How to Make a Medieval Monk Costume

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A monk costume doesn't have to be perfect, as the rougher and simpler, the better.
A monk costume doesn't have to be perfect, as the rougher and simpler, the better. (Image: statue of monk image by MHPhoto from Fotolia.com)

Medieval monks were sometimes gentle beggars or fiery traveling preachers, and they were also the copiers, keepers and protectors of ancient knowledge in the chaos of the Dark Ages, according to Middle Ages.org. With access to that knowledge, they were often the only poets, scientist, historians and philosophers in an age when few could even read or write. If you wish to make a monk costume, the monk's commitment to poverty and detachment from worldly pursuits mean that the rougher and more homemade the costume looks, the more authentic it appears as well.

Things You'll Need

  • Rough gray or brown fabric, 3 yards (burlap works well)
  • Needle and thread or sewing machine
  • Fabric marker or dressmaker's chalk
  • Large cross on a leather thong
  • Rope, 72 inches
  • Pair of simple sandals
  • Coarse string, 3-foot length

Robe

Measure from shoulder to ankle, and double this measurement. Cut fabric to this length.

Fold the material in half from top to bottom. Cut a slit in the center of the folded end about 6 inches long, or long enough for your head to fit through.

Pull the material over your head like a poncho. Most fabric is at least 45 inches wide, so the side of material will reach almost to the wrist of smaller people. Pin the two sides of cloth together at the armpits, waist and hemline in the shape of your robe. With arms outstretched, pin the material together 6 inches below the arm.

Pull off the robe. Lay the material, still folded and pinned, flat.

With the dressmaker's chalk or marker, draw a line from the hemline pin to the waist pin to the underarm pin to the wrist pin to form your seam line. The drawing resembles a simple T-shaped robe. Draw another line about 1/2 inch outside of this line to form the cut line. Cut along this outside line.

Sew together along the seam line with a sewing machine or hand-sew. Turn inside-out.

Your sleeves will probably be too short; they should come almost to the fingertips. Use strips of leftover fabric to lengthen the sleeves. Sew them into loops the same diameter as your sleeve and to the ends of your sleeves. Let the seam show if necessary.

Cowl and Hood

Measure from elbow to elbow. Cut a square piece of material to this same length and width.

Cut a piece of string about 20 inches long. Tie the marker to the end of it. Hold the marker at one edge of the cloth. Hold the string taunt at the center of the cloth. Using the string as a guide, draw a rough circle.

Measure around your head at ear level. Using the same method, draw and cut a hole in the center about that size. It does not have to be perfectly round, just large enough for your head to fit through.

Cut another piece of cloth 18-by-36 inches long. Fold lengthwise into a square; the folded edge forms the top of your hood.

Sew up one side from the folded edge to 2 inches from the bottom to form the back of your hood. Leave the bottom edge open to go over your head. Beginning 2 inches from the bottom, sew up about 2 inches. This will go under your chin, leaving a large gap for your face; attaching the hood to the cowl is unnecessary.

Get Dressed

Put on robe, cross, hood and cowl in that order. Place the bottom edges of the hood under the cowl.

Tie the rope around your waist.

Tie three knots in one end of the rope; the knots represent chastity, poverty and obedience. Place cross around your neck.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear your monk costume with sandals.

References

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