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Costumes: Still Thinking Inside-The-Box

October 13, 2011

Here’s something I find deeply troubling about the way of the world, and Halloween is the perfect time to broach this.  Moms and dads, listen up!  This affects our children. 

The problem is this:  relatively inexpensive and highly attractive mass-produced costumes. 

Yes, these things are cheap as dirt, are of phenomenal craftsmanship and look nothing like the costumes of my day (see God-awful thing at left)

For one, unlike the costumes of my day, these costumes actually appear to be costumes.  Fairies, robots, tree frogs, witches, some type of Nickelodeon cartoon creature, a slutty pole-dancing bumblebee.  You name it.  And they are the real deal alright.  Good grief, it’s as if they just strutted right off of a community college’s makeshift plywood catwalk during the Family & Consumer Science Department’s Fashion Week. 

They’re that good. 

Now I’m going to get all tree-falls-in-the-forest philosophical on you for just one moment so I can illustrate my point.

If “just around the corner” big-box party supply stores existed back in 1966, do you really think Charlie Brown would’ve been out trick-or-treating in a hospital sheet that sported multiple haphazard scissor-cut holes? 

I don’t think so. 

And where would that have left us?  Where would we be today if  It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! (inarguably Charles Schulz’s best TV holiday special) did not include that endearing moment where Chuck, in an attempt to dress as a ghost, comes off looking like a squashed wiffle ball? 

What if his wah-wah-wah parents had simply picked up your run-of-the-mill Buzz Lightyear costume at Party America?  I shudder at the thought.

Way back (waaaaaaay baaaaaack) in 1966, there were no last minute swing-bys at Target to pick up a gorilla suit.  No!  Families had to really put on their thinking caps in order to come up with just the right thing to throw over their kids’ heads on Halloween night. 

But that type of costume creativity has gone the way of the Dodo bird.  Which, by the way, would’ve been a great costume with the right imagination and a few carefully placed feather boas.  But that’ll never happen now.

So how did we get here?  Well, I believe the death of outside-the-box costume-thinking occurred with the ushering in of this monstrosity (at right).  Which, ironically, happened to come inside-a-box.  (You like that juxtaposition?  Yeah, I had to italicize it just to make sure you caught it.)

And inside that box was a one-sided, heat-retaining plastic mask, along with a shapeless, highly flammable one-size-fits-nobody printed rain poncho.  Beautiful.  Poor kids, they didn’t know they were walking around their neighborhoods in hideous junky crap.

And that’s aside from the fact that 1.) they all looked like psychopathic axe murders, 2.) they could not breathe, and 3.) they were not able to see oncoming traffic, razor-protruding Snickers bars OR their thieving friends’ grubby little hands inside their treat buckets.

On the other hand, those shoddy “costumes” are precisely what elevated the star power of the Creative Crafties.  My mom was a Creative Crafty.  She made nearly all our costumes.  Like this . . .

. . . and this . . .

. . . okay, no, not this (this was the year my brother went as a serial killer) . . .

 . . . although, a Creative Crafty knows that when you don’t have regulation Underdog shoes, you can improvise . . .

. . . with red socks.

And my mom always had these little touches that pushed those costumes right over the top, thus blowing those lame-o plastic ponchos right out of the water and off the sidewalk.  (Which literally happened to a friend of mine.)   

I’m talking hand-strung beads on the bottom of my Pocahontas costume.  And red satin lining inside Dracula’s cape.  And splendid rickrack around clown suspenders.  And straw raffia emerging from scarecrow sleeves.  Brilliant!

But I’ll be the first to admit, it wasn’t all good letting the Creative Crafties do their thing.  Sometimes very bad things occur when you let an amateur throw together a child’s costume using simple items you might find lying around your home . . .

. . .  or in your underwear drawer.

 (The runs on the stockings?  That was a nice touch, Mrs. Z.)

And then sometimes, moms and dads grew weary of costumizing their children each year (and rightfully so).  And then those children would have to go it alone.  Also, in those cases, sometimes very bad things would occur.

Do not let these children into your home.  Do not!  I’m serious.  They’re sure to have ringworm.  Yes, keep their hands away from the popcorn balls. 

(By the way, I believe that sign states, “We’re supposed to be pirates in case you can’t tell by the head scarf, beads and hotpants.”)

Such was also the case (i.e. “very bad things”) when my mom finally hung up her Creative Crafty Apron.  From there on out I went as “Punk Rocker Chick.”  Yes, every Halloween from 1984 to 1989, with the help of make-up, more make-up, still more make up, hair-stiffening egg whites I failed to beat well, tight pants and purple hair dye.  (Please note, the Marcia Archives did not contain one photo of this costume.  Huh . . . that’s odd.)

And then, I’m relatively certain that some delusional kid, when left to his own devices, at some point went trick-or-treating in this . . .

. . . but if you read my Underoos post (here), you’ll know I would’ve tipped my hat to that kid.

So with these costume cautionary tales in mind, perhaps the consumer-driven evolution of mass-produced, highly sophisticated Halloween costumes should instead be lovingly embraced. 

After all, perhaps an evolved costume would have kept Chuck from doing yet another bonehead thing to get himself ostracized.

And, who knows, perhaps he would’ve therefore received more than just . . .

. . . a rock.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2011 3:06 pm

    Your mom was on it. I don’t thiink I have one picture of me in a costume–and no, my high school yearbook photo is real.

    • October 13, 2011 8:42 pm

      I suggest you post that picture on your blog so we can all judge for ourselves.

  2. MOM permalink
    October 13, 2011 3:55 pm

    You failed to mention the year you went as a black cat. The problem was your tail was too long and you either fell over backwards when you stepped on it . . or someone standing behind you stepped on it and tripped you, undoubtedly spilling your haul of candy.
    “The costume maker”,

    • October 13, 2011 8:44 pm

      Eeek! She speaks!

      Perhaps the Costume Maker left out the inserted coat hanger wire to keep the tail from being underfoot?

  3. Patrick permalink
    October 13, 2011 10:20 pm

    Love this post! My favorite costume ever was a homemade Oscar the grouch costume: face and hair died green, hole cut out of the bottom of a trash can, ping pong ball eyeballs. Um, I was also an adult when I wore that costume….

    • October 14, 2011 6:43 am

      That’s a fantastic costume! I think it works way better as an adult costume. And when you’re out and about at a party, what a convenient place to throw your empty beer bottles.


  1. We can do better than Pac-Man ponchos. «

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