Sunday, October 17, 2010

Halloween Costumes on Parade

When I was a kid, Halloween costumes were pretty much a cobbled together affair for most of us. Some kids got those flimsy printed jumpsuit things that they wore over their clothes, or maybe we scored one of those plastic face masks with elastic around the back of your head and cut out holes for your eyes and nose.

Here are some photos I found on the web. These are Ben Cooper costumes. Ben Cooper manufactured costumes from the 1950's into 1990's.

From The Bat-Blog

Oh-h-h, an I Dream of Jeannie costume, from the Go Retro Blog

These costumes were packed in boxes and would be stacked seemingly to the ceiling. There were four kids in my family, my dad was in grad school, and mom supported us working at the library. The hope of ever actually getting one of these was a slim hope indeed.

I did a little Internet research and found some of those costumes selling for upwards of $100.

Casper, Wyoming circa 1962

We generally had three standard costumes at our house: gypsy, ghost, panda bear. The panda bear costume had been made by my aunt for her kids and passed down to us. Pandas were popular in the 60's because China had sent a couple to the National Zoo and they were all the rage. Once my brother was old enough to go with us, we had a cowboy in the contingency. A hobo was also a safe go-to costume. We decorated brown paper lunch bags for treats and away we went, out into the night. Way back then kids could still trick-or-treat after dark. In fact, it went on most of the night.

We sure were cute. I'm the gypsy on the left.

After my daughter was born, I couldn't wait to start sewing costumes for her. Oh boy did I ever have plans for her to be the cutest little thing in her day care.

That first year, a dear friend bought her a ready-made pumpkin outfit. I had no plans for "off-the-rack" and certainly not a pumpkin but my friend was so precious and excited that there was no way I would want to hurt her feelings. It really wasn't a big deal anyway. She was kind of pumpkin shaped at the time (my kid, not the friend).

The following year I made a flower outfit for my little rosebud. It consisted of a pink fleece jumpsuit with a green leaf collar. The hat was a simple bonnet with artificial hydrangea glued to it. Poor kid roasted in that thing but she was super cute when the day care came to visit me at work.

The following year was the infamous woodland sprite costume. It had a full lavender ankle length layered tulle skirt and lavender wings with silver glitter and flowers to match the tulle and flower garland around the neck. It also had a floral and tulle garland with ribbon tails for her head. It was beautiful.

But when she tried on the finished outfit, she started crying. Not a little whimper but a full out cry with huge tears dripping onto the bodice. She was inconsolable and refused to wear it. She didn't even want to look at it again. I don't know why and neither did she. All I can think of is that I had sewn tiny little bells to the flower centers and the ends of the over-skirt petals and maybe she thought they were little bees. This photo was taken almost three years later (growing up but not around) and where the rest of that beautiful costume went is any one's guess.

The following year was the year of the cowgirl, mainly so she could get new cowgirl boots and a matching hat. If she had worn underwear as a costume, she would have been happy, just give her a hat and boots.

Next came Dorothy, because she liked that movie and thought the Wicked Witch of the West was the most terrifying thing ever. But there was no way she was going to dress as the witch so Dorothy it was, especially after we found an authentic pattern. And red sparkle shoes? This was her fourth pair.

Ah, the Renaissance Girl, by far my favorite costume. She helped pick out the material: satin for the dress, quilted "velvet" for the bodice and skirt trim, white satin and gold "sheer stuff" for the sleeves and underskirt. I wish I could show you her face because she has the sweetest smile in this picture. However, as a matter of policy, once she began to look like herself, I prefer to keep some degree of anonymity. You mom's understand.

She wore this costume the next year at school with a silver crown, a bow, and a quiver of "arrows" for Story Book Day at her school. The kids were encouraged to dress as their favorite story book character. She was Queen Susan from Chronicles of Narnia.

The following year was a knight in shining armor year. My kid loves knights and Narnia, Shrek and dragon hunters- all in the name of vanquishing evil. It's the reason we took up fencing. Somehow, we don't have a picture of her wearing this costume. I suspect my mother-in-law has one as her neighborhood is the scene of the trick-or-treating mayhem.

We used some of that polyester fabric that's supposed to look like sequined material and turned it inside out to get the chain mail look. My kid would throw me under the bus for a real chain mail suit. She wore black leggings and big ol' black boots. She also had one of her many swords along with her just in case a dragon flew in to steal candy.

The following year, I knew that I would be overseas during Halloween. We gathered all the parts we needed for the pirate outfit, including the fabric, and my mom sewed this awesome Pirate jacket. I was a little envious that I missed getting to make it. I blurred the kid's face but with the beard she painted on her face and the eye patch, she's pretty unrecognizable.

Next came Indiana Jones, a last minute, cobbled together outfit, just like when I was a kid. Zippy loved being Indy and spent the night leaping off of things, charging around the countryside with her whip, whacking at bad guys and nepharious looking trees and fence posts, belting our the theme song the entire time. I do recall that the candy haul that year was exceptional for some reason.

Last year, my good-versus-evil kid made her appearance as an X-wing fighter pilot. Again, no pictures because I was working and no one else thinks of taking pictures. You'd think it would rub off. Anyway, she was adamant that there would be no homemade costumes. My visions of lovingly sewing a beautiful wedding gown someday are beginning to fade just a bit- unless it has a sword or light saber.


We've already begun the wrestling match that makes up our coming to an agreement about what to be for Halloween. There's simply no chance of sewing a princess gown, not even Princess Leia. Maybe Chewbacca.

What wonderful costumes have you been sewing?

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