8 no-sew Nativity costumes

Child wearing a handmade nativity costume
If your little angel is honoured with the role of Mary, or your shining star is to be a sheep, here are some sewing-free, stress-free ways of getting simple, yet effective, handmade Nativity costumes recommended by non-crafty mum and teacher, Phoebe Doyle.

While my ideal self is icing cupcakes for the school fair ‘til dawn and sewing quilts for the kids during downtime, quite frankly this recent obsession with all things craft just isn’t me. That said, as a teacher – and now as a parent – I’ve had to take some deep breaths and get stuck in, especially around the time of year when Nativity plays are being organised. I’m not averse to the odd short-cut though!

However, if you're short of time, take the route of ultimate ease and buy a Nativity costume for your little star; we've rounded up some top picks for you to choose from.

Make your own Mary Nativity costume

To make a Mary costume you’ll need: A blue pillowcase (buy cheap or dye one if needed), a long skirt, a stretchy hairband, a length of white fabric and some sandals.

1. The pillowcase is to become a simple tunic, so make cuts down the sides for the arms to come through, and at the top for the head.

2. Use a long skirt you have a home, or attach white or blue fabric to the hem of a shorter one – use safety pins if needed.

3. Fold some white fabric and secure it onto your child’s head with a stretchy hairband.

4. Have your child wear sandals, or plimsolls if you don’t have anything suitable. Also, check with the school whether you need to provide a doll and fabric for swaddling.

Make your own Jospeh Nativity costume

To make a Joseph costume you’ll need: A cream or brown pillowcase (buy cheap or dye one if needed), a long skirt, a stretchy hairband, a length of brown fabric, a leather belt, some sandals and possibly a robe.

1. As with Mary, make the pillowcase into a simple tunic top. Make cuts down the sides for the arms to come through, and at the top for the head.

2. Again, like Mary, use a skirt you already have or make a skirt longer if needed. If your son is refusing to wear a skirt, they may settle for very baggy trousers with a robe (preferably cream or brown) over the top. Accessorise with a leather belt.

3. Fold the brown fabric and secure it with a stretchy hairband.

4. Have your child wear sandals to complete the outfit, and add a brown robe if you like.

Make your own Three Kings Nativity costume

To make a three kings costume you’ll need: a robe (their usual dressing gown may be suitable if it’s dark and plain), some gold card, glitter and shiny paper, glue, tinsel, safety pins, a long plastic necklace, glitter, gold-coloured rope or ribbon, bright clothes, plimsolls.

1. Decorate their robe by using safety pins to fasten on strands of tinsel of all colours. Tie the robe with gold rope or ribbon.

2. Make a fancy pendant with some gold card and glitter. Cut a hole in the pendant and thread it onto a cheap plastic necklace.

3. Make the crown by cutting the gold card with points, then decorate it with glitter and shiny paper. Fasten so that it’s the correct size for your child.

4. They can wear bright-coloured clothes under the robe, and plimsolls decorated with tinsel and jewel shapes cut from shiny paper.

5. Check with the school to find out what gift they’re bringing, and whether you need to provide this as well.

Make your own shepherd Nativity costume

You’ll need: A brown hessian sack (available from your local garden centre or pound shops), a long skirt, a stretchy hairband, a striped tea towel, a leather belt, some sandals, a broom handle or garden cane and some tinsel.

1. Make the sack into a simple tunic top. Make cuts down the side for the arms to come through, and at the top for the head.

2. As with Mary and Joseph, use a skirt at home or add cloth to make a skirt longer if needed. Accessorise with a leather belt.

3. Wrap a striped tea towel around your child’s head and fasten in a knot – if this proves tricky, use hair fasteners or a head band to help.

4. Have your child wear sandals.

5. To make the crook, use a broom handle or garden cane, and wrap tinsel around it.

Make your own sheep Nativity costume

You’ll need: A long white/cream woolly jumper, some white/cream tights or leggings, black gloves, black socks, black plimsolls, cotton buds, glue, white card, small amount of elastic.

1. The black socks, plimsolls and gloves will be the sheep’s hooves.

2. Have the jumper or tights/leggings as woolly as possible – you can stick on cotton buds with glue to make more fluffy.

3. Draw a mask shape (with eyeholes) onto white card, with two ears at the top. It will need to go over your child’s eyes and top half of their face. Fasten with elastic stapled onto either side of the mask.

Make your own donkey Nativity costume

You’ll need: A long brown woolly jumper, some brown tights or leggings, brown felt, glue, black gloves, black socks, black plimsolls, brown card, pipe cleaners and a headband.

1. As with the sheep, have your child wear the black socks, plimsolls and gloves to represent the donkey’s hooves. 

2. Cut two large brown pointy ears and fasten them onto a head band. You can make sure the ears stick up by taping pipe cleaners to the back of them.

Make your own angel Nativity costume

You’ll need: A white sheet, some gold/silver pipe cleaners or gold/silver tinsel to thread around the pipe cleaners, hot glue, a headband and a pair of wings (available from most pound shops)

1. Fold the sheet in half and cut a line in the fold for your child’s head to fit through. Don’t cut too far, or else it will slip over their shoulders. Try it on – you may need to cut along the bottom if it’s too long.

2. Make a circle for the halo with the pipe cleaners, and hot glue it onto a headband. Use tinsel to wrap around the halo, if you wish.

3. For the wings, decorate fairy wings with silver tinsel around the edges.

Make your own star Nativity costume

Option 1

You’ll need: Black leggings or tights, a leotard or t-shirt (yellow/gold if possible), a stick, some card, glue and some glitter paint.

If your little one’s not that keen on putting on a full costume, let them dress in just the leggings/tights and leotard/t-shirt and hold a star. For this, cut out a star shape and paint it with glitter paint, then fasten it onto a stick (like a garden cane cut short).

Option 2

You’ll need: Black leggings or tights, a leotard or t-shirt (black if possible), 2 large sheets of strong card, some foil, glue, a hole punch and some ribbon.

1. Spread glue over the large sheets of card and cover them in foil.

2. Cut both pieces into stars of equal sizes. Do be aware that your child may have to sit down at some point so don’t make the stars so big that this becomes difficult.

3. Punch holes into two of the star points on each card, and tie ribbon from one star to the other, making a sandwich board effect.

Of course, sometimes our careful plans and preparations don't go as smoothly as we hope they will! Join in our discussion about Nativity costume disasters if you've got a story to share.