So, my sister-in-law tasked me with creating a boy’s peasant costume for her oldest son’s part in the play, Beauty and the Beast. While I’m thrilled to see my nephew in such a great play, I was a little daunted by the idea of creating a costume – and keeping the costs low. I’ve been sewing for about two years, but this would be my first foray into actual clothing. Mostly, I’ve done pillow covers, modest hemming, some cute lace panels for existing shirts – but a whole costume – scary!
We started by going to our local thrift store to see what we could find. I was looking for some type of leathery looking jacket that I could transform into a vest, a longer shirt with some color to it, and pants that would be able to look loose fitting, but not “sweatpantsy,” if that is even a word. I also needed some type of belt to pull it all together and a money pouch to hang off the belt.
Our Costume Beauties
We scored a great jacket with a leather look, but was actually fabric, so much easier to work with.
I had an older shirt marked for donation from my husband which fit perfectly, and we found a pair of dark brown scrubs with the right texture to be baggy. We also found a great fabric belt to tie it all together. We ended up spending less than $10 for everything – not a bad start.
First, I took my seam ripper and put it to good use. I removed the sleeves and collar from the jacket as well as all the buttons. I then bought dark brown, double-fold bias tape (Double Fold Bias Tape 1/4” x 4 Yard Mocha) to bind the arm holes and the neck to keep everything from fraying and tie the lighter brown jacket to the darker brown pants. There is a great tutorial on sewing bias tape at Smashed Peas and Carrots, if you are interested in learning a new technique. This was my second time, and I must say it went much smoother than the first. I have also discovered a very cool binding foot and bias tape maker kit (HONEYSEW Bias Tape Maker 6MM 12MM 18MM 25MM Set Sewing Quilting Tools (BTM-4pcs/pack)) that I will be reviewing on this site soon. I will see if the tool makes it easier to put this look together in the future.
This one was a bit more difficult. I needed the sleeves to be about quarter length – which meant cutting off about 8 inches since my nephew is only 13 and the shirt is large men’s. I wanted to give the sleeves a rustic look, so I hemmed at ½” inch, but then I went back and did a decorative blanket stitch in brown to make it look hand sewn.
For the button down section, the reference pictures sent by the school had a collar section that was tied with string, so first I removed all of the buttons and measured to see where my nephew’s upper chest would be on the shirt. I sewed the front button plackets shut up to that point. To cover up the button holes, I added decorative stitching to the center (this is my crosshatch stitch on my machine – feel free to use whatever works for you) and some on each side to give it a more hand sewn look again.
Finally, I marked where the buttons were at the top and made corresponding button holes for each of the ties (a good buttonhole tutorial that I used is from You’re Sew Crafty) in a matching thread. I also tacked the corners of the collar to the shoulders of the shirt to make it more rounded and primitive looking.
Once I had that finished, I threaded some brown shoelaces through the holes loosely to get the peasant look I was after for this one.
The pants were large scrubs, so I had a lot of material to work with. I needed to be sure that these would stay put through the dancing and jumping around numbers, so I measured my nephew’s waist and calves. For the waist, I used the original drawstring opening and used ½” braided elastic to thread through using my favorite technique with a safety pin. Then, I overlapped about 1” and sewed the elastic together. I did two stitch lines here because I wanted to make sure it was strong enough to hold up.
For the legs, I cut off the excess fabric and then serged the raw edges to prevent fraying. You could also use a regular sewing machine to do an overlock stitch or a rolled hem, but since I just got my serger, I have to find uses for it. Next, I rolled up the hem to ¾” and sewed along the edge to create a casing for the elastic. I threaded it through, overlapped 1” and did a double line of stitching again.
The belt was the easiest part. I wanted to have belt loops to secure it in case it came unbuckled during the performance, so I took two, 4” by 2” wide strips from the sleeves I removed from the jacket. I folded the piece in half at the center to form a 4” by 1” strip and then folded it again to form a 4” by 1/2” wide strip. I sewed down the center to create my belt loop piece. I repeated for the second one. Next, I measured where the belt should sit on my nephew’s waist and marked it on the seam on each side of the vest. I folded the long side down ¼” and sewed the top and bottom to the vest (I could have been neater, but it is a costume, so I just top stitched the loops).
The Money Bag
Finally, every good peasant needs a money bag to hold something – I’m guessing it wasn’t much. Anyway, I had another leftover sleeve from the jacket, so I measured out two squares – 6” by 5”. I made a tiny drawstring bag – great tutorial here: The Stitching Scientist. For fun, I added a strip of the shirt material to the center front of the bag to give it a little color. I used another shoelace for the drawstring and then tied it to the belt. All done!
All in all, it took me about 4-5 hours of work and less than $20 to put the costume together. For the sewing notions, I only need two spools of thread, one brown and one red, and I bought pre-made brown bias tape. My sister-in-law is finishing the look with a pair of long socks to match the shirt and some brown boots he has worn out.
It was a lot of fun to put together and was easier than I imagined – especially with the resources I was able to find online through the dedicated sewing bloggers and YouTubers out there. I hope if you ever need to tackle a project like this, I have given you hope that it won’t be as difficult or as pricey as it first seems. If you have done something similar, please post a comment below. I would love to see how others would tackle this “homework assignment.”