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How not to make a costume for your child’s Christmas play

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I was up at half five yesterday morning boiling a white polo shirt in a think soup of coffee grounds. You’re probably wondering why I was behaving in this eccentric fashion. The answer is very simple; it’s that time of year when my eldest child needs a costume for her Christmas play and a brown top is an essential part of her ensemble.

My daughter's brown shirt stewing in a heady mix of, well, you really don't want to know what it it is. Let's just hope her acting makes up for the quality of the costume.
My daughter’s brown shirt stewing in a heady mix of, well, you really don’t want to know what it it is. Let’s just hope her acting makes up for the quality of the costume.

Unfortunately the home-made coffee dye didn’t work. It washed straight out of the garment and left the house smelling like rancid coffee. You probably don’t think coffee smells rancid. I didn’t either but let me assure you that when boiled in large quantities it smells utterly foul.

I’ve already been asked why I didn’t buy a brown top. The fact of the matter is, we were given less than a week to get the costume together and my attempts to buy one failed. I did, however, manage to get brown trousers. They’re boys’ trousers but, hey, who’s going to notice?

This is the second time in two years I have resorted to desperate measures to get a costume together. Last year she was at nursery and a Christmas show was put together that featured singing, dancing and costumes (there was no mention of the nativity at all, much to the chagrin of several parents but c’est la vie).

Unfortunately we lost the note that was sent home telling us what our daughter needed to wear. At the eleventh hour I asked the nursery manager. The response was as follows; “Helen’s group are all dressing as Father Christmas.”

What followed was a mad dash around numerous stores until I found a Father Christmas outfit. It was absolutely ginormous but it was all I could find. I also figured she’d wear it more than once in the years to come.

I got it home and she put it on. To say it was ginormous was an understatement, it was absolutely massive and she looked ridiculous. The costume had to be altered and so my brother in law and I set about making adjustments to make the thing fit.

If you regularly read this blog, you’ll know I’ve developed an obsession about sewing name tags and you may well be thinking we used a needle and thread to make these adjustments. Oh no, we are men and tackled this scenario in a stereotypically male way. We cut the costume to size and stuck the hems back together using instant grip adhesive, the type of thing a builder would use to stick skirting boards to a wall.

You may be surprised to hear this actually worked. It was, however, unfortunate that the nursery manager had made a mistake. Our daughter was the only Father Christmas on stage as the rest of her group were dressed as ‘Christmas bears’.

Fast forward to this year and I couldn’t find a brown top anywhere. I then had a flash on inspiration; buy a cheap, cotton tee-shirt and dye it!

The tee-shirt was an easy purchase but try as I might I couldn’t find fabric dye anywhere so I improvised. You may be thinking this was the point when I threw the shirt into my “coffee soup” but you’d be wrong. My first attempt involved liquid brown shoe polish and hot water.

When I went to bed the shirt was brown and drying on a radiator. When I woke up the shirt was, for some reason, several shades lighter in colour. When my wife remarked that the shirt looked like it “had been p***** on by an angry horse” I knew I had to try again.

I made a second attempt at buying some fabric dye and this time it was successful. The shirt is now brown and my daughter’s costume is complete.

The challenge of the nativity costume is clearly going to be an annual event. I hope that I get better at dealing with it.

Do you have a nativity costume story? Does it get any easier? Am I just inept? Please leave a comment below with your tale.

18 thoughts on “How not to make a costume for your child’s Christmas play”

  1. So funny , so many parents can relate to this.
    On sunday I was summoned to help with a’ Mary ‘Costume next door. I had cut it down to size earlier in the week but on trying it on again it was still an inch too long. Well I don’t think my neighbour and I have ever laughed so much. We had already Opened a bottle of fizz so were quite merry. My husband , who is redg. blind, proceeded to take charge of us with the sharp scissors. All we had to do was chop off a further inch, might as well have started from scratch. Every time we thought we had got it right the tape measure told us differently . In the end we decided it would be fine and ‘ Mary’ decided to give us a dress rehearsal, including her version of the birth, which she insists takes place on stage.Unfortunately, like all 6 year old girls ,she had to throw in a couple of headstands and a back roll.
    What a great evenings entertainment !

    1. Jeanette, I just don’t know where to start, your story had me in hysterics! I am taking it as a given this costume thing isn’t going to get any easier!

  2. Hehe this made me laugh a lot – I’m not actually sure why I’m laughing. I can sew absolutely nothing and I am going to be in exactly the same situation in a few years time. Good tip about the instant grip adhesive though!

    1. You haven’t heard the latest! I turned up at school today with the costume only to be told that a mistake had been made. My daughter is being provided with a costume and there was no need for us to have made one!

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    1. Hilarious to see it written down, but almost caused me to melt down entirely! Thankfully this year it was just black leggings and a tee shirt.

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  10. Well, as I am Granny I’m the one who gets the “Mum help!!” Message.

    So my Granddaughters first nativity she’s an Angel. I decide to ‘treat’ her to a shop bought costume. Literally the evening before the nativity I get it to her. She takes one look and bursts into tears. Looks at me and says “Granny I wanted a special homemade costume”. (blind panic sets in). But, what can I do.

    Thankfully I have my mum, Great Granny to turn too. She got the HELP! Message from me!

    We get my Granddaughter to my Mum’s and vow to not leave until a home made Angel costume is created. Thankfully my Mum has a sewing machine and actually knows how to use it!

    So 2 pillowcases became the most basic Angel costume you will ever see. But it was homemade and that meant my Granddaughter loved it.
    Great Granny to the rescue!! 🙂

    1. Oh wow, you lot went to such great effort! I am afraid in our house, one granny lives 400 miles away and the other 100 miles away so this wouldn’t happen. I do love how two pillow cases made the costume. very creative and what wonderful parents, grandparents and great grandparents you are!

      1. This week saw my Grandsons first nativity. Thankfully he was very pleased with his shop bought Shepards outfit his mum got him…..Just as well really. I’ve moved to Spain and even great granny is visiting relatives in Australia!

        I’m heading back to UK for a week over Xmas and New year to spend time with Jack and Grace.
        I did have a little guilt pang that being so far away means I can’t be on call for those mini crisis moments.

        But as your reply points out if I were still in UK, but 400 miles away I still couldn’t ‘be there’ in person as it were.

        Anyway, that’s enough of my waffling. Best get on, been chatting to mum on a video link all morning!

        1. I hope the Nativity was a success. Confess my daughter went in a shop bought costume to a Viking Day the other day, the first time I resorted to buying something from a shop! She was happy though. Hope you have a good time in the UK over the Christmas break.

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