Flashback: Vintage Strongman Kid’s Costume

Costumes, Cosplay, and Props Craft & Design Yarncraft
Flashback: Vintage Strongman Kid’s Costume

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By Kathie Sever and Bernadette Noll, formerly of Future Craft Collective

There’s nothing like an image of the classic circus strong man complete with handlebar mustache, showing off his amazing strength! Transform this vintage circus entertainer into an easy kid’s costume with this simple how-to.


2 old tee shirts, sized child’s large or larger
1/2 yard of black or navy wool felt, or a pair of mens black or navy blue wool pants
Small square of gold felt
for the belt buckle
Small square of grey or ivory felt for the “500”
2′ of black or navy twill tape
2 1/2′ length of gray PVC pipe, 1- 1 1/2″ diameter
Hot glue gun and glue sticks
Poly stuffing



Step 1: Create your pattern from the diagrams here.

This project is made to fit my 6 year old boy, but he is closer to a size 4 than a 6, so make adjustments to fit your child accordingly. You’ll be making three pattern pieces: the bodice piece, the shorts piece, and the piece to make the plush weights. Draw the patterns and cut them out from a piece of paper, preferably something sort of heavy weight so you don’t tweak the pattern when you’re tracing around it.

Strongman Step2

Step 2: Trace and cut your pieces.

We used a stripey tee for the bodice, and a solid for the bottoms because it’s easier to fit the shorts piece lengthwise along a tee shirt without having to worry about aligning stripes. Weigh down your bodice pattern piece on one tee, and your shorts piece on another (unless you have a really big tee shirt and you want to use the same shirt for both pieces). Trace around the patterns, and then cut them out. Cut out 8 of the “weight” pattern pieces from your navy or black wool felt. Cut a 5″ x 24″ rectangle from the navy or black wool felt (or lop off the bottom of a pant leg.) Cut two 5″ x 5″ squares from the navy or black wool felt.

Strongman Shorts

Step 3: Sew the shorts.

Fold each shorts piece in half and match what will be the inside seam. Using a 1/2″ seam allowance, sew this seam. You should now have two separate shorts legs. Turn one leg right side out, then lay it inside the inside out leg, and match up the full ‘U’ of the crotch seam. Pin and sew using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Turn both legs inside out.

Strongman Step4

Step 4: Sew the bodice.

Place the two bodice pieces right sides together. Sew up the side seams and the shoulder seams using a 1/2″ seam allowance.

Strongman Step5

Step 5: Attach the shorts piece to the bodice piece.

With both pieces inside out, lay the bodice piece inside the shorts piece and match the waist seam. Using a 1/2″ seam allowance, sew the shorts to the bodice. Turn your whole bodysuit right side out. Hem the shorts legs and around the neck line and arm holes by turning in a small 1/4″ hem and using a narrow but long zig zag stitch to allow for stretch.

Strongman Step6

Step 6: Make your belt.

Cut the 2′ piece of twill tape into two 1′ pieces. Fold your 5″ x 24″ wool felt rectangle in half, hot dog style, and lay each of the two pieces of twill tape inside the fold so that they will be stitched into the middle of both short sides of the rectangle. Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, sew all the way around the three open sides of the rectangle, leaving a 3″ opening in the middle of the long side for turning. Clip your corners and turn right side out. Press flat or topstitch. Cut a buckle-shaped piece of gold felt and glue it to the middle of the navy or black rectangle.

Strongman Step7

Step 7: Make your barbells.

Take two of your weight pieces and sew them together, using a 1/4″ seam allowance, along one curved side. Do that three more times with your 6 other pieces. Now take two of your pieces (that are each now made up of two pieces) and lay them right sides together matching the edges of the circles all the way around. Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, sew the barbells, leaving a 2″ opening for turning and stuffing.

Strongman Step7B

Repeat this with your other two pieces. Clip your curves, and turn both weights right side out. Stuff and whip stitch closed. Take your two 5″ x 5″ wool felt squares and fold them in half. Stitch this seam using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Now turn this tube halfway right side out, and whip stitch this tube onto the top of one of your weights. This is how you’ll attach the weight to the PVC bar. Squirt some hot glue into the inside of felt tube opening that you’ve just whip stitched and insert one end of the PVC pipe into the tube. Repeat to attach the other weight. Cut out the numbers “500” for both weight balls and hot glue them in place.

Strongman Final

Strongman Final2

About the Authors:


Future Craft Collective was formerly brought to you by Kathie Sever and Bernadette Noll. Kathie is an accomplished seamstress, creator of Fort Lonesome Camp and Custom, artist, and mother of two. Bernadette is a writer, co-founder of Slow Family Living, and mother of four. They have found renewed energy in their collaboration and are continuously amazed by the ideas, inspiration, and a-ha moments that have come from this shared effort.

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Haley Pierson-Cox from Red-Handled Scissors is a maker of crafts, a lover of cats, an avid swearing enthusiast, a cross-stitch book author, and a general purveyor of quirk. She's also sometimes an irritable cartoon named Tiny Cranky Haley. https://www.redhandledscissors.com

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