Made With Love

Mother never bought Halloween costumes from the store. “It’s cheaper if I make them,” she said. Although it was more work for her, she never seemed to mind. Year after year, she would take out her sewing machine and begin the creative process.“What do you want to be this year?” she would ask my sister and me in September.

From various animals (bumble bees and sharks) to fictional characters (Pocohontas, Princess Jasmine, the Pink Power Ranger) to the most outlandish objects (Beanie Baby Bears – yes, you read that correctly), nothing was ever too odd or too extravagant. After multiple trips to the fabric store and exasperated requests to “Stand still!” so we could be measured for our costumes, Halloween would arrive. Our custom-made costumes added to the excitement of trick-or-treating.

My mother is an excellent seamstress, but even she is the first to admit that she isn’t an experienced costume designer. One year when I was a mouse and my sister a rabbit, I had to constantly explain to my friends that the stuffed orange square hanging around my neck was a slice of cheese. The year my sister and I were Beanie Babies, none of us had thought the evening through, and our construction paper Beanie Baby tags got soaked from the rain during our short evening of trick-or-treating. Without our tags, we were just a pair of oddly-colored bears.

There were times I felt singled out because I didn’t have a cool costume from Target or Spirit Halloween Superstore, but I became appreciative of the time my mother put into her creations. As my sister and I grew up, we grew out of the trick-or-treating tradition, as most kids claim to do. It wasn’t “cool” anymore to dress up and it certainly wasn’t cool to have your mother hand-make your costume.

But in high school, dressing up on Halloween was suddenly “the thing to do.” Yet, I could never bring myself to buy a costume from the store. There was nothing wrong with costume shops and retail stores; it just wasn’t the Halloween I grew up with. So I stuck to the tradition I knew, throwing together costumes from my own closet and thrift store excursions: a pirate (à la Captain Jack Sparrow), Colonel Mustard (as part of a Clue-inspired crew), Cho Chang (complete with a Ravenclaw scarf my mother crocheted) and, finally, the ever-so-popular – and simple – witch.

I also witnessed my friends’ creative costumes, from hobbits to Greek philosophers, and I noticed that not many of my friends bought their costumes from stores either. Their handmade creations made their costume choices unique and original.

I think back to the years I spent watching my mother carefully craft costumes out of scraps of fabric and decorative accoutrements. It takes a lot of patience to put up with two young girls asking for weird costumes, but her skills inspire me to continue a streak of unique Halloween-ware. She may not see herself as an experienced costume designer, but I certainly do.