I'm not crafty. I would have rather written double the amount of pages for my fourth grade book reports than spend time decorating the covers. So, when Halloween rolls around, I'm not excited to make my kids’ costumes. Working full-time does not afford me the hours to spend planning, measuring, cutting and sewing, but it does afford me some pocket change to buy their costumes. Still, as anxiety-inducing as attempting a homemade costume can be, no one actually likes costume shopping for kids, either. By "no one," of course, I mean "me."
Halloween is a big deal in our house. My husband is a huge horror fan, and my kids love dressing in costume. However, when I was growing up I was never really into the holiday. I was painfully shy, which made trick-or-treating my own personal nightmare. By the time I was 10, I was done with it. My kids, on the other hand and at ages eight and six, show no signs of losing interest. Eh, what are ya going to do, right? At least my kids can't say I've never done anything for them.
As of right now, they’re still deciding what they want to dress as. I’ve given them a deadline of four weeks from Halloween to commit to a character before time is up and they're SOL. After all, that's as much time as I need to survive the horror of costume shopping for kids, when I expect to experience all of the below:
They Are Expensive
I got so lucky with my daughter: we bought her an Annie costume in a bigger size and she wore it for two consecutive Halloweens. This was, of course, back when she was little and had fewer opinions about her outfits. Now, we’re hard-pressed to find a store-bought costume under $20 that is in stock, fits, and is actually something my kid wants to dress as (no takers in my house this year for the $5 George Washington get-up).
They Are Usually Gender-Coded
It so hard to do a search for a costume without having to choose either a “boys” or “girls” category first. Though my daughter self-identifies as female, and my son self-identifies as male, the gender-coded versions of costumes do not always speak to their own visions of the character they want to dress as. Why do certain “boy” superhero costumes come with built-in muscles, but “girl" versions don’t?
I think about those kids who don’t identify within the gender binary categories, and how it must feel to be constantly told, by mainstream costume purveyors, that there is not a place for them. Ugh.
They Look Nothing Like What They’re Advertised To Be
This is a Cookie Monster costume? It’s a blue dress and leg warmers and clearly more Flashdance than Sesame Street. I could just imagine my daughter trick-or-treating in this get-up and being greeted with an, “Oh, and what are you supposed to be, dear? An '80s carhop?” Apologies to anyone choosing to dress as an '80s carhop. I actually think that would be awesome.
They Are Scary For The Wrong Reasons
You End Up Paying For Rush Shipping...
When your kid inevitably changes his or her mind, you'll need to return the first costume they no longer like and rush to have a second one sent in time for trick-or-treating. Of course, you need to hurry so you can accomplish the aforementioned before they change their mind again, which, of course they will. After all, not a year goes by when you don't face that inevitable Halloween “I hate my costume” meltdown.
As you can probably tell, I have been through this ritual several times. It really makes the holiday memorable.
…Unless They Are Out Of Stock
Never fails; as soon as we land on the perfect costume, in an acceptable price range, the size we need is out of stock. Occasionally I’ve been able to get away with a bigger size. My son’s Cat in the Hat costume lasted him 3 years (perhaps I should have been concerned about his slow growth rate) and we got two Halloweens out of my daughter's Annie costume.
Still, when sizing up isn't an option, you may have to resort to trying to convince the kid to dress up in a costume that’s actually available.
You Can’t Convince Kids To Dress Up In A Costume That’s Actually Available
Or You Refuse To Pay For Rush Shipping And Your Kid Refuses To Wear The Original Costume
Rushed shipping is another colossal financial drain, so now Halloween is ruined because your kid won’t put on his or her costume. They won’t go trick-or-treating, which means they'll suddenly realize the stupidity of their mistake when their sibling returns home with a pail full of loot and they have none. Crying continues.
The Fabric Is Cheap
It’s flimsy, thin, and starts coming apart the second your kid tries it on. I get it; Halloween is a one-day event, but kids still love to dress up (at least mine do), and a lot of us do costume-swaps in the fall to get more mileage out of our purchases.
At the very least, please don’t make them so flammable.
The Fit Is Terrible
I don’t know this always happens, but my kids are always between sizes. If sizes run 5-6, 7-8, 10, 12, then my kids are 6-7 and 8-10. Of course. Every year, we deal with floppy sleeves and droopy hems, no matter what size I end up ordering. Maybe I should just tell people my kids are dressing as Project Runway fit models?
The Wigs, Because Knots
If you are an eternal optimist — like I am in the early, pumpkin-spiced throes of Autumn — and think wigs on kids are going to work out, by all means, buy one. Because 10 pounds of Rapunzel hair on top of a tiny head will definitely stay put, stay shiny and never get tangled.
They Are Only Available Seasonally
I know retailers would take a loss giving store space to costumes year-round, since the demand is concentrated in the three weeks leading up to Halloween. But imagine how much calmer and satisfying the shopping experience would be if parents could browse options — and there would be options because having them available all year means never having to be told the green ninja costume is out of stock (and no, my kid will not settle for the blue ninja costume) — without crawling on the floor to sift through the mess of tossed aside items in the hopes of finding The One And Only Thing Your Child Will Dress Up As.
Of course, none of the above will inspire me to go the DIY route when it comes to Halloween. I may hate costume shopping, but I’m better at it than I am at threading a needle.