How to Make Your Own Costume

“I really just make costumes with a Frankenstein approach.” – Coach Milla

Milla Marshall, SANCA’s costume guru, shares tips
for creating unique costumes that don’t break the bank.

Her advice? A basic leotard is a great place to start – giving you the basic construction of your outfit to build on from there. If you don’t already have one, you may want to check out Center Stage Dance Shop in the U- District, or Discount Dance online. A black or nude leotard is a good staple to have in your closet, or your act may call for a more colorful choice.

Things to keep in mind as you begin making your outfit. Pay attention to how you need to move in your act and the specific apparatus you’re using. Circus arts require special attention to fabric and costume bobbles, because your safety comes first and you want to make sure the costuming won’t get trapped in your apparatus.

Corde Lisse & Silks  – You’ll want costume fabric that has some grab to it, so higher cotton blends are a good thing to pay attention to. Fabrics which are higher in spandex than cotton can slip more in the apparatus. That doesn’t mean you necessarily need to stay away from those fabrics, just that they require a little more of your own strength to hold you there rather relying on a grippy fabric doing some of that work for you. It is also important to make sure your costume fits snugly against your body to avoid wrapping the costume up in the rope or silks during your act.

You can, check out local vintage and thrift stores and have fun! Get creative with it, and remember that you can always cut out what you like and leave the rest!

And of course Goodwill and Value Village are always your best bet for inexpensive clothing.

Want to learn how to sew?


Pacific Fabrics, is a great local resource to purchase fabric and learn techniques for sewing and garment construction. They have short classes, usually just a couple days, to learn everything from basic sewing to garment construction at each of their locations in Bellevue, SODO, and Northgate. You can check out their calendar for upcoming classes here.


March 1st through the 4th, Puyallup Fairgrounds is hosting a huge sewing expo, with a large selection of fabrics and over 100 sewing classes held every day. Plus, these drop-in classes are just a couple hours and cost between $6 and $50.


Already know how to sew?

YouTube is also a great resource for project specific tutorials. For some acts, you may be able to get away with an elaborate tutu, like the one from this video tutorial Milla recommends:

For Cyr Wheel – wrap skirts can be a good alternative because they are simple to make and show your movement while spinning. Be sure you leave a little extra room above your ankles than in this tutorial so your feet don’t get trapped as you move!

For Trapeze and Lyra – you may want to consider purchasing a pair of trapeze boots, also known as “gaiters,” which are usually made from leather or suede with cut outs for your toes and heels. The material allows you to maintain grip strength for toe and ankle hangs, but protects your actual skin in the process. Each pair is custom made according to the measurements of your arch, ankle, and calf. Because of the materials and custom nature, these boots can run a little pricier, from $130 – $200+, but should last you for years.

Photo from “Classic Black Aerial Boots”

Etsy is a good place to check out multiple shops to find the right trapeze boot for you, but you can also check out, and,  for more information on sizing and fit. Just keep in mind both of these companies ship from Europe so it takes a little longer to get your order and you’ll need to convert the cost to US dollars.

I hope this helps you get started with your costume for SASS or future performances!