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DIY Janet Jackson "Rhythm Nation" Costume

Janet Jackson was the most influential and important Jackson for me growing up. I admired Michael, but I LOVED Janet, following her career from break-out pop star to an increasingly confident and nuanced solo artist. For awhile I bought every album the week it came out, memorized the songs, tried to copy her dance moves. She made me want to be a dancer.

The "Rhythm Nation" music video for me was the pinnacle of her dance awesomeness – Janet at the top of her game flanked by badass dancers in military-style uniforms. This video still inspires me today as a dancer.

This year, both in tribute to Janet, and in response to the #nastywoman meme that has been going around this election, I thought this was the perfect time to dress as her for Halloween.

Surprisingly, there are few guides online for how to create a Janet Jackson costume. There must be hundreds of instructions, handmade accessories, and full-on costumes that one can purchase to dress like Michael Jackson. But nowhere near the same level of interest in Janet. This was the best I could find.

So I made my own.

Janet costume upper trim copy-1200

Here's how to make your own DIY, no-sew Janet Jackson ala "Rhythm Nation" costume. And you can too! Let's get started...

via GIPHY

 


Janet Jackson "Rhythm Nation" Costume

Materials

Here's what I used for my costume, some of which I owned, and a few items that I purchased:

  • Black, military-style cap
  • Black jacket - best with shoulder pads, fitted, short length
  • Black pants
  • Combat boots
  • Clip-on hoop earring
  • Silver foil tape from the hardware store
  • Thin cardboard (I used a shoebox)
  • Small silver chain (I used a cheap bracelet)
  • Black permanent marker
  • Electrical or cloth tape
  • About 12 pins with clutch backs (you probably have several from various places can be repurposed for this costume)
  • A small paper clip

Costume materials copy-1200
 

Instructions

Make Two "1814" Medallions

Janet wears two large medallions on her chest and hat that say "1814" on them. (By the way, the number 1814 refers to the year that the "Star-spangled Banner" was written, a reference to the social and political issues referenced on the album.) Here's how I made mine:

  1. Trace a rough approximation of the medallions onto cardboard. The one on the hat is about 4x2". The one on the chest is 6x3". Cut both of them out.
  2. Cover them in silver foil tape on one side.
  3. Carefully draw onto the tape the 1814 logo and other details.
  4. Take two of the pins and tape them to the back of each of the medallions.
  5. Take a short piece of chain (mine was 7" long) and tape it to back of the larger one, so that it hangs down loosely.
  6. Affix the medallions to the front of the hat and the left chest of the jacket.

Janet costume hat

Janet costume chest medallion

Make Five "Buckles"

Janet's jacket has silver buckles on the front. I made five, two on the left side, and three on the right. Instructions:

  1. Trace and cut out five rectangles (2" x 1.25") from the cardboard. Trim the corners so they look more like buckles.
  2. Cover them in silver foil tape on one side.
  3. Tape a pin to the back of each one.
  4. Draw a vertical line on the rectangles to make them look a bit more like buckles. I'm sure you could do more, but I was lazy.
  5. Pin the buttons to the front of the jacket, two on the left side, three on the right.

Jacket copy-1200

Make a Key Earring

The key earring is a important part of the outfit, an accessory that Janet wore in several music videos and photos. You could probably just use a real key, but that would be too heavy I think, so I made one out of cardboard.

  1. Trace and cut out a key using the cardboard. Make sure it has a small hole cut into it.
  2. Cover it in silver foil tape on both sides.
  3. Take a small paper clip and twist it into a couple of circles like a key-ring.
  4. Attach the "key" to the paper clip ring.
  5. Attach the paper clip ring to the earring. 

Key earring copy-1200

Make "Metal" Glove Pieces

 Janet has these pieces of metal attached to her gloves that are pretty cool looking.

  1. Trace and cut out two small rectangles from the cardboard.
  2. Cover them in foil tape on one side. Draw four "rivets" onto the rectangles.
  3. Tape a pin to the back of each one.
  4. Using the pin and some tape, affix them to the backs of your two gloves.

Gloves copy-1200

 That's it! It should take no more than an hour to prepare, if you have all the materials. 

I hope you found this helpful. Frankly, I'm surprised it turned out as good as it did, given my lack of crafting skills. I'm sure you can do much better! I'd love to see any pics if you created your own Janet costume.  

Janet jackson costume side by side copy-1200

Front view copy-1200

BONUS: Check out this awesome Rhythm Nation flashmob done a couple of years ago in the Bay Area. I wish I could have been in this!

 

 

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