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Some Notes on Homemade Halloween Costumes

So, I have a thing about Halloween, y’all.  I INSIST on making my kids’ costumes.

I’m not sure where this tick originated, but I really just can’t bring myself to buy any of those plasticky costumes.  I think my mom always made my costumes (difference here is that she knows how to sew), and I loved them– I remember in particular one year she bought a pattern and made me a whole Laura Ingalls costume, replete with bonnet, undershift, aprony top thing (these are all technical sartorial terms for vintage frontier wear, you know).  I wore that thing all year round and loved it.

So maybe it comes from mom, or maybe it’s just my nostalgia for my childhood and a simpler, cobbled together costume age.  Or if I’m being all activist about it, maybe it’s my protest against commercialism and mass produced crap.  In truth, it’s probably just that I love the way the costumes turn out.

I will share some of my previous years’ projects in a post soon, but for now I wanted to share some craziness I saw at the fabric store, while searching for patterns for this year’s costumes.  Sadly, I didn’t find any patterns that fit the bill, but I managed to figure it all out online, so thank you interwebs!  Much better than the Butterick catalog.  Incidentally, this year I’m creating a four-year-old Mr. Freeze costume and a seven-year-old Draco Malfoy costume.  But more on that soon.

So, have you ever looked at the costume patterns in a fabric store catalog?  At first, I was intently focused on the clothes themselves since I needed very specific things.  But then, I started to look at the big picture.  Now, I realize that sewing your own clothes is probably a dying art, if it’s not already DOA.  So I’m sure that there isn’t a huge budget for styling the pattern photos or for creating the patterns themselves.  But seriously, they can’t do better than this?  Or at least find someone who has some sense of aesthetics?

Let me share.

First of all, I’m kind of appalled at the options for women.  Who wants to be Cha Cha Cha for Halloween?

If you wear this costume, you are not allowed any shoes, by the way.  Who is this lady?  Is she a flamenco dancer?  A gypsy?  What?

You could also be a SASSY LADY.

I will apologize right now for the sad quality of these photos, but I was taking them surreptitiously with my iPhone.  Hard to see because of the blur, but do you see the title of this pattern at the bottom, beneath the Butterick label?  ”Sassy Ladies.”  What on earth?  Like, again, who are these sassy ladies?  Also, note the traditional 70s-style line drawing pattern book illustration.  This is like a whole genre of its own, right?  I’m sure they haven’t updated this aesthetic in about, well, like, EVER.  Can we get on this?  Can someone come up with a better option?

So, I’m protesting the sexualized nature of the ladies’ Halloween costume options.  Everything is so… sexy.  Where’s my scary mummy costume?  Do I have to be sassy at Halloween?  What if I just want to freak the bejesus out of you?

If you’re looking for innocent and tame, there’s always this “historical” costume.

A long winter’s nap, indeed.  Is this pattern historically accurate?  I’m pretty sure the following one IS NOT:

I think someone at Simplicity needs to do more homework on sixteenth-century hemlines.

They’ve even taken a classic, CLASSIC piece of innocent Americana and sexed it up.  I give you:

Zoinks, y’all.  Indeed, this is a “sassy version of these beloved classics.”  Dorothy is so parched; would you be a doll and get her a little sippy of water?  I’m gonna call it and say that the Scarecrow is totally phoning it in.  What is that pose?  The witch might have herself confused with a cat, although I can’t be sure.  And what is this one-bent-leg-pigeon-toed-in thing that they are all rockin’?  I cannot wear any of these costumes because my boobs are not nearly big enough.

One thing about these patterns that cracks me up is the blatant copyrighted rip-offs.  I’m sure everyone is looking for a Snow White costume pattern, but they can’t really SAY Snow White, so they make up some private-label version that still lets you know what it is without infringing on copyright.  So we get:



Storybook Tales

You can actually turn it into a party game if you try to guess what some of the patterns are really supposed to be.


