On Halloween costumes

At the onset of October, I like to survey my students to find out what the kids are dressing as for Halloween these days.  Bearing in mind that most of the students I’ve had a chance to ask so far are under eight years old and girls, it seems that the trend for 2008 is “cute:” bunnies, snowflakes, kittens, princesses.  Of course, my older students are getting a little more creative: Uncle Sam, a nurse, that guy from Braveheart.

The topic of Halloween costumes came up at the end of one of my high-schooler’s lessons earlier this week.  Her parents, born and raised in Ireland, told me that when they were children, no one dressed up as anything “cute.”  The point of Halloween, they said, was not necessarily to get candy, but to scare the crap out of your friends and neighbors.  Therefore, costumes were always “evil:” devils, black cats, goblins, witches.

Personally, I’ve dabbled with costumes from each extreme, from Raggedy Ann to a penultimately evil Circus Clown.  No matter what I dressed as, though, I have never, never, NEVER purchased a costume from a store.  The early placement aside, it makes me sick to see rows of prefabricated costumes for children and adults alike lining the aisles of Target at Labor Day.  To me, the point of this holiday is to make your costume from as many “found” materials as possible, not to look identical to every other Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle in your classroom.

Making one’s own costumes needs be neither expensive nor elaborate.  All that is required is a little creativity.  I think the most elaborate costume my mother ever made was The Firefly, undeniably the coolest Halloween costume ever.  But other equally creative costumes were donned for trick-or-treating, all handmade by a lovingly crafty mother.

That same student whose Irish parents literally raised Hell on Halloween, knew exactly what I’m talking about.  Being a redheaded, freckled kid, she was a perfect candidate for dressing up as Pippi Longstockings, simply placing pipe cleaners betwixt her braided pigtails.

One year, I was the Indian (or Native American, if you want to get PC about it), having outgrown The Crayon.  The only things my mother needed to purchase were the headband and belt (probably found at a thrift store), a bit of face paint, and a piece of leather cloth (probably not very expensive, since the waistline of a seven year-old isn’t very large).  The wig was just a skein of black yarn, which we had lying around the house amongst several others.  Despite the stylish chevrons on my cheeks, though, I think I preferred The Crayon.

I have a feeling that the photo on the right was not taken on Halloween night, but on the day we were allowed to wear our costumes to school.  I say this because there is a photo floating around somewhere in my parents’ house of me as The Crayon, complete with a red turtleneck and face paint.

The Crayon is one of the most brilliantly simple costumes I can think of, most likely costing under $5.  The only required materials were a sheet of poster board, some face paint and some construction paper (which was probably lying around in a house of kids who liked to draw).  The tubular body was just a sheet of poster board with arms holes – how simple can you get?  The detail in black construction paper around the ends is my favorite part; not difficult to cut out or glue on, but it adds a special quality to the costume that shows that someone cared enough to do it.

It seems silly to me to purchase a Halloween costume, knowing full well that a child will outgrow it before next year, and that that cartoon character will be out of style in a few months.  Why spend money on something that cannot be renewed?  I was able to use that Indian belt as a headband years later when I decided to be a hippie (a costume for which I bought nothing, since I could then fit into my mother’s clothes from high school).

I don’t expect to see many trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood this year, but I have decided that those who come dressed in something creatively put together from found objects will get full-sized candy bars, rather than the Fun Sized candy, which is reserved for plastic clones of television shows.

Incidentally, I would like to know why they call a piece of candy that is a quarter of the size of a normal candy bar “fun-sized.”  There is nothing fun about less candy.  They should rename Fun Sized candy Snack Sized, and reserve the title of Fun Sized for the extra large candy bars, replacing King Sized.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. raggray
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 16:18:49

    Ban store-bought costumes!
    Totally nonrelated: I just viewed all of your photos. Great collection of candid portraits, little furry buddies, nature, architecture… thoroughly enjoyable.



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