I was riding in hired car to the airport yesterday when a young Spider-Man and Princess Jasmine from Disney’s Aladdin movie hopped in with their mother. They were on their way to a school Halloween fair. Sharing the ride with me kept the fare cost low for us both. Spider-Man, whose name I soon learned was Julio, really wanted to dress as Mickey Mouse but as there were no Mickey Mouse costumes at the store, he had settled for Spider-Man until his mother could finish making him a Mickey Mouse suit.
The costumes were cute, in that commercial sort of way, but I know the one his mother is crafting will be much better simply because it is homemade and is assembled with love.
I recalled to the mother the year that I had created Ninja Turtle costumes for my three sons. The fact that I could stitch up turtle shells from felt was in itself a fabrication feat. Now I wonder exactly how I managed it given my limited skills as a seamstress. And yet, year after year, I seemed to pull together my sons’ costume choice for Halloween.
Some years were simpler than others, like the time my oldest son, Matthew, then seven, decided to masquerade as ‘the President.’ He wasn’t interested in impersonating any one particular person who had held our country’s highest office but rather as himself, dressed as, well, the President.
That meant pulling from his closet the one and only suit jacket and dress pants he owned–probably bought for another special holiday or celebration–shining up his shoes, putting on a white dress shirt and tie and handing him a trick or treat bag. As a finishing touch, he also carried with him a copy of the Constitution.
The year he landed on being an astronaut was a little more complicated. We borrowed a helmet and had a big pair of snow boots and his Dad’s work gloves to wear, but what to do for the suit itself? Finally, I figured it out. I visited a paint store, picked up a disposal painters suit and stitched on the front and sleeve the Space Shuttle patches bought at NASA’s souvenir store at Edwards Air Force Base when I attