Patriotic costumes are just as perfect for 4th of July cookouts as they are for Halloween, and they’re always good at creating fun family photo-ops. They’re also great for school- and church-sponsored plays and pageants, in case you’re looking to clothe an entire colonial classroom for President’s Day. Here are a few of our historical heroes, along with a few ways that you and your children can dress up just like them.
In This Post:
- Benjamin Franklin
- George Washington
- Abraham Lincoln
- Betsy Ross
- Uncle Sam
- The Statue of Liberty
Not only was Ben Franklin one of the United States’ founding fathers, but he was the father of dozens of different discoveries and inventions, too. Bifocals, wood-burning indoor stoves (or “Franklin stoves”), swim fins, and electricity are just a few of the ones that are most commonly known. Of course, Ben didn’t invent electricity – his science experiments paved the way for electricity to be used practically. He did invent a lot of the words that we use when talking about electricity though: “battery,” “charge,” and “conductor” are just a few of them.
We could go on and on with a list of things invented by Ben Franklin, but this link from USHistory.org has plenty more.
Benjamin Franklin Costumes and Dress-Up Ideas
Also famously associated with Ben Franklin: being bald. That’s right; a bald wig is going to be in order for this one! This accessory kit includes a great Ben Franklin wig, with long gray hair attached to a bald cap. His glasses are included, too, and both items combine wonderfully with this Benjamin Franklin costume, complete with knee-length jacket, vest, and jabot. Tuck black pants into high white socks to easily emulate the colonial look. To add even more authenticity to the costume (without breaking the bank), attach these faux gold shoe buckles. Any pair of black sneakers instantly turn into a period-accurate pair of colonial-era shoes.
All of Ben Franklin’s experiments make for great DIY costume ideas: the kite and key combination is especially famous. Lots of craft stores have old-fashioned styles of keys (sans locks) just for scrapbooking or art projects. While you’re there, pick up some twine, a couple wooden dowels, and a swatch of cloth to make your own DIY Ben Franklin Kite. Also, since Ben Franklin is on the $100 bill, it can be funny to make your own giant-sized bill as a costume prop. Cut a hole the size of your or your child’s head in the middle of some green poster board and decorate it with markers to look just like the real thing.
Ben Franklin was one of the United States’ founding fathers, but George Washington was the founding father – he is commonly referred to as “the father of his country,” after all. His birthday is still remembered and celebrated to this day: President’s Day is always observed on the third Monday of February, but Washington’s actual birthday is February 22. He was the first President of the United States, after being the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. Lots of people also know about different George Washington legends and stories, like the one in which he chops down his father’s cherry tree, although that one is just a myth.
George Washington Costumes and Dress-Up Ideas
This George Washington costume for kids faithfully recreates his most famous look, complete with a long blue coat, a vest, and three-cornered hat. To top everything off, though, you’ll also need a powdered wig.
As for costume accessories, much like our prop idea with Ben Franklin and the $100 bill, you can just as easily create something similar with Washington and the $1 bill (or the quarter). Also, even though Washington’s false teeth weren’t really made out of wood, yours can look like they are with fake wooden teeth.
Abraham Lincoln lived quite a few decades after his colonial compatriots, but that doesn’t make the 16th president any less deserving of a mention when it comes to patriotic costumes. Honest Abe led the United States through the Civil War, led the abolition of slavery via the Emancipation Proclamation, and also led sweeping trends in men’s headwear. We might have made that third one up, but let’s be honest: Abe’s signature stovepipe hat really is one of his most recognizable features in photographs, portraits, and illustrations.
Abraham Lincoln Costumes and Dress-Up Ideas
The hat is really the most important part of this Abe Lincoln costume, too, which looks like it was plucked right out of the 19th century. With a long black coat and traditional style of necktie, it looks like the wearer is ready to deliver the Gettysburg Address. Abraham Lincoln’s beard is also important to this look, although he didn’t have it until later in his political career.
Most people know about Betsy Ross through the story in which she designs and sews the first American flag. While she really was a seamstress whose company made a lot of flags for the Continental Army, as well as various local militias, she probably didn’t personally make the very first American flag that everyone imagines, though. There’s a lot of conflicting historical evidence and a lack of proof in general.
