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Handmade Halloween Costumes Are OTT, Yes, But I Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way

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Halloween is almost upon us, and everywhere parents are prepping for one of the most sugar-filled nights of the year. Some parents are running out to buy last-minute costumes, hoping those pop-up Halloween shops aren't out of whatever their kid desperately needs to be this year. Others are still trying to nail their kids down on a costume, begging their adorable little angels to just make a freaking decision. And then there is the subset of parents who need to finish lovingly sewing handmade Halloween costumes. I belong to that last group.

In fact, I'm so into this idea of homemade DIY adorableness that I even found a way to complicate one of the most classic Halloween costumes: the humble ghost.

For background, I am crafty, I have always been crafty. I worked in a craft store in college, and after that am art supply store. I have one kid, he's 3 years old, and I always figured that when he wanted some kind of outlandish over-the-top costume, he'd be happy to have a parent like me ready to spring into action.

Then, way back in August, he made his announcement. "A dhost!" He said with glee, and then smiled at me meaningfully, as if no one in the world had ever thought of dressing as a ghost for Halloween, and wasn't he clever? My partner, who knows how I feel about a project, laughed at me. A ghost? Was he freaking kidding?

Other parents didn't understand. "Oh you got off easy!" they said, oblivious to how this child was wasting my talents. Not to be deterred, I took to Pinterest. Surely some overachieving parent — hell, lets go ahead and say some mom — had found a way to increase the difficulty on the simple cut-holes-in-sheet costume. I was right, the Pinterest moms were all over it. In half an hour, I had a whole Pinterest board of ghost costume ideas, and a vague notion of combining two or three different ideas to make my innocent three year old into the ultimate ghost.

Too real? Photo courtesy of the author.

I was doing good, until my spouse burst my bubble. “You might want to ask him what he thinks of these, what if he thinks they’re too scary?”

So, because I respect my child’s right to make decisions about his own body and what costumes go on it, I showed him my favorite one. His immediate response was “I not want that, I want to be a blanket ghost.” I shriveled up like a deflated balloon.

When I was a kid, my mom always insisted on homemade costumes, and half of the fun was watching the thing come together from a vague idea to a finished product.

I don’t know why I’m like this, but my love of complicating simple projects seems like a fixed trait. Last year for Halloween, my child requested a bunny, but not just any bunny, the bunny from the book Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket. My partner thought we could just put him in a white outfit, slap some store-bought bunny ears on his head, and call it a day, but I refused to go down without a fight. That bunny is just a simple line drawing, but I picked up some fleece and devised a body that approximated his boxy shape, and then made a little fleece hat (with ear flaps, in case it was cold!) with floppy bunny ears. I even got him a scrap of fabric to carry to be the blanket! I’m just going to say it, he looked spectacular. For his birthday this year we let him choose a theme for his party and, again, I was ready to spring into action with whatever nonsense he threw my way… but all he wanted was the color black. No characters, no animals, just get some black crap. (WHAT IS THIS?) In a desperate frenzy to turn the color black (am I raising a tiny goth?) into a coherent theme, I settled on black crowns instead of party hats, black scratch off boards for an activity, and at his request, about a hundred black balloons.

Photo courtesy of the author.

It wasn’t my craftiest party ever (that award goes to his second birthday: glitter trucks!) but at least I pulled it together. I worry that my enthusiasm for these types of projects makes other parents feel bad about their own store-bought birthday cakes and costumes, and that’s never my intention. I don’t logically believe that picking up an Elsa costume at the store makes anyone a less than stellar parent, and I don’t actually care how other parents deal with these kinds of occasions. I recognize that there is something to be said for keeping it simple, even if I am not always capable of keeping it simple. I guess the truth is, I’m a little self-conscious about what I’m able to offer my kid. We don’t have a lot of money to throw around, and for most of the year we live relatively simply. At holidays we give a modest amount of gifts, and because we don’t have a car we don’t do as many fun activities outside of the home as some families do. We’re also a visibly queer family, and while I believe queer people have every right to have children and often make excellent parents, I do worry about the possibility of him facing bullying as he grows. There are many many things that are outside of my control when it comes to his life, and that’s often daunting and terrifying. But here is one thing I can do: I can make really great halloween costumes.

When I was a kid, my mom always insisted on homemade costumes, and half of the fun was watching the thing come together from a vague idea to a finished product. I looked forward to it every year, and I guess that's what I want for my own child, too.

A few weeks ago, he came up to me to tell me that he didn’t want to be a “blanket ghost” after all, he wanted to be a ghost like in the picture I showed him. I tried to remain neutral on the subject, but in reality I was thrilled. I went to the fabric store and picked up three different fabrics. He enjoyed being draped in layers of gauzy veils while I figured out where I needed to cut everything. He said, “I can’t wait to scare everyone!” I can't wait either.