Making the Costume
- Hooded sweatshirt
- Shiny contrasting colored fabric
- Sweatsuit colored fabric, extra
- Sheer material
- Red, black, and white felt foam
- Sewing machine
Step #1 - Before we begin, you will have to buy a sweatsuit if you don't already own one. Depending on how big you want the dragon to be, buy couple of sizes larger than the wearer's size.
Step #2 - We have to decorate the belly of the costume with some scales. You will cut oval-shaped pieces from the felt and shiny material. Cut those oval shapes into half, and place them as scales all over the belly so that they sweatshirt can hide. Take the bottom row first to sew all the scales in their respective places. Work your way up the scales so they overlap on top of each other.
Step #3 - For spikes on the dragon's back, you will cut thin triangle-shaped pieces from the colored felts. Now sew each triangle pieces together so it forms like a pocket. Slide some thinly cut pieces of foam in the pocket to make it look like spikes. Make at least 3―4 spikes on each side of the sweatshirt.
Step #4 - Now comes the wings of the dragon. Take the sheer material and sew triangular shapes on both the sides of the sweatshirt, and underneath the each sleeve. Leave enough space so that the wearer has room to lift his/her arms. When the wearer stands straight with arms open to the sides, the wings need to hang from the sleeves of the sweatshirt.
Step #5 - For the dragon's tail, you will have same sort of triangular shape like in step 4. The only difference is that these piece will be longer and thinner than the previous ones. Cut two equal lengths of triangles, and sew them together which will form a pocket (a little space to slide the foam in). Sew the finished tail onto the costume (sweatshirt or top of sweatpants).
Step #6 - The dragon's head is the crucial part because it completes the entire costume and brings it substance. Cut two similar shapes for eyes and one for mouth from each of the red, white, and black felt. Hand sew each of these pieces carefully on the sweatshirt's hood. The white felt will be used as triangular, pointy teeth at the top edge of the hood. You can also add some more foam stuffing to make the head look bigger. Add triangular spikes on the hood to make it look like horns.
A Short History Lesson
Chinese dragons are symbolized with water, which means they are the rulers of moving bodies of water like rivers, seas, and waterfalls. Along with being the rulers of water, these dragons rule the weather donning an anthropomorphic (human-like) depictions. Often dressed in a king's outfit, the head of the dragon stays the same with the king's headgear. There are four main dragon kings for the east, south, north, and west seas. Because of their comparison with the weather phenomena like hurricanes and tsunamis, many villages in China have dedicated temples to their local "dragon king". The dragon provides a great deal of respect to people of China and is considered to be sacred.
The dragon dance is performed with elaborate dragon costumes as it is an age-old tradition of the Tujia and Miao ethic groups in Wuling mountain regions. Although the dragon is used for various celebrations as well like the Chinese New Year. Every spring festival, each traditional pattern can be worn by eight or more skilled dancers and they perform a highly choreographed dance. The head is the most striking feature of the entire costume as it contains rabbit's eyes, cow's ears, and a stag's horns. With extravagant dance forms and fireworks, China's rich culture has captivated people across the world.