Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Costume making tips

(In response to a couple of e-mail queries about costumes, here's a reprint of something I posted originally to the B*rn Org*n*zed group in 2002. It has subsequently been forwarded by others to the JewishHomemaking and JewishFlyBabies groups over the years.)

Although Jews don't have to worry about children's costumes until the Winter (for Purim), many others are coming up on an October line for Halloween costumes, so I thought a tip or two might be appropriate.

Before I wised up, I would spend a lot of time, thought and energy making what I thought was the most appropriate (for us the costumes are for a religious holiday and I prefer Queen Esther to Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers) adorable, comfortable, and safe-to-walk costume that made the child feel truly special.

Now that I've lowered my standards, we are all much happier, relaxed and satisfied.

I only demand that the costume is safe, comfortable and not offensive. I try hard (but not over-hard) to please the child, and accept that the cute, adorable part is the child inside the costume.

I've come to the realization that if the child is happy with what he is wearing then my ideas of what a "real" costume are, are irrelevant.

With this in mind, I ask the children what they want to be [for Purim]. If I hear something I don't like, I tell them to try again. (I still have a great aversion for licensed characters, but will cave in and accept Batman, Superman, etc. as they have been around for a long time. Barbie, Batman Beyond, etc. have been successfully vetoed over the years.

I still lobby for Mordechai and Queen Esther, but have accepted a foursome of Batpeople - Batman, Batlady, Batkid and Batbaby - X-man (see below), a pirate, a bat (the winged mammal), many lions, tigers, bunnies (including an Energizer Bunny baby - with batteries made from paper towel cardboard tubes), sunflowers, strawberries, etc.)

My most important realization was that the child should be in charge. When my son wanted X-Man, I grumbled, but agreed. Then I asked him what I think is the KEY question: "What would you need to really be X-Man? Let's make a list."

He immediately gave me HIS IDEA of what he needed to feel like that character. He listed a few basic things, most of which HE WANTED TO MAKE!!!! He only wanted "ears, a mask and a black sweatsuit" from me. He made claws, accessories, emblems, etc. out of paper.

When he was finished, he looked like a happy kid in a sweatsuit and a mask, with some
things stuck all over him. He couldn't audition for a job with Steven Spielberg,
but he could walk, see and breathe comfortably and was thoroughly convinced
of his believability as X-man. (Whatever that is.)

Asking this question of him obviated the need (okay, desire) for me to search the Internet and find out exactly what X-Man was, prevented me from wasting myself trying to create an 's image of what that costume looked like, and saved me being annoyed if he was disappointed with my efforts.

It also completely eliminated the possibility that he would change his mind the
day or two before the costume was needed. It was a joint effort, but mostly
HIS.

My daughters were too young to make any part of their costumes, but they still gave me the list. This helped enormously. One wanted to be a bat (the winged mammal). I asked her what she needed to be a bat. She knew exactly what SHE NEEDED to feel like a bat, and was (for the first time) quite pleased with the costume.

About making the costumes, here are some tips that we have used successfully:

"Get thee to a thrift store!" We found a complete tiger costume for 75 cents, and many "accessories" there. I have also read of people buying a huge stuffed animal at a thrift store, cutting it open, emptying the stuffing and using the fabric cover (after it has been washed) as a whole-body costume.

We often use sweat suits as the base of any costume. After the holiday, they can be retained as pajamas.

If you have children and don't have a glue-gun, rectify this situation immediately! Glue guns cost less than $5, the glue sticks can often be found for 3 cents a piece, and this tool can be used for so many things. We have a "low temp" which gets hot but is unlikely to cause a major
burn.

In a pinch, you can glue fabric pieces together in the same fashion as if they were to be sewed (this is a costume, not a permanent garment, after all).

Gluing yarn, goggle eyes, felt, etc. to sweatshirts is SO EASY and accomplishes a "real" look in an instant. Glue gun glue cools and dries in about a minute.

Check to see that the costume can accommodate a coat or sweater easily. If appropriate, make sure that a diaper change is possible.

Costumes for crawling babies should assume that they will want to crawl. Consider making them some sort of four-legged animal. We have had great luck with this, as the "bulk" of the costume-y parts are therefore on the baby's back where they cannot be reached and swallowed.

I hope to post more costume ideas when it gets closer to Purim (mid-Winter), the Jewish holiday that involves costume making. And here is a fantastic modular approach to costume making over at ParentHacks.

3 comments, so far. Add yours now!

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Shelli said...

At our local Children's Museum, they have a mock fire truck, and some jackets and hats. Malka LOVES LOVES LOVES this.

For Halloween, we aren't really doing anything, but they are having a party at the natural history museum. So we made the decision to purchase a "costume" from a Halloween party store that can double as a dress up item. And will also fit her for Purim.

Sadly, we had a building explosion in our neighborhood a while back, and LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of fire trucks. Malka put on her fire girl outfit, and we went to see the trucks.

She was SO happy.

We've totally gotten our money's worth.

So for 19.99, we got a dress up play item, a party AND a Purim outfit - I couldn't have done it better myself.

I do think I'll slap some black bias tape on the edges, just to keep it in good shape, but we're thrilled!

SephardiLady said...

I'm going to try a second hand store this year. I usually just start looking the week after Halloween for a Purim costume and we've found great markdowns (last year the baby had a costume for under $3 with tax).

For young chidren who haven't got into the whole costume thing yet, hand me downs work great. That said, I buy unisex costumes and have a little collection of different sizes.

Borrowing works great too.

child costume said...

The child costume designs presented by your site here are really wonderful. I like it. Actually i believe in handmade costumes so I always try to make a Halloween costume at my home. But your designs force me to buy these.

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