Monday, October 29, 2007

Homemade Halloween

Now, I'm gonna sound like an old grump here (the kind who walked three miles to school through raging blizzards), but what ever happened to homemade Halloween costumes? You know, the kind that were made from a cast-off bed sheet, cardboard, some tin foil, a little black or green paint out of an old can in the garage, maybe a few rhinestones and glue?

The stores are filled with Halloween costumes and makeup and accessories. Scary rubber masks, fake jack o' lanterns, candy by the bushel. It's all so easy and, I'm sure, still a treat for the kids. But in my day (there's that curmudgeon again), we had to be inventive.

I never wore a store-bought costume. I remember being a princess once, in a lace tablecloth (can't believe my mother let me wear it trick-or-treating!), with a little eye makeup and costume jewelry. I don't remember wearing a tiara, but I carried a magic wand I made myself out of cardboard and tinfoil and a stick from a decapitated pinwheel. It rained, as it always did on Halloween in the upper midwest, and soon my lace was bedraggled in the mud and my wand was losing its luster (and its foil), but my pals and I persisted until we'd hit every spot that might yield us a piece of candy. This included going into the single IGA grocery store we had in town and even one of the bars when the early drinkers called us in (even during the recession, there was always more than one bar in town), the out-of-the-way houses and especially the neighborhood by the cemetery. We didn't collect our loot in a nice, shiny, plastic pumpkin with handy handles either. We used a pillow case, probably stripped off our own pillow. You can fit a lot of candy in a pillow case.

I was also once a hippie, which was a super-easy costume. A fringed vest, jeans, a headband and a picket sign with slogan invented by my mom: DOWN WITH PEOPLE OVER 30!! I was confused, but the adults found that very amusing. Plus, the sign--a piece of cardboard stapled to a long stick--was handy for beating off the neighborhood bullies who tried to snatch my precious pillow case.

My last Halloween, I must have been about thirteen, my best friend had the idea for us to go as a two-headed man. We put on some makeup and old-man hats filched from the closet, then buttoned ourselves into a gigantic overcoat of her (dead) great-grandfather's and went lumbering around the neighborhood in lockstep. Some people asked us what we were. Well, really! Didn't they recognize a two-headed, two-armed, four-legged man when they saw him? The problem that I recall, other than being stuck inside that heavy woolen coat, was that I had only one hand free to hold my pillow case. By then, a lot of kids had started using treat buckets, usually plastic jack o'lanterns. But I was a traditionalist. And a little embarrassed to be trick-or-treating at my age. By the next year, I had retired from the candy-collecting biz and moved on to creating costumes for others. One time, I stayed up till 3 a.m. gluing feathers onto a pair of homemade angel wings, but that's another Halloween story....

What was your favorite Halloween costume? Were you a buy-it or make-it kind of kid?

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The winner of the book giveaway from my previous blog was CrystalG. Congrats, Crystal!

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Carrie Alexander is a multi-published, two-time RITA finalist author with Harlequin and St. Martin's Press. She's already eaten the bag of candy she bought for the Trick or Treaters. Her most recent releases are MY FRONT PAGE SCANDAL (Harlequin Blaze 10/07) and A TOWN CALLED CHRISTMAS (Harlequin Superromance 11/07). Visit her at:


Cherie J said...

My mom made our costumes as well when we were kids. Fortunately, she was handy with a needle. My favorite was my pink bunny costume. Unfortunately, I did not inherit her talent. I can't sew worth a darn and am not crafty either. My kids get store bought costumes.

Michelle Monkou said...

I grew up in the Caribbean and didn't know or participate in Halloween. By the time I came here, I was a young teen and the tradition just didn't make sense to me. Once I had kids, I never felt safe enough to go door to door, so I bought the obligatory costume went to the mall where the vendors participated and then went to the local church where they celebrated Fall festival rather than Halloween. Now that the kids are young teens, they no longer want to partipate. While now that I'm in my 40s, last Saturday, I hit a private party at a nightclub and went dressed as a baseball fan because the costume allowed me to wear tennis shoes.


Natale Stenzel said...

When my kids were little, I made their costumes, usually out of cheap sweats. A dalmation from white sweats and black felt, Marie the Aristocat out of white sweats, bow and white felt.

Then there was the spider costume using black sweats, with several pairs of stuffed black socks for extra legs, all strung like puppet legs from the sleeves. Ladybug out of red sweats, black felt and googly eyes . . .

Ah, but that was my June Cleaver phase. I've since emerged and cheerfully make the annual trek to Party City, thanks*g*.


Nathalie said...

Congrats Crystal.
My favorite costume was... I don't really have one... I used to hate trick or treating!

Lily said...

My favorite was Alice in Wonderland... it was so cute!

deseng said...

I always made mine as a kid. I was a pirate one time and my friend made fun of my black eye. She thought I looked like I had been hit. (I didn't have a patch)

Another time I went as a raisen. I took a garbage bag that looked faintly like purple, cut holes for my neck and arms, tied it around my legs, and put in crinkled paper so I looked wrinkled. Then, I topped it off with a homemade purple hat. Also, I wore black gloves, black tights, along with my orange sneakers. Everybody asked me what I was because they couldn't figure it out. When I told them, the look on their faces was priceless! They all laughed! That was my favorite and cheapest costume!

Michele L.

Lois said...

Once upon a time, my Mom made them (she sewed LOL). . . then the last two costumes I wore, ages ago, were bought -- an astronaut suit I got from Kennedy Space Center and the Star Trek The Next Generation red shirt uniform. :)


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