Carthaginian Kit on a budget

The major issue with this, our fourth foray into budget costume for Odyssey, is that no-one really knows what the Carthaginians may have looked like. So, we went for a fairly generic North African look, with hints of fantasty roleplay thrown in for good measure.

Simple Carthaginian: robe and headdress

Equipment needed:

  • a needle, or preferably access to a sewing machine
  • scissors
  • a friend to help you pin (optional)

Materials needed

  • 4 metres of cream/unbleached white cotton/polycotton (assuming a 5ft fabric width). Do not pay more than £4 per metre, you can get it for £1 if you really try, or try charity shop bedsheets (mmm, prehemmed!) (You really want linen, but it tends to be too expensive, get linen if you want to spend more.) - We got some double-width polycotton for £3.50 per metre (i.e. about 10ft wide).£7
  • white thread - £1
  • Optional: blinging jewellery from a charity shop or Asian tat shop - £1
  • Optional: long scrap of contrast colour material (we used a strip from the blue robe, below, but if only making the simple kit, look in remnant bins.)
  • TOTAL: £8

Before you start, cut three strips of about 1inch wide along the full width of the fabric - of preferably, get two of them in a contrast colour fabric or make them up from remnants. So you should have three strips of 1inch by 5ft, in any colours you like.

Fold your fabric into quarters so that it fits half of you when you lie down on it, in a similar way to that described on the Roman tunic page. You don't NEED to have a fold at the top of the arms, this can be a raw edge, it just means you'll have an extra seam to do here. But you do need the fabric to be four pieces thick. Get a friend to cut generously around you. This garment doesn't have any fastenings, so if you make it too figure-hugging, you won't be able to get it on over your head. 

Your piece will look like this. Cut a SMALL head hole. The radius of the quarter circle for the neck hole here should be no more than 3 or 4 inches.

Open out your piece so that you can see either all of the front or all of the back. Sew the front and back together along the tops of the sleeves (if not a fold), under the sleeves and down the sides. See the Roman tunic page for more explicit diagrams. Hem the sleeves, bottom curved edge, and neckhole. That's the robe finished.

Remember those three long strips of fabric? Plait them together. They don't need to be hemmed or anything. Raggedy bits add to the 'handcrafted' look. This is to tie our headscarf on with, but if you're keen you can also make a belt, cloak strap, bag strap, whatever. You could even make a trim for the bottom edge of the overcoat (see below) which will help weigh lighter fabric down. 

From some of the scraps - you should have some big pieces which came from under the arms of the robe - cut and hem a square of about 18inches each side. Put this on your head and tie the plaited rope around your forehead, pulling the square tight so you don't end up with a 'muffin head'.

Voila! A simple vaguely Carthaginian looking outfit, which will conceal any amount of warm clothing underneath. The eagle-eyed amongst you may notice that here it is being modelled over a woolly roll-neck jumper. 

Better Carthaginian - add a poncho

Extra materials needed

  • 1.5 metres of coloured wool or linen fabric, or something that will pass as such. We got a polyester thing which isn't great to work with but nevertheless looks great from a distance of more than 6 inches, Expect to pay a bit more for proper natural fabrics - £2
  • TOTAL: £10

Making a poncho is the easiest thing in the world. Simply cut a square (to do this, fold your fabric in half along the diagonal, so that you get a length the same as the entire width of the fabric). You can make it smaller if you want. Cut, but don't unfold, fold it again along the diagonal so that you have a small triangular quarter like a sandwich at a kid's party. Cut a small headhole. Hem any rough edges. Stick your head through the hole. Er, that's it. 

You might want to adjust the neckline of the poncho to make it a V neck or something. We think that wearing it like this is OK, but not particularly Carthaginian (whatever that is) so we recommend wearing it as shown below...

As an alternative to a poncho, you could simply tie a long piece of fabric (about 1ft wide) around you waist and over one shoulder as a sort of sash, like the ones pictured for the mystic or slave in the Odyssey Carthage culture brief. 

Grab the point at the front and some of the spare fabric from one side and simply throw it over your opposite shoulder for a much more 'desert nomad' look. Here, the bundle of spare fabric is chucked over Daisy's right shoulder.

By throwing even more of the spare fabric round to the back, you can adjust the look. You can pin it in place if you want.

Cosy Carthaginian - add an overcoat

Extra materials needed

  • another 4 metres of fabric, we used the same kind as the poncho but you could use anything you like, just try to make it heavier than the white robe. The ancient Africans did decorate/dye their fabrics but you will have trouble finding a pattern that could reasonably have come from that period - £4
  • Optional: You could add trim to the edges of the coat and poncho if you want a more decorated look. You'll need about 3 metres for the bottom of the coat, add 2m for the sleeves and 6m if you're wanting to do the whole poncho edge too. We recommend bright geometric lines/patterns.
  • Optional: Tribal-type jewellery from a charity shop - £1
  • TOTAL: £14

Cut the overcoat in exactly the same way that you made the white robe. Be very generous in your cutting, you want it bigger than the undergarments! 

However, because this is going to be a coat that opens at the front, not a robe, you need to cut down the front. To do this, carefully cut down the OUTER fold only, starting from the neck hole and going all the way to the floor. Doing it now will help you to keep the line straight and vertical.

The edge that Jude is cutting is the one at the top of the picture above. 

Do not cut both folds! The inner fold here is the back of the garment, which you want to stay in one piece when it is unfolded.

If you separate everything at this stage, you'll have three pieces, one full back piece and two halves of the front. You might want to unfold everything, lay out the back piece (good side of the fabric up), then carefully lay on the two front pieces (good side of the fabric down, so that it's face-to-face) and pin along the tops of the sleeves (if not a folded edge), under the sleeves and down the sides. Then sew it all together in the same way as you made the underrobe. 

Here it is on. You'll have to hem the bottom, the sleeve-cuff bits, the neckhole, and all the way up the open edges at the front if it's a fabric that will fray.

Look at those drapey sleeves! Great eh? 

Here Daisy is wearing it with a finest-Asian-tat-shop necklace - £1 (came with matching earrings, but I don't have pierced ears). We think that steep triangles and other totemic or geometric designs will be great to make the Carthage 'look'. 

Here, the poncho is over the top for extra cosiness, Daisy does seem to have lost the headdress though.

This would look even better if there was an embroidered pattern around the edges of the coat and poncho, or a decorated trim sewn or wonderwebbed on. (See Roman tutorial for the wonder of wonderweb, you can even use it if you're too lazy to sew the hems. 

Tips and tricks

Got a whole group? Those ponchos are extremely fast to make and would tie the group look together for hardly any money.

If we'd been able to find any bright orangey wool or embroidery thread for less than £5, we'd probably have hand-embroidered around the edges of this with a steep zigzag pattern. Not too onerous to do and really would make the folds stand out.

Online Resources

Um, couldn't really find any, sorry.