Entries in halloween costumes (3)


happy halloween, a few days late


Between an unbelievably busy fall, and then the craziness of Hurricane Sandy, Halloween did not get the attention from me that it has in past years. Thanks to a week without school we were able to still make our own costumes at the last minute. All three kids changed their minds about what to be so many times that my head was spinning. In the end, the boys opted to be knights.  We made armor from flattened and manipulated aluminum baking pans from the supermarket. Oliver originally wanted to be a Spartan (and happily repurposed a skirt we had made a few years ago from foil insulation) but he morphed into a barbarian as he scoured the house for more items to include in his costume. The faux fur legwarmers he had pilfered from a neighbors cast offs completed his look. 


Bea also waivered many times but quite a few of the ideas seemed to be inspired by our bedtime reading of the Chronicles of Narnia this year. She was pleased when we finally agreed on the White Witch -- so was I since we could just layer on as many white clothes as we could find and complete the look with a little black lipstick, fake witches nails, and an icicle crown made of aluminum foil.


halloween costume: robot


These robot costumes were loads of fun to make, and just the other day the boys told me they think they might have been their best costumes ever. When I worked at Martha Stewart Living I was constantly amazed at the ideas that various editor friends would come up with for costumes...I was particularly intrigued by the ones that were created from either supermarket or hardware store finds.



My friend Jodi created a masterpiece out of coffee filters (shown above left...that is her modeling the costume on the right) for a story on "no sew" costumes. Another year my friend Matthew did a story called "Space Odyssey 2001" which included an amazing styrofoam cup helmet (shown below). I tried to channel Jodi and Matthew when we took the boys to Lowe's to hunt for matierials to make their robot costumes.  The boys were also very excited as they searched the aisles, throwing every shiny or battery powered item they could find into our cart.



When we went shopping for materials we had a vague plan but a lot evolved based on what we found. Originally we thought that the aluminum dryer vent tubing would work for both arms and legs and I must admit that when I see the boys' skinny little legs poking out of the oversized bodies they look a little imbalanced, but overall I was pleased with how the costumes turned out. Since the dryer vent tubing was too bulky and hard to walk in, not to mention difficult for the boys to get in and out of, we got them silver leggings from american apparel instead.  



For our costumes we made body armor from insulation material. One of the things that was a little tricky to figure out was how to make the costumes so they could get in and out of them easily. The boys wanted to try them on and play with them a bit in the days leading up to halloween so I needed to be sure they were not designed for a single use. I found two things worked well: nuts and bolts, and adhesive velcro. You can see how I used the nuts and bots in the photos above...they added a cool industrial appearance to the pieces too. I just cut small holes or slits in the insulation and used flat metal disk washers on either side so that the bolts would not just slide through.  I used nuts and bolts where mobility was crucial...for example on the mask we made goggles that attached to the helmut this way so they could get lowered or raised by the boys. 


Having too many nuts to attach was labor intensive at dress up time so I used them sparingly and added adhesive velcro where additional fastening was needed (photos below). I also found very shiny silver tape that was perfect for any seams that did not have to open and close...it is a little hard to see in the photos because it blends to well with the insulation material. I cut wedge shaped pieces of the insulation and taped them together to make the A-line wrap around skirt shown below--it was my attempt to join in the families theme. The shiny tape also worked well to attach battery powered lights and paint color samples which finished the looks.


In keeping with the theme I had planned for Bea to be a little girl robot. When she saw her cousin Lila as a cat she freaked out and wanted to be a cat too. Luckily a pair of ears (sewn to a silver headband) and some whiskers seemed to do the trick. Adam also loves Halloween and gets into the whole costume thing...playing the part of the nerdy inventor was not such a stretch!


halloween costume: spider

I grew up wearing home made halloween costumes every year, a tradition that I am continuing with my own kids. I love the excitement of planning them together, but the hardest part is agreeing on what the costumes should be...the kids have accepted (with a little difficulty some years) that we do not buy store bought costumes, but that does not mean that they are that conscious of my costume making limitations! Every year we go through all the possibilities and brainstorm about how we would make the various ideas. I am not sure what this year will bring, but thought it might be fun to share some of the costumes we have made in past years, so will be posting lots of idea over the next month.


Although many of these costumes do require some sewing I want to emphasize that I do not do careful finishing details, or very elaboriate constructions. Many of the finished projects have raw edges that fray or look a bit sloppy, sometimes because I could not figure out how to do a better job, other times just because I am out of time. I like the fact that they are home made in a very obvious way, and I hope that as the kids get older that they will love making their own costumes, or working together with me to make them. 



This spider costume was one of the easiest to make, and it was fun to wear too since the spider legs move so well with your child's movements. I first made this spider for Oliver but the photos from that night were not very good, so Lila is modeling it here...the costume has held up pretty well I think - it about three years old and the only thing I have had to repair is the thread that suspends the legs. Coincidentally, Lila had told Lauren that she wanted to be a spider this year so now she is all set. Another benefit of this costume is that the size is very flexible so it can be worn by a variety of ages. It is a good one to keep in the dress up box or to pass on to a sibling, cousin, or friend.


We started with a simple base of a black hooded sweatshirt and pants. The kids own arms and legs count as half of the spiders legs, and then I constructed the rest from black tights. I decided to make the spider body so that it could be worn like a backpack, with legs sticking out on either side. I threaded the legs, leaving several inches of string between them, and attached a hair elastic to the top. The elastic bands can be worn like bracelets so that when your child moves their arms all the legs move with them. Oliver loved climbing our stoop and window guards in this costume, looking like a giant spider scaling a building.




I took two pairs of opaque black tights and stuffed them with stuffing, only filling the legs. There are lots of types of stuffing available at crafts stores - polyester stuffing is available at most, but if you prefer cotton or other natural fibers purl soho has a good selection on their website. I also put a few strips of craft foam in the legs to keep them a bit less floppy but I do not think this step is totally necessary.


To make the body I cut two ovals of a dark patterned fabric. Pin the legs between the two layers of fabric (wrong sides together) so that the crotch end of the tights is on the outside, and the legs are sandwiched between the fabric ovals. Sew this area on the sewing machine to secure. Repeat this step on the other side, being careful to arrange the legs so that they will all be sticking out sideways from the oval when you turn it right side out...you will need to pin them in place and then bend the legs down through the bottom of the oval. When you sew the second pair of legs continue around the oval to the other side, just leaving the opening where the legs are sticking out open.


Turn the oval inside out so that the right sides are out, and the legs are on the outside. Stuff the body of the spider with more filling and sew the opening closed, either by hand, or by machine, whichever you find easier. To make the straps I used long piece of black elastic. I folded it in half and sewed the folded end to the top of the spider body, sewing over it several times to secure it. Sew the ends to the bottom of the body in the same way.


Thread a needle with a double thickness of black thread (or for an even more durable solution a length of clear fishing line) and knot it at the bottom. The thread needs to be long enough to have the spider legs hang separately at the sides of the body. In order to make the legs stay suspended and move with your child, sew through the heel of the bottom leg, going from top to bottom a few times - this secures the thread, and it also flattens the heel creating a little bend in the leg so it looks more like a spider leg and less like the foot of your tights. Now continue through the top leg, leaving about 6-8 inches of thread between the two, repeating the stitching through the heel for this leg too. You should still have at least 12 inches of thread left on the needle. Secure this to a hair elastic by knotting it repeatedly. Repeat this whole process on the remaining legs on the other side of the spider.