The nature of Halloween costumes has evolved over the last thirty years. There is this whole movement to sexy everything as a costume. I seem to remember that costumes were actually really basic plastic hospital gowns with plastic masks held on by elastic bands. They were colored like popular characters from Sesame Street and things like that. Cookie Monster. Oscar the Grouch. Exciting stuff. What kid didn’t want to be Oscar the Grouch? Adults had Halloween parties and dressed like doctors and nurses, witches, or vampires. Meanwhile, I almost suffocated behind a mask as a three/four year old Oscar-the-Grouch. It was a thermoplastic shell with unreasonably sharp edges at the eye and mouth holes. Nothing like the photo below.
The outfit was educational and not because it was from Sesame Street. I did learn that sticking your tongue out of the face breathing hole is a trap much like the frozen flagpole dare in “Christmas Story”. I remember the sudden panic of my outstretched tongue being pinched and stuck through the front of my mask. I couldn’t tell anyone. All I could say is, “UUUUUHHHHH”. Oscar the Grouch sticking his tongue out isn’t actually very strange so my panic went unnoticed. Stupid plastic masks. I was at a daycare and at least 3 years old which means it had to be fairly traumatic to be saved as a memory. The class did a trick-or-treat at the college campus (daycare was for students with kids) and the only thing I remember putting in my goodie bag was a bunch of seed balls from Cypress trees. Sounds like a three year old thing to do doesn’t it.
In the following years I can only assume that my mother felt guilt or despair at having to purchase such simple and physically dangerous costumes. She decided to break out a sewing machine and some patterns to make some good old-fashioned costumes. I got a fully tailored Devil outfit that was slightly large on me but I was assured that I could wear it again next year. She was right, I wore it the next four years in a row. Good thing it came with a plastic pitchfork so I could distract myself by poking things.
My cousin joined us for Halloween that first year and he had an authentic football player costume. He played football and it was his actual gear so I don’t know the rules; Is that authentic or just not undressing after practice?
My sister was a ghost/modified bed sheet. Maybe the toil of the first costume put an end to my mother’s ambition. I can empathize because I tried to sew a button back onto some of my fat pants one day and even though the button was repaired the fabric was blood stained afterwards and I still threw them away. I can’t imagine trying to do an entire outfit. She even has all of her fingers. That woman is a saint.
Back to my sister as a ghost. Maybe she was a possessed mattress peering out of the sheet? These costumes came down to first-world poverty problems. They got the job done and we all knew the day was about candy, not the costume. There were no selfies or judgment on facebook, with any luck no one would see you anyway.
My parents were divorced and remarried by the time I was four so during the memorable “tricking” years I had alternating arrangements. Some years with my dad, I had a vampire costume that was hair gel with some teeth and a cape. Not bad. That costume was totally re-usable too. All I remember about that getup was the face paint drying and wanting to pick every inch of skin off my face. I was starting to think that Halloween wasn’t actually for children. If only someone would mass market affordable and interesting costumes.
Somewhere around the internet explosion (The Great De-lightening), costume stores became mainstream pop culture and the opportunities for self-expression really grew, if you could afford them. Women can suddenly be anything they want; Sexy Witch, Sexy Cat, Sexy Cop, Sexy Zombie, Sexy Maid, Sexy…. You get the idea. Men are still limited to the traditional male roles because adding “Sexy” to a man’s Frankenstein costume is kinda creepy.
I’m not a fan of barriers so I think I went to a work costume party in college dressed as the sexy witch with really hairy legs and a little trouble with the corset. It was so offensive that I won the scariest costume award. The runner-up, we thought, was a guy from the kitchen that had dressed like a homeless man, his sign was super authentic. He drank half of the keg at the party and we later realized that he actually was homeless and that it was rude to give him second place. He put a lot more into his costume than I did. Thanks for bursting my bubble homeless dude.
Wal-Mart spotted this great rebirth of dress up and has selected a set of costumes at a reasonable price that are so perfectly marketed to reach middle and lower class families that it is hard to consider being anything other than something that Wal-Mart carries. It is the Old Navy of Halloween costumes. They seem trendy but in fact, everyone has them. I know at least one of the people reading this have seen someone in public wearing a shirt that you also just purchased from Old Navy.
Since we had our first child, Supermom has maintained a resolve to create original costumes based on characters the girls enjoyed at the time. My wife is a true talent in all things crafty and requiring attention to instructions. (Thank you Pintrest for challenging her to learn new hobbies) She started with Halloween costumes and birthday cakes and can now do embroidery and has a busy custom cake business. She inspires me to want to learn more but alas, I have only gotten more useless and now I have a blog sharing our weaker moments as a family. She wins the points in this round…. And still I type.
Our goal in early years of Halloween was to make the kids look hilarious while we laughed at things they did for the rest of the night. [Giant plush chicken]+ [a kid who could barely move] = super cute. Put one in a dog costume with a tail that wags as they crawl = priceless. That is sooo easy. The good thing about toddlers is that almost every costume will work. They are already cute. This stage didn’t last long.
Next phase was selecting actual children’s characters and tracing down all the details and correct color placement. Patterns, research, basically constructing a costume to the “Hollywood Stunt Double” level of complete. The downside of this is that children may change their mind a week before Halloween and you end up with crying, over an awesome cowgirl outfit.
With a large group of kids the costume undertaking is becoming more themed and intricate. This year the aim is to include all six of us as a coherent costume group. This should be good. I’m not too worried because I have four years of [Baptist Interpretation of the Devil] + one year [Cross-dressing Sexy Witch] on my Halloween resume. I sold my shame for Doritos in sixth grade. Bring it on.
If you approach costumes with a “good enough” mindset. This post is for you. You are exactly right. It is all about the candy. You’re welcome.
Underdaddy to the rescue.