How to make a nativity costume

A letter telling you your child is to star in the school’s nativity play is always very exciting. However, usually this warm glow of pride is swiftly followed by panic, especially when you realise their costume needs to be provided – imminently!

But worry not, rather than searching online for a readymade nativity costume, why not have a go at making your own.

It’s not as difficult as you may imagine and with the help of Lucy Jiwa here is a step by step guide on how to make your very own stress-free nativity costume.

How to make a nativity costume

Fortunately, most nativity costumes can be made very easily. A standard tunic shape can provide a basis for most costumes (Shepherd, Joseph, Mary, Inn keeper, Traveller, Villager and so on). Just don’t forget the traditional tea towel for the head dress!

If you are adept at sewing, you will have no problems, you just need to find suitable fabric. A standard tunic shape is easy to make and can be the basis for many costumes, from Jedi to Joseph!

If you don’t want (or aren’t able!) to do any sewing, there is an even easier method to make a costume, which I call my ‘No-Sew-Shepherd’. This involves cutting a long length of fabric, with a head hole in the middle which is belted to hold it together.

  • Measuring
  1. First step is to work out how large the costume needs to be. This will determine how much fabric you need, and will entail measuring your child. Sadly, this requires them to stand STILL for a short while – I recommend getting then to stand up whilst watching the television, and then sneaking around with the tape measure. If you don’t have a
  2. tape measure, you can use a piece of string. You don’t need exact measurements.
  3. You will also need to measure shoulder to shoulder.
  4. Double the length measurement.
  5. Add about 10″ (25cm) to the width measurement (almost double).
  6. Don’t worry – that’s the maths done!
  7. For my model, I measured 80cm from neck to knee, and 33cm from shoulder to shoulder, so my Fabric measurements are length = 160cm and width = 58cm.


  • Cutting out

Ideally you will already have a long thin piece of fabric. Most fabric comes in widths around 150cm, so you may find yourself having to buy more fabric than you need in order to get the correct length measurement. A top tip is to team up with another mum who has to provide a similar costume, and share the fabric. An alternative is to use the width of the fabric as the vertical measurement of the costume. You may end up with horizontal stripes rather than vertical, but I shouldn’t worry about that too much.

Trim all of the edges of the fabric so they are neat. If you’ve cut a piece from the width of the fabric, you’ll have the selvedges as the front and back hem. These won’t fray, so leave these on!

  • Cutting out the head hole

Now you need to fold the long thin piece of fabric in half so you have a front and a back (fold where the shoulders and neckline will be).

Now fold it in half the other way, so you are folding along what would be the centre front / centre back.

Now to cut out the neck! The neck is always smaller than you think it needs to be, so start small, stand your model back in front of the televisions set again, and try it on. If its too small to go over their head, then cut a little bit further. Try on again. Repeat until you have a neck hole that fits snugly over your child’s head. It will fray a little as its worn, so it will become looser.

On my example I cut around 11cm from the centre.

  • Final Touches

As this is a ‘no-sew’ costume, your child will need to wear trousers or leggings, and a top or T-shirt underneath. Pop the costume over, and use a length of fabric, or a tie, or elastic or some rope to tie around their waist. A tea-towel, or matching piece of fabric if you had some left over, can just be put on their head and again use either a piece of fabric, a tie, or some elastic to hold in place.

Stand back and admire your hard work!

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nora batiste

Please can anyone help me. I have to make a star costume for a 6 year old and would be very grateful for suggestions. I am not very imaginative, so would really appreciate any help.

Helen Auty

Hi, I decided my 7 yr old could wear last year’s shepherd costume in this year’s role as innkeeper number 5! Costume needed on Monday, just tried costume on him: HE HAS GROWN A LOT!!!! Costume now mid shin – would that look okay or half mast? Would it be better to take it up a bit more so it looks like it’s meant to be like that?! Can you help?


Oh no! I think you’ve got two options, either cut it shorter and wear with trousers or alternatively, could you add a strip of material at the bottom? I’ll tweet your question, hopefully others may have some good ideas!


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