A couple of weeks ago, I heard two moms talking on their way from drop off at the elementary school by my house. Actually, it was just one mom doing all the talking. The other barely had a chance to say “uh huh” and “OK” and seemed sorry she’d gotten dragged into walking with this other mom, who was ranting:
“It’s an outrage. An OUTRAGE. I could understand if they want to teach the kids about the concept of Saints’ Day, but to make each one pick a saint and then ask us to sew them a costume is ridiculous. An outrage. We need to form a united front and let the school know what an outrage this is. It’s an impossible ask. Do they think we have nothing else to do? And what if we’re opposed to saints! I don’t know how I feel about saints. I’m certainly not going to sew one.”
I think my mom would’ve felt the same way about saints.
She reacts to any religious agenda by making the same face she makes if she smells a carton of sour milk.
But in terms of sewing costumes, she is a saint. (Or was. If I asked her to sew me a costume now, she’d probably point me to one of the many popup stores in storefronts formerly occupied by restaurants that couldn’t afford the rent hike. They’re all over the neighborhood, selling every variety of sexy ___. Why not just go as Sexy Slut?)
When I was a kid, though?
Mom was a willing, one-woman sweat shop.
She sat at that Singer sewing machine and made anything I told her to. No health benefits, little pay.
I say “little” pay because it turns out there was a small fee. My mom revealed just recently that she wrote her own pay check by pilfering from our candy stashes on a nightly basis.
I never suspected her.
Never, ever. My mom is so honest that she cried the time I stole a Brach’s caramel from the bulk bin at the supermarket at age 6 or so, and the time I revealed, in my 20s, that I’d stolen a fancy hotel bathrobe.
Which is a brilliant cover if you want to filch your kids’ Snickers, Choco-lites, Chunky bars and Milky Ways. No wonder my stash got down to the unwanted Smarties and banana-flavored Tootsie Rolls and wrapped hard candies (really, Apartment 18 C? Peppermints I can get from a bowl at a diner register?) and stale mini-boxes of Sun Maid Raisins from old ladies so fast. Now I see the genius.
She deserved those bite-size minis, though. She made some great costumes.
Favorite costumes: 1) The M&M’s bag, pictured. A curtain rod for the top? How did Mom come up with that? Before youtube tutorials, there were just Butterick sewing pattern books, which were good for the calico square-dance skirts Mom sewed me for camp, but you know there was no M&Ms costume pattern in there. Go Mom! 2) A soft-sculpture chocolate-chip cookie. A knock-off of the bagel and lox my friend Rachel had worn the year before, it was not only edible-looking, but easy to wear. It left my head in the clear, and I didn’t even have to take it off to go to the bathroom. Everything you want in a costume.
Almost-cancelled costume: the garbage can costume she made for my sister. Before the internet, it was no small task to source large sheets of corrugated cardboard. After she perfected it, with a lid and everything, my dad the psychoanalyst objected to the whole idea. He felt that going as a garbage can reflected, and reinforced, a poor self-image. My mom either won the argument by pointing out that the world’s most famous garbage dweller was named Oscar the Grouch, not Oscar the Self-Loather, or by saying, “Why don’t YOU make her a new costume, then?”
Worst costume ever: Bloody vampire. My mom made me a decent cape, and I guess I had false teeth, but instead of finding fake blood, I poured ketchup all over the dark felt cape. I knew that professionals used ketchup as a substitute for blood in movies. Too bad I didn’t know that ketchup doesn’t show on dark purple felt, but does mat it down and makes you stink like a hot dog all night.
What were your best and worst costumes ever?
What was the worst candy in your stash, and how long did your stash last?
If you have kids, do you make their costumes?
Do you steal their candy?
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.
Marian Belgray says
Actually, I never got to be Oscar (I must still be grouchy about it). As I remember it, Dad put the kibosh on it as soon as we brought home the cardboard. Here’s how I broke it down: http://www.marianbelgray.com/blog/archives/10-2010
I forgot about the cookie costume. Another good one: Pack of Wrigley’s gum.
I totally forgot about that post! What a great read, especially with my shot memory. I can’t believe Dad killed your garbage costume. Was it supposed to be Oscar, or just the can? I kind of remembered you not being interested in the muppet part.
Why are there no pics of the Wrigley’s? It’s tragic.
Oh my God! I love the M & M costume! That’s fantastic!
Both of my kids loved to dress up. The catalogs started coming in August and we’d start buying. Only my kids would
wear year around, so we’d stock up.
I don’t sew, so the one time my son came to me and asked if I’d make him a Robin costume, I said, “That sounds like a great project for you and Dad to work on!” (The costume ended up blowing doors off anything that I could have come up with!)
My husband used to be in the film industry, so when we lived in LA I’d have to compete with those people. Holy Mother of God! It’s no contest when you’re up against people who have access to a wardrobe department and professional make-up!
Although, my niece is currently in LA in school for special effects make-up. That should be a hell of a good time for future Halloweens.
The “I’m too sexy for this Hallowen costume” trend has GOT to end. Particularly if you’re out of your twenties, married, with children.
You don’t look hot. You look desperate. The OC Housewife is not a good look, not even if you’re an OC Housewife.
No one can compete with film industry people! They have access to everything: wounds, fur, extra limbs, facial zippers…God, if I lived in LA (and had a kid), I’d throw a sheet over my kid and call it a day. “I’m out.”
I think OC Housewife circa 2007 would actually be a great costume. Wear one of those tops that gathers in the center with something sparkly. There’s a name for those tops, but I’m blanking.
