Medieval monks were sometimes gentle beggars or fiery travelling preachers, and they were also the copiers, keepers and protectors of ancient knowledge in the chaos of the Dark Ages. With access to that knowledge, they were often the only poets, scientist, historians and philosophers in an age when few could even read or write. If you wish to make a monk costume, the monk's commitment to poverty and detachment from worldly pursuits mean that the rougher and more homemade the costume looks, the more authentic it appears as well.
Measure from shoulder to ankle, and double this measurement. Cut fabric to this length.
Fold the material in half from top to bottom. Cut a slit in the centre of the folded end about 15 cm (6 inches) long, or long enough for your head to fit through.
Pull the material over your head like a poncho. Most fabric is at least 114 cm (45 inches) wide, so the side of material will reach almost to the wrist of smaller people. Pin the two sides of cloth together at the armpits, waist and hemline in the shape of your robe. With arms outstretched, pin the material together 6 inches below the arm.
Pull off the robe. Lay the material, still folded and pinned, flat.
With the dressmaker's chalk or marker, draw a line from the hemline pin to the waist pin to the underarm pin to the wrist pin to form your seam line. The drawing resembles a simple T-shaped robe. Draw another line about 12 mm (1/2 inch) outside of this line to form the cut line. Cut along this outside line.
Sew together along the seam line with a sewing machine or hand-sew. Turn inside-out.
Your sleeves will probably be too short; they should come almost to the fingertips. Use strips of leftover fabric to lengthen the sleeves. Sew them into loops the same diameter as your sleeve and to the ends of your sleeves. Let the seam show if necessary.
Cowl and hood
Measure from elbow to elbow. Cut a square piece of material to this same length and width.
Cut a piece of string about 50 cm (20 inches) long. Tie the marker to the end of it. Hold the marker at one edge of the cloth. Hold the string taunt at the centre of the cloth. Using the string as a guide, draw a rough circle.
Measure around your head at ear level. Using the same method, draw and cut a hole in the centre about that size. It does not have to be perfectly round, just large enough for your head to fit through.
Cut another piece of cloth 45-by-90 cm (18-by-36 inches) long. Fold lengthwise into a square; the folded edge forms the top of your hood.
Sew up one side from the folded edge to 5 cm (2 inches) from the bottom to form the back of your hood. Leave the bottom edge open to go over your head. Beginning 5 cm (2 inches) from the bottom, sew up about 5 cm (2 inches)s. This will go under your chin, leaving a large gap for your face; attaching the hood to the cowl is unnecessary.
Putting on the costume
Put on robe, cross, hood and cowl in that order. Place the bottom edges of the hood under the cowl.
Tie the rope around your waist.
Tie three knots in one end of the rope; the knots represent chastity, poverty and obedience. Place cross around your neck.
Wear your monk costume with sandals.
Things you need
- Rough grey or brown fabric, 3 metres (burlap works well)
- Needle and thread or sewing machine
- Fabric marker or dressmaker's chalk
- Large cross on a leather thong
- Rope, 1.8 metres (72 inches)
- Pair of simple sandals
- Coarse string, 90-cm (3-foot) length