The Detective’s Daughter — Making Halloween Costumes

kimspolicehatKim in Baltimore admiring the big moon.

Halloween is only a few weeks away and I’m not ready. The decorations are still packed, the candy has yet to be bought and the pumpkins I planted didn’t even get a chance to ripen before becoming a delicious snack for the squirrels. At least I have no costumes to worry with this year. My children are grown and are quite capable of putting together their own disguises.

When I was a child, my mom made every costume I ever wore. Now that I think about it, she made quite a few for me when I was an adult, too. Mom has always been an excellent kimwhitedressseamstress. She made a lot of her own formal wear as well as many of my outfits and my Barbie clothes. Halloween costumes were her specialty.

Every year I could count on a beautiful gown to be either a princess, or a bride. One year she actually used a pair of lavender Priscilla curtains to make a gown and hat for me to be a Southern Belle. I won first place at the recreation center’s Halloween party that year.

The year Dad became involved in the costume making, he decided I would be a devil. My mom sewed the suit and Dad made my horns, tail and pitchfork.  I was not amused. He made another attempt a few years later, but fortunately it was the year of my curtain dress. My sister was not so lucky. He dressed her as a turtle.

kimredI had high expectations of myself when it came to making my own children’s costumes. The problem was I didn’t know how to sew. I solved that by investing in a glue gun and one of those super-duper staplers. My kids could only wear the costume once because it had to be pulled  apart to get them out of it. By the time they were old enough for school they were begging me for store bought costumes. I must admit, I was a bit broken-hearted and felt like a failure. They were so excited, though, to pick out the costumes that I soon realized what the costumes meant.

kimbeeIt wasn’t really what I wore that I remembered so vividly, it was the time I had spent with my mom, times where I had her undivided attention. I can still picture how she looked as I stood on the ottoman in our living room as she hemmed my dress, or the nights I sat with her while she sewed and listened to Connie Francis records. I couldn’t sew a beautiful costume, but I could give my children my undivided attention.

Every year it was a special event to buy just the right costume. We always ended up with an extra mask…just in case, and ended our shopping trip with lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. On the way home, my kids liked to wear their masks to see the reactions they would get from the people we passed.

This year I’ll admire all the costumes of the children who come to my door, store bought or homemade, each one has a special story.

Readers: What are your favorite Halloween memories? Which costume was your favorite or which was the most embarrassing?

22 Thoughts

  1. Lovely memories, Kim. My mother was also a crack seamstress, and I learned from her. I made my kids whatever costume they wanted: a red-winged blackbird, Aladdin, a Harry Potter gown. But you’re right, it’s the attention they really want.

  2. I loved to do makeup for my children’s costumes. Now I decorate my dining table with pictures of my children in their costumes. Great memories of them as little Raggedy Ann and Andy, Starwars characters, a hobo, Wacky Wednesday, and clowns!

  3. I remember the first Halloween I went trick-or-treating with my mother, in our very safe New Jersey cul-de-sac. I was dressed as an Indian (not exactly politically correct, but I didn’t choose it), and while the costume was store-bought, I wore my favorite bedroom slippers: pink leather moccasins with beading. It was raining, and they got very wet. I have a picture of the pre-party, with a few of my neighborhood friends and me

    The first costume I made for my daughter? A grey and white kitty-cat with a long stuffed tail.

  4. Worst costume ever?

    The practical plan to send my brother and I as matching rabbits. I know what you’re thinking, how adorable, right?

    Except we are 8.5 years apart! He was one and I was nine!

    And, because my mother did not know how to sew, she asked a family friend to make the costumes and when she found out how much they would cost, she asked for a more practical alternative. Our matching bunny costumes converted into pajamas- remove the yarn tail, the gloves, and the shoe covers, and you were ready for bed.

    Very embarrassing for a nine year-old.

    And don’t even get me started on our matching monogrammed sweaters and bowl cuts!


  5. I had a variety of costumes as a kid, some store bought some my mom made following a pattern she bought from a fabric store. My favorite may have been when I was a pirate. However, the one I’ll never forget was when my brother dressed as a crayon. The entire thing was fabric, but when we showed it to my grandpa, he picked my brother up and “wrote” on the wall with the tip on the top of my brother’s head. Of course, he then got in “trouble” for writing on the wall, but my brother and I thought it was wonderfully funny.

  6. My mother didn’t sew, but somehow she always assembled our costumes. I’m the same way–no sewing, but my kids never wore store-bought costumes, either. (Except sometimes masks.) Worst costume–being the backend of a horse. Back-breaking, even for a nine year-old. Plus people kept skipping me when passing out candy.

  7. I’m no seamstress but I made a lot of costumes for my daughter. Over the years, I made Alice in Wonderland, A butterfly with gossamer wings, a black cat, and Robin Hood which started out as an elf but ended up not looking very elf-ish. One year my husband made made her into a robot. Using cardboard boxes and a lot of electronics (long before there were microelectronics) with flashing lights and ringing bells. At 46, my daughter still talks about how much she appreciates the time, care, and effort that went into making those costumes. I don’t know how I had the time to do it then, but I’m awfully glad that I did.

  8. I remember my dear friend who went to a Gone With the Wind party as Belle Watling!

  9. Kim, Thanks for sharing your Halloween stories and photos with us. I love that southern bellecostume, made from curtains, just like Scarlett O’Hara.

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