How to make a jester costume with patterns

Written by kelli nottingham
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How to make a jester costume with patterns
Jester costumes were designed to distinguish the wearer from the general populace. (venice carnival: black jester image by Tamara Kulikova from

The role of jester, a capering juggler and comedian who was granted liberty to criticise anyone freely, has existed for thousands of years. The most common image of a jester belongs to the medieval and Renaissance eras, when jesters paraded through court, dispensing humour and biting sarcasm to those in power. Their costumes set them apart from the rest of society, and most often consisted of bright multicoloured outfits festooned with bells and a hat with two to four points arching out and down toward the face.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Sewing pattern
  • Fabric
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Pillow stuffing (optional)
  • Ribbon (optional)
  • Small bells (optional)

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  1. 1

    Measure yourself, wearing the undergarments you intend to wear under your costume. Use these measurements to determine the pattern size you will need. At the fabric store, look at the back of the pattern envelope to choose your correct size.

  2. 2

    Purchase the necessary fabric for your costume, according to the information listed on the back of the pattern envelope. Jester costumes are brightly coloured, using two or three colours. Popular colour choices are purple, green red or yellow. Good fabric choices are satin and cotton.

  3. 3

    Cut out the pattern and fabric for your size. Follow the pattern instructions inside the envelope for proper layout to ensure you use your fabric efficiently.

  4. 4

    Pin the costume together and try it on. You may want to ask a friend to help you with the fitting process. Jester costumes are generally loose and provide for a good range of movement.

  5. 5

    Sew the pieces together as directed by the pattern instructions. As you sew major seams, including the front, side and back seams, try on the garment to make sure that you are achieving the fit you desire.

  6. 6

    Pin the hem of the trousers so that the hem ends where you want it. Some jester costumes are one piece outfits that end at the knees or ankles. Others have a tunic style top over leggings. If making a tunic version, pin up the hem evenly all the way around. You may find it useful to have a friend help you to pin the hem up evenly.

  7. 7

    Hem the bottoms, leaving room to insert elastic if the cuffs are meant to be elasticated. Hems for either a tunic or cuffs should be sewn with a straight stitch.

  8. 8

    Hem the sleeves in the same way, leaving additional length if your cuff is elasticated and you want the sleeves to be very baggy.

  9. 9

    Sew on any appliqués that should be attached according to the pattern directions. You may find it useful to fold and iron the raw edges of the appliqué under before hand-sewing or machine-sewing them down.

  10. 10

    Sew the hat as instructed in the pattern, being sure to try the hat on before and during the sewing process. Stuff the hat with batting or pillow stuffing, as desired.

  11. 11

    Attach any ribbons or bells to the costume as desired. Cut ribbon to 2-foot lengths and sew one end of several lengths of ribbon to each tip of the hat to create a streamer effect.

Tips and warnings

  • If you are using cotton fabric, preshrink the fabric before cutting out your pattern pieces. To do this, wash the fabric and dry it at high heat.
  • Satin fabrics have a tendency to ravel at the raw edges. Consider overlocking the edges by using a serger machine, or by sewing the edges with a zigzag stitch on your sewing machine. You may also use seam binding.
  • Italian harlequins, a derivative of earlier court jesters, wore black and white costumes, frequently decorated with diamond shapes, a white ruffled collar and a black mask.
  • Be careful to avoid scratching yourself with the straight pins when tryng the garment on during fitting.

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