USA-Themed Costume Ideas

Whether you're dressing up for Halloween, an Independence Day parade or a Presidents' Day event, creating your own homemade patriotic costumes is more entertaining, economical and educational than purchasing a ready-made costume from the store. With a few thrift store finds, some glue and basic sewing, you can recreate endearing figures from American history, including presidents, patriots and military icons.

George Washington Costume

George Washington dressed in simple formal attire for the time. This consisted of a white shirt, vest, knee britches and a coat. To recreate this look, begin with a pair of dark brown pants. Shorten the pants to just below the knee to create britches, or pull a pair of tube socks over the pants. Tuck in a white, button-down shirt, and top it with a tan vest. Wear a dark blue coat over the entire costume, and tug on a pair of black boots. Make Washington's powdered ponytail out of a bill cap, cotton balls and glue.

Things You'll Need

  • Painter's, baseball or other bill cap. 
  • 200-count bag of white cotton balls. 
  • 12-inch length of blue ribbon, 1/4-inch
  • White craft glue

Cover the entire painter's cap, including the bill, with cotton balls. Glue the cotton balls onto the cap, one at a time, with craft glue.


  • To make the hat easier to work with, fill it with crumpled newspaper or paper towels.

Tie the blue ribbon into a bow, and glue it in the center of the bill of the hat.

Wear the hat with the bill in the back. The bill with the bow will look like Washington's ponytail.

Uncle Sam Costume

To dress as this symbol of the U.S. government, wear a pair of red and white striped pants, a blue vest, a blue tuxedo jacket and a white button-down shirt. Make the unique striped pants with fabric paint, and craft the star-spangled top hat with an oatmeal can.

Things You'll Need

  • White pants
  • Red fabric paint
  • Painter's tape
  • 2 foam paint brushes, 1-inch
  • Iron
  • Several pieces of scrap cardboard, cut to fit inside the pant legs
  • Large, empty oatmeal can 
  • Pencil
  • Cellophane tape
  • 2 sheets white construction paper, 9-by-12-inch
  • 1 sheet blue construction paper, 9-by-12-inch
  • 1 piece white card stock, 9-by-12-inch
  • Red craft paint
  • White craft paint
  • Star stencil, 1-inch
  • Craft glue

Paint the Pants

Lay the pants face up on your work surface. Insert cardboard into the pant legs to keep the paint from soaking through as you work. Place painter's tape on the pants to mark out evenly-spaced 1-inch vertical stripes. Paint the 1-inch stripes with red fabric paint. Allow the paint to dry completely and remove the painter's tape. Repeat on the back. Allow the paint to dry, remove the tape, and set the paint according to the manufacturer's instructions.


  • Depending on the brand of fabric paint you use, you might need to set it with an iron to make it permanent.

Make and Attach the Hat Brim

Remove the lid from the oatmeal can, and place the lid on the white card stock. Measure three inches out from the lid, marking the paper with small dots as you continue around the lid. Draw a circle, connecting the dots. You should now have a circle with a diameter 6 inches longer than the oatmeal can lid. Cut out the circle. This is your hat's brim. Attach the brim to the top of the lidless oatmeal can by using tape on the outside and inside of the can.

Create the Hat Crown

Glue the sheets of white construction paper to the oatmeal can to cover it completely. Using the foam brush and red craft paint, paint red vertical stripes around the circumference of the hat.

Make the Hat Band

Measure the circumference of the hat and add 1 inch. Cut a 3-inch strip of blue construction paper to this measurement. Stencil a row of evenly spaced white stars in the center of the blue strip. Glue the strip to the bottom of the hat near the brim.

Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the Riveter helped to redefine femininity and the role of the American woman during World War II. Create her costume with items you probably have in your closet. All you need is a pair of jeans, a denim, button-down shirt, and a red scarf to tie around your head. Wear your makeup in the style of the era. Shape your brows with a clear, defined arch, and wear dark eye-liner in the cat-eye style. Finish the look with red lipstick and red nails to match. To make sure everyone knows who you are, carry a speech bubble prop with Rosie's iconic phrase, "We Can Do It!"

Things You'll Need

  • Black poster board, 9-by-12-inch
  • Scissors
  • White chalk marker
  • Jumbo craft stick, 6-by-3/4-inch
  • Hot glue gun

On the back of the poster board, trace a round speech bubble shape. Draw an 8-by-10-inch rectangle. Draw curves around the corners to create roundness. Draw an upside-down triangle about 2 inches from the bottom left triangle, with the tip of the triangle pointing to the left. Cut out the speech bubble.

On the front of the speech bubble, use the white chalk marker to write the phrase, "We Can Do It!"

Attach the speech bubble to the craft stick and hold it up above your head. Roll your sleeves up and make a muscle.


About the Author

Based in Philadelphia, Marybeth Kufen has been teaching since 2007, and has been writing education-related articles since 2013. She holds a master's degree in elementary education and is a certified Reading Specialist. Kufen was named Teacher of the Year for her district in 2014.