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A Simple DIY Prairie (or Pioneer) Girl Costume

I grew up in Arizona from birth until I left for college. So, while in the public school system all those years, I learned all about Arizona history and how it became a state, who its first settlers were, the excitement of mining gold and silver, etc.  And because I only lived in Arizona, I didn’t really learn much about the other states in our country (at least, not at school).  My oldest, Elli, is in 3rd grade this year and that’s when they really start diving into state history here, so it has been fun to learn along with her, all about the state where we’re currently living — Oklahoma!

Last month, they chose a famous person from Oklahoma and researched their childhood, their major life events, etc…..and created a visual presentation all about their person of study.  (She researched Shannon Miller, the Olympic gymnast, and now of course wants to take gymnastics. Go figure!)  And then this month, they’ve been studying the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889, where an estimated 50,000 people raced to claim their piece of the available 2 million acres of land.  The land was considered some of the best unoccupied land in the U.S., so claiming your own chunk of it, was a huge deal back then.  Those who raced to lay claim over their land were called “Boomers” and those who tried sneaking ahead of time to try and sneak a claim before everyone else, were known as “Sooners”….which is also the mascot of one of the major schools here, University of Oklahoma.  (I have also learned since moving here that you are either an OU fan or an OSU fan…..there’s no middle!  I always confuse the two and call them the red school [which is OU] and the orange school [which is OSU]……which probably makes the locals around here cringe.  But if I had to pick, it would be the “red school” because they always seem to have a much cuter line of fan clothing at the stores! Haha! ;))

Anyway, to finish off this unit of study, the entire 3rd grade at Elli’s school re-enacted the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889.  All of the kids were each placed into “families” and were responsible for assigning roles (ma, pa, brother, sister, dog, etc.), bringing a wagon, and had to come up with props and costumes for the Land Run.  No one was required to actually dress up but I think in 3rd grade, most kids still thought it was a fun idea. We knew about this for weeks but of course, didn’t actually do anything about it until the night before it took place.  ACKK!!!  So, I dug through what fabric I already had, and put together the quickest little Prairie Girl Costume (that would also work well as a Pioneer Costume if you need it)…..and she was ready for her elementary school “Land Run of 2016”! :)

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We haven’t needed a Prairie Girl costume until now…..but I can imagine this costume will get used plenty between Elli and Chloe, because there will probably be other times it is needed for a book report, a skit, a Pioneer reenactment, etc.

Especially this hat…..which my girls have been wearing non-stop around the house!  I think I need to whip up another though, because they like to pretend they are Laura from Little House on the Prairie and are gathering wild berries or firewood. :)

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This was the fastest little costume though…..and took maybe 90 minutes to make. (Possibly 2-3 hours if you’re a little slower on the machine.)  But all this costume is, is a very basic elastic waist band skirt, a half apron, and then a very simple bonnet.

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Now, just add a T-shirt, and you’ve got a simple little outfit that’s perfect for traveling the prairies and discovering new things!

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***please excuse the unfinished landscaping in the background…..we’ve been working hard, but still aren’t quite done with that!

 

When the bonnet is not needed, it can be pushed back and simply worn around the neck.  Or taken off all together……but believe it or not, that bonnet was so much faster to make than you might think! :)

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And I know those pink and purple shoes aren’t quite the right period……but little leather boots would have hindered the whole “Land Run” experience, so we’re just going with it!  Also, you could make the skirt a little longer but Elli knew she was going to be running as fast as she could…..so she specifically asked that the skirt be long (because she likes long dresses/skirts lately), but short enough that she didn’t have to hold it up while running.  Once it was finished, she said it was perfect! Whew! ;)

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Man, this girl is becoming such a sweet little lady!  (And ooops, she forgot her glasses….and I didn’t realize it, until I uploaded these pictures.)  I’m just glad she still asks me to sew things for her, because I know these days will end all too soon.

So, when she reminds me we need to come up with a costume for the next day??……..YOU BET, sweet girl, let’s throw something together!!!

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And I debated whether I not I would share pictures of the actual Land Run, but decided it was such a fun event, I just had to!  (So, no snoring…..this isn’t boring history class!)  And when other kids’ faces weren’t already blurred out from the camera, I faded out their faces in photoshop.

