How to Make Your Own Pocohontas Costume

Written by donna tinus
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How to Make Your Own Pocohontas Costume
Braids and beads are typical of Pocahontas costume. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

The life of Pocahontas has been romanticised since her death in 1617. As the daughter of a Virginia Indian chief, she became friendly with English settlers, saved John Smith's life, was taken hostage, married John Rolf and eventually travelled to England. Most people are familiar with her name and at least part of her story. As a popular American icon, Pocahontas provides an easily-recognisable costume that consists of the simple dress that was typical of her Powhatan Native American tribe. Instead of making a dress out of suede, you can dye an oversized T-shirt to look like a suede Pocahontas dress.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Two oversized white T-shirts, long enough to be a dress
  • Large cooking pot
  • Five black tea bags
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Large towel
  • Dryer
  • Scissors
  • Medium-sized beads
  • Small beads
  • Hot glue gun
  • Feathers
  • Yarn, string or shoestring
  • Elbow or ziti macaroni (optional)

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  1. 1

    Bring 5 cups of water to a boil on the stove in a large cooking pot. Add five tea bags to the water and let them soak for about 15 minutes. Remove the tea bags.

  2. 2

    Cut a strip of material about 2 inches wide off the bottom of an oversized T-shirt by cutting off the bottom of the shirt. Cut a second piece in the same manner. These will be your costume's headband and belt.

  3. 3

    Place the other oversized T-shirt and the strips of fabric into a 5-gallon (or larger) bucket. Pour the hot water over the material and swish them around to get all areas of the shirt and fabric saturated. Let them soak overnight.

  4. 4

    Remove the T-shirt and fabric, squeeze out the water and rinse them in cool, running water in a sink or tub. Wrap them in a towel to get excess water out, then dry them in a dryer to set the colour.

  5. 5

    Cut the hemline of the T-shirt into a V shape in the front and back to mimic the way hides were sewn together to form dresses worn by women of Pocahontas' tribe.

  6. 6

    Cut strips of fabric about 1-inch long at the bottom of the T-shirt to create fringe. Cut fringe at the sleeves also.

  7. 7

    Slide beads onto the fringe about every fourth fringe and tie a knot at the bottom of the fringe to keep them on. Do this for both the hem and the sleeves.

  8. 8

    Hot glue some beads to the bodice of the dress in a semicircular pattern around the neckline. Tie one strip of fabric around your waist.

  9. 9

    Use a hot-glue gun to glue beads along the headband in a zigzag pattern. Tie the fabric around your head like a headband, tuck a feather in the back, then tie again. Let the ties hang down the back of your head.

  10. 10

    String beads onto a piece of string. Tie at one end and wear as a necklace. Macaroni could be added also, alternating beads and macaroni to mimic the necklaces typically worn in that time period, which were made from beads and bones.

  11. 11

    Wear moccasins, brown sandals or brown slippers. Alternately, glue beads onto brown socks with the cuffs rolled down to mimic moccasins.

Tips and warnings

  • If your T-shirt is too short, wear a light-brown skirt, shorts or slacks under it.
  • Wear a wig with braids, or put your hair in two braids.
  • Shells were also used to adorn clothing. If you have access to small seashells, use the hot-glue gun to add some to the bodice of the dress along with the beads.

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