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Store-Bought or Homemade?

By Katie Stirling

What do Peter Pan and his shadow, a nine-foot ostrich, and el Niño have in common?

They were just a few of the fabulous costumes I saw at the Wizarding Spooktacular put on by the Utah Symphony earlier this week. I love a good homemade Halloween costume. It’s like walking art.

My mom was great at costumes. I remember her arriving in my third grade classroom before the Halloween parade to add black makeup to my crimped hair, winding white sheet, and golden sash of Cleopatra. My sister won a costume contest dressed as a booger—complete with green slime dripping from her hair. On one snowy Halloween night, we decided to forego our school costumes. Instead, my mom put us in giant sweatpants and sweatshirts, stuffed them full with pillows, pinned on hand-drawn racing tags, and sent two fat joggers out to trick or treat.

My favorite costumes for my own children have been homemade. Soon after my oldest son was born, our little family dressed as two flies and a maggot—he was bundled in a stuffed pillowcase and my husband and I had strainers hooked together with pipe-cleaners over our eyes.

kids halloween 1

Awe, look at the cute little maggot.

My all-time favorite was when we dressed up as the hosts of the party to which we were invited. My husband messed up his hair to imitate her pixie cut, wore a tight shirt, and drew her tattoos on his arm and leg. I wore Carhartt pants, a baggy t-shirt, and drew a receding hairline on a latex bald cap. I even whipped up a dog costume out of brown fleece for our son to be their Boxer. Watching their confusion slowly turn into the realization of “You’re us!!” was priceless!


—BUT— making costumes was easier when I only had one child. I don’t know how my mom did it year after year because I’m the fifth of six kids. I now have four sons. My oldest told me he wanted to be Jango Fett back in August. I was so relieved when my mom asked me what she could buy for him for his birthday in September. Check that off the list! My second son chose a Harry Potter robe bought a couple of years ago. My third son will be a mummy—a costume I found at TJ Maxx that has been used by his two older brothers. And my youngest is borrowing a neighbor’s Woody costume—also store bought.

Life has been busy with karate, baseball, soccer, scouts, violin, piano, and homework. I hadn’t thought about all our store-bought costumes until I saw the creativity on display at the symphony. It makes me wish I’d been a little more inventive, carved out some time to let our imaginations make something original…but then I looked at the calendar for the next three days—karate, baseball tournament, piano, violin, homework, and Halloween school parties. We’re going store-bought this year.

Are you a costume maker or costume buyer? What are you wearing this Halloween?

About Katie Stirling

(Blog Team)

6 thoughts on “Store-Bought or Homemade?”

  1. The seamstress in me greatly wishes to make fun and beautiful costumes. Yet the mother in me just has too many other priorities to allow for much sewing time: cleaning, laundry, meal preparation, playing with children, sleeeeep, etc. I could spend 30+ dollars and 5+ hours making a Mario costume, or I could go to the store and pick a chintzy one up for $20. And you know what? My three year old would be equally excited by both. I save myself the stress and go with the store bought.

    The downside is the store once is so poorly constructed I don't think it would survive the washing machine. A homemade costume would allow me to let little boy wear his costume for the entire month like he wants.

  2. The maggot costume made me laugh out loud!

    I kind of made this deal with the kids– I make them a costume every other year. This year is one of those years and I spent a long time making three Elsa dresses and one Big Hero 6 costume. I could have bought the Elsa dresses but I wanted my girls to be able to wear them for a long time to come. Because I made them, I ensured that they are sturdy and durable. As for the Big Hero 6 costume, there was no other option! My daughter wanted to be a certain character and unfortunately, it's just not a costume sold online. I looked for hours and couldn't find anything so we made it.

    However, next year my girls will have two choices– get a cheap costume from the store or scavenge through our big dress up trunk and make something themselves. I can only commit to the time every other year! 🙂

  3. I made a LOT of costumes when my older kids were small. Since then we keep a HUGE box of costumes (which I add to as I run across stuff at garage sales.) My kids get to be whatever they can scrounge up from that or create on their own. I also picked a few orange t-shirts that say stuff like, "I don't do costumes" for when they are "too cool" to dress up (middle school boys mainly.) I do stand in awe of people who do something really creative each year though.

  4. The vast majority of the time, my 3 girls dig through the dress-up box and combine their findings with their imaginations. I don't really do Halloween costumes. This year, however, my 13 year old decided she wanted to be Morgause from the tv show Merlin. Which means crazy medieval dress. And she's a determined young lady. And she wanted a hooded cloak. Well . . . we decided to go for it just this once. With a SUPER simplified design, and stretchy fabric to hide all the mistakes, we pulled it off and she's happy. And she better wear it for the next decade.

  5. I am an assembler of costumes. I will craft pieces here and there, but I outsource complicated stuff (more buy it). My mom made all our costumes back in the day, and my SIL makes a lot of money selling costumes she makes online. Luckily she'll help me with mine for free.


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