Maidenhead Festival: How to make your circus costume

Staff reporter

Maidenhead Festival: How to make your circus costume

To help everyone get into the spirit of the circus theme at this year's Maidenhead Festival on July 23-24, patchwork, sewing and quilting tutor Gill Towell gives some tips on how to make a costume for the big weekend.

Gill, who runs GillyMac Designs in Maidenhead, explains how you can make your own circus-themed costume cheaply and easily in time for the festival, which takes place in Kidwells Park.

She said:  “I have always enjoyed making costumes for my girls over the years and even though I could often buy similar from Amazon, Tesco or Ebay, there is something really lovely about having a go myself.  In making this costume, I have incorporated a couple of the ideas I roll out for many of the things I create, I hope you find them as useful as I have done over the years.”

She continued: “A circus theme is brilliant. There are lots of possibilities for both boys and girls - jugglers, clowns, acrobats, lions, lion tamers and even cowboys and girls.

“Making a costume, is about what you have to hand, to copy and to use. Waistcoats are great… a bright red one for a clown, a black one for a lion tamer and a brown one for a cowboy or girl. To make a waistcoat pattern, choose a shirt or T shirt and cut the arms off, cut directly up the front and cut a V into the neck… and hey presto a simple waistcoat.

“Fabric paint, Sharpie fabric markers, or even cheap acrylic paints are great to add colour to waistcoat. The paints can be applied directly, though put a sheet of newspaper inside the T-shirt to stop the colours going straight through to the back. It can be fun to cut shapes out of potatoes and with acrylic paint, stamp those shapes onto the waistcoat. 

“The same applies to decorating a T-shirt. For a boy a decorated T-shirt and face paints would be a great clown. I have been making an outfit for a little friend of mine, who wants to go as a lady clown. I have dyed a cheap white T-shirt with washing machine dye. It is super simple, cheap and effective.

“Just put your machine on an empty very hot wash afterwards and there will be no dye left. Then I added pompoms bought from any craft shop – Sew Crafty is no longer in the High Street, but they have a great postal service via

“For the clown’s bottom’s, trousers could also be decorated with pompoms or paint. For a lady clown I have used a piece of fabric or a tie which fits around her waist. To this is I have tied strips of netting. Netting is cheap and comes in wonderful colours.

“To make the skirt, you must first decide on the length. Now double the length and add 10cm, this is the length of the pieces of netting you will need. Each length should be about 10cm wide. I wanted a 25cm skirt so I made my lengths 60cm x 10cm. Fold the lengths in half.

“Next place the tie for around the waist down on the table and place the fold of the netting on the tie and loop the other end of the netting through the fold and around the tie.

“Add more netting to the tie and keep going until the tie is filled with netting, leaving just enough to tie around your model.

“For our little pal we added pig tails and face paint and hey presto – we have the best little clown ready for the festival.”

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