Halloween Costumes: Making Good and Making Do

My husband and I have been invited to a Halloween party requiring costumes, and we are panicked. What will we wear?

I’ve seldom put a lot of effort into Halloween. As I’ve written before, I am the pumpkin carver in the family, and we usually have a jack o’lantern for the front porch. I buy candy to give to trick or treaters, and when my kids were small, I did a little decorating.

And they had costumes. But rarely did I put much effort put into the costumes. When my son was a baby—my first Halloween as a mother—I made him a cape to go with his Superman onesie. The time spent on that cape was a good investment. It became a pirate’s cloak for a later Halloween, and also inspired his superhero play for years. It may still be buried in a drawer somewhere.

More typical of my costume efforts was the Halloween when my son was three. I talked him into being a doctor, because the hospital where I had given birth to his sister a few months earlier had given him paper mini-scrubs and a mask—a good enough costume, I decided, no matter how unappealing to a toddler boy in love with Batman and Robin.

pumpkin costume

The pumpkin costume I made for my daughter

The year my daughter was two, she insisted she wanted to be a pumpkin. Her brother tried to explain that being a pumpkin wasn’t the thing to do, she was supposed to look scary and smash pumpkins instead.

No dice. She wanted to be a pumpkin. My daughter was far less malleable than my son had been as a toddler.

So I made a pumpkin costume—the most elaborate costume I ever created. I measured her, designed it from scratch on paper, purchased orange and green and black felt, cut out the pieces, sewed them together, stiffening the seams to make it stand out around her body. I even made a matching green hat and bought my daughter green leggings for a complete pumpkin ensemble. I was very proud of myself.

By the time Halloween rolled around, my daughter was less enamored of being a pumpkin. I think she had entered the princess phase. But I managed to get her to wear the pumpkin costume for trick or treating.

And I made her wear it again the year she was three. I was back in my “making do” mode. The leggings didn’t fit that year, but I found black tights or something to keep her warm.

Now, after more than a quarter century, the costume hangs in a spare closet, waiting for some other child to need it. (See picture above.) This is why I didn’t put much effort into costumes. The payoff wasn’t there.

In later years, we occasionally bought a plastic costume off the rack, but usually we created costumes from clothes on hand. One year, my son decided he would be Dick Tracy. Dick Tracy wears a yellow coat and yellow fedora and carries a gun. We found a yellow hat, and I convinced him that his yellow rain slicker could be the coat. A water gun made a good enough gat.

J as Dick Tracy

Son as Dick Tracy. He’ll scare the crooks, won’t he?

That same year, my daughter was an angel. All that costume required was her white nightgown and a silver shoebox cut into a halo shape and stapled to a headband. Voila! Instant holiness, no matter how much of a devil she was in daily life.

M as angel

Daughter as an angel. She could pretend for an evening.

But none of this helps with this year’s conundrum . . .

What are my husband and I going to be this year? The party is this Saturday. All ideas are welcome.

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  1. Actually, it does help! One year, Cliff dressed in his tux; I in my one semi-ball gown and we went as Dean Martin and I forget who I was, but all we wore were the little black eye masks. I also wore a lot of fancy woman makeup. Maybe that’s who I was. Anyway, it was fun (since we rarely dress up to go out in KC) and easy. You both probably have clothes like that somewhere in your closets. i.e. Use whatcha got.

    • I have a black dress and a Dracula cape my son wore one year. I think that will suffice for me. Elvira Lite.
      My husband has many military uniforms, but refuses to wear them for a non-military purpose. I’ve told him he is on his own.
      But, yes, we’ll use whatcha got.

  2. I’ve never been big on Halloween parties as an adult. It’s too stressful trying to decide on a costume.
    Maybe you can wear your wedding dress and go as a bride and groom…see, I’m not good at this! Good luck!

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