Halloween Costumes of Yore

October 30, 2008 at 12:30 am 29 comments

The other day Orison told me he wanted to be a dragon for Halloween. This surprised me for a couple reasons:

1. We don’t really do Halloween, so we don’t talk about it a lot.
2. I didn’t know he knew about “being something” for Halloween.

    So I searched “dragon costume” on Target’s site and the result I got was really cute. And… it also cost $40. Guess who’s not being a dragon for Halloween?

    When I was growing up, my mother’s version of Halloween costumes was very simple. Buy a sweatsuit in the color of whatever you’re being—a black one if you’re being a cat, a white one if you’re being a bunny, a camoflauge one if you’re being a soldier, etc.

    My mother’s highest priority on Halloween night was that we be warm. She had no time for frilly princess dresses that left you with bare legs at the end of October in Pennsylvania. I think the real motivation for this was that she knew we’d end up cold (and therefore complaining) for the whole two hours we were out, and she really didn’t want to hear it, or stick my dad with three whining kids.

    She always accessorized us well—cat ears, bunny ears, a gun, or some other accessory to complete the costume. And she always painted our faces with the necessary whiskers, battle wounds, etc.

    Now that I am a mom, I see the sense in what she did. It was a low-cost way to make us pretty happy with our costumes. They were never fully store-bought, but we never seemed to mind. And then we had a pair of sweatpants or a sweatshirt that we could use for the rest of the year! Genius.

    The only way to do it cheaper is to do it like Abraham’s family—with bathrobes, ice cream buckets, and paper bags.


    Entry filed under: Family.

    Dinner on Friday night is covered. Halloweekend

    29 Comments Add your own

    • 1. j.  |  October 30, 2008 at 7:24 am

      how about green sweat pants & hoodie, and some homemade spikes to make your own dragon costume? (kind of like http://familycrafts.about.com/od/costumes/ig/Costume-Photo-Gallery/Dragon-Costume.htm)

      though this is coming from someone who plans on dressing like a lawyer for halloween. meaning, carry a legal pad and look confused, much as i do in real life.


    • 2. Liz Holst  |  October 30, 2008 at 7:28 am

      Yup – Batman at our house this year…a BLACK SWEAT SUIT with some yellow felt attached for the Batman symbol and a few accessories to boot – mask, cape and “bat” ears.
      Should be worth a few pieces of candy! 🙂

    • 3. Susan  |  October 30, 2008 at 7:59 am

      Ian is being Blue–I bought Blue’s ears for $4, and he’s wearing a blue long sleeve t-shirt and pants. 😉

      Roger’s being Steve… in case anyone was wondering.

    • 4. Susan  |  October 30, 2008 at 8:00 am

      Oh I has to add that Last year Ian was a marshmallow- I wrote “Jetpuffed” on a onesie. HeeHee

    • 5. jennapants  |  October 30, 2008 at 8:26 am

      2 thoughts
      1. my neighbors bought costumes for all three kids at Savers for $7. But, I’m thinking it wasn’t the day before.
      2. The rule at Marty’s is like Abraham’s, I think. It goes something like this, ” If you can piece together a costume from what we have in our house, you’re good to go.” (As long as it’s not freaky, of course!) I think forcing your kids to be creative is also genius!!

    • 6. Rachel  |  October 30, 2008 at 9:26 am

      I grew up with a crafty (and thrifty) seamstress, so our costumes were generally some creation of my moms–I think sweatpants held a staring role in many of those creations. Now that I’m the mom, I enjoy pulling together costumes for my daughter out of things we have or things we can find at a thrift store. When she was two, she was Little Bo Peep. I found a frilly dress for a couple dollars at Once Upon a Child and enhanced it with a bit more lace and a pair of bloomers. I made her a staff out of old basket handle, a wooden dowel, and ribbon scraps. For me, the whole process of making the costume is nearly as much fun as seeing her wear it.

      My friend bought her son a big, fluffy dragon costume at Old Navy. Even though I’m a fan of the homemade costume, it’s a pretty cute (and toasty) dragon. I’m sure they are on clearance today if there are any left.

    • 7. Kelly @ Love Well  |  October 30, 2008 at 9:35 am

      I second Rachel’s suggestion about Old Navy. Their toddler costumes are very Minnesota-Halloween-worthy, and I bet they are selling for $10 or less today. (They were only $15 to start with, if I remember correctly.)

      But back to your point. When I was young, Halloween costumes were much the same — we created them out of whatever we could find. My favorite 80s costume was a Rubiks cube — just took a box and some tape and paint.

    • 8. Bryan  |  October 30, 2008 at 10:53 am

      Molly, I think that the last line of this blog post needs some pictures to go along with it.

