My boys and I sat down this week to discuss costume ideas. Merely as a matter of interest I pulled out all the costumes we already had in the house - out of the dress-up box in the playroom, packed away in the Halloween box in the basement, mixed up with the outgrown baby clothes in my youngest's closet, stuffed haphazardly into the crawlspace.
In our home, at this moment, our costume inventory includes: three pirates, three pumpkins, two ninjas, two dinosaurs, two avatars, a ladybug, Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, Darth Vader and a Storm Trooper, Mario and Luigi and a mushroom. Plus assorted masks, hats, capes and accessories. And all three of my children have chosen different costumes for this year.
It's fine - of course it's fine. Halloween is a fun holiday for kids. Dressing up in costume, walking in a parade at school, trick-or-treating through the neighbourhood at night. They're only little enough to really enjoy it for such a short while; of course I'll get or make them whatever costume they choose. But looking at that pile of costumes, heaps of colourful stuffed plush and screened fabrics and coordinating masks and accessories, all worn once and packed away - it just seems so wasteful.
It's not that kids' costumes are terribly expensive. You can get a pretty fancy character costume, complete with accessories, for forty dollars or less and your child will look like he just walked out of Central Casting. That costume can be popped into the play chest for dress-up play and then handed down to a niece or nephew or a neighbour's child. It's not like it needs to be a disposable item.
But Halloween costumes don't even need to cost that much. Remember when we were younger and our mothers sewed our costumes out of scrap fabric? It's actually still acceptable to do that. Or if, like me, you aren't much of a seamstress, a little bit of creativity and craftiness can get you an awesome kid-and-budget-friendly costume.
Think dollar-store felt and craft items, old clothes designated for donation, bits and pieces and odds and ends around the house. Dollar stores are also filled with cheap and easy costume pieces - colourful wigs, tiaras, witches' hats, vampire teeth and capes. Use your imagination!
Mouse, bunny or cat ears can be cut out of felt and affixed to a headband, makeup used for whiskers and nose and a stuffed pantyhose leg pinned to the back of a solid-coloured outfit to become a favourite animal.
Pull out Dad's hockey or baseball gear and go as a professional athlete.
Craft a masquerade mask from glitter and feathers and beads and dig through Mom's closet for glamorous dress-up clothes.
Wrap a large box in gift wrap, cut holes in the top and sides for head and arms and pop a bow on the top of the head to go as a gift.
Pull out that Santa hat from last Christmas, pair it with a red sweatshirt stuffed with a pillow and carry a stocking instead of a loot bag.
One year my older two boys were going as Mario and Luigi and I could not find a coordinating baby costume for my youngest, so I created a Mario Brothers mushroom using an inverted plastic serving bowl covered in a blue balaclava with black felt eyes glued on. I sewed the mushroom cap onto the hood of his blue one-piece snowsuit.
I used all dollar-store items with an overall cost of approximately five dollars, and we've never had such rave reviews over one of our kids' Halloween costumes.
Last year all three boys were in a lather of indecision over their costumes and it came right down to the night before Halloween before they decided to go as pirates.
I dug three pairs of black pants out of the piles of clothes they'd outgrown and cut them off with jagged edges, chopped an old striped maternity t-shirt into three black-and-white sashes, dressed them all in plain black t-shirts with open white dress shirts and rolled-up sleeves, then dug into our stores of piratey play things: pirate hats, pirate bandana, eye patches and earrings and medallions. We finished off the costumes with eye pencil "scars" on their cheeks and foreheads.
Total cost: nothing, other than what we had in our house to begin with.
There's nothing at all wrong with splurging on a store-bought character costume for your kids' Halloween. But if you're thinking of saving a few dollars in the months leading up to Christmas, homemade Halloween costumes can be a great way to go!