When I was a little girl in the 60’s and 70’s, Halloween was a fun holiday for kids. Back in the day, adults didn’t dress up, and decorating for Halloween meant carving a pumpkin or two for the front porch. Most kids bought their costumes at the local T,G &Y (or whatever was your five and dime store) and it involved a colored polyester gown with a plastic mask that was an animal or a super-hero or an angel, etc. But my grandmother was ahead of the curve, and always had a big to-do for Halloween night. She’d use sheets to make walls in her garage, and pinned paper decorations all over them. She had full-sized witches and a cauldron, and my grandfather made a Halloween soundtrack of witches cackling and chains creaking and owls hooting which he played on his reel-to-reel tape player, because they were cool like that. Add that they passed out full-sized candy bars and theirs was the most popular house to visit on Halloween night. My mom is very artistic, and would make our costumes each year. We went with painted pumpkin sandwich board costumes, old-fashioned ladies with long dresses, leopards, etc. It was such a highlight to each fall.
Things are pretty different now, with annual Halloween spending at $7.4 billion dollars, according to The Atlantic Monthly. That’s crazy money. Nearly $2 BILLION dollars are spent on candy and decorations each! (Not so sure about the candy, my daughter came home with A LOT of little packages of Whoppers and Dum Dums. SOMEONE was getting a lot of full-sized bars somewhere.) And nearly $3 billion dollars were spent on costumes. I’ve always made the girls their Halloween costumes because I like sewing them and for my older daughter, she loved having a matching costume for her American Girl doll Kirsten. Yeah, I drank the Kool-Aid and sewed that too. And as they got older, and maybe weren’t really trick-or-treating so much, they still liked to dress up for the school day and the friends’ parties or asking for food donations for their school clubs. Kids are rushed into adulthood so quickly these days that I was glad if they wanted to prolong their childhood for just a little longer. But it was terrible finding something they could wear and not be embarrassed to be seen. I’m not saying that I want to go back to the polyester gowns and masks, but I know I ‘m not the only one horrified by the fact that all the costumes for girls involve extremely short skirts and low-cut tops. Referred to as “sassy” but really why would they want to dress like $10 hookers? Not on my watch.
So this year when my High Schooler wanted to dress up for her friend’s party and for school, we tried to shop a little early so I wouldn’t be up all night the night before Halloween, sewing into the wee hours. She loves the show “Once Upon a Time” and wanted to be Snow White, complete with bow and arrow. Sounds good, I’m in if it doesn’t involve fish nets and thigh-high boots! We did find a costume by McCall’s, but it completely failed my written-in-stone rule that I wasn’t going to make something complicated and time-consuming. 17 pattern pieces. 3 fabrics. Lined. Trim. I wonder if they have a test for figuring out what’s wrong with me. But it was duly purchased and pinned out and cut up. (That’s the part I hate the most. You can’t believe how far I’d get with my sewing and quilting and painting if I had a magical assistant who set everything up for me. ) Sadly, despite my best efforts not to get distracted by other things, (on a positive note, I read three books!) I ended up having to spend pretty much all of the 30th and a disappointing amount of the 31st sewing like crazy to make up for it. The worst parts are the stupid mistakes you make when you are tired and trying to go faster – thought I had finished everything but the fasteners in the front when I realized I hadn’t added OR even sewn the peplums! Gah! I had to undo the whole serged seam to add them back in. Then, I pulled down the box with the fasteners and started sewing them on. After I had attached ALL EIGHT HOOKS I came to the horrifying realization that I didn’t have matching eyes – they were all too small! No doubt this was due to a different Halloween costume finished late at night where I grabbed eyes that were too big for the hooks I used, dooming myself to this future disaster. At 2:00 a.m., the solution was right there before me. Safety pins, the duct-tape of the sewing world, and I called it good..
And as embarrassing as it is for me to admit how late I was up, it wasn’t even close to the latest. I think we all remember the Purple Princess disaster of 1994, (lined, with mutton sleeves and feather trim!) when I finally finished at 5 in the morning. Kim: Modeling crazy costume behavior for 21 years.
She was happy with the finished results. Oh, I don’t recommend looking very closely at the inside of the costume. I took every shortcut I could, and several that I shouldn’t, to speed up the process. But she looked great for the day, and I’m glad I did it. I’ve already declared that this is the last costume I’m making for her, but like so many pie-crust promises, we’ll see if it stays unbroken. Happy Halloween!