Monday, October 20, 2008

All Saints Costumes Cheap and Easy

She got me thinkin'. She always does. That's why I love her.

I also completely agree with what JennGM said in Red's combox " the creativity of making the costume is half the fun, even if it's last minute tying on the toga sheet for St. Augustine." So I thought I would share some tips and ideas with those of you who just can't justify spending $40-70 on one costume much less outfit a whole family. While I am sure they are of excellent quality and are lovingly constructed, for most of, real clothing and shelter costs don't leave us with that much disposable cash leftover.

We have pretty much always dressed up for All Hallows Eve/ All Saints Day. Everyone from St. Longinus to Our Lady of Guadalupe have walked my halls. In my former life, I was a drama major and since I didn't care to be on stage, that meant long hours slaving away backstage and in the costume shop.

I loved the costume shop! A technical director named Louise and her dog Katie made my many, many, many hours there so worth it! Louise is the one who really taught me how to sew. So part of the reason I don't sew regularly for my family is that my sewing only had to look good in the dark and for a very short period of time. However, it has been tremendously handy when making costumes.

Like Red said... most children love to play dress up and I have found that the slightest nudge towards something "authentic" erases all of the imperfections from their eyes. The best thing to do is find a picture and try to duplicate it or parts of it. If you get the colors close and a few accessories right, they will love it.

Now, The Professor surprised me this year by asking for St. Thomas More. A quick trip to the Goodwill followed by a run to the fabric store kept me busy but I didn't mind since the other three were done after rummaging through the dress-up box. I'll provide a more detailed post on what I came up with later.

I understand that Our Coats of Many Colors is a family run, cottage business so I really do believe that they are not interested in raking in the profits; probably just trying to cover their costs (materials and labor). But if you have noticed the same thing I have in fabric stores across the country, costs aren't so cheap these days. My grandmother used to sew to provide clothing for her family because it was less expensive than store bought clothing. Today, sewing has become a hobby and like a lot of other hobbies, it ain't cheap. One might argue, that homemade is better "quality" but that depends on the skill of the seamstress and the quality of the materials they use. Places like Our Coats of Many Colors are providing a lovely service for those moms who don't have the time or skills to craft something themselves, but if your budget won't allow it, and the Mommy guilt is more than you can stand, here are some other suggestions that might be doable for you:

1) a fireman for St. Florian

2) a gardener with gloves and a spade for St. Fiacre or a farmer (overalls, red bandanna, play shovel) for St. Isidore

3) A basket of rolls and roses turns an ordinary queen into St. Elizabeth of Hungary

4) St. Joan of Arc can dress like a knight with a skirt instead of trousers

5) A long haired wig and some pretty scarves turned Shortcake into St. Mary Magdalene one year

6)If you can sew, I have made these instructions for a Jedi robe work for everything from St. Francis's habit to St. Martin's tunic. You can also use them to make robes for girl saints like Our Lady or add a collar to it and it becomes the under dress for Mother Teresa.

7) Speaking of Mother Teresa, all I did for the habit I made Shortcake last year was take a long rectangular piece of white muslin and sew three stripes of blue ribbon on both of the long sides and one of the short sides. Then, starting from the short side without the ribbon, safety pin the corner behind the neck and over the head to cover the hair and let it drape down to the ankle. Come up the side and cross over the body to pin at the shoulder. She colored her own crucifix to use and pinned it at the shoulder with a safety pin.

8) Our Lady of Guadalupe just needs a pinkish dress or robe, a black ribbon sash, a piece of green fabric and a bottle of gold glitter fabric paint. Draw stars with the glitter and let it dry. Add a clip or a comb to keep it in place on her head.

9) If your sewing skills won't allow you to embroider an image on a tilma like some people I know (cough... MommaLlama), iron on transfer sheets work great and can be found at most Stuff-Marts. Add some silk roses or even just silk rose petals and you have an easy St. Juan Diego. I'd put him in a pillowcase tunic (pillowcase with arm holes and a neck hole cut in it), tie a rope around his waist and put sandals on his feet if it isn't too cold.

10) Remember to have fun. Let your child help come up with the ideas and they will be doubly thrilled at the result no matter how "imperfect" you think it is.

I would like to turn this thread into a brainstorming post. Feel free to post your clever ideas in the combox or on your blog (just provide a link for us). If you are considering a particular saint's costume but can't come up with an idea for it, ask and see what others can come up with.

I worry about the damage that "Mommy Guilt" can do. It seems as Catholic moms we are particularly prone to it. We all want our children to love their faith and to always stay close to it. We want them to be saints on the inside but a costume won't guarantee that no matter how good it is.


  1. My oldest son's birthday is Halloween...which is why we call him Boo. But doing our traditional Halloween dinner, which goes back 3 generations now, Halloween costumes, trick or treating AND a birthday party is already too much. I simply cannot come up with any more costumes for an All Saints Party, but I encourage my children to figure it out on their own.

    This year my oldest is wearing a doll in a baby backpack...St Christopher. My daughter is using her Princess Leia dress from last year with some padding on her belly...St Elizabeth. My youngest, who is 3, is wearing a Santa hat...St. Nicholas.

    Simple and free since they are using stuff we already have, but most importantly, I won't lose my mind over planning one more thing.

  2. This site( has a list of items saints are usually seen carrying. It was meant to help identify saints in art. It has been invaluable in helping me with saint costumes.

