Okay, yeah, I realize at the outset that this small rant is going to make me sound old. Because When I Was A Kid (there it is!), Halloween costumes were something you made yourself out of whatever you could find around the house. Creativity and originality were the benchmarks for a "good" costume. (One of my friends used a Hefty bag and made herself into a raisin. Adorable.) Mad scientist, gypsy, wizard, Army Guy--these were our costumes. The whole thing of going into a Spirit store or whatever and paying $20 for a cheezy fall-apart pre-made costume feels like a...violation somehow. So I hate them with a passion.
I am not a great seamstress; I know the very basics of sewing, but I don't terribly enjoy it, and I rarely have the time to spend on it. But this year I discovered the wonder of reconstructing thrift store clothes into costumes--someone else has done most of the cutting and measuring, the hemming, the lining, what-have-you--all I have to do is chop things down or up to size. Those places are a gold mine.
My son wanted to be young Anakin Skywalker this year. My sewing skills are rudimentary at best, but I know how to make a basic Jedi costume--it's not too hard. Baggy pants. Kimono-type top. Cloak over it all. No big deal. Unfortunately, it's a "no big deal" that nonetheless requires a few hours of time put in, and that's time I just don't have this year. So I was about to bail on the whole thing.
Then it occurred to me...the local thrift store. Wonder what they have? I came home $10 later with a light beige linen pants-and-top set, women's size small, and a knit mock-neck tunic shirt, size xxl. Killed me to cut up this perfectly
good piece of linen, but I figure this is the makings for years of future costumes, and the situation was dire since the school halloween party is really early this year.
So here's what I did: I chopped off the sleeves right above the cuffs and put a very quick hem in there. Cut off the collar, folded the main part of the front fabric in, and sewed around the whole thing to make the wraparound vee-neck thing. (That way I can take the sewing out later and make a RenFaire shirt out of it or something; this is less irrevocable.) I cuffed the pants up about 8 inches and cut off and re-sewed the waistband with new elastic and some lazy pleats (this sounds harder than it is--I just sort of folded and pinned until it didn't fall down his butt, and sewed it around, and then when it was still a little loose I took a piece of elastic and stretched it out while I sewed it again, so the elastic then cinched it in a little. If you didn't even want to do this, pins or suspenders would totally do it.), and bingo, a Jedi uniform. He wore a sort of grey tie-die shirt under it. And I sliced the brown tunic down the front, chopped off the sleeves to his length, and then was delighted to realized that the remainder of the sleeve fabric was enough to open into two rectangles which I could sew together along two sides, sew the bottom onto the tunic neckline, and lookee there's a hood.
Here's the "after" shot:
Not bad, huh? And I maybe spent a total of half an hour actually chopping and stitching to make it happen. And we've now survived two of the four Halloween events of the season, and it hasn't fallen apart yet and looks tons better than any of the other little Jedi out there, if I do say so myself.
So if a particular Halloween costume request comes up, before either hitting the Spirit store or throwing up your hands in defeat, consider hitting the local Goodwill or Salvation Army store...go in with an open mind, and come out with a willingness to start hacking away and a knowledge that even if you screw up, you're not out that much money, probably less than if you'd purchased brand-new fabric and tried it from scratch. In fact, the bedding departments at these stores are gold mines for cheap fabric in the form of old sheets and blankets; you can make cloaks, robes, nightgowns, or just have plain old fabric with which to experiment and learn. Not to be cavalier about screwing up and throwing out, but if there's a seamstress anywhere who didn't have to make a lot of mistakes before getting the hang of it, I'd love to meet her--it's part of the curve, so might as well do it on fabric that's already had its day in the sun, right?
So give it a shot! Happy Halloween, all!