How to make a Chinese parade dragon costume

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Dressing in a costume can be fun for special events and costume parties. Sometimes, costumes are worn during special ethnic celebrations like the Chinese New Year. Constructing your own Chinese dragon costume can be accomplished by using inexpensive, readily available materials. Following a few easy steps and utilising your own creativity will create a fantastic Chinese dragon costume for your next celebration.

Begin with two red tracksuits; two people are needed to take part in this costume. Traditionally, the costume can spread up to 30 m (100 feet) long, but can be made smaller for just two people. One person will be the head and the other will hold up the end of the tail. First, create the body costume. Taking 2 m (2 yards) of red fabric and 1 m (1 yard) of blue or green, cut strips that are 15 cm (6 inches) wide and 30 cm (12 inches) long. Next, cut the strips into fringe. Using a pair of scissors, make cuts in the strips that come close to the top but do not cut all the way through. Leave about 2.5 cm (1 inch) of uncut fabric at the top. Make at least six fabric fringes per leg out of blue and red fabric. Using red thread, sew the fringe strips, alternating colours, on each leg. It is easiest to start at the bottom and work up. Sew at the top of each strip so the fringe hangs down. Cover the entire pair of trousers with the fringe; make more if needed. Use the same technique to cover the sweatshirt portion of the costume with fringe strips.

Create the dragon mask. A simple way to make the mask is by using poster board and construction paper. Using a thick piece of 70 by 55 cm (28 by 22 inch) poster board, cut out a rounded head. Cut the dragon head large enough to cover the costume wearer's head. Next, cover the poster board with red construction paper, gluing it down with rubber cement. Cut two large eyes out of white construction paper and glue them on the face. Draw on a nose. The mouth will serve as eye holes for the costume wearer. Pencil in a wide mouth and cut it out with scissors or a craft knife. Be sure an adult cuts the mouth out for safety. Refer to photos of different Chinese dragons for ideas of ways to finish decorating. Once the face of the mask is completed, glue or tape 50 cm (1/2 yard) of red fabric at the bottom of the mask, allowing the fabric to hang down. This will help cover the upper portion of the costume wearer's body. To finish the mask, tape lightweight plastic poles to the backside of the mask, one on the left, and one on the right. The costume wearer can hold these poles to move the mask around.

The last step in creating the Chinese dragon costume is making its body. Use the 5 m (5 yard) strip of red fabric to create the body. Tape or glue one end of the fabric to the top of the dragon mask. This will cover the head of the person in the front of the costume. Next, cut the end of the fabric into a point, to make the tail. Once the tail is finished, secure two poles to the base of the tail. To do this, sew two strips of red fabric (from the scraps that were cut off when the tail was created) at the base of the tail on each side. Then, tie the strips of fabric into a knot around the poles to secure them. The poles at the back of the tail will allow the costume wearer to lift the tail up and down as the dragon moves.

With the head and body complete, the last step is to decorate. Chinese dragons are typically very colourful and embellished, so try to add a few finishing touches. Add some gold or silver glitter or puffy paint to the tracksuits, the body of the dragon and the mask. Jingle bells could also be added to add some flair and noise. String a few jingle bells to a piece of ribbon and sew it to each side of the tracksuit bottoms, near the bottom so they jingle with each step. Glue several jingle bells to the edge of the mask so it jingles when the head moves. Be creative and find other fun ways to embellish the costume.

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