Miriam Makeba (1932-2008), the beloved South African legend, was famously known as “Mama Africa” for her music and her courageous opposition to apartheid. Throughout her long career Miriam was always stylish, wearing everything from boubous to isicholos with panache, but for our costume we’ve chosen her 60s-era look: western-style gowns paired with tall African-style hats.

Finding a gown is easy; it’s the hat that’s hard. We haven’t been able to locate a good source for costume purposes (real hats are very expensive), so we’ve come up with a thrifty alternative: a chef’s hat! Not the poufy, floppy kind, but the tall stiff cylindrical kind. They’re available in solid black, they’re shaped exactly like the hats Miriam was wearing in the 1960s, and they’re only ten bucks. Can’t beat that. Add a great dress, bold hoop earrings, a glittery microphone, and maybe a pair of shades for that 60s look.

Costume pieces from left to right:

1. Black chef’s hat, 9 inches tall.
2. Gold strapless gown.
3. Large gold-plated hoop earrings.
4. Gold glitter microphone.

And if you can sing “Pata Pata,” you’re all set.


Other costumes in this category: Notable Women