A parents' guide to Halloween costumes

Creative, affordable and easy options exist for outfitting your youngsters.

There is a week left until Halloween. Still don’t have a Halloween costume? Don’t feel bad, neither do my kids. By now there is no doubt that the costume shops have been completely cleaned out, save for a few mismatched items to a costume that no longer exists.
But consider yourself lucky. You are about to save yourself a lot of money by creating your child’s costume instead of just buying something off of a rack. Truth is, you don’t even need to know how to sew. It is definitely possible to create a great Halloween costume on a budget and even at the last minute.
When my daughter was only 3 years old, I decided to be Susie Homemaker and make her Halloween costume for the first time. My mother is the original Susie Homemaker, having made our costumes every year.
She made me a pink nightgown and a gold foil crown with a tin foil star wand so I could be a princess. Another year she made bunny costumes for the whole family, including my baby sister. Those bunny costumes became a bear costume the next year, and a gremlin costume the year after that. Another year my sister and I wore matching poodle skirts with an embroidered character in the corner of the skirt. In preparation for Halloween, my mother would whip out her sewing machine months in advance and create original costumes that we would proudly wear to school and to trick-or-treating that night. So it was my dream to recreate my own childhood and make my own daughter’s costume.
Now, by admission I am not really Susie Homemaker. Sewing machine? Isn’t that what you rest your clothes on top of when you’re too lazy to put them in the closet? I knew I couldn’t really sew my daughter a costume like my mother could for me. But I was quite adept with a bottle of puffy paint, scissors and safety pins. With a little bit of tulle from the fabric store, an old turtleneck of hers, and various items from my mother’s costume box, my daughter became a sparkly fairy princess who twirled and danced around the house until trick-or-treat time. So really, if I can do it, so can you.
Kids have specific ideas about what they want to be for Halloween. Preschoolers tend to lean towards Dora the Explorer, Elmo and Cookie Monster. Dora can be created with an orange pair of pants, a pink shirt and a backpack, and then let your little munchkin run around with a monkey stuffed animal. For costumes like Elmo, it just takes being creative with sweats, or a pair of Elmo pajamas. There was one year that my son was Superman, and I bought him Superman pajamas. He wore that costume every night for his PJs after Halloween until they were way too short. I definitely got my money’s worth out of that costume!
While we’re on the subject of superheroes, that theme seems to be the winning trend among school kids. Spider-Man, Power Rangers, Wolverine, Captain America, Transformers, Wonder Woman. … You get the point. But beyond superheroes, there are a few new ideas that will be popping up around the neighborhoods Halloween night. Expect Michael Jackson to make an appearance on your doorstep. Zombies (uh, thanks “Zombieland”), Harry Potter, G.I. Joe and President Barack Obama are also costumes that we’re going to be seeing a lot of this year.
And there are also themed costumes. These are the simplest of all because your child can look any way he wants. And it’s easiest for you because you can base the costume off of things you already have in your home. Have your child dress like a hippie, or like a blast from the ’80s — you know we all have clothes left over from that decade.
Or be creative with balloons.
Purple balloons pinned to a dark sweatsuit and topped with a green hat become a bunch of grapes. Pink and white balloons pinned to a pink or white sweatsuit turn your child into a bubble bath. For added emphasis, clip a couple of half-inflated balloons in your child’s hair with a barrette.
So you’ve waited until the last minute. Or maybe your kid has changed their mind a million times about what they want to be. Don’t even sweat it. Just a little bit of creativity can go a long way in making your child someone else for one evening. At the very least, know that you’re not the only one who waited until the last week to finalize a Halloween costume choice.

This post can be found online in Lifestyle, or in the Press Democrat newspaper in the Sonoma Living section.

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