Halloween Costumes: To Make or To Buy?

My first son was seven months old for his first Halloween, and I spent at least three of the months leading up to it agonizing over what costume to put him in. The internet was a bottomless pit of suggestions that I sifted through ravenously. It had to be unique. Special. Did I want to go humorous? Did I want a whole family ensemble? But the most important criterion was that I wanted it to be homemade.

I don’t sew, but I’m always down for a good craft, always trying to think creatively, and I’ve got a mom, grandma, and mother-in-law who are all amazing at crafting, sewing, and stitching. My mom and grandma made my own Halloween costumes for years when I was a kid: a pumpkin outfit, a ghost, a butterfly… Eventually, as we got older, our costumes switched from being homemade to being recycled dance recital outfits, but one thing was consistent: we didn’t purchase Halloween costumes from the store.

Me on the left and my son on the right in the same costume.

I wound up dressing my son in the very same pumpkin outfit that I had worn my first Halloween, which made it both special and homemade. The next year, my mother-in-law sewed a duck costume for him. For my second son’s first Halloween, I made him a Dalmatian outfit to match his firefighter brother, and then his grandmother made him an amazing lion costume. They’re nothing extravagant, but they’re special to me. I even made jack-o-lantern shirts for the boys to wear to the pumpkin patch when I couldn’t find any to buy in their sizes. 

Twice, I bought costumes from the store, but I felt oddly guilty about it and kept thinking about how I could have– should have– made them instead. I didn’t expect anyone else in the world to make their kids’ costumes. Nor did anyone else expect me to make mine. It was an expectation I placed only on myself. To a degree, it brought me joy and a sense of pride– but it also brought me stress.

Homemade lion costume.

This year I have three sons to dress up, but I’m beyond exhausted. My oldest two want to be dinosaurs for Halloween, and so as usual, I started plotting and planning how to make the outfits. I’d need a jacket with a hood. Or a baseball cap. And felt. And something for claws. I’d need help creating a tail. And would I try to cover their shoes? (That was a disaster with the duck outfit.) And, and, and…

And I’m exhausted. I want to make these costumes, I really do, because that’s part of my family tradition and it’s special to me, but I also want to just be done with it. I know I have so many avenues of help who would be happy to make them with me, but the decision fatigue is real, and I just don’t want to think about it. 

No one’s making me make these costumes or insisting I uphold any sort of tradition, but deciding to just buy all the costumes was oddly difficult. With a last longing look at my Pinterest boards, I shoved down all the expectations that I and I alone had placed on myself and ordered three budget-friendly dinosaur costumes. 

Homemade puppy costume.

And just like that, Halloween was taken care of. I won’t have to make multiple trips to the craft store to buy extra felt, or find the right shade of fabric, or get more hot glue sticks. I won’t have to fret over getting all the little details right. It’s a little sad, but mostly, it feels so good to just be done with it and know my kids are going to love it.

The homemade Halloween costumes certainly were special, but sometimes, a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do, and that means not making life more difficult when there’s an easier solution right in front of you. I know the time will come again in my life when I can craft and make things at my leisure, because I like doing it, and maybe my kids will be interested enough to help. For now, though, it seems like self-care… is buying three dinosaur costumes and calling it a day.

Erica Tran
Erica lives in Kenner with her husband Michael and her three sons, Benjamin, Joshua, and Elijah. After graduating from UL Lafayette with a degree in advertising and landing her dream job, she left her chosen field and now works part time as an administrative assistant for a Catholic retreat movement. She spends the rest of her time at home with her boys, finding lost toys and actively ignoring various messes. In 2019, she self-published her first book, The Sister. There's not a lot of free time between working, reading and writing, and chasing her kids, but in those moments she's usually sprawled on the sofa in casual denial about just how messy her house is.


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