Privilege Blog

One Last Hallowe’en Costume, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:42am

It’s the weekend before Hallowe’en.

My son sent me a photo of himself in costume. I think he’s a hammerhead shark, although I can’t be certain. No text accompanied said photo. Imagine goggle eye headgear made of red beer cups, and an open shark mouth painted on neck and chest. My daughter plans a traditional Native American costume. I suppose the pendulum has swung, and dressing in the ceremonial or customary clothing of other cultures is OK again. She’ll look rather fetching, in any case, with her braid the pink/orange/gold of a new copper penny.

I get so nostalgic around this time of year. As a stay-at-home mom I milked Hallowe’en for every last drop of self-expression. Although much of mothering required my stability and endurance, over all, costumes were crazy time. You have an idea? I can’t sew to save my life? No matter! There are 12 glue guns in the cupboard, and more where those came from.

Artifacts persist. I still own so many pieces of colored felt. They earned their place above the washing machine. And only recently did I throw out a beetle back; a foam rubber oval, covered in blue and silver lame, ornamented with puffy paint stripes and felt polka dots. Glue guns, baby, glue guns! With a stapler here and there in a pinch.

I haven’t worn a costume myself since I donned that same beetle back one year. I was running product management in a software-driven business, as is my wont, and my team and I dressed as bugs. Get it? Software bugs? Yeah, I know. We found ourselves hilarious.

Will I ever dress up again? Will you? What on earth would I wear? You? I believe I’m past the age for Sexy Nurse and Slutty Kitty Cat. What remains?

My gardening attire is sufficiently witch-like that I feel no desire for Double, Double, Toil, or Trouble. I certainly don’t want to honor popular culture by dressing as a celebrity, and doubt I could pull off Kim Kardashian anyway.

I think I’d like to go as Queen Of All I Survey. Great excuse to buy that ballgown The Preppy Princess and I have discussed. Or wear the old one in my closet. I could snag a tiara like the ones they wear on, inappropriately, Toddlers and Tiaras. Rent a satin and faux ermine-trimmed cape. Instead of a sceptre, however, I’d carry surveying tools. An area planimeter, perhaps.

At any point I could declare new territory won.

Need I mention that queens need nude patent Louboutins? Sold out never applies to royalty. Trick or Treat, to everyone who participates, and treats to all regardless of culture.

38 Responses

  1. Having been the lucky recipient of many homemade costumes during my childhood, I especially enjoyed the nostalgia part of this post. How nice to think about the other side of that coin. Certainly I never thought about my mother’s creative process when I was five and donning my Little Miss Muffet attire. The felt spider on my shoulder was an effective distraction from the fact that I was wearing a flower girl dress from a wedding earlier that year (over a turtleneck, I’m a sure).

    I haven’t had a costume in several years, but the last year I was got dressed up, I went out with a low-budget, repurposed bang: I was a Rock Lobster. Red skirt made from scrap fabric, red shirt and heels, pipe cleaner antennae, red oven mitts.

  2. I’ve always loved Halloween, with its thinning of the social veil. Co-workers at Halloween parties dressed as bad puns, obscure super heroes, and who would have guessed that Bob owned a Liberace outfit? It’s fascinating, and a bit voyeuristic, to peek briefly into people’s psyches. As always when the rules are relaxed, there are missteps, and interns in sexy giraffe costumes, but we look the other way, excusing youth.

    Being in a college town hasn’t dimmed my enjoyment in the slightest. I go downtown with a camera every year, to immortalize the sights, and yes, I wear costumes. When in Rome. Cultural appropriation works well as I get older, and am more prone to modesty and hypothermia. But the classics are still fair game. This year my infant daughter will be a bat, and I’ll don fangs, but with a modest Edwardian outfit. No Vampyra for me. When the daughter is grown, and no longer provides an excuse, who knows?

  3. I think I would like to dress up as Pippi longstockings (any excuse for dying my hair orange), or Mary Poppins. But those characters are neither evil nor scary, so I guess I would like to be The Snow Queen . It has to be one of my favorite children stories from Hans Christian Andersen.

  4. Loved reading this post, it brought back such wonderful memories of past Fall Festivals, popcorn balls, crisp cool days, rustling leaves, and a thousand other warm and pleasant recollections…who doesn’t love all that October brings? Thanks for reminding us Lisa!