Ah, yes, the notorious "Lord of the Stars"

I’m going with Lord of the Rings, obviously, but I think you could make a case, perhaps, for Harry Potter?  No?

This one I love:

Halloween in the City, people?  Do you really think Sarah Jessica Parker would be caught dead in that gingham bunny get-up?

Or, your whole family could go as the Happy Dancers!

First of all, HA!  Second of all, they even rip off the original font.

I’m going to end with some historical costumes.  For these, it’s not the costume itself that’s so bad, it’s the models.  Apparently, everyone in history was either sassy, wistful, or mischievous.  No one ever smiled in history?  Just looked normally at the camera?

At least that 50s lady has a version of a smile.  She’s all, “Check. Out. My. Hair.  Can you believe this hair?  Do you LOVE my hair?”

You gotta leave a comment telling me your favorite.  There are so many doozies!

Post soon on the progress of this year’s costume production.



Leave a Comment

  • October 8, 2010, 11:30 am Becky

    I do love her hair!

    These are BANANAS. I had no idea what I was missing by not hanging around the fabric store. LOLing at the lack of accurate 16th-century hemlines!

    And I always thought I was a Sassy Lady but I don’t look like that.

    I do think making the costumes is so neat, though, and I can’t wait to see more. Now, any ideas for a Filch costume for a 4 year-old? Yes, we’ve been playing Lego Harry Potter and THAT is the character he zeros in on!

    • October 9, 2010, 10:35 am bethpc

      Oy, Argus Filch! That’s a tough one. Well, he’ll need a stuffed cat for Mrs. Norris, and the long stringy hair. Probably if you dressed him all in brown with a long coat or sweater and something kind of cream colored wrapped around his neck, and then added some old timey keys on a big ring and a lantern, that would do it. I know, that’s a lot. :-)

  • October 8, 2010, 2:56 pm Beth

    I like the sassy ladies…too bad I can’t sew.

    Actually I work for a company that specializes in Halloween and you would not believe the lingerie that some of the manufacturers try to pass off as costumes!

  • October 8, 2010, 10:06 pm Erika Wright

    I think I died a little bit when I saw the penguins. I would pay money to see the the Remarkably Domestic family dressed up as Happy Dancers. You nailed this one. SO hilarious. I think the “Sassy Lady” is what we used to call a Wench. They’ve gotten a little too pc. “Perfect Pirate” is kind of random.

    The best costume I remember from my childhood was Wonder Woman. My friends had the plastic, store-bought ones but I had a red leotard with a gold felt eagle sewn on the front; blue tights cut into shorts with felt stars glued on; felt head band and bracelets; golden lasso; red knee socks with trim to simulate the boots. Now I hear they’ve got a new WW outfit.
    Can’t wait to see what you come up with for the boys!

  • October 9, 2010, 10:57 am Eva

    I second the request to see RD family as Happy Dancers!

    OMG I laughed my way through this whole post, and that photo of the “long winter’s nap” quilted robe thing put me over the edge.

    And WORD to all the sexualized lady costumes being annoying. And when did this happen exactly? As late as post-college, my roommates and I dressed up as playing cards, in turtlenecks and pants. And as a kid, I was the opposite of sassy in costumes like an M&M (with a pillow shoved under a sweatshirt — hot) and a hobo. A blackened teeth, dirty-faced hobo.

    I’m not saying I pine for those non-p.c. days, but still.

  • October 13, 2010, 10:45 am Holly

    I had the same reaction to seeing these patterns at the store, except for the Wizard of Oz set, which I missed. That has to be the worst. This year, I made my son an “Army guy” costume using a purchased pattern. He loves it, but it’s just as cute as the astronaut outfit I made last year by covering a thrift-store snowsuit with white duct tape. (luckily Halloween is COLD here in New Hampshire). I was Laura Ingalls for Halloween when I was 8, sqeezing into a prairie-style dress my aunt had made me several years earlier. I really wanted to be Melissa Gilbert.