    Also, a few years ago, I decided to try to find a pattern for biblical type clothing. I found it much more than I needed. I simply buy cheap fabric in the appropriate color. I fold it in half to the desired length. Then I freehand a shape that looks like a snow angel. Cut out the shape, sew up the sides, and cut a hole for the head. It was much easier.

    This year we have a Saint Philomena will wear white angel dress with red cape and carry arrows and a palm. Saint Collette will have a brown habit with black headpiece. Saint Sophia who is only 2 years old will wear a sweat suit with 3 little dolls pinned to it. The dolls will have some sort of labels that read Faith, Hope, and Charity (her three daughters).

  3. Charlotte:

    What a great post! Right now, I'm in the process of making several costumes with materials we have on hand. I have a lovely rose tablecloth with an unsightly stain...voila! A few stitches here and there, a rose garland for her hair and we have St. Cecelia! St. Lucy is wearing a white nightgown with a red sash and the crown we made last year for the Feast of St. Lucia. I have several "knight" costumes on hand...can you say "St. George?!

    It's heartening to know that we have resources on hand that make for such creative and fun costumes!

  4. Half the enjoyment of All Saints Day parties is seeing how ingenious parents and kids are in coming up with costumes. I remember a St. Lawrence with a bottle of bar-b-que sauce, a St. Jerome with his little brother dressed in a lion's suit, a family of boys dressed as the (martyred)Macabee brothers. One year we found a very colorful, ethnic vest in the thrift store and my son became an obsure Hungarian saint (he won an award). Another year when we found a scraggly black wig and false beard, my son blackened his face and became St. Moses the Ethopian.

  5. Lorri,
    All of that on one day? Wow. I love the idea for St. Elizabeth. I can totally see my girls going for that one!

    What a great idea about the saint's symbols. Bookmarking (is that a verb now?) that page for sure!

    Recycling old tablecloths is awesome. I have a beautiful white one that some tomato sauce didn't like. I will have to save it for next year.

    The barbecue sauce cracked my kids up!

  6. Excellent idea, Charlotte! I found a link last week that might help also:

    and I am taking notes from all you generous gals!

  7. Great post!!! I've been working on a post with Costume ideas (I'll try and post it soon), even though I did order a few costumes from Our Coat of many colors. (Thank goodness for the discount they offered last month, and hubby's overtime! Otherwise it wouldn't have been possible.) The thought of coming up with 5 costumes this year was totally overwhelming, and my girls were set on being nuns. I figure we will get lots of use out of them, and when the boys play Mass, the girls will have their habits to put on! :) I am looking forward to adding the finishing touches.

    Can't wait to read everyones ideas!

  8. I meant to add, that we have made the girls nun costumes in the past.
    I used a white turtleneck (Fit the face into the neck of the turtleneck, and then pin the shirt behind the head) for the Guimpe. Then I used one of my black, brown, or white (depending on the order) tee-shirts to make the tunic. You could use a piece of fabric for the veil, but I've used a black mini skirt found at the second hand store, which worked well. To finish it, I added a cord for the belt. I've had a St. Clare, St. Therese and a St. Rita using this costume in the past. :)

  9. I posted pics of my saints on my blog. We had St. Martin, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Elizabeth, Mary, and St. George.

    As for sewing, planning ahead is a must. Patterns are expensive, so you need to wait for a sale or a coupon (I paid $12 for the pattern for St. Elizabeth - yikes! I WILL reuse it, though.)

    I always shop the remnants. Kids don't need much fabric. One or two yards of black or brown or white might do for a robe for a Jesuit or a Franciscan or for the early martyrs.

  10. St. Martha - I have no sewing skills whatsoever so I just took a long rectangular piece of fabric, cut a hole in the middle for the head and put it over my daughter who was wearing a turtleneck. A belt in the middle closed up the unsewn sides nicely. Then, I draped a pillowcase over her head. To really turn her into Martha, I tied a scrubbing brush (because she worked, worked, worked) around her waist and had her hold two cups in her hands.

    Our Lady of Lourdes- My favorite costume so far. White turtleneck and a pillowcase with arm and neckholes cut out. Then I draped another pillowcase around her head and tied a blue sash around her waist. I bought 2 large yellow roses and paper-clipped them to her sandals (Our Lady had golden roses on each foot). Her props were a rosary draped on her arm.

  11. Great ideas... my husband and I have to dress for a party this year, and I think he'd make a great St Christopher! Thanks! My girls are Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha (using a nativity pattern for the tunic I just made the sleeves wider and instead of a turned in sleeve I sewed it on the outside and cut fringe, and we found a cheap pair of moccassins in the slipper dept); the Blessed Mother, wearing a white dress and a blue veil (long piece of scrap blue fabric) and a rose crown, and St Elizabeth of Hungary, wearing a dress-up princess dress and carrying the basket of bread/roses. My baby boy has no hair, so with the brown fabric left over fm Kateri's outfit I'll make him a tunic (hopefully today!) and using a brown eyeliner pencil I thought I'd draw some hair in for his tonsure! St Francis! : ) Now I just have to figure out my costume...
    I thought about St Gianna Molla, since she's pictured in a white blouse and skirt, holding her children... I could do that! But when I told a friend, she said it was cheating to show up as "the lady with a bunch of kids"... I think she's just jealous that she didn't think of it first! : )
    Have a blessed All Saints Celebration, and thanks for the great ideas!


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself!