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How to Make a Peking Opera Headdress and Costume - a DIY Project

It's been a long time since I've been thinking of writing this post. But I keep postponing. It's the start of another school year and I just want to get over with this pending blog post about the DIY Peking Opera costume project that my daughter had to make for her school requirements, which I mentioned in a previous post.

I hope this post can help you make your kids' costumes as well. It's not just that I like making costumes, it also helps us save some cash. If I were to have this Peking Opera costume made by someone else, it would probably cost more than Php500. My daughter told me that some of her classmates paid Php1,000 for their costumes.

Without further ado, here is the DIY steps for making a Peking Opera Costume.

Making this costume consist of two parts, making the Peking opera clothing, called Xingtou, and the headdress. My Grade 8 daughter's teacher made the Peking opera headdress an individual student project, so my daughter had to make the headdress. But her opera costume, I could make for her.

How to make a Peking Opera Headdress

Let's talk first about the headdress. My daughter's headdress is the one used by the Peking Opera character named Wunda.

The materials used in the copycat headdress include the following:
  • foam sheets light blue in color
  • pearl beads in 4 different sizes
  • red/pink metallic small beads 
  • red foil with metal string (red foil na may manipis na alambre)
  • silver foil
  • silver and red sequins
  • one oval red gem (in this case, my daughter made a substitute - an oval foam sheet covered with red glitter dust)
  • black fabric (used satin in this project)
  • 2 pieces black metal headband (old ones can do)
  • silver fabric trim (any design)
  • plastic flower - color yellow or any color
  • glue stick and glue gun
  • thin wire (alambre)
  • 1-inch thick elastic band (garter)

Here are the steps for making this headdress:
1. Cut out the shape on the blue foam sheets. There are two designs, one that looks like wings and one in the shape of butterfly. (By the way, there's a third design that looks like the dangling symbol on the left and right hand side. These designs were not seen in the pictures here because what my daughter made easily fell off and could not be found.

2. Paste or stick the blue foam cutouts on silver foil and cut out the outline with 2 cm margin.

3. Cut 2-2.5 inches of the red foil string. Fold in half and insert 2 pearl beads and 1 metallic bead on both ends. Fold the ends of the string to keep the beads from falling out. Make the design as pictured below. Make as many as you can. I think my daughter made at least 20.

4. Cut out the black fabric with the same shape as in the picture below. There are 7 scallops on the forehead, one in the middle and 3 on each side. Make sure that the length of the fabric fits the forehead of the wearer. Make the width of the fabric to fit up to the midsection of the head of the wearer.

5. Embellish the fabric using the sequins (make flower shapes), silver fabric trim and a red gem. Add also the plastic flowers on both sides of the cheek. Use glue stick to set the pieces in place.

6. Glue the fabric on the underside of one of the headbands. Glue some silver fabric trim on the headband as well.

7.  Use the second headband to make a base where the wings/butterflies and pearl embellishments will be put. Add some wire to the headband (as shown below), stick this to a foam sheet or cardboard in the shape of a crown (make sure this fits the head/face of the wearer) and cover it with foil, both front and back.

 8. Position the blue wings foam all over the base of the second headband and the butterfly foam on the two sides of the face. If it looks good, affix the foam sheets using glue.

9. Position half of the pearl strings on the second headband base and affix using glue stick when satisfied with how the headdress look.

10. Attach the top edge of the black fabric on the underside of the second headband. Then position the rest of the pearl strings on the black fabric and the first headband. Glue when satisfied with the look. Make sure that the headdress appear 3-dimensional.

11. Try to put on the headdress. If it seems too heavy and you feel like it will topple down, you can make an elastic band that fits the circumference of your head - from the forehead to the back and use it as support. The next time you will wear the headdress, put on the elastic band first. then insert the sides of the two metal headbands through the elastic band near the left and right ear. Hopefully, that would keep the headdress in place.

How to Make the Peking Opera Clothing

For the Chinese-themed clothing my daughter wore, I actually used an old costume which my second son used for his Peking Opera. I sew it using red cotton fabric, which I cut out in the following pattern. I think the width of the long sleeve cuff was bigger than in the picture.

I also added some white satin fabric at the end of the sleeves. To make this cloth just right for my daughter's Peking Opera costume, I made some adjustments/additions.

First, I bought some red fabric with Chinese-theme (about 1-1.5 yards) in Pasig palengke. I think it cost around P300. I sew some of this fabric on the edge of the long sleeves.

Then I prepared an elastic band that will be put around the waist. I cut out two strips of the fabric (width is the same as half the length of her waist line. One strip of the fabric will be hung on the front side of the elastic band and the other strip will be hung on the back side.

For the cloth that is put on the shoulder, I just cut out a fabric that is almost square shaped with a hole in the center. Cut through from one pointed edge of the square fabric to the center hole. This fabric should fit over the shoulder. To avoid making a mistake in cutting the fabric, I first made a pattern using old newspaper or other big sheet of brown paper.

Then, I bought some gold/yellow tassel and sew it all around the edge of the fabric. I also tried my best to add a simple Chinese collar to this cloth and a button to close it off. So, below is a picture of my daughter wearing the headdress and her Peking Opera costume.

So, what do you think about this DIY costume?

Click to see how to make another Peking Opera Headdress and Costume


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