The most endearing aspect of any Christmas nativity play are the adorable costumes that help illustrate the story of Jesus’ birth.
While detailed costume patterns are available at any sewing shop, most of us don’t have the time or seamstress skill level to take on such a project.
The following DIY costume basics will get you started whether you are the Christmas pageant director or a mom tasked with outfitting your little one for an upcoming production.
Christmas Play Supplies
Many churches have a collection of old costumes from Easter and Christmas plays of the past. First and foremost, inventory what you already have, then determine what you still need. Don’t duplicate your efforts if you don’t have to!
Once you are armed with a list of needs, make it widely known to other church members. Most people have old sheets, twine, rope, spray paint, tinsel garland, and old Halloween costumes that they would be more than happy to part with.
Think Exodus (36:5-6) when Moses had to tell the people to stop bringing supplies as they had already brought more than was needed to build the Tabernacle. You may end up with more than you need!
Begin by scouting out your local Dollar Store for supplies like glitter, paint, tin foil, foam board, headbands, glue guns, and safety pins. Lots of safety pins! In November, endless yards of gold or silver garland will be available for angel costumes.
When shopping at fabric stores, be sure to ask if there are any discounts for church-related purchases. They will often give you 10% off!
Nativity Character Ideas: The Line-Up
All of the following Christmas play costumes can be created without a sewing machine!
Shepherds/Innkeeper: a plain or aged floor-length outfit and headpiece. Any neutral-colored fabric will work for both the headpiece and outfit. The more aged the fabric appears, the better. Old sheets and blankets can be repurposed, or burlap and muslin can be purchased from a fabric store. Measure the child from shoulder to ankle, double the measurement, and cut your fabric to that length. Eyeball the width. Cut a hole for his/her head and secure the garment around the waist with any kind of rope or twine.
The headpiece can be made from a rectangle-shaped piece of fabric about the size of a dish towel and secured to the head with rope, ribbon, or stretchy headband. Whatever seems to stay secure, but will also be comfortable.
Three Kings: floor-length outfit, sash, and crown. The kings’ outfits should be a little more regal than the shepherds’. Gold, purple, and red fabrics can be used. Follow the same instructions as the shepherd’s for the floor-length outfit. A sash can be created by measuring the child from one shoulder to the opposite hip. Double the measurement, add a few inches, and hot glue or staple the ends of the fabric together. The outfit and sash can be secured to the child at the waist with a ribbon belt.
Crowns can be cut from poster board and stapled. Get the kids involved in painting, glittering, or bejeweling the crowns. In a pinch, some Burger King locations have crowns available upon request.
Mary: floor-length outfit, sash, and head wrap. Mary’s outfit can be created just as the shepherd’s but with a light or white fabric. Mary is often represented wearing a blue sash and head wrap. The sash can be assembled as the kings’ were above. A head wrap can be made from an old scarf or pashmina and affixed to the head with bobby pins.
Joseph: floor-length outfit, sash, and head piece. Joseph’s outfit should resemble the shepherd’s (above) with aged fabric and head piece, but match the sash to Mary’s so he stands apart.
Angels: white outfit, wings, and halo. The angels can wear white dresses or white floor-length outfits like the shepherd’s (above). Use tinsel garland or ribbon to secure the waist.
Wings can be homemade from spray painted or glittered cardboard and elastic straps. Look for fairy or butterfly wings at retail and thrift stores that can be repurposed with a little spray paint. These will likely hold up better than a cardboard version.
Halos can easily be made at home with a headband, craft wire, and tinsel garland.
Stable animals: color matching outfit, ears, tails, and face paint. The stable animals (sheep, donkeys, cows, etc.) can all wear street clothes in the color of their animal. For example, the donkey can wear brown pants and a brown shirt. Animal ears can be created with cut felt ears hot glued to a headband. Tails can be repurposed from old Halloween costumes or thick rope. Black gloves or black socks over the hands make great hooves. Face paint in a coordinated color and a black nose will complete the costume!
Christmas Play Costume Details
Use your imagination to finish off the details of the costumes. Eye liner pencils can be used to draw on beards and mustaches. Pinking shears can be used to give fabric a rougher look. Old tiki torch bases and broom handles can be reworked into shepherd staffs. If time and budget permit, age muslin fabric by letting it soak in strongly brewed tea. Hot glue cotton balls onto a white sweatshirt for adorable little sheep. The options are endless!
Above all, the children must be comfortable and be able to move freely. It doesn’t matter if your Christmas nativity play costumes are elaborate and expensive or homemade, it is more important that the children have fun celebrating the birth of our Lord!
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Category: Skits and Plays