Thursday, October 30, 2008

Handmade Costumes... Maybe Not So Thrifty

Growing up, I always had store bought costumes. Back then, they were in boxes with a cellophane window in the top, so you could see them all folded up with the plastic mask staring up at you. I remember some of them: Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty (that one had blond flocking on the mask for the hair), a witch and a bride. I don't remember asking to be anything except for the bride, so I don't know if I decided what I wanted to be or if my mom did. My mom was a beautiful seamstress, so I don't know why she didn't make my costumes. I've never asked her. I do remember the price tag on a box being something like 99 cents.

When I got older (maybe high school), I started putting pieces together to make costumes: an old lady, a hobo and a clown. Once I was out of school, I started getting crafty. One year I made crayon costumes for me and all the other tellers at the bank where I worked. I've also made a Raggedy Ann, a bumble bee, a skunk and pleather chaps for a cowboy costume. I'm not a great seamstress, but I can follow a pattern and make things that aren't too complicated. There's a lot of room for punting with a costume.
When my daughter was born, I appreciated simplicity (and I don't mean the line of patterns). I spent so much time nursing her and carrying her that I barely had time for personal grooming. Pulling out the sewing machine was not high on my list of moment-to-myself-things-to-do. For her first three Halloweens, she had purchased costumes: a ladybug, a cow and a frog.
As we were gearing up for her fourth Halloween, she told me she wanted to be Bat Girl. This was probably influenced by her father's hilarious imitation of Michael Keaton playing Batman which nearly had me driving the car off the road the first time he did it. She was in pre-school, and I had scads of time (yeah, right), so I decided to not only make it, but design it myself. Numerous hours and $40 at the fabric store later, it was done.
The next year she wanted to be a mermaid, but Ariel was not what she had in mind. Oh no. She wanted to be a purple mermaid. Although my designing skills, however limited, didn't fail me the prior year, I decided this project merited a pattern which I loosely followed. At least two full weekends and (gulp) $50 at the fabric store, and we had a beautifully sparkly, purple mermaid costume, and a personally designed headpiece which sort of made her look like a mermaid about to see Janis Joplin live at Woodstock. I can't believe this is the best photo we have of all my hard work. (She is posing with her grandmother.)
Last year, we spent Halloween in Florida, but I was not about to deny Pipsqueak the Halloween experience of costumed trick or treating. She said she wanted to be a witch. "Goody," I thought, "That's easy-peasy." We picked out some great fabric and I got the idea to trim it in black marabou. It was a screaming deal (compared to previous years) at $30, but do you have any idea how long it takes to hand-sew 3 yards of marabou trim? I think it was just over an hour per yard.

That brings me to this year. In September, we were shopping in TJ Maxx when Pipsqueak saw a beautiful Queen dress. Of course, she wanted it, and the bargaining and begging ensued. I looked at the price tag of $25. Then I looked closely at the dress, which consisted of 6 different fabrics and 4 different trims. To make something similar, it would cost well over $40 and 10-12 hours of sewing. I relented, but I didn't make it easy. Since no one local saw her witch costume from last year, I told her I would buy the queen dress one size larger and she could have it for next year if she wore the witch costume this year. The ultimate negotiator (she may make a good attorney one day), she said she would if I would get her a witch's broom this year. Done deal!

So if any of you are feeling guilty for buying Halloween costumes, DON'T! You'll have more money in your pocket and more time to spare.


Aunt Becky said...

Precisely why I don't bother trying to make a costume.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you are ambitious! I looked at costumes at Target tonight and though they may be cheaper, there is nothing like inventing your own costume. My mom used to have a whole trunk full of "dress up" clothes and we would go through it and create something new every year. I think Mom only tried to make costumes for us once. After that, it was up to us...Love the pictures and you did a great job on all of the outfits!

Manisha said...

You are amazing! Those are gorgeous costumes, Betts! truly gorgeous! I hope you are keeping those costumes as memories for your daughter and that they are worn by another little person in the years to come.

I am lazy and will only put together costumes - not sew them.

My Mom used to sew all our clothes - she would get hold of Simplicity catalogs and make our dresses by looking at the photos as it was prohibitively expensive to order the patterns. :-D

Apron Thrift Girl said...

She makes an incredible witch. I just love the photo of her and the broom.

Liz said...

Very cool costumes! I don't think anyone should feel guilty about making or not making a costume. As long as the kids enjoy themselves I don't think it matters.

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