But to kick off the event, they had all of the 3rd grade parade through the halls of the school, while the other grades (and parents) cheered them on!  And I’m telling you…..the vibe at this point, was EXCITEMENT!

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Then all of the classes lined up on one end of the school field, waiting until the official blow of the whistle to begin their race for land.  All of the kids lined up with their “families”, anxiously awaiting their time to claim their land.

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There were numbered “flags” on each of the spots of land but there were more “families” than there were spots of land, so the kids all knew that they truly had to race to claim their territory.  (And whatever “family” didn’t claim a piece of land, they were instructed to find a family who would share their territory with them, which mirrors what actually happened historically.)

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There was even a “Land Office” table, so that they could officially register their land once it was claimed.

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Once the whistle blew, the kids went crazy.  They stampeded the field and went this way and that way….trying to claim their land!

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At one point, Elli saw a flag at the very opposite side of the field….and started heading towards it.

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But so did another little bandanna-wearing cowboy…..so they both sprinted towards the same flag.

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And unfortunately, he grabbed harder than she did because she said they both had their hands on it about the same time.  Awwww, darn.  I need to teach her how to throw a few elbows! ;)

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But another member of her “family” luckily grabbed a different flag….so they were able to spread their blankets, eat their picnic lunch, and enjoy their 160 acre plot of U.S. territory! :)

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What a fun month long history lesson though, right?  These little 3rd graders had such a blast…..I love this little tradition at Elli’s elementary school!

. . . . .

Oh, and in case you’d like to make something similar, this is what I did!

For the skirt, I just made a very simple elastic waist skirt.  If you need some ratios for that, I multiplied Elli’s waist times 3 and then cut the width of fabric by that number.  (Her waist is 25 inches, so I cut my fabric 75 inches wide.)  For the length, I determined how long to make the skirt, and then added 2 1/2 inches.  Now, sew the fabric into a tube with RIGHT sides together and then fold under the bottom hem by 1/2 inch, another half inch, then sew in place.  Iron everything flat.  For the top casing, fold over 1/4 inch, then 1 1/4 inches, and then sew in place, leaving an opening to insert your 1 inch elastic.  (If needed, refer to this 10-Minute Skirt tutorial…..or browse through any of the other skirts over in the Clothing Tutorial section of this blog.)

The apron is also very simple, and was made just like the apron for this Granny Costume tutorial…..except, I left off the top portion (but you could add it if you want).  As for proportions, I cut the main piece about 3/4 of the length of the skirt and then the same width as her waist .  Then I hemmed the sides and the bottom by folding under 1/4 inch, another 1/4 inch, and then sewed in place.  Then I gathered in the top raw edge of the apron just like the granny costume tutorial I linked about, but I cinched it down to half the waist length….so I cinched it down to 12.5 inches.  Then, I added the waist tie, just like the apron tutorial above.  DONE!

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As for the bonnet……I wanted something very basic.  I didn’t want it super fussy and didn’t want the neck flap that costume bonnets sometimes have.  I also didn’t want a super huge floppy brim.  I actually looked online for a tutorial and found several that could work but not all had a tutorial.  But I ended up making mine most like this one….but I changed it up a bit and added a casing for the elastic along the full length of the back and changed up the proportions just a bit. But, if you’re needing to make one, use that tutorial….it should work just fine!  If you’d like to see exactly how I made mine, let me know!  If there are enough of you that want to see more specific instructions and a full tutorial, I’m more than happy to make that for you guys! :)

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And that’s it!  Whether you need a costume for a Prairie Girl assignment, a book report, a costume party, or for simple dress-up……hopefully this simple costume idea will work perfectly for you!

-Ashley

 

Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with my craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
A simple diy prairie (or pioneer) girl costume
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Comments

  1. Melissa says:

    Same question, four years later…is there a bonnet tutorial? Yours seems so simple. I've finally got face masks mastered, so I think a bonnet is naturally the next project. Particularly since my mom is reading the little house series to my kids via video chat every week. They are in the middle of "long winter". I can only dream of snow, it's so hot right now!