    • 9. Chris  |  October 30, 2008 at 11:14 am

      When our kids were little, we did the same thing you did with sweat pants and shirts, adding the ears and other embellishments. Once also with a nice leopard patterened sleeper.

      Since our younger two were close in age, a couple of times they wore exactly the same thing so they could be animals from Noah’s Ark.

      Our church held a nice party on trick or treat night because it was safer; everyone still had fun and got candy:)

    • 10. Chelsea Bass  |  October 30, 2008 at 12:03 pm

      I made a crocodile costume out of a sweat suit. I stuffed some green fabric and sewed it on as a tail and a belly, drew scales all over it, and took a ball cap and attached teeth and eyes. My husband (then college sweetheart) went in all khaki as the crocodile hunter.
      A dragon would be very similar. It was super cute!

    • 11. stacey  |  October 30, 2008 at 12:21 pm

      We are not even bothering with the trick or treating this year (something eerily wrong anymore with taking candy from strangers) heheheheh……we did the classroom party and our subdivision had a party and the pumpkin patch.

    • 12. Noel  |  October 30, 2008 at 1:34 pm

      Where does the aluminum foil come in — for Chipotle? The glittering dragon eyes?

    • 13. Crystal  |  October 30, 2008 at 1:45 pm

      This brings back a lot of memories. Although, my mom usually ended up sewing our costumes for us. We haven’t really “done Halloween” here either, but somehow they find out. Our strategy originally was to let J choose from his assortment of costumes in his dress up bin that came from Target last year AFTER Halloween. But then my mom offered to make him a Yoda costume, and he couldn’t resist that.

    • 14. nmwally  |  October 30, 2008 at 2:12 pm

      We’ve got a little Superman this year — because someone gave us a pint-sized Superman costume! (They also gave us a cow costume, but he kept taking the hat off & laughing hysterically, so that one won’t work).
      I like the sweat suit idea — there’s something appealing about having to put a little thought & creativity into your costume rather than just getting the store-bought one.

    • 15. ruthie  |  October 30, 2008 at 3:54 pm

      I made a mouse costume for our first daughter, complete with ears that had pink middles and wire to keep them round. Our second daughter wore it as well and two years after she was a ‘mouse’ we reconstructed the costume to be Eeyore. I loved that Eeyore costume. The most elaborate costume I ever made for my girls was a Snow White costume. It had inset red pleats in the sleeves that took me hours of work. Since the costumes were home made they made great dress up clothes the rest of the year. I love looking at the pictures of our girls all dressed up.

    • 16. Dani  |  October 30, 2008 at 5:30 pm

      HI! My name is Dani and I just wanted to introduce myself. I am a blog ADDICT 🙂

      About the costumes…My parents never were into “Halloween” we never ever have dressed up. I am like you though…ain’t no way I would pay $40 for a costume they wear for a few hours but start complaining cause it gets itchy. lol Sweat pants seems like a good plan to me. 🙂

      Well I hope to hear from you sometime!

    • 17. Dani  |  October 30, 2008 at 5:32 pm

      Oh and I meant to tell you that your Sweet Felicity was born on my Birthday. 🙂

    • 18. Kim  |  October 30, 2008 at 7:11 pm

      I’ve got a couple boys who are getting older (11 & 13) — my creative 11yo wanted to spray paint a cardboard box in the shape of a circle for something (?). I told him the story about how I first met his creative daddy at a Halloween party. He was wearing a red thermal shirt with hand-drawn hammer, screwdriver and wrench — he was a tool chest! Inexpensive and clever — you’re a walking riddle!

      So we googled “clever costumes” and my son is going in a (you guessed it) white t-shirt and white sweatpants with a large yellow circle (junk store cut-up fabric placemat) sewed on his chest. Add black horns and pitchfork (total $8 at the store, but could be homemade) — deviled egg!

    • 19. Elizabeth Esther  |  October 30, 2008 at 10:01 pm

      Hey! No fair! I was expecting to see some pics of GREAT retro kid costumes! LOL! I know what you mean about not really doing Halloween. We keep our festivities pretty low key—no scary stuff, no witches, no blood, no smoke machines—but we do let the kids trick or treat. Cheap, homemade costumes always get my vote. You can do it! I wanna see Orison all dressed up in a homemade dragon suit! YAY! 😀

    • 20. JenR  |  October 31, 2008 at 6:54 am

      When I was 4, my mom dressed me in a green sweatsuit, tied a trash can lid to my head, and I was Grungetta, Oscar the Grouch’s girlfriend. When I was in 3rd grade, I convinced 5 friends to trick-or-treat as dental items. Yep, I got friends to dress up as toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, a dentist, and a tooth. All made with boxes and sweatsuits, of course. Sad, very sad.