A more likely story is that she just contributed the idea of five-pointed stars to the flag design. George Washington originally drew the design for the 13-starred American flag with six-pointed stars, but Betsy Ross showed that five-pointed stars were easier to cut. In fact, she could make them with just one cut of her scissors – apparently, she kept up with her geometry skills during downtime at the upholstery shop.
Betsy Ross Costumes and Dress-Up Ideas
Whether or not you and your child choose to believe the folk tales and fables surrounding Betsy and her flags, she’s one of the best ideas for a patriotic costume. This Betsy Ross costume for girls includes a matching dress and apron, along with an 18th century-style cap. Now, we doubt that Betsy actually wore an American flag dress, but the historical style of the garment, combined with the design, ensures that everyone knows what character is being portrayed. Colonial costumes, like this dress for girls and this one for adults, are probably a little more historically accurate. Just add your own flag
Speaking of which, Betsy Ross costumes are also great for adding your own DIY costume props and accessories. After all, if there were a DIY hall of fame, Betsy would have been enshrined a long time ago. Aside from finished American flags, flags “in progress” can be used to accessorize this costume, too. A few strips of red and white cloth from the fabric store can be zipped together in seconds, and a big plastic darning needle with yarn can be used to mime sewing.
Just about everyone is familiar with the “I Want You” Uncle Sam poster from the 1910s that was used to recruit for the United States army during World War I. Uncle Sam’s pointing finger and serious expression is probably one of the most famous American images ever.
That Uncle Sam isn’t the original Uncle Sam, though. The Uncle Sam representation of America was created during The War of 1812. However, before that, during the Revolutionary War, there was a similar character named Brother Jonathan. Different family member, same idea. The two coexisted for some time, with Jonathan representing the average soldier or citizen, and Uncle Sam representing the United States itself. Sam’s striped pants and tall hat were actually taken from Jonathan, too.
Uncle Sam Costumes and Dress-Up Ideas
For the casual costumer, an all-American Uncle Sam hat, perhaps with an Uncle Sam wig and matching fake beard, is all that’s needed to liven up a family get-together. No need to pair these patriotic costume accessories with anything other than an American flag – they speak for themselves. Or, dress up with an entire Uncle Sam costume to really show your patriotism. Kids’ versions and even one for your pet are also available.
We also have to mention this inflatable Uncle Sam costume for those who love to get laughs. Not only does it look absolutely hilarious, but since the suit is constantly being inflated by a small, battery-powered electric fan, it’s literally as light as air. This makes the costume really easy to wear and move around in, despite its silly outward appearance. Just be careful not to knock anything over with your big, inflatable belly.
If you need an Uncle Sam costume for a show or a parade, the elite edition really goes the whole nine yards in stripes and stars. This deluxe six-piece outfit is more than just an Uncle Sam costume – it’s a full-on Uncle Sam wardrobe, consisting of a coat, vest, dickie, hat, spats, and striped pants. It might just be the most American thing you could possibly ever wear, and it’s the perfect costume for letting out anybody’s inner Uncle Sam (or Aunt Samantha).
The Statue of Liberty
Lady Liberty is an American symbol that’s just as big as Uncle Sam – even bigger, if we’re talking physical size. The 151-foot-tall sculpture was completed in 1886 by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, as a gift from France to the United States to celebrate 100 years of independence. The historical significance of the Statue is even deeper than that, too: the idea of a goddess named Liberty actually dates all the way back to the Roman Empire.
Statue of Liberty Costumes and Dress-Up Ideas
Any Statue of Liberty costume needs two things. Liberty’s torch is one of them, and if it lights up like this one does, then that’s even better. Her crown is the other. With both of these items, anyone can be Lady Liberty. Full-on Statue of Liberty costumes are needed for the truly authentic look, though. Green robes look just like the statue (which was originally made of shiny copper). A heavy book or makeshift Styrofoam stone tablet, along with a pair of simple sandals, are the perfect costume accessories.
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