TUTORIAL: Pirate Life costume

by Dana on July 6, 2008

My kids are obsessed with pirate stuff these days.
From Jake and the Neverland Pirates on TV, to Olivia episodes, to singing “yo ho yo ho” in the car with the Disney CD, pirates seem to be all around us.
So, we embraced it! And made a very simple pirate costume that works great for playtime around the house or for a themed birthday party.
So what does every good pirate need to sail the seven seas, explore new lands, and search for treasure? Just a few simple things….
You definitely need a cool hat (and when it’s made from cardstock and paper, it only takes 5 minutes!)
A pirate vest (made using the Frontier Vest tutorial and pattern)
A simple felt eye patch….the kind that doesn’t dig into your face and fits a 4 year old matey!
Of course you might get hungry along the way, so pack your fishing pole.
Then grab your telescope and don’t forget THE MAP!
“X” marks the spot!
Ready for adventure? Let’s get started!

First, let’s make our hats.
These are very simple and surprisingly hold up longer than I thought. The kids have been wearing them all week and they still look fantastic.
Click HERE to download and print our Pirate Hat and Eye Patch template.

Print the template (one page) from your computer and cut out the pieces. Use the hat piece as a pattern to trace onto colored cardstock or construction paper. The Jolly Roger crossbones circle can be used as-is or you can draw your own.
Glue the circle of crossbones to the front of each hat.
Cut two strips of standard white paper–appx 2 1/4 inches wide–to create a band that goes around your child’s head. Tape them together so you have one long strip. Glue the front of your hat to the middle of the strip. Do not glue the entire front of the hat to the strip, however. You want the edges of the hat to stick out in front. Try it on your child and tape the other end of the strip closed.
Pirate hats arrrrrr ready to go!
Next up: eye patch.
I once bought a bunch of cheap eye patches for the kids at Halloween time. And though they were cute, they dug into their faces, were too big, and they never wanted to keep them on. Now I’m not saying my kids are in love with covering their eyes now…but making a patch out of felt is such a better route! Easy and soft.

So, cut out the pattern piece from our template (or make your own). Use the pattern to trace and cut two black felt eye pieces. You also need elastic. Any kind that’s 1/4 inch or smaller works. I used some jewelry elastic in black. Measure your child’s head for elastic length (or 19 inches works pretty good).
Sandwich the elastic ends inside of the eye patch layers and sew the whole thing together! Zigzag a few times where the elastic is inserted for added strength.
And you’re done!
Okay, the vest.
Remember that red/white bias tape I made last month? I combined that with the Frontier Vest Tutorial and voila…pirate outfit.
I made two slight adjustments to the pattern:
I rounded the edges off, just for fun. Felt more “pirate” like.
And I serged all the arm holes in contrasting white thread to give a pop of color.

Now, you don’t have to make your own bias tape but since I had it on hand, it was perfect! You can use any kind of colorful trim or store-bought bias tape for the edges. Or even leave it plain if you’re looking for the quickest route.
Sandwich all the vest edges and the neck in one continuous line with bias tape and sew it in place.
For a girlier look (or for a fancy pirate captain) you might add ruffles to the vest. I had some ruffled quilt binding in my drawer (made by Wrights, often carried in stores and sold by the yard). It’s like bias tape, so just sandwich around the edges and sew it in place. OR…make your own ruffle and attach it with other bias tape around the edge!
I decided that it wasn’t dressy enough, so I added more of the striped bias tape over the top. Just sewed it on like it was Single Fold tape.
Two vests!
To make a telescope, grab some paper towel or wrapping paper tubes.
Wrap them with construction paper.
Then add any touches to give dimension to the telescope.
The fishing pole is a round dowel from the hardware store with a hole drilled through the top. Rope is strung through, tied in a knot, and a clothespin is gluegunned to the other end of the rope. Easy!
Finally, you definitely need a map.
Tear the edges of a piece of construction paper. Draw pictures of certain locations from throughout your house, leading the kids on an adventure from room to room till they get to the final spot with an X (and find some treasure).
I let Lucy color all the little icons (our back door, the trampoline, the bathtub, my bed, etc). And then we crumpled the paper up to give it an old fashioned look.
And finally you’re ready to play!
The kids were super excited when they walked in my bedroom and saw a pretend pirate ship (old baby crib) and pirate gear. And I was happy that it was the easiest project to put together, with the greatest returns from them!
They hung out for a bit on the ship, fished for their dinner.
And finally got antsy for treasure.
So we pulled out the map and off they went on a hunt.
It was cute watching them run around the house and backyard.
At each spot I left a piece of treasure. They swiped it up and headed off to the next spot.
And finally they ended on the X!…behind the pillows on my bed.
Pirate Booty! Arrrrr.
(they’d never heard me say booty before and thought it was hilarious. “Mom said a bad word!“) And of course they overlooked the Fruit Leather I put in there and went straight for the Kit Kats (I would too).
And just like that, we’ve had a week of pirate fun. I made this stuff on Tuesday and the kids have been playing with it every day since. We’ve created another map–leading to different spots in the house and new treasure–and the kids have colored and decorated their hats even more. I had no idea it would be such a hit. A pirate’s life for me too!

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jenny March 11, 2012 at 12:48 am

The pic of them in your tub gave me an idea!
How about making the hat/patch out of foam-forget the vests- and they can be bathtime pirates!

Not sure if the foam is waterproof. I am thinking of the fun foam in craft sections, not the green stuff used as a filler!


2 Stupendous Joy March 18, 2012 at 11:42 pm

exactly what I’ve been looking for. Thanks you!!


3 Gina June 15, 2012 at 8:02 am

Last night my kiddo came home and told me he wanted a pirate costume. This is so simple, it can happen today! He’ll be so excited. Thanks!


4 Lis July 4, 2012 at 9:55 pm

I made the frontier vests sans fringe when my daughter had a tea birthday party. The boys got to choose a bow-tie and black vest for their ‘formal-wear’ while the girls had hats, boas, and pearls. The vests went over very well by the boys who didn’t quite know what to expect at a tea party. My friend’s son is having a pirate party next week, and this will be a hit for sure! I’m off to find striped binding!


5 Christina October 9, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Hi, I’m making this for my little girl and her friends so they can be a gang of pirates for Halloween. Do you know about how much binding I’d need per vest?


6 Dana October 9, 2012 at 1:48 pm

hmm. not very much. 1 of those 3 yard packets is enough. but just measure around the vest pattern and you’ll know. have fun sewing!


7 Nikki Howser October 30, 2012 at 12:45 am

Just made this pirate costume for my 4 yr old boy and 18mo girl for Halloween! They turned out SO cute :)I used an 1/8 yd of red felt for the “bias tape” and ruffle. (Made ruffle using your tutorial too!) Thank for for this cheap, easy, and CUTE costume pattern!


8 Tegan January 8, 2013 at 11:20 pm



9 Peter September 11, 2013 at 11:56 pm

Those are two adorable pirates! Love the original idea for the pirate costumes.

I wanted to mention to you and your readers that there is a creative costume contest going on at http://www.halloweenhero.com/costume-contest-2013.html, in case you were interested. The best part is the $250 grand prize!

Thanks again for the great costume tutorial!



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11 monica October 22, 2014 at 6:59 pm

this is adorable. found it in my search for a vest tutorial, as my 7 year old will be transforming into Toad from Mario Brothers in just 9 days! gotta get sewing…


12 Kathy July 11, 2015 at 11:25 pm

I was looking for the eye patch template that you mentioned here. Is there a link to print a pattern so that mine does not end up too big? Thanks!


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