How to Make a Martha Washington Costume

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Martha Washington, wife of the first American President, George Washington, wore upper-class Colonial gowns popular during her time.
Martha Washington, wife of the first American President, George Washington, wore upper-class Colonial gowns popular during her time. (Image: george washington image by Ritu Jethani from Fotolia.com)

Martha Washington, born in New Kent County, Va., was the wife of the first American President, George Washington. Martha Washington was actually married and widowed before she married the first president. For inspiration for a Martha Washington costume, consider Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, and the typical, upper-class Colonial America clothing worn by women during the late 18th century. Pictures of Martha Washington show her primarily in her older years, slightly heavy-set, and usually in a bonnet or some other head wear and with presumably white hair or wig.

Things You'll Need

  • Colonial America-style gown
  • Stockings
  • Shoes
  • Bonnet or hat with lace
  • Shawl
  • Pinafore or apron
  • White, Colonial-style wig (optional)
  • Wig cap and hair pins, if using wig
  • Curling iron and hair pins, if not using wig
  • White face powder
  • Rouge and other desired make-up

Apply white face powder all over face and neck. Apply to the shoulders and around the collarbone as well, if the dress has a low neckline. If skin is naturally darker, and the white face powder does not produce the desired pale effect, apply a pale foundation to lighten the skintone several shades, then follow with the white face powder.

Pin hair up, keeping it close around the head, and put the wig cap over the top, carefully, if using wig. Tuck the ends of the hair under the wig cap. Slip the wig over the wig cap and secure with two hair pins at the sides. If not using a wig, use the curling iron to put long curls throughout hair and pin up so the hair is lifted off the neck. If desired, apply make-up such as rouge to the apples of the cheeks.

Put on the Colonial-style dress, as well as stockings and shoes. If the dress has a corset that requires tying from behind, have someone assist in this process. Attach the pinafore, or tie the apron behind the waist and straighten our the ends over the dress' skirt. If using the shawl, wrap around shoulders and tie in the front. Try to tie the shawl so the knot rests around the neckline of the dress.

Place the bonnet, or other head wear, over hair or wig, taking care to line the bonnet up permitting some of the wig or hair curls to show under the front edge. Tie in place, loosely.

Tips & Warnings

  • To add to the appearance of the costume, holding a fan or other Colonial-related props can be a nice addition. Also, Martha Washington was quite famous for a cake she made, which could be fun to have at a costume party.

References

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