Romantic, colorful, and beautiful are ideal adjectives when describing a gypsy costume, whether you're planning to wear it for Halloween, a masquerade, or simply to dance in. Pulling together something that gives a nod to cultural authenticity while allowing for unique personalization will surely turn heads, no matter the reason for getting tressed and dressed.
What may be most important when creating a gypsy costume is understanding there are multiple cultures that have contributed to what has become a generic look based on the dress attributed to both the cumulative stationary and traveling societies. There is a lot of interesting history and tradition that goes into the many pieces that create a gypsy costume, which, in turn, is a large part of the gypsy costume appeal and offers the opportunity to celebrate the wearer's own personality.
In preparing to put together a costume, it may help to know where some of the signature styles came from and seeing how those distinct elements combine to create something unique.
- India - From brilliant colors to jewelry, much of which is adorned with coins, the cultural dress of this amazing country has influenced the gypsy wardrobe. Research indicates many of the tribes of Europe had migrated from the northwestern part of the country, with the foundations of Indian national dress coming along on the sojourn.
- Eastern and Western Europe - The flowing, full skirt began as an underskirt, as based on Indian costume, that transitioned to an outer garment called the ghaghri, which was six yards of fabric gathered at the waist with a drawstring. As the community moved, changed, grew, and spread out, the skirts saw similar changes in pattern, colors, and variations of length.
- Spain - The stunning Flamenco dress that is still worn in performance today was predicated on the female Gypsy outfits worn when accompanying livestock sellers to the market. These costumes were created specifically to draw attention to the ladies and ultimately, the livestock or wares for sale, which was, in short, some of the earliest commercial advertisement.
Key Costume Components
Finding the right piece or pieces, such as the blouse, skirt, or dress, is critical as it provides the foundation for the entire costume. The skirts should be long, minimally to mid-calf length as per the culture, while low-cut necklines are the fashion. You should also include lots of bling in the gypsy style.
The Perfect Blouse
A scooped-neck blouse makes the ideal partner to a fabulous skirt. Sleeves can vary from beautiful bell to cap-sleeves, so much of it will come down to personal preference.
- Find lovely blouses with a traditional feel at Medieval Collectibles which include the Short Sleeve Puff Chemise and Ruffled Neck Ladies Blouse, each offered in several colors.
- For beautiful prints, shoulder cut-outs, and lace inserts, JCPenney has some lovely choices. For example, WallpapHer Long-Sleeve Print Tassel Peasant Top, Arizona Long-Sleeve Peasant Top (Juniors), and St. John's Bay® Lace Insert Peasant Top come in an array of colors and styles.
- Maurices has some great takes on peasant-style tops, featuring a variety of colors and sleeve variations. Other contemporary versions can be found at Anthropologie, Macy's, and American Eagle Outfitters.
Consider using a basic pattern to create something personalized. Select the fabric of choice, stitch it up, add ribbons, sequins, embroidery, or any glitzy trim desired.
Finding the Right Skirt or Dress
Volume is the watch word here for both dress and skirt and can often be achieved through use of fabrics that have some weight, such as cotton, linen, stretch velvet, or velour. Silk, chiffon, and georgette flow and fold beautifully for overskirts, while lace and metallics add some visual interest. Layering skirts allows for great use of various colors and patterns, too. It is important to be able to move freely, particularly if the costume is for dance performance.
- Agan Traders has a solid colored, rayon skirt available in multiple colors that features a scallop pattern and some panel embroidery, a great choice to pair with other colors and patterns. The company also offer skirts in other styles, as well as stunning blouses.
- The Pyramid Collection has variety of skirts available. The Red Lace Godet Skirt is features an elastic waist and lace overlay, while Orchid Handkerchief Maxi Skirt with multiple layers and flirty lettuce edging is romantic and dramatic.
- For a great basic dress on which to build, Sears's maxi peasant dress has an elasticized waist and drawstring and jacquard inserts, as well as an A-line skirt with some fullness.
If the preference is to sew an original skirt or dress, check out 48+Free Skirt Tutorials for excellent instruction.
A scarf or kerchief is worn in different communities to signify a variety of things, such as being married or protecting the wearer's modesty, but you can make the choice to modify with a hair tie, flower tucked into the hair, or headband. Many women adorn their headscarves with jewelry, often including coin-like medallions. Silk, satin, cotton, chiffon, and blends all work quite well, in addition to some knits and heavier fabrics like crushed velvet that creates a gradient look when catching the light.
- Headcovers Unlimited has a large assortment of scarves, with many versions pre-tied.
