Halloween-costume planning around here starts before the previous Halloween’s candy has been eaten. Detailed conversations, elaborate sketches, and shopping lists are tossed about among the kids in preparation for the next year’s holiday. This past year was no different. The kids were working with multiple costume ideas, all of which seemed to involve a lot of money and a lot of Mom.
Dad got wind of it and announced at the dinner table that this would be a year of homespun costumes, minimal purchases, and maximum creativity. After some grumbling, the kids got behind the thought, and I set to work collecting some ideas.
“My sister and seven of her friends went as an eight-pack of Crayola crayons,” offered friend David. “They bought four-by-four-foot sheets of thick, colored paper and drew the Crayola emblem and the color name on the paper. Then they rolled them into tubes, which they wore around their bodies suspended by strings over their shoulders. From another section of paper, they rolled cone hats for their heads. It worked out well as a group costume.”
“My pals John and Mike went to a college Halloween dance as oysters on Triscuits,” laughed hubby Patrick. “They put black plastic trash bags over their heads and duct-taped pieces of cardboard to their backs. With an orange trash bag, you could go as cheese on crackers,” he added.
Following the cheese theme, pal Mary suggested a chunk of Swiss. “We took a huge cardboard box, cut away one of the sides, and shaped the bottom into a triangle. That got us the wedge shape. Then we spray-painted it yellow, cut holes out for the head, arms, and torso, and my son went as a hunk of cheese. But go for a small hunk of cheese; we went big, and it was a bit difficult navigating crowded porches.
“With the same idea, but using brown spray-paint, you could go as a slice of chocolate cake,” she added.
“For a costume party one year,” offered friend Bernice, “my son went as Sherlock Holmes. I happened to own a houndstooth dress, which my mom helped cut down into a cape. We did go out and buy a Sherlock Holmes hat, and he wore black pants and carried a magnifying glass and a pipe.
“His friend went as a fall tree,” continued Bernice. “They bought some silk fall leaves from a craft store, attached them to sticks, and had a huge branch of them coming up from the boy’s back. He wore a green shirt, and around his legs, they formed a wide trunk from brown packaging paper. And they painted some fall leaves on his face. He won a prize at the church Halloween party.”
“At boarding school, I went to a party with a friend as parallel lines,” offered friend Cathy. “We were studying the ancient Greek geometer Euclid at the time, so people understood the costume. We each dressed all in black, and we did a skit moving constantly in parallel lines to the second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.”
“I threw together a last-minute costume once,” my friend Patty said with a smile. “I blew up a bunch of purple balloons and pinned them all over my body and went as a bunch of grapes. Another time, a bunch of us took black trash bags and went as the California Raisins.”
“The Statue of Liberty was one of my best homespun costumes,” replied sister Nancy. “I dyed a sheet of gray-green color and wrapped it in toga form around me. Then, from foam board, I cut out the crown, and I carried a cardboard torch.
“I also made a clown costume for my daughter from felt and pom-poms,” she continued. “I loosely stitched felt triangles to the collar of a white sweatshirt and pom-poms down her front. I wrapped a party hat in felt and glued pom-poms on that and tied pom-poms to her shoes. She was the cutest clown ever.
“And my husband went as Midas,” she added. “He wore a toga and painted his skin gold.”
“One Halloween I went with a bunch of my friends as the holiday of Christmas,” said Julie. “One guy took a cardboard box, cut holes out for his head and arms, and wrapped it in wrapping paper. And he had a huge gift bow on his head. Another friend dressed in brown and attached fresh boughs from a pine tree all over his body. Halfway through trick-or-treating, he was complaining of being sticky from sap. And another friend dressed up as Santa Claus. It was fun to see people’s reactions when they opened their front door to a different holiday.”
“There are a couple rules in our home,” explained sister Meg. “The costume has to be homespun, and if you are dressed up as a person, you have to pick a historical or famous person. I think you might as well combine a little learning with all the fun. One year we had Cleopatra, with a sheet wrapped around her, heavy black eyeliner, and dyed black hair. Another year we had an Annie Oakley and a Marie Antoinette. We had found a Marie Antoinette wig at a garage sale; how can you pass that up? Another year, my daughter went as a hobbit. She fashioned a corncob pipe and wore a vest and a cape, and she glued fuzzy brown fur to her shoes for the hairy feet. She happened to be going through — how do you say this nicely? — a short, squat stage, so the idea worked.”
If her kids don’t want to be historical figures, Meg lets them be inanimate objects. “My son was a Lego once. He took a cardboard box and glued tuna cans to the top and spray-painted the box red. Another time, he went as dice, spray-painting the box white with black dots.”