  2. Heather says:

    My daughter is Elli also, but she uses her full name Ellia now since there was an Elle in her class pronounced the same way and she hated using her last initial. I volunteered to make some simple colonial costumes for their fifth grade play and this is soooo helpful. Thanks!

  3. Heather says:

    did you ever do a bonnet tutorial? i tried searching the site and didn’t see one. nice work! these projects never take me the estimated time to complete :D

  4. Jennifer says:

    Oh my goodness! This brings back such wonderful memories! I was in 3rd grade for the Centennial in 1989 and we got to stake out part of the playground too. We were supposed to eat our lunch there but it was too hot so we all sat with our backs against the school building in the shade – ha! Plus, my family still has the piece of paper describing the plot of land our ancestors (my mom’s great grandparents?) got….from ‘a piece of wood, so many paces down to a certain rock’…..including a funny story about how the kitchen stove just “happened” to fall off the wagon….oops! Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I hope your daughter remembers these events as fondly as I do! And wonderful job on the costume! My girls will love it!

  5. Mari says:

    I would love a bonnet tutorial. Your daughter’s school is SO cool to reenact that bit of history. Thanks!

    1. Cheera says:

      Awesome post!! I’m attempting to make my daughters Cowboy Christmas colonial dress and she is in the 6th grade.. I think I have the skirt and apron down to make, but I’m not sure about the Bonnett… would love the tutorial on it ??! BTW, your daughters little outfit was adorable ❤️

  6. Kimberly says:

    Oh! We are just going through the Laura Ingalls books now! With my daughters 7 and 4 -maybe it’s just me that would love to make them dresses and bonnets!! I’d love to see a tutorial!!

  7. Kristina says:

    Of course you should do a tutorial! Yours are always so well done!

  8. Britney says:

    I’d really really love a bonnet tutorial!! We’re doing a Little House Unit this summer and a bonnet is a must. :)

  9. Heather Johnson says:

    Would love a bonnet tutorial! I have made some McCall’s pattern prairie dresses for my girls–but the bonnets are never quite right. I love the look of yours, and also think that the dress/apron/tshirt combo might be perfect for summer camp. (Here in Minneapolis they do a Little House on the Prairie summer camp that my daughter LOVES through the historical society.) She was so hot last summer in her full get up!

  10. Kelly says:

    Yes, yes, yes, a bonnet tutorial please!!!

  11. Brooke says:

    This is awesome! What a memorable way to learn. I would love a tutorial! I volunteered to make some bonnets for the girls in my ward going to Trek.

  12. Gloria says:

    So much fun! I have a Pioneer Trek coming up in June and would to see you make a tutorial for the bonnet, you explain things in such an easy way to understand!

  13. Becky says:

    Props to the teachers…. What a fun idea !!!!

  14. Claire Watson says:

    Hi. Your daughter’s school sounds a lot more organised than my sons’ school. So far this academic year they have had to dress up:
    1. as a tree or a bird for hansel and gretel – though I did get lucky with this one as my son was the narrator so could wear school uniform
    2. as one of their heroes (don’t get me started as the list the school provided as examples of ‘heroes’)
    3. as a super hero
    4. as a world war 2 child evacuee
    5. as a sports player,
    6. Christmas jumpers
    7. a character from a book
    8. An Easter bonnet (thankfully this was just for my youngest son).

    Generally the school gives us between 2 days and a week’s notice!!!

    Still got dressing up as an animal to come!

    Love your blog

    Claire xx

  15. Betsy H says:

    This is SO COOL. My Grandma was *on* the Oklahoma Land Run (or was born in the house they got from it). I wish *my* school did this when I was little!!

  16. Oma in Virginia says:

    I always enjoy your posts. I have 4 granddaughters that will soon be gearing up for “the trek” in the next few years. I’m going to get a head start and make these ahead of time. A tutorial would be fabulous. Thanks

  17. Laurel says:

    Every year I tell myself I am going to make bonnets for my girls when we go to the local Civil War Reenactment. I just finished helping a bunch of YW make them for a pioneer trek, so now I have a pretty good handle on the process. Maybe this year I will really make them. We are planning a trip to Colonial Williamsburg too, so I think I need to make colonial outfits!