- You can find gorgeous tichels and stunning accessories at Wrapunzel, with a portion of their sales going to charity.
- Unique bandanas and scarves from the Anchal Project have an Indian influence and would make a lovely addition to any costume.
Look at local fabric or craft stores for a variety of materials that would make for interesting wraps. A large, cut square of fabulous fabric can transform easily to a scarf by making a simple 1/4" or 1/2" hem around the edges. When all set, find different ways to tie a headscarf, gypsy-style and more, at Rannka.com.
Belts and Sashes
You can dress your wasit in a variety of ways, such as wide belts, sashes, corsets, and shawls to complement the attire and add some additional flair. This adds balance to the costume and clearly defines the upper and lower parts of the body.
- Belly dance shawls are excellent for tying around the waist, and BellyDance.com and Moondance offer velvet, beaded, embroidered, sequin, and fringed selections.
- Pirate Fashions has some gorgeous hips scarves and sashes with stunning details, and Moresca Clothing & Costume has a wonderful selection of rich and luminous fabric offerings.
- Uxcell offers a variety of unique sashes and hip scarves with historical overtones.
- New York & Company has a unique obi-style belt, perforated floral obi-style belt, and a studded corset belt, each that would streamline the look of any skirt or dress.
Make a sash following these basic directions. Create it in bold fabric, trim it with elegant lace or braid, add rhinestones or sequins, and make a one-of-a-kind statement piece.
Gypsies are known for their opulent personal displays of jewelry, a demonstration of both prosperity and generosity toward others. Gorgeous head adornments, large, golden earrings or drops, strand-upon-strand of necklaces, and stacks of ornamental bracelets speak to the baubles, bangles, and beads so closely associated with gypsy style. It's the perfect way to add color, texture, and excitement to any costume, particularly when movement is involved.
- Earrings frame the face, so finding something that has the ideal accent is a costume must. Claire's is an excellent place to find a variety of earrings including hoops, ear cuffs, drops, and multi-sets, a critical piece of any gypsy ensemble.
- Overstock is a great place to find great necklaces from collar-style and chokers to multi-strand and beads, many of which are ideal for layering.
- Stacked bracelets are a must and are available in a variety of colors and styles, with mix and match being the favorite approach. Kohl's has some fun options with pops of color, metallics, coins, ribbons, and beads, ideal for an eclectic collection such as Mudd® Seed Bead Stretch Bracelet Set, Simulated Turquoise Beaded Stretch Bracelet Set, and Seed Bead Crisscross Cuff Bracelet.
- Rings are a necessity when putting a completed costume together. Kohl's has some interesting pieces such as the Silver-Tone Cluster Ring, Jennifer Lopez Marquise Ring, and the LC Lauren Conrad Gold Tone, all at the ready to grace the hands.
- To add a contemporary element to a costume while keeping it shabby-chic, Junk Gypsy brings together a variety of elements, including re-purposed materials, for unusual rings, bracelets, cuffs, and necklaces. Similarly, Gypsy Outfitters has pieces with bold color and shape, including unique anklets for a dazzling head-to-toe look.
Consider going through pieces you currently own find novel accents. Add brooches to necklaces. Twist strands of beads around the wrist. Use earrings as pins. Wrap and clasp necklaces around a belt. Bring together diverse pieces in unusual ways to conjure imaginatively inspired creations.
Depending on the use for the gypsy costume you can take into account aspects like footwear, shoulder wrap, and even how to carry personal items.
- Footwear - Barefoot is traditional for many gypsy cultures, but wearing sandals or flat shoes will also tie the costume together nicely. Espadrilles are a great match and available at a variety of outlets including Espadrille Store and H&M with many varying styles. For dancing, make sure if you wear shoes, they offer the needed support.
- Shawl - A wrap may be warranted if you travel in cooler weather, and Peach Couture, Yours Elegantly, and The Pashmina Store have wraps, shawls, and scarves in prints and solid colors to complement any wardrobe.
- Bag - Having something that ties into the gypsy costume but allows you to keep personal items like driver's license, car keys, or money to be kept close can be a real advantage in a multitude of situations. A small bag you can close around a belt or small across-the-body purse will also get the job done while keeping in character. Embroidered cloth, beaded, or faux leather become a perfect, and possibly indispensable, accessory.
From Yesterday to Today
Gypsy culture is not just an old world culture, but continues to be a vibrant community internationally, captivating the imagination of both performers and trick-or-treaters. In the United States, some of the represented groups include Rom, Romnichels, English Travelers, Irish Travelers, and Cale, to name but a few, with programs like My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding introducing many to the modern ways of the community rich in heritage and charm.