A jester's costume is supposed to be eye catching, but it also has to be flexible enough to suit whatever it is your doing. That might be hanging out at a Halloween Party, or it might be doing handstands and back handsprings, or both. Whatever you'll be doing should be kept in mind as you create!
Step 1: Planning
Deciding what you want and getting a clear idea of what it looks like is the first step to any great costume.
-paper/old newspaper/etc. (to draw patterns on)
-1 pair leggings and 1 long sleeve t-shirt to worn under the dress.
-1 yard of red fabric
-1/2 yard orange fabric
-1 1/3 yards yellow fabric
-22 inch zipper
-23 small jingle bells (optional)
Step 2: Choosing Fabric
Durability, comfort, and (of course!) appearance are all factors that need to be considered. I chose a stretchy fabric, which is good for flexibility, but more difficult to sew. Its important to balance what you need with what looks cool.
Often in fabric stores the fabrics that don't make good everyday wear are at the back on sale. This a great way to save money, but it might take a few trips to the store over a couple months to find what you're looking for.
For women's size 10-12, I used 1 yard of red, 1/2 yard orange, and 1 1/3 yards yellow fabric, costing about $15 (US).
Step 3: Pattern Making - Skirt
Patterning starts with measuring. After we have these measurements, I'm going to refer to them by their letter, so whatever number you have after the equal sign is the number you use with the letter at the beginning of the line. A and B are in the first image, and C is in the second image.
A: Waist circumference = ________inches
B: Hip circumference (______inches) 12 inches (for gathering) = ______inches
C: Skirt length (waist to end of skirt) = _______inches
D: B divided by 12 = ______inches
The skirt is made in twelve identical sections of alternating color. The pattern for these sections is a rectangle with a triangle on the end. The rectangle will be D inches wide by C inches long. To make the pattern itself, measure out the rectangle onto a piece of scrap newspaper or cardboard. Then add on the triangle to one end. My triangle was equilateral, but whatever triangle you like will be fine. Before you cut out your pattern, add a half inch for seam allowance around all the edges (this is important later).
(see third image)
For the waist band, make a rectangle that is A inches long by 2 1/2 inches wide. Add a half inch all the way around for seam allowance. (see third image)
The skirt lining is exactly the same size and shape as the skirt, but I cut this piece out in two pieces instead of twelve because its a solid color and its less sewing if you use bigger pieces. To use the skirt pattern for the lining, cut off the seam allowance on the wo long sides of the rectangle. Trace the pattern on the wrong side of your lining fabric in chalk six times with pattern lined up with the previous tracing. When your finished it should look like a picket fence. (see fourth image)
Now its time to pin the pattern pieces to your fabric and cut them out.
-6 orange skirt pieces
-6 red skirt pieces
-1 red waist band
-2 red lining pieces
Step 4: Pattern Making - Collar and Cuffs
The frilly part of the collar is six diamonds with the ends cut off. The picture should help explain this. To make the diamond pattern, draw one line that is 10 inches long. Draw a second line that is 4 1/2 inches long and crosses the first line at a right angle halfway along both lines. You now have an X. Connect the four endpoints to make a diamond. Cut off the end of the diamond 2 inches from one of the long sides. Add a half inch seam allowance on all sides. This is the pattern for the collar frills.
(see first image)
For the collar, start by measuring around the base your neck. Take this measurement and add an inch or two for breathing room. Let's call this measurement E. The neck band pattern will be a rectangle that is E inches long by five inches wide. The collar won't actually be five inches wide we're going to fold it in half so that it will be two and a half inches wide, but that part comes later. Add a half inch sewing allowance.
(see second image)
The cuff pattern is more like the skirt pattern. Measure around your wrist. Divide this number by four. Let's call this measurement F. To make the cuff pattern, draw a square that is F inches wide by 2 inches tall. Add a triangle on to one end, this triangle should be 2 inches tall. (see second image)
-3 orange collar frills
-3 red collar frills
-4 red cuff frills
-4 orange cuff frills
Step 5: Pattern Making - Top
Making a pattern for a bodice is difficult. Unless your very experienced at pattern making it is much faster and the results are much better if you don't design your own bodice pattern. There are two main alternatives for designing your own bodice.
-The simplest option is to take and old shirt (a fitted t-shirt would be great for this project) that fits fairly close and cut it up to use as a pattern. To do this, cut off the sleeves. Cut straight down to the hem from the armpits (this is where your side seam will be). Cut straight down the center of the back (this is where the zipper will be). When choosing a pattern shirt for this project, thinking about where the neckline falls is important because this costume has a fairly high neckline. When cutting this out of your costume fabric, remember to add a half inch for seam allowance around all edges.
- The other option is to find an old pattern for something else that has a close fitting bodice. This is what I will be doing. Make sure it it comes down far enough to your waist and that the the neck line is where you want it for this costume.
- 1 front
- 1 of each back half
Step 6: Putting the Pieces Together - Skirt
There are a lot of notes in the pictures and they are ordered chronologically starting with the second picture, so hopefully the pictures will help explain the process.
For this step, you will need the skirt lining pieces, pieces of the skirt outer, and waistband pieces.
Sew the skirt outer pieces together along the long seams, adding one piece at a time until all are together.
Take the two halves of the lining, right sides together, sew them along one of the sides. It should be one long rectangle with points on one side. The lining and the outer should be the same shape and size. Lay the lining on the outer so that the right sides are together and the two pieces are lined up.
Sew together the point sides of the lining and skirt together. Then, turn right side out.
Top stitch points to help them hold their shape after they've been turned inside right. This isn't really important, but it helps them maintain their shape.
If your not using stretchy fabric, you will now have to gather the skirt to the length of the waistband. Sew a loose running stitch along the top of the skirt with a very long stitch length. Back stitch to lock seam at one end only. Gather the skirt to the length of the waist band by pulling on one of the threads at the unlocked end. Pin the skirt to the waistband, and sew normally.
If your using stretchy fabric, stretch the waistband to the length of the skirt. Pin and sew holding it stretched so that when you finished it will shrink back the the length of the waistband and gathers the skirt for you. You might need to enlist a second pair of hands to help hold the stretch.
Step 7: Putting the Pieces Together - Top
For this step you will need the bodice front and back.
Hem the arm holes and the neck hole. Sew sides. If your using stretchy fabric, use a medium length zig-zag.
Pin the back together, and try it on.
To fit the bodice closer, you can put in darts. On the bodice pattern I used, there were already marks for darts, so now is a good time to look at the picture and see what darts look like on a pattern if your doesn't have them. To make darts, put the bodice on inside out (so that once the dart is sewn in, the fold of extra fabric will be on the inside.) Pull up a piece of fabric from the lower center of one of the sides, and pin. Do this in each lower quadrant of the bodice. Keep pinning and adjusting until the two front darts are symmetrical and the two back darts are symmetrical. Again, the pictures might be helpful here.
Sew the dart in place.
Wearing the bodice, mark a line around your waist where you want the skirt waistband to fall.
Cut the end of the bodice off about a half inch below the pins. (This gives you a half inch seam allowance.)
Step 8: Putting the Pieces Together - Collar and Cuffs
For this step you will need the cuff and collar outer and lining, as well as the collar band.
Lay a collar lining and collar outer together. Sew the point side together, leaving the cut off point side un-sewn. Repeat for the remaining collar pieces.
Cut off the tips of the points. Don't cut to close to the seam, or you might have to re-sew a couple like I did. Turn the collar frills inside right. Cutting off the inside of the points makes the tip less lumpy when its inside right.
Lay two collar pieces right sides together. Sew together one side of the un-sew edge of the diamond. (see sixth and seventh image)
Keep adding collar pieces until all are attached. (see seventh image)
If your not using stretchy fabric, you will now have to gather the collar frills to the length of the neck band. Sew a loose running stitch along the top of the collar frills with a very long stitch length. Back stitch to lock seam at one end only. Gather the collar frills to the length of the neck band by pulling on one of the threads at the unlocked end. Pin the collar frills to the neck band, and sew normally.
If your using stretchy fabric, stretch the neck band to the length of the collar frills. Pin and sew holding it stretched so that when you finished it will shrink back the the length of the neck band and gathers the collar frills for you. You might need to enlist a second pair of hands to help hold the stretch again.
Sew the cuff outer pieces together along the long seams, adding one piece at a time until all are together, just like the skirt. Lay the cuff outer and the cuff lining right sides together (they should now be the same size and shape). Sew the points together and the long side together. It should now be a tube open at the narrow ends. Trim the points, and turn right side out. Fold in half with the un-sewn edges together and right the cuff outer in. Sew the narrow edges together and turn right side out. Repeat with the other cuff.
Step 9: Putting the Pieces Together - Finishing Touches
This step is completely optional, but it adds some of the detail.
I wanted the small golden bells on my costume, but I didn't want to jingle as I walked. This is how to to the noise maker out of jingle bells as well as how to sew them on. Any small shiny decoration will do the trick, so if you not using jingle bells, the summary of the this step is to just sew your decorations onto the points of the skirt, collar, and cuffs.
To take the noisy part out of a jingle bell, you will need some small tool to pry the bell open. A nail file, small screw driver, or even a pen will work just fine.
Gently pry open the bell, and remove the little ball from the inside. Press the bell closed again. You now have a silent jingle bell.
Sew the bells (or any other little decorations) onto the points of the skirt, collar, and cuffs.
Step 10: Synthesis
(You're almost done!)
Pin and sew the bottom of the bodice to the top of the waistband. You might have to do a little stretching/gathering to make it right, but it should be pretty close.
For me, the zipper is the hardest part. If you get frustrated, go do something else for a while and then come back to the zipper. It took me four tries to get this zipper sew in right.
For the first side, you can start with the zipper closed or open, it doesn't really matter. Pin the edge of the dress to the zipper starting at the top and working down. Lat the end of the collar on the dress and pin to the zipper. The collar will not be attached to the neck line of the dress, but the frills will cover and gap. The collar will be attached to the zipper and dress at either end. I would recommend using as many pins as possible. More pins equals less mistakes. Now, sew this side of the zipper on to the dress.
For the second side, zip the zipper. As you pin, using the same procedure as last time, make sure to line up the second side to the first side (hence the zipper being closed). Sew this side of the zipper down.
Hurray! Your dress is now finished!