    • 21. Jane  |  October 31, 2008 at 11:27 am

      Speaking of Halloween Costumes of Yore.

      A Cape. A mask.
      Tho’ my brother was special and he got a whole clown outfit!

    • 22. robyn  |  October 31, 2008 at 11:29 am

      I decided that I would always use either regular clothes we already have and some accessories or a cardboard box and paint to make our halloween..

      Last year Noah was James (the train from Thomas the tank engine). This year he begged me to be Iron Man “the first good gray robot”.

      Card board box from Home Depot: $.69
      Can of Metallic Spray Paint: $1.99
      Small Plastic Paint tray for mask: $1.59
      Dryer Venting: $9.99
      Tinsel: $2.50
      Total: $16.76 plus tax. (not to bad, but last years was cheaper) I could have done without the dryer tubing and tinsel and it still would have worked.

      Phin’s costume: A cowboy. He already has boots, flannel shirt, jeans. I purchased a four dollar cowboy hat from a second hand store and a pop cap gun for 4.00.

      Done! We have never been trick-or-treating, this will be our first year doing that with the boys, but then we take them to a reformation day party. I’m not really interested in celebrating “Halloween” either.

    • 23. Karen  |  October 31, 2008 at 12:17 pm

      confession time : i am a christian and I LOVE halloween. Ok.. always have been a drama queen so the dressing up just really appeals to me. 😉 Walmart is the cheapest place to get non-homemade costumes. I try to steer them towards costumes that they can use for “make believe” time later. hence my kindergartener will be a knight in shining armour and my toddler a pirate princess 🙂

    • 24. J. Evans  |  October 31, 2008 at 2:59 pm

      I’m all about free food… SWEET YO!

      I enjoy letting Mia dress up everyday of the year for the sheer drama that she is. But truth be told, I find that I just cannot do the whole Halloween thing:


      (Yes, go ahead call me a legalist, or whatever – but it freaks me out, always has.). But I do jump at the chance to buy costumes when Halloween is over for dress up clothes!

      Kids do love to dress up, why not let them do it everyday rather than just making a big deal out of it one day a year? I get excited when Mia wants to pass on a tiara for Mommy to wear no matter what day it is. 🙂

    • 25. Chris  |  October 31, 2008 at 6:39 pm

      J. Evans, don’t feel like you’re a legalist. We can’t handle Halloween either, although we have good Christian friends who do trick or treat with their kids without scary costumes.

      We always did church parties where the kids dress up as fun things–nothing scary– until our son was in the youth group and they began trick or treating for Missions money with a letter from the youth pastor explaining the project. They did that for a few years. Last year, as a junior in high school, he went around the neighborhood with a friend–she was a superhero and he was a Tetris game piece–just to have some fun with friends and for the free pizza the neighborhood watch group provides. This year, for senior year, it was back to a church party.

      I think a lot of people feel as you do, and I like the idea of dressing up just for fun all through the year:)

    • 26. Jane  |  November 1, 2008 at 8:47 am

      We trick or treated in our neighborhood last night. Because of the unusually WARM weather, everyone was outside sitting on chairs, handing out candy, and talking and laughing. It is one of the few times during the year when we can connect with our neighbors as that “pastor down the street”. A sweet time, in more ways than one. Plus, my little girl was Mary Poppins Bird Woman, singing Feed the birds, tuppenance a bag. Such a good time!

    • 27. Ellie  |  November 2, 2008 at 1:33 pm

      Not really into Halloween, either, but friends do it, and I don’t mind. I’ve been to church parties – but a room packed with 500 screaming kids high on sugar and crowded together just does not appeal to me.

      I buy my kids a big bag of candy, and we stay home and eat it while watching a movie! It works. Works well withe a few friends, too.

      But dragons – I just did one… green oversized T-shirt from the thrift store and green hat ($2). Then I cut squares out of red felt, and sewed then down the back to be diamonds. (Time 2 minutes). Glued red and yellow pompoms on the hat for horns, and sewed a darker green circle of felt to the front and drew on it some scales. Tadaa! Less than ten minutes and less that $5, and we had a dragon – for a school bookworm party!

    • 28. kendra  |  November 5, 2008 at 12:38 am

      CHEAP clever costume, for any age, boy or girl…

      black pants/shirt, yellow masking tape or electrical tape to make road lines…up one leg and up to your neck. attach a few matchbox cars and voila, you’re a road. awesome.

    • 29. kendra  |  November 5, 2008 at 1:04 am

      Here’s a link to some NERDS (candy) costumes I made last year. I saved everything, hoping my whole family will dress up as NERDS together someday 🙂



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