In Defense of Homemade Costumes

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Deep in a box of keepsakes, sandwiched between gilded macaroni frames and first-day-of-school photos, some of my earliest Halloween costumes can be found. I don’t remember wearing them, but the fabric feels familiar, and the sequins still shine. 

Each of these seemingly simple dresses was sewn by my mother on her Bernina. After hours of being on her feet at the hospital, those same shoes tapped the sewing machine’s foot pedal. A few decades later, a mom myself, I now know how each minute spent pushing yellow satin or pink cotton under the presser foot was done with love — and, almost certainly, a hefty dose of exhaustion.

I didn’t inherit my mom’s skill with a sewing machine (just ask my summer sewing camp instructor from the 90s), but through some Halloween osmosis, I did inherit a love of and appreciation for homemade costumes. 

Why should you add a little handmade to your haunting?

For the Cost Savings

Have you cruised costume websites before and experienced sticker shock? DIY costumes can often be made inexpensively using what you have at home; for example, a Saints jersey can turn a kid into an NFC South-fighting superhero, after all.

One of my favorite costumes is practically free: a paper grocery bag turned inside out, an aluminum can stripped of its paper label, a free hat from Morning Call or Cafe du Monde, some white paint, and a little bit of flour. Put it all together, add a kiddo, and you have a beignet! 

For Creativity’s Sake

I also enjoy being creative and having a reason to pull out my Cricut or the crafting supplies that I buy and stash– fine, hoard– from unsupervised trips to Michaels (shhh, don’t tell my husband, okay?). I’m a big believer that creativity is more than being able to draw without stick figures; yes, my paint and glitter help me to be creative, but it’s really the element of brainstorming and bringing design ideas to life that fulfills my need for creativity and gives me a sense of satisfaction. The hard 10/31 deadline helps me follow through with those ideas, too. 

For Memories

When my son is older and we’re watching the evening news, the weather report will come on. I’ll elbow him in the side and tell him for the thousandth time that our Halloween 2018 costume rocked and that we even made it onto meteorologist Margaret Orr’s Twitter account. I can just see his teenage eye roll now!

Memories and photo-perfect moments can come from any costume, of course, but making homemade costumes with your child is a goldmine. From gluing pieces of felt together to testing out the perfect thunderstorm stomp, those memories will last me just as long as any photo would. 

Because Your Son Asked for an Ankylosaurus Costume (huh?!?)

When’s the last time you passed this particular type of armored herbivore neatly packaged in a costume aisle? Yeah, me neither. And we all know kids and their dinosaurs. There’s no passing off a T-Rex or Triceratops for the real deal, so here comes a homemade costume to the rescue! 

For that Single Smile

I know that the aisles of colorful costumes and draw of movie and TV characters will make my homemade costumes an unpopular choice– probably sooner rather than later– but for now, I get to have a little bit of fun. One day, I’ll also be able to show my son photos from Octobers long gone and maybe even pull out a few costume pieces from a box I’ve saved for him at the top of a closet. There’s no guarantee he’ll feel the same nostalgia I do, but even a single smile or a fragment of recognition makes it all worth it. 

…that and being able to justify getting glitter all over the house to my husband, of course.

Katie M
Katie is a towboater’s wife and devoted mother to son, Olie (2015). She's lived across the Southeast and has been a proud, Mardi Gras-loving resident of New Orleans since 2008. Though she recently transitioned to the Communications Director role at her school, she is and will always be an educator at heart and a fierce advocate for gifted learners. Football season is her favorite time of year; she bleeds red and black for the Georgia Bulldogs and can be found cheering loudly with her fellow Who Dats in the Superdome. She enjoys making to-do lists, drinking too much iced coffee, and beating the guys in fantasy football.

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