Homemade Zebra Costumes

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Use face paint to add another layer to your zebra costume.
Use face paint to add another layer to your zebra costume. (Image: KingMatz1980/iStock/Getty Images)

An herbivore and herd animal, the zebra is one of the flashier prey animals to roam the African plains. Its distinctive striped coat not only sets it apart from other animals but also makes the zebra an easy-to-recognize costume. With the wide array of commercially available zebra-print clothing items, assembling a zebra costume is easy. You can also make one from scratch using basic clothing items and fabric paint.

Black-and-White Basics

A homemade zebra costume can be as elaborate or easy as you choose to make it. On the simple end of the spectrum, it can require nothing more than assembling a zebra print top and leggings or pants. If you can’t find preprinted base items, you can paint your own using black fabric paint to create stripes on a white shirt and bottoms, or white fabric paint to create stripes on a black shirt and bottoms -- the jury is still out whether zebras are black with white stripes or white with black stripes. If you’re painting your own stripes, it’s a good idea to look at pictures of zebras. The stripes are not oriented vertically, but rather contour around the zebra’s face, legs and hindquarters.

Face of the Zebra

Makeup isn’t strictly necessary if your entire outfit is zebra striped but can enhance your costume. Start with a base of white paint covering every inch of visible skin, and use a thin or medium paint brush to add black stripes accordingly. Reference a photo of a zebra to orient the stripes properly to the part of the body that you’re painting, lest you risk a “fresh from the jailhouse” look. In the wild, the zebra’s stripes serve to ward off flies that would otherwise be attracted to large areas of a solid color -- the broken and contoured stripes of a zebra’s coat add to that effect.

Heads and Tails

Zebras have a mane that sticks straight up from their neck. Tease your hair and shape it into a “faux hawk” -- or faux mohawk -- to emulate this look. Comb hair backward toward the root and spray liberally with hairspray to give the hair volume, texture and height. For an easier, more stylized take on zebra hair, opt for a sleek ponytail hanging from the middle of the back of your head to emulate the zebra’s tail.

The Finer Details

Zebra hooves range in color from white to black with shades of gray in the middle of the spectrum. Almost any shade of shoes will do for a homemade zebra costume. Wear patent or vinyl shoes to emulate the shiny look of hooves. A homemade zebra costume requires very little accessorizing. If you need to carry a bag or purse for practical reasons, look for one in a zebra print to match your outfit. Solid black or white will also coordinate with the ensemble.

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