  18. Diny says:

    Oh this is so perfect!! My daughter is going on a bus trip to Pioneer Village soon and she has been begging me to make her a “pioneer” outfit. I’d love the bonnet tutorial. I have 3 girls so they will all eventually need a pioneer outfit for the bustrip. I know my kids would play with it a lot as well , they love to dress up and make “campfires” and play “the olden days”. Thank you!!!!

  19. Caitie says:

    This is so perfect! My girls are on a little house on the prairie kick and I was thinking the other day that I should make them costumes. I clicked over to the bonnet tutorial and after reading through it twice I’m still not sure about the crown piece. (Which side to hem and which side goes into the brim?) I might be able to figure it out when I get going, but I would love for you to do a tutorial, you always have the BEST pictures and instructions!!!

  20. Jon Johnston says:

    I love that! We need the same kind of thing for August when all 5 of us go to Martins Cove? Can Abby borrow it? Eli is thinner.than Abby but I bet she is almost as tall as Abby. A got grandma Bums genes:)

  21. Susan says:

    What a simple yet cute idea for dress up.
    And easy to still be outside and play in.
    You did a nice job. Makes me want to go sew something. :)
    Richmond, VA

  22. Katie says:

    I love your blog, and your tutorials! I would love to see your tutorial of the bonnet, it’s very cute and you explain things so well :)
    You have a beautiful family.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I just had to say that I knew you had sense! Of course OU is better and therefore has better clothing :) It’s funny, I’ve NEVER been to OK in my life, but I still care!!!

  24. Corrine says:

    So, so adorable and what a great activity for hands-on learning! I, for one, would love a tutorial on the hat. That’s what I was most excited about, actually. You always do such a fantastic job at breaking things down to seem reasonably doable! And with three girls, I’m sure there’ll be a time I use this and send others to it too!

  25. Amanda says:

    My adult coed frisbee team went with an Amish theme to a tournament a couple of years ago. The idea was that all the women would wear aprons and bonnets while playing. That idea went out the window when we realized how much bonnets cut off your peripheral vision! We dressed up before each game and looked mighty cute though.

  26. AnyBeth says:

    Um, a correction on a bit of Oklahoma history: “Sooners” did not participate in the Land Run, as such, but entered those areas beforehand to try staking the choicest claim without the competition. If in the Land Run reenactment, a few kids had snuck off ahead of time hiding behind trees or playground equipment and then jumped out to stake that claim immediately on the game’s start, those would be the sooners. The officials wouldn’t accept their claims and there would be much whining and maybe discipline. (Why a university would decide to be the Cheaters, I wouldn’t know.) If a school really wanted to reenact the Land Run, there should be these, a large number of fights, and a lot of boring and costly time during which a council of older students must decide the legitimacy of disputed claims. Then they could discuss why we didn’t keep having Land Runs but instead assigned land by lottery.

    1. Ashley says:

      Oh my goodness, you’re right! I totally messed that up. See???……being born in AZ did me no favors! But I should have looked at more than one site because the one I looked at had it all wrong. Anyway, I switched it to the correct term “Boomer” and then added in the definition of the “Sooner”. Thanks so much for pointing that out!

      The whole thing is still fascinating and very much a part of Oklahoma history, so I still think it’s interesting to learn about, but looks like I need to read a few more articles from different perspectives of how everything really happened.

      Thanks again!
      Ashley

    2. AnyBeth says:

      Hey, I knew that stuff while I was growing up 700 miles away in TN. :-p Moved in 6th grade, and I couldn’t believe where. Each of the last two years, I’d written a report and done a presentation on Oklahoma!

  27. Barbara J says:

    You did a great job with that costume. Hard to believe it was all at the last moment. What a fun way for them to learn their history. I guarantee they won’t forget it.

    Here in Kansas the kids learn their state history in fourth grade. For my daughters those history lessons, combined with our love of The Little House books, meant pioneer costumes were sewn. They even wore them, for some reason, on Thanksgiving at dinner. Those girls are now in their 30s but the dresses hang in one of my spare closets waiting for the next generation of 4th grade Kansas girls.

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Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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