Monday, October 5, 2009

All Saints' Day Costume--Mother Teresa of Calcutta

All Saints' Day will be here soon and that means it's time for the kids to decide which saints they will dress up as (and hopefully emulate) for the day. Since we do not celebrate Halloween, we have a extra time and resources to pour into some really creative costuming. I made this Mother Teresa costume several years and ago and it continues to be one of my favorites. It's super easy to put together but does take a bit of time so it's best to plan ahead. Or you can just do what I do and pull an all-nighter (every single year).

Why don't we celebrate Halloween? The full text of that explanation is for another post on another day but the nutshell version is this:

We are often asked "Why don't you?" but a better question is "Why should we?" It simply isn't clear what the secular holiday is intended to celebrate... and for all the money invested (costuming, candy, dental bills), we don't feel compelled to participate.

The word "Halloween" is a derivative of "All Hallow's Eve" or the "Eve of All Saints". Instead of prioritizing the religious holiday second, we place it first. We don't have the time or interest to do both; so Halloween gets the boot.  The kids love our All Saints' Day celebrations and the adults always succumb to the temptation to include plenty of candy!

Here's a very basic explanation of how I put together the Mother Teresa costume. It was a while ago so I apologize that I don't have more detailed figures. It isn't too complex though and I think worth sharing.

To make the Mother Teresa costume:

I have no exact measurements to provide because few are needed and the ones that are used are specific to each child. 

First, I examined photos of the habits of Mother Teresa's order (Missionaries of Charity) until I had a basic idea of the design. Do this... the sisters are lovely.

-I brought Cookie to the fabric store with me and headed to the muslin aisle. I found 33" white muslin for $.99 a yard and wrapped it loosely around her in the style of a sari in order to estimate yardage. 
-Blue cotton in my stash that resembled the color of the blue stripes on the habits of the order. I have no idea how much I used but eyeballed it and guessed that I would have enough (sorry...I know that's not incredibly helpful!).

Sari Design:
- I decided I would create 3 pieces to the costume:
  1. White turtleneck (had one in her drawer)
  2. Veil -The veil of the the Missionaries of Charity drapes down the back, around the front of the body, and across the opposite shoulder. This is one piece of fabric. To measure for size, I took the short end of the fabric length (33" width) and pinned it over her hair (as shown in the photo). I draped it down her back to the desired length, across her opposite shoulder, down her back, and cut it at the desired length. 
  3. Skirt - Basically just a tube with elastic. I wrapped a piece of fabric around her waist to determine fit. I measured her waist and cut elastic to that size (normally I would size the elastic smaller for a better fit but I wanted extra room to tuck in  the turtleneck and to allow the costume to be used the following year!). I rolled the waistband until the skirt was the correct length instead of hemming (hurrah!). That allows for a taller child to wear it as well. I added the stripes to the skirt fabric before sewing the seam or waistband.
Adding the blue stripes:

The habit of the order uses 3 solid blue stripes along the edges of the sari material, One larger stripe and two smaller stripes. I eyeballed the stripe widths and went a little larger to make the stitching easier on myself. I sewed the strips (4" and 1.5") into tubes and pressed them so that the edges would be nicely finished and the extra fabric would add weight and better drape to the lightweight muslin. The finished stripes were 2", 3/4" and 3/4" wide. If you want a more authentic look, reduce the size of the smaller stripes.

Stripes are applied to the hem of the skirt and to all 4 edges of the veil cloth.

Then I pinned and sewed. Lots of strips onto lots of fabric! But well worth the effort.

To wear:

Put on the turtleneck and skirt first. Start the veil at the head. Pin it in place at the nape of the neck (we used a safety pin).  Let it fall down to desired length in back, drape it across the waist at the right side and bring up to and over the left shoulder. We pinned it in place with a religious medal.


  1. You did a fantastic job.
    You should never have to explain why you do or don't "celebrate" Halloween. We do, only so far as putting out a few decorations by the door (to show we will give out candy). My kids are too old to go door to door and I do not want to have a party w/ their friends in the house etc. like some folks do for older kids. Enough is enough. I never let my kids get gross costumes. I agree that it is way over the line in expense. If I were starting over, I would skip it and celebrate the Saints. I never thought of it until my kids were too old to do any different.
    God bless you!

  2. So very happy to see you do not celebrate Halloween!! It is such an evil day and I do not understand people who choose to glorify it and make it ok for children to partake in.
    I had a friend invite me to a card making class this week. I was excited to go until she told me we would be making Halloween cards. I had to refuse the invitation on principle.

  3. i like your blog!!!
    i was just googling, "mother teresa costume" and i found your entry.
    i bought flannel- i wish i went with muslin- flannel is too pricey, warm...but pricey.
    and i got blue ribbon to help with the stripes. two different widths.
    thanks for the tutorial!!!
    now, off to the sewing machine!

  4. elizabeth-I'm so glad that you found us! Actually, my daughter would love your choice of flannel...She is going to be St. Kateri this year and is already concerned that she's going to "freeze"

    I bet that blue ribbon is going to be so pretty and save you lots of time. Please link of photo when you're done...I'd love to see it:)

  5. Thanks for the tips. I made a version of the this costume for my 5 year old.
    Pax Christi - lena

  6. My nine year old had a project at school that was called a wax museum. All of the children picked a famous (deceased) person and my daughter chose Mother Theresa. I used your costume guidelines and it was great. Thanks for posting. I wish I could send a picture to show you. Thanks again.

  7. Thanks for the inspiration!! Our grand-daughter had to dress up for "Holyween" at church and I put together your Mother Teresa costume for her (simplified version) out of an old sheet from Value Village and royal blue tape. Cost was minimal and she looked absolutely gorgeous. Cutest little Mother Teresa you can imagine - she is 18 months old! Would love to send/post a photo .... Thanks again, Louise

  8. Fabulous - I'll use this design for my daughter who is 'Mother Teresa' in the end of year concert at school.
    Many thanks

    1. ps: I wish I could put up a pic here of the final result. Your design was so easy to follow and worked perfectly. We received many compliments - she certainly looked the part.
      Seasons Greetings to you
      From a grateful mum in Australia...

  9. So glad I found your tutorial! I've written a series of monologues for Advent, one of which is Mother Teresa. She will look so beautiful and authentic thanks to your instructions. Thank you!

  10. This turned out lovely! I just love the habit of the Sisters of Charity :) Pinning this for future reference! God bless


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