  5. Ah, I love my Saturday morning ritual spending a few moments with you. :)

    I really miss this time of year in my boys’ childhood too. I am drawn to look at the photos hanging on my wall of the last time I used my sewing machine to transform them into Peter Pan and a bumble bee. The last couple years of their trick or treat life they wore their Little League uniforms. I knew the fun was ending. :(

    The last time I dressed up was to accompany a cow costume I bought for DH at Target. I rented a milk maid costume with the golden braids and all and carried around a glass bottle of milk. He’s tall and luckily the udder hit him high but people asked him for cream in their coffee all night long. We won best costume and he won the moniker of “Udder Boy”. Such proud moments for both of us. lol!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  6. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and it so made me chuckle – my daughter (age 16) is planning to dress as a carrot as everyone calls her this name – I pay a small fortune to replicate her hair colour!!!!

  7. For someone living in Australia, reading about Halloween is always interesting. Growing up with American media in our lives here, Halloween has always been a bit exotic.

    Unfortunately, it has become such a commercial and manufactured event here. It doesn’t have the rich history of families celebrating and dressing up.

    In some ways I wish we left Halloween alone.

    SSG xxx

  8. I miss designing and making a Halloween costume for my daughter. It was a real extension of my artistic self. The last costume I wore, was when I was 6 months pregnant. I dress as a Q-Tip. Pale blue tights and leotard, cotton all over my head, face and feet. I won best costume at a very posh party that year.
    Looking forward to grandchildren, their costumes, carving jack ‘o lanterns, etc.

  9. Bugs! As someone who works with computer scientists and developers on a regular basis, I think those costumes would have been very witty. At our organization we have trick-or-treating in the afternoons, and I love getting to see the children’s costumes. My favorite was a network engineer’s brood, a boy of six and his four younger sisters. He was an entomologist (with net and pith helmet and khaki shirt) and the little girls were his butterflies. It was adorable.

    I love your costume idea. I think if I am ever called on to wear one, I will come as a Crazy Cat Lady. My last Hallowe’en costume was Hester Prynne, with linen cap and apron, black dress, red pipe-cleaners twisted into the shape of the letter “A,” and a baby-doll in a red velvet gown, and that was a good fifteen years ago.

  10. Can I just say how happy it makes me to see your apostrophe in Hallowe’en? Sometimes I feel that I am the only one keeping that sad, neglected little apostrophe alive. If I were Queen of All I Survey, I would bestow upon you a damehood for Services to Festive Punctuation. As it is, I hope a simple thank you will suffice.

    1. “If I were Queen of All I Survey, I would bestow upon you a damehood for Services to Festive Punctuation.”

      I declare damehoods on BOTH of you! Shame on me, I didn’t know about the apostrophe.

  11. My favourite costume was in the early 80s when a boyfriend and I put ourselves (separately thank god) into plastic drycleaning bags, poured in many boxes of powdered sugar and went as grams of cocaine.

    My children know nothing of this.

    I have a treasured photo of them at seven, a bank robber and his pirate brother,close up on the patch, moustache and brows I drew on with markers.

  12. I enjoyed this post so much. One of my proudest mom accomplishments was the red felt circle skirt and fringed vest (no sewing required, just hot glue and a safety pin) featuring black felt cowboy boot silhouettes for Little’s Annie Oakley costume when she was five. We bought cowboy boots and spray-painted them red, and then oversprayed that with a light dusting of glitter. We braided her hair and topped her off with a red cowboy hat, ‘natch. My children still want me to pull out some Halloween decorations and make a “fun” supper, but the costumes–the thrill of the magical transformation–has passed.

  13. I think that the beetle shell is wonderful! Costumes from a bag can be fun (and I remember whining for them when I was a kid), but I’m very thankful that I was able to to enjoy homemade spider, mummy, and zombie regalia. There’s a particular type of enjoyment that comes from costumes that get created, especially when they’re slightly imperfect.

    I do feel a need to make a comment about your daughter’s costume – I agree that the pendulum of what’s socially acceptable does seem to have swung back to include dressing up as a minority. However, even though a lot of people will be wearing something similar this weekend, those costumes are still problematic.