Erin Amani says
I like Mama Belgay ^^
Mom Belgray says
I loved this post. It brought back many memories, but unfortunately not the other costumes I made. My own costumes were not so creative; the pillow case ghost got a lot of mileage. I loved it when Halloween fell on a weekend (like tonight), because I could go to my grandparents’ place in Rye, NY, and go trick-or-treating with my summer pals. We tried to scare people, but instead, I remember getting scared of the strange noises in the dark, caused by the neighborhood bad boys.
Favorite candy? Candy corn. Really! Best treat? Homemade brownies. Worst treat? Apples (food didn’t have to be wrapped and sealed in those days).
I imagine that when you were a kid, there were probably only a handful of costume categories, all low-tech: ghost, Dorothy, hobo, witch, Great Depression beggar wearing barrel.
Hold on: you? Candy corn? That’s not chocolate! I love candy corn. Didn’t have any this year, might need to go buy some. (On sale!)
Mom Belgray says
Yes, amazing that I would choose it over chocolate (actually, I’d choose both), but candy corn is pure sugar. If you get some, you gotta share. Well, maybe not.
Mom Belgray says
P.S, I’m honored that you even considered me saintly!
I go a little bit nuts on Halloween. It’s the only time lately that my BA in drama becomes valuable. I have a closet in the house that’s full of costume pieces. Every year I dress my husband, a high school history teacher, as a significant character from a different era. This year he let me dress him as a woman. He’s so cool. He went to school as Carrie Nation, of the women’s christian temperance movement, famous for taking a hatchet to saloons pre-prohibition. I made him a sign shaped like a hatchet that said “Lips that touch alcohol shall not touch mine”. I’ve also dressed my kids now 10 and 12 in elaborate home made costumes, some more successful than others. My favorite was my son Zavier’s first Halloween when I sewed a tiny purple and royal blue silk jockey outfit with a leather riding crop and boots and a tiny riding cap. I made this amazing leather horse mask for my husband, dressed him in a full horse costume with hooves and my son rode on my husband’s shoulders. I boldly eat plenty of Halloween candy too. No sneaking about for me. I earn it!
Those all sound magnificent. Do you ever dress your husband as Joseph Pilates? I don’t know what the costume would look like, but it would be a great brand fit.
A great idea! Joseph Pilates was usually in a small white brief and studio slippers, so it’s a super easy costume. Actually though, my husband is the antithesis of Joe who was barrel chested and muscular. I fit the model better myself. Ha.
Rachal gerrard says
Being English we never celebrated Halloween, it had disappeared from our shores hundreds of years ago and instead we celebrated Guy Fawkes, no costume or sewing skills involved, just stuff some tights with newspapers and make the resyt of the body by stuffing a shirt and tights again for a head, he vwould be placed in a cart or pram and paraded by kids who would shout “penny for the guy” , sweets/ candy were bought with the money made and the guy would be put on top of the bomb fire. Since I had my two children in my mid/late 30’s I’ve got into the spirit of Halloween which we do celebrate here, these last two decades on fact and I have got into costume making, what with book days at school etc. My son once went as a bowl of porridge (favourite book on book day: Goldilocks and the three bears) I made him into a ‘Cornish’ ware bowl complete with yellow fluffy material on top for the porridge whetre his head came through. This year at Halloween my son decided to go as an old granny, we found everything at a vintage charity, some very Petit lady must’ve passed away because we found everything in his size and he’s 10 years old, I suppose that is the true sense of Halloween, to laugh in the face of death because he looked really funny.
Hannah Ransom says
My dad always took our candy.. He called it the dad tax and definitely took the best chocolate.
I love the dad tax. I want to go around imposing it on other people’s kids. They’ll be confused enough to hand over all their Hershey’s Special Darks.
Cuz Susan says
Best costume – that’s easy. Vacuum cleaner. I was in second grade and I cut a cardboard box to fit over me. With a black magic marker, I wrote “Soover” or maybe it was “Soover Vacuum Cleaner”. I’m not sure if I or my mom came up with the costume idea nor who came up with the very clever “Soover” part.
Unfortunately, I had to take it off to go to the bathroom and to play kickball outside during gym. As usual, I was picked last or close to it. Even with my great costume.
Oh, and my best friend was the Jolly Green Giant that year. Her costume was better, because her mom was an art teacher. Still, we were a great pair and it was the best costume year for both of us.
Cuz Susan says
I forgot to add that I hung various vacuum cleaner attachments from the box!
Neither of my kids likes Three Musketeers bars, so they freely give me the one item i’d be most inclined to steal from their trick-or-treat bags.
Also, Chelsea (the professional costume designer to whom I am married) used to call Halloween “amateur night” and wanted nothing to do with it. But that changed when we had kids and she could smoke the other neighborhood moms in the custom costume derby. Among the hits: a bumble bee, a Pegasus, Lady Gaga and Nosferatu.
That is such an unfair advantage, and I love it. Reminds me of when my classmate, whose father was an electrical engineer, put all our Hobbit dioramas to shame with Hobbit eyes that lit up at the touch of a button. I think my best special effect was cotton balls.
Licia Morelli says
I absolutely do not make my kids’ costumes.
I do, however, steal their candy.
So essentially, I pay myself to do nothing.
You are LIVING THE DREAM!
Ellen Deringer says
I loved everything about this post. And can I make a request for more info about the calico square dance skirts at camp? Because I am dying to know. The visual alone is already making me smile.
I was very smug about having an original, home-made skirt with fabric I’d hand-selected. But I usually ended up borrowing my friend Lisa’s store-bought, chambray denim one. It was more “on trend.” And yes, there were trendy square dance clothes. 3-tier was the way to go if you wanted boys to ask you to do-si-do to the Salty Dog Rag.