With the big lead-up to Halloween, several blogs have been posting vintage photographs of costumed children. One such post comes from i09, featuring a crop of kids in homemade Star Wars costumes, photographed in the late 1970s and early ’80s. Most of the costumes are completely haphazard: tin foil helmets adorned with construction paper and pipe cleaners, robes and headdresses cut from bedsheets. But each child is beaming, proud of the costume he or she made with the help of a creative parent.
Aside from some creepy plastic masks, mass-manufactured costumes simply weren’t available prior to the 1980s. Halloween was the ultimate DIY holiday — if you wanted an R2-D2 costume, you had to make it yourself. Today, prepackaged costumes line the aisles of big box stores, ranging from Batman to Snow White. Even with sparkly sequins and bright neon fabrics, there’s something sad about those costumes, hanging lifelessly from display racks.
There are a few good reasons to buy a mass-produced costume. It usually comes down to the limited spare time of a stretched-thin parent. “Although the image of the made-by-mom Halloween outfit is a pervasive one, it exists largely in the same alternate universe that houses Norman Rockwell paintings and fairy tales,” writes Maxwell Tielman for Design*Sponge. “In reality, the act of obtaining a Halloween costume usually involves exhausted, overworked parents slogging to the local drugstore, sometimes mere hours before the big day.” The instant, costume-in-a-bag has become more prevalent these days, and many kids are just happy to have any excuse to wear a mask and cape. But the special care and love found in homemade costumes is undeniable.
Most of us have a recollection of a creative Halloween costume from childhood. One year I was a piece of notebook paper, thanks to a bed sheet covered with evenly spaced red and blue chalk lines. Another year, I was transformed into a slice of swiss cheese, thanks to my mom and several bags of cotton stuffing. More than a sugar-loaded opportunity for future cavities, Halloween provides a chance for families to be creative and silly together. For parents, it can certainly be intimidating — not everyone can be like the dad who built an almost movie-quality Iron Man costume for his son. Fortunately, kids don’t care about perfect stitching or impeccable execution. They’ll only remember the time they had the coolest costume in the whole neighborhood.
Will you be wearing a handmade costume this year?