    I in *no* way want to be a scold. However, I didn’t want to say nothing, since having spent many Halloweens with Apache, Hupa & Chocktaw friends & family, I know that their reactions to those costumes don’t change, even when the boundaries of ‘acceptable’ do. I hope that your daughter has a truly great time over the weekend, but I also hope that the pendulum swings back soon.

    Here’s to a fabulous Halloween for all!

  14. I laughed at your felt comment. We still have those odd scraps of felt. Perhaps from when my mother felt some crafty inspiration and wanted to make puppets for us.

    Unfortunately, there is no trick-or-treating in the Middle East, but I am trying to get my American friends with kids to show up at my house and indulge me for nostalgia’s sake. I am the Arab Spring this year and multiple colleagues are Gaddafi from various stages of his life.

    Of course, I think my favorite is when the men dress up as slutty nurse.

  15. Halloween sounds so typically American. Unfortunately we have adapted some small parts for it too, for the children, which imo is crazy. Halloween does not fit in our culture.
    The timing of it is absurd, too close to The All Saint´s Day.
    Thank you for the post though.

  16. The younger Brits are catching up with the US on this dressing up.The only thing we did with our daughter was make pumpkin faces with a candle inside…well hb did the face!

    Bonfire night November 5th was more of a celebration back then.

    Lots of pumpkins are appearing at the bottom of country drives,and cottage porches looks very Autumn like with all the colours in the trees.

    Have a fun Hallowe’en to all who celebrate. Ida

  17. “I think I’d like to go as Queen Of All I Survey.”

    The next best thing to Queen is dressing up and performing as The Fortune Teller. This is what I do at our annual clan gathering, ages 4 to 90. Harem pants, harem top, partial harem veil, a turban if it isn’t too hot that day. Seated at table with two decks of cards set out in front of me on tabletop, face down. And this is where I stay [preside], and they come to me all day long [my subjects], they sit down opposite me, they draw a card and show it to me and off I go into humorous narratives tailored precisely to the various clan members as I know them. One deck is the classic “angel cards” [kids love this, they are TINY little cards with glorious words spelled out in calligraphy]; and the other is the more enigmatic “verticle oracle,” both decks feature a single word [a trait, a virtue, a vice, an attribute, a state of being, etc]. I can SOOOO SEE YOU doing this Lisa, you with that glorious narrative ability of yours!

  18. I’m teaching Monday night, and I did briefly debate putting some kind of costume together. Several colleagues will be giving their lectures that day all Halloweened up. But it’s just too much work, I sadly admit — like you, I had fun doing it for my kids back in the day, but am not such a fan of the costume-wearing for myself. Although if I could come up with nude patent Louboutin heels and a costume to match, I suppose I could be persuaded. . . . Happy Halloween!

  19. Your post brings back memories of Halloween 19 years ago, Homebound for the final months of my last pregnancy, and wracked with guilt that the older two children would not have handmade costumes, I bought a basic witch and a basic ghost and spooked them up with lame fabrics cut outs traced from Halloween cookie cutters.

    Ironing them on with fusible web proved impossible from a sitting position and after a week of it, I would have been more rested at my office desk, writing briefs. But then, I wouldn’t have the wonderful photos of their spooky selves in the front yard.

  20. Oh, how I love this one. We have the glue gun. And the felt. And the paint, can’t leave out the paint. For the unpainted wooded birdhouses of course. Not to mention the vintage patterns from the 50s and 60s for aprons. (Please don’t ask if I have *ever* worn an apron, you can guess the answer to that.) Why? For the very same reasons you share, because I still want to create something of myself.

    Thank you for the lovely mention Miss Privilege, how I wish I could see photos of those costumes you made!

  21. I do miss taking the kids out trick or treating. I always thought it would be cool to dress as Morticia Addams, but never actually dressed as anything edgier than a bunny rabbit.

  22. I would sincerely like to believe that even in your heyday you were never Sexy Nurse or Slutty Kitty Cat!

    I have always felt like a bit of a disappointment in the Halloween department to my kids. I admire the cleverness and handiwork of other moms, but I just can’t seem to pull it off myself. However, I do win at Thanksgiving.

  23. Even as a college student the allure of Halloween somewhat escapes me, I would much rather spend a night sipping wine, eating popcorn, and watching movies with close friends than running off to a party and going along with the trends of scantily clad potentially hypothermia inducing costumes. As a child my mother always handled Halloween excellently, with plenty of the best candy, apple cider, and charming decorations. Those are the Halloweens I love to remember.

  24. Oh most definitely, Queens NEED nude Laboutins! Love this post and your software bugs made me smile! Happy Halloween to you. x

  25. This year I was a black and white movie star. Black and gray dress, black hat, black and gray pumps, black stockings. The fun part was only black and gray makeup.

    Not a sexy kitty, but very much a costume.

  26. All costumes at my house began with an over sized sweatshirt, to be adorned with dye, glitter glue, capes, tails and home made masks, becoming everything from Pocahantas, aliens, kittens, a roman gladiator, King Arthur (worn every day by my son almost a year at age 4), a princess, foxes, a “pretty witch”, and obscure anime characters. How I miss those days! I was amused when my 23 year old son asked me once again to help him be a king this year (or, still, as it were). He bought a metal crown, I repurposed an old red cape from childhood, found my father’s army air corps boots, and off he went to NYC to a party. Quite the hit, but he has stayed in character referring to everyone as minions, or alternatively, peasants. Who need to dress up, when we can enjoy their show?

  27. We live one town over from the center of all that is horrible about Halloween – Salem, MA.

    You can see the Halloween ferris wheel (?!?) from our house and last night, the Halloween fireworks (?!?) woke us at 10pm.

    Halloween, carnie style. Blech.

  28. Craftosaurus – It sounds as though you have inherited your mother’s skills:).

    Aleatha – “its thinning of the social veil.” So eloquent. I hadn’t even thought that far.

    Amanda – Hans Christian Andersen always scared me. The Pearl Diver scared me most of all – do you know that one?

    deb-u-naunt – Thank you very much. Happy Fall Y’all indeed!

    Marilyn – Well hello! Sorry it takes me so long to respond these days. So I am spending Wednesday night with you:). I should have guessed you’d be a good costume maker.

    Fiona – Carrot top. Very adorable.

  29. Sydney Shop Girl – It’s hard to take on other holidays. In China, for example, they’ve taken on Valentine’s Day, without the old history of gluing red paper on lace.

    Maggie – A geek likes it? Yay!

    RoseAG – I know! Including burn your hand, but that’s another story:).

    kathy – It is one of those few sanctioned full-creative moments of motherhood. The Q-tip sounds like so much fun.

    Staircase Witch – Crazy cat lady? My imagination is running wild.

    Kirsty – Oh thank you. I don’t use it religiously, but in a title, seems respect must be paid.

  30. Duchesse – Hahahahaha. A new side of you is revealed. I love Halloween photos, and I wish I’d taken more.

    Town and Country – Thank you. That sounds like the cutest red sparkly cowgirl ever. It is magical when they are little, isn’t it.

    Laura – Hope you had a good one!

    Alice – As it turned out, my daughter did not use that costume, which had belonged to a friend in any case. She went as Jessica, the red-haired vampire from True Blood. So I believe she understood what you are saying and already knew.

    Delia – Bwahahaha.

    The Cape House – The thought of Halloween in the Middle East boggles the imagination. As does the idea of slutty male nurses, albeit a little less:).

  31. metscan – What, pray tell, is typically American to your way of thinking?

    Ida – Your autumn sounds lovely. And I remember Guy Fawkes Day, from 1968, when my family spent a year in London. I remember the sparks in the sky.

    Flo – Hmm. The Fortune Teller. Hmm. My siblings may have heard enough of my stories:).

    mater – OK. Nude Louboutins, if we can find them, next Halloween.

    Loretta – Sometimes what we can accomplish is the best medicine, right?

  32. TPP – “because I still want to create something of myself.” Thank you. Never quit.

    Susan Tiner – Sturdy Gals have a hard time with edgy:).

    Dawn – You are right. I was never sexy or slutty anything for Halloween. Never at all.

    Holly – I liked Halloween for my kids, more than I ever liked it for myself:).

    Sarah – Thank you!

  33. Chalicechick – I love intellectual costumes like that, with a twist.

    Madeline – It’s the stories, and the pretend. Wonderful.

    Patsy – Yeah. So not OK. FERRIS WHEELS?

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