A Homemade Halloween: Costumes for Kids

A Homemade Halloween: Costumes for Kids

By Kathryn M. D’Imperio

Halloween costumes have changed dramatically from the times when we were kids. I remember being about seven and wanting in the worst way to be a flamingo for Halloween that year. (Don’t ask me why. I’m still not sure.) My mom – who rarely backed down from a heartfelt plea – agreed to help me make the costume.

The funniest part of it is looking back and remembering how I had my poor mother driving all over creation, from one Kmart to the next and to all kinds of other stores, looking for hot pink feather dusters. We removed the handles, pulled out the feathers, and then taped and stapled countless feathers onto a pink wool sweater dress. (An itchy sweater dress, I might add. Funny the things you remember.) We made a bird beak with orange construction paper and attached it to a Burger King kid’s meal prize that originally resembled a tiger’s muzzle with an elastic cord to hold it around your face. It was a fun exercise in arts and crafts as well as resourcefulness, but I think it’s safe to say costumes have come a long way since then.

Take Pinterest, for example. If you go on and search for handmade Halloween costumes for kids, you are greeted with everything from Raggedy Ann and Andy to toddlers in ghost tutus, unicorns, kitties, puppies and Lego blocks, to name just a few. Some of the homemade costumes seem to be a bit rudimentary while others rival something you’d see in a full feature by Martha Stewart. (Oh right, she’s on Pinterest, too…) Of course, many of the best costumes come from your children’s imaginations (or even your own), so let the inspiration strike and get busy crafting.

Handmade Halloween costumes can be created from countless trips to Michael’s or A.C. Moore and other craft outlets, or by scouring the Web for just the right materials and accessories. As these trips to the store and the online shopping cart begin to add up, so do your credit card bills. Costume costs can easily spiral out of control as you add more embellishments and dazzling accessories to each of your children’s costumes. Thankfully, some of the most creative costume ideas can still be created from items you already own and from those that you find on clearance or at secondhand stores like Goodwill and the Salvation Army.

Sarah Wascura, a teacher at Northampton Area Senior High School and mother of three girls, puts her creative talents to use each year as Halloween creeps closer, crafting costumes by hand for her entire family. Her most recent costume featured Disney’s Cinderella, with family members posing as Cinderella, Jaq and Gus (the two mice sidekicks), Prince Charming, the Wicked Stepmother, and of course, the Fairy Godmother. In the past, she has also crafted costumes featuring Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, Monsters, Inc., Alice in Wonderland and even the Chick-fil-A cows.

The funniest part of it is looking back and remembering how I had my poor mother driving all over creation, from one Kmart to the next and to all kinds of other stores, looking for hot pink feather dusters.

“I have always been able to find the materials I need, but some may be modified,” she says. “It is so fun for me to do this, and I LOVE people’s reactions.  I even make [my husband] Mike go with me trick or treating with the kids all dressed up because the neighbors always make comments. Some take pictures. It’s so fun. The girls are excited about it if they have input (now that they’re older). It does take a while to bring the costumes together, so starting early helps and gives more time for me to find those little ‘key pieces.’ Hitting up different thrift shops helps, too. Overall, I can usually costume the family for about $20 to $30,” says Wascura.

Wascura finds many of the supplies and accessories for her homemade costumes at the Salvation Army, usually starting with one key piece for the entire family’s costume theme, like a penguin costume, princess dress, or other great find, and building out from there. Her homemade costumes typically do not require sewing, which helps a little bit in easing the process of crafting costumes for five or six people at once. Still, Wascura starts her costume hunt in August or September, hitting up the Salvation Army’s Family Days sales on Wednesdays, and also checking yard sales and clearance sales at kids’ costume shops and other locations.

Creating things with Paper Mâché and repurposing boxes, cartons, or other household items and toys can work wonders in creating homemade Halloween costumes for kids. Depending on the chosen costumes, face paint, spray paint, feathers, wigs, poster board and countless other craft supplies can help to give your children’s costumes the level of detail they need to be eye-catching and extremely memorable. The art of sewing can sometimes come in handy if you are up to the challenge of a more complex pattern or even if you just want to adapt some garments to fit the theme.

“When all else fails (Mike’s Mad Hatter hat), felt and hangers go a long way,” Wascura says. “I made the girls’ mouse ears for Cinderella from a few cheap sheets of felt. I made the Mad Hatter hat from bending hangers to make a frame, and then covered it with felt. I used an old bridesmaid dress for the Queen of Hearts dress. Use what you have, buy what you don’t, and don’t spend a lot!”

So now we have convenient shopping options like Amazon.com and its 35 different styles of pink craft feathers, packaged nicely and neatly in a single pack, and visually addictive sites like Pinterest telling us how to make complex, 23-step Halloween costumes for our kids. Technology certainly makes it easier to come up with ideas and to shop for materials these days, but it’s anyone’s guess as far as whether or not the costume creation process has become any simpler over the years. One thing’s for sure, though—I am thrilled to pieces that I won’t find myself running around looking for pink feather dusters anytime soon, or ever.

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