Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Halloween Costume Hack!

Around here, Halloween is a big deal!  It was never something I remember celebrating as a child, although we did have turnip lanterns on bonfire night.  Nowadays in our neighbourhood, local streets and houses are transformed on 31 October into a village of creepy cottages, magical mansions, flickering pumpkin lanterns and plenty of freaky fun.  For the younger kids it's a chance to dress up, grab your swag bag and go around in the dark collecting sweets galore at each of the houses taking part.  Always with an adult hovering in the background to run back to, just in case the sweetie-giver happens to be dressed in a particularly convincing mask!  The older kids and teens revel in scaring each other and chancing their arm at getting a few goodies too.  It's definitely a family friendly affair and there are strict rules to the game.  If there is a pumpkin twinkling away outside to welcome you, then it is an invitation to knock and see who might be waiting inside to treat you, or make you jump.  If no pumpkin, then you respect that house's privacy and don't knock on the door.  

There is no such thing as going 'over the top' with decorations and some of the creations were truly theatrical in their ambition, with whole front gardens transformed into hammer horror style settings.  Even cars, wheely-bins and garages are dressed to thrill and the all important pumpkins ranged from simple smiley faces to works of art in carving. 

Our Halloween preparations started back in the spring, planting 'jack o lantern' seeds for home grown pumpkins on the allotment.  We watched them grow, proudly pointing out the biggest ones marked out as having the best lantern potential.  We harvested them last week, lugging them back with aching arms, turning one into soup, and the others have been sitting in jolly trio in the kitchen.  They've been glowing away, seasonally orange and waiting to be transformed into candle-lit, goblin-faced characters!  A good tip if you do grow your own is to always cut them with a good bit of stalk left on.  They'll keep a lot longer.

This year, there has been a lot of talk about children's dressing up costumes and the dangers of cheap synthetic fabric when in the presence of flames.  It horrifies me to think how easy it can be for a child in a witches costume to brush against a flickering candle and instantly find themselves trapped in a melting plastic prison.  So easily done and a life changing consequence.  It has made me think very differently about popping out for a quick and easy supermarket outfit for my kids to dress up in and so this year I'm taking a home made approach to kitting the the little demons out.  I have to be realistic and confess that I don't have the time or patience to create home made versions from scratch, although there are lots of great patterns for sale to make your own spooky outfits if you feel so inclined.  I have to confess also that I do have previous form in trying to cobble together my own costumes for parties we've had at home that have achieved varying levels of success.  In fact we used to hold a party every year and it became quite a challenge to make something that was even more outlandish than the last.  Brilliant fun, but less realistic with the ever growing list of other demands upon our time and energy and the increasing size and general boisterousness of the little demons.  The last house party saw me bound from head to foot in ripped sheets dressed as a mummy, which seemed like a good idea until I realised I'd spent the afternoon wrapping myself so meticulously well that I couldn't move or raise my arms to even eat and drink!

So I thought this year I would use up some of the kids' old clothes, some scraps from my stash, a few props and a bit of imagination instead.  No sewing!  I've also invested in some really good quality face paints, which I hope will not only transform a rather cobbled together costume into a convincing Halloween character, but I also reckon they will come in handy for future parties and school dressing up days too.  They've already been called into service to address a sudden request from school to dress as an alien.  One blue-painted child and a pair of deely-boppers and bingo!  One alien! Having spent £20 on 4 colours of paints as an investment then, I wanted to spend no more on the outfits, only working with what I have already.

And so, to the costumes.  The first items to get the Halloween treatment was a pair of red corduroy trousers that had worn through at the knee and a rather stained and crumpled t-shirt.  Both have been hanging around and used as play clothes, being too battered for the charity bag.  A few scissor snips and some artful ripping and we have a suitably zombified ensemble.  Face paints did the rest of the job, and thus complete the desired 'Sean of the Dead' look!  Scary!

The next outfit, a little witch, was basically a collection of grey 'normal' clothes (woolly dress and tights) with the addition of witchy hat and a cloak.  The cloak was simply a square of novelty material with black cobwebs on it that I have in my stash cupboard and have used as a table covering for halloween parties in the past. Of course black clothes would have been more traditionally witch-like I suppose, but I didn't have any black kids clothes and anyway, I didn't feel the need for a forensic level of accuracy here. Once again the face paints provided the transformative element to the look.

The little witch was a tricky moving target to snap and so she escaped me getting photo of her! I think it's fun to try and put together a 'home made' outfit and it's definitely more fun for the kids as you all try to collect together all the bits and bobs and make them work.  Then explaining who they're supposed to be to others when they fail to guess.  It does take more time of course than picking something off a rail, and sometimes you have to use a bit of imagination.  But that's all part of the charm.  Visiting friends and offering a makeover was fun too and I managed a skeleton, two cats and 'Malificent' before our motley crew headed off into the night.

The great thing about Halloween is that, while you can indulge covering everything and everyone in sight in heaps of glorious tat, it has all virtually disappeared by lunchtime the next day.  All the lost souls and living dead, jolly jokers and grinning goblins have been sent packing and the neighbourhood turns back into normal again.  Until next year! Mwah ha ha ha!

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