Edited and reposted from 2010.
For some, Halloween is just another ordinary day, but not me. It’s Halloween! Changing leaves and crisp, cool air hint at my favorite time of year. Roasted turkey and pumpkin pie, peppermint and mistletoe, the sights and sounds and smells of the holidays all begin with Halloween. I love Halloween. It ushers in my favorite season, but what I love most about Halloween is homemade costumes.
I learned to sew by way of making Halloween costumes for my kids. When they were really little I chose their costumes and worked from commercially made patterns. Eventually they insisted on doing the choosing and with each year, as the costumes became more sophisticated, it grew increasingly difficult to find patterns for them. So I did what any other mother in my shoes would do and began designing my own patterns.
Let me tell you. There’s not a costume wish I haven’t granted. Armed with my trusty sewing machine, a roll of sturdy duct tape, a dollop of hot glue and, when circumstances call for the heavy artillery (a commercial grade staple gun), I am the grand poo-bah of costume making. I’ve even broken tradition a time or two to make a Halloween costume wish come true.
Of course those are just the basics associated with costume assembly. Like every reputable costume guru, I think outside the box, and utilize various and sundry objects in manners for which they are not intended. Things like PVC pipe, aluminum air ducts, cardboard boxes, milk crates, wooden spoons, buttons, insulation board, Styrofoam balls, felt, and of course, the king of all craft supplies, chenille stems (that’s pipe cleaners for you regular people) are some of the costume essentials that have managed to find a way into my bag of tricks.
My first masterpiece was a cow. My oldest son wore it in 1993 when he was two years old. My youngest son wore it in 1997 also when he was two years old. Since then countless other two year olds have worn it. Friends and acquaintances have asked to borrow it and for the most part, I have lent it out happily without incident…until recently.
The body of the cow is a fake Holstein fur jumpsuit (you know the white-with-black-spots variety) and has a black tail. A real miniature copper cowbell dangles from a thin leather strap sewn into the collar. The headpiece is made from the same fake Holstein fur and has white horns and cute little ears lined in pink. The entire costume has a comfortable white satin lining. It really is quite adorable.
The last time I lent out the cow, it was to a friend who asked to borrow it for her grandchild. I obliged, politely stipulating that it be returned to me as soon as possible after Halloween because it was (and still is) my hope to pass it on to my own future grandchildren and even great grandchildren. I know. A Halloween costume is not your typical family heirloom, but just the same, I wanted it back and made it clear.
Halloween came and went. No cow costume. Thanksgiving came and went. No cow costume. Christmas, New Years Day, Valentines, and Easter came and went and still no cow costume. The nerve of some people. Finally in May, I got the costume back after asking for it. Do you want to know why I didn’t ask for it sooner? I’ll tell you why. I didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable. I’m not kidding. Sometimes I think I need to have my head examined.
Anyway, my son was doing this project on the book Animal Farm by George Orwell and he needed farm animal costumes. Carpe diem! I’d been hoping for an opportunity like this one to present itself for seven months. I immediately called my friend and of all people, her son in-law (the one whose kid wore the costume) answered the phone. I explained the situation. He apologized and promised to make sure it was returned promptly.
He kept his promise and I breathed a sigh of relief. My precious little cow was back home where it belonged. Unfortunately, as I removed the costume from the garment bag, I was alarmed to discover it had been soiled. Badly soiled. Some sort of sticky brownish gook sullied the the entire front of the jumpsuit. OH MY GOSH! HOW AM I GOING TO PASS IT ON TO MY GRANDCHILDREN LIKE THIS?
Fortunately, in addition to the grand poo-bah of costumes, I am also the grander poo-bah of laundry and was able to restore the cow to its original pristine condition. The sticky brownish gook gave me just the scare I needed to seal a decision I’d been contemplating for a while. The time had come to retire the cow along with several of my most favorite Halloween costumes from the lending circuit because THEY ARE IMPORTANT TO ME!
You may think I’m crazy. Good grief, it’s JUST a Halloween costume. Perhaps, but how do I describe the vitality of my memories each time I run a hand over that fake fur or hear the tinkling of that mini cowbell? How do I measure the mommy-love contained in each and every stitch? The thing is, it’s not as much about the costume as it is about the memories.
The first time I broke tradition and allowed one of my children to wear (gasp) a store-bought costume, my oldest son was in first grade. He asked me if he could be Wolverine, the X-Man, for Halloween.
“Mommy. I know what I want to be for Halloween this year.”
“Yep. I want to be Wolverine.”
“Wow! That’s a great idea! Can you find me a picture of him so we can get started on your costume? “ Wolverine sounded like a costume into which I could really sink my teeth.
“Mom? Can I get the one at the store?” It was a timid question that brought my costume planning to a screeching halt.
“What? You don’t want to make a Wolverine costume? Homemade costumes are so much better.”
“I want the one at the store.”
“Really? You don’t want me to make it?”
“No. I want the one at Party City.”
“I like it.”
“You think it’s better than what we could make?”
“I like it. I want one from Party City this year… like the other kids.”
“Have you been thinking about this since last year?” He’d asked to be Wolverine the prior Halloween, but since I was more than halfway through making a giant tennis ball costume, I flat out denied him. I had forgotten about it, but apparently…
“Yes, Mom,” he had not.
“Yes! Can we go now, Mom? Can we go get it now?”
It was 1997, my baby’s turn to be the Holstein cow. He was adorable as he crooned a hearty, “Mooooo,” in lieu of the traditional,” trick or treat,” at the threshold of every house in the neighborhood. And…even though it broke my heart just a little bit, my oldest wore (shudder) the store-bought Wolverine.
I’ll never forget the moment he donned that costume. The memory of his puffed out chest and the look on his face, as he struck a dramatic Wolverine pose for the camera, is one I will cherish for a lifetime. I am quite certain that no homemade Wolverine costume could have made him as happy as that store-bought version did.
I stayed up late that Halloween night. After the candy inventory was complete, after my boys and their dad had collapsed in exhaustion, I washed those sweaty costumes on the delicate cycle and carefully spread them flat to dry. The next morning, when the house was still quiet, I folded both costumes and packed them away for future generations to use. That store-bought Wolverine earned a place of honor among my favorite costumes, right next to that precious little cow. The thing is it’s not about the costume… it’s about the smile on a little boy’s face…it’s about the memories… alive in my heart.