalgic at this point, I thought I would share one more picture from way, way back when we prepared some more elaborate costumes for a History Fair.  Until next time...


  1. Arthur makes frequent creative use of all those basic costume pieces you listed. He also finds many uses for men's long sleeve shirts, long, narrow scarves (in lieu of play silks) and a simple short straight hair wig we came by somehow. One favorite and rather regal garment used much by all my children was made from a pair of old heavy, shimmery gold brocade drapes, sewn together to make a loose tube. One seam was left open a few inches at top, to make a v-neck head opening when the tube was sewn securely at two points to leave arm openings.

  2. I LOVE your ideas!!!! I had never thought to let my boys experiment with one of their father's old work shirts.

    I remember my mom folding a sheet in half and sewing the outline for a simple tunic and then cutting a hole in the top for a basic Bible costume. It is amazing how such simple projects can delight children so much!