Make a Paper Doll Costume




About: Founding Editor of - a site all about making cool crafts from dollar store materials. Top 3 supplies: hot glue gun, spray paint, googly eyes.

I loved playing with paper dolls as a kid, and so the idea of dressing up like a life-size paper doll made me smile. This costume is easy to make, even if you don't think you can draw. It's super cheap to make, and the best part is you can create the outfit of your paperdoll's dreams!

I got the supplies at the dollar store (and from my stash).


1 or 2 sheets of white poster board, $1 ($.50 each at Dollar Tree)
Clean clothes to trace, on hand
Paint and paintbrushes, on hand
1/4" elastic, $1 or so
Stapler and staples
Headband (optional), on hand or $1

Total Cost: $2 and up

Time for construction: About 1 hour, including paint drying time.

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Step 1: Step 1: Trace Clothing

Lay posterboard out on work surface. Lay clothing (dress, jeans, shirt, etc.) out on posterboard. Trace around clothing with pencil. For this example, we made one big flat dress, but for comfort and movement's sake, it is better if you separate any clothing at the waist and keep two separate parts (a top and a bottom).

You can trace any clothing you want. Just remember to draw on a couple of strategically-located rectangular "tabs" - at shoulders and sides. This is crucial for selling the paper doll idea!

After you're done tracing, don't forget to draw on realistic details like buttons, zippers, bows, lace, seams, etc.

Trace over pencil with a thick-tipped black marker.

Step 2: Step 2: Paint Clothing

Paint the drawing, filling in with color, but leave the tabs white. Feel free to get creative with color combinations.

Let the paint dry.

When paint is dry, cut clothing out around the outside outline.

Step 3: Step 3: Attach Straps

To add shoulder straps, cut two pieces of elastic, about 8" long and then staple the end of elastic to top of shoulder area on costume. Be sure elastic is securely attached, with staple going through elastic. Staple other end near armpit. Repeat for other arm strap.

Add an elastic strap at the waist using the same technique. The piece of elastic should be as wide as the waist, with 2" added.

For pants, add a waistband strap, and straps at the ankles.

Step 4: Step 4: Make a Paper Doll Headband

To make a headpiece, lay headband on poster board and draw (in pencil) a bow along the contour of the headband. Add tabs to ends of bow, as well as underneath bow. Trace over pencil with thick-tipped black marker.

Color and cut as you did in Step 2.

To attach bow to headband, fold lower tabs around headband and tape to back of bow.

Step 5: Tips

Treat Bucket Idea: Tape a flat jack-o'-lantern treat bucket with tabs to a paper grocery bag to create a perfect Halloween paper doll accessory.

Paint brush: Use a large foam paintbrush to quickly cover your outfit with paint, or use a sponge to create a textured look (this is great for jeans).

Best paints for this project: acrylic craft paint, tempera or poster paint. Bright, bold colors are best for this project.

What to Wear Under Your Costume: Wear neutral clothing underneath your paper doll costume. A white or black shirt and jeans or leggings would be a great choice. Wear shoes that compliment the paper doll's outfit.

For more great cheap craft and Halloween ideas, visit my site: Dollar Store Crafts

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    14 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    LOVE this! Growing up a tomboy I wasn't big on dolls, but have always loved paper dolls (maybe it's the crafty element). Any issue of McCall's magazine I spotted would have me turning to the back page to see what was going on with Betsy McCall. Or maybe it's an inherited interest: I have my mother's original-from-when-SHE-was-a-child Shirley Temple paper doll books---!

    In any event, this is such a great idea, easy yet effective, creative and unique, suitable for kids and grownups alike. I think I may have to head to a dollar store this afternoon for some posterboard and headbands....

    3 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Ooh, now you're making me want to check out issues of McCall's! I agree, I have always been a fan of paper dolls.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Betsy McCall, retired from the magazine many years ago, but there are a couple of places online where you can find scans of the pages and even download them if you want. One covers the first 10 years she was being published, 1951-1961, with high quality scans in jpeg format ( The other has direct-from-the-magazines scans (many with some bleed-through from the other side of the page) in pdf format from the beginning all the way through the 1990s (   Check them out if only to watch the changing style of both illustration and clothing over the last half of the 20th century.  Enjoy!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I did a quick look at your DSC website... too cool ! Thats a really cute costume, thank you for sharing


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Cool costume! I love your concept. Why weren't dollar stores around when I was a kid? Anyway, the headband thing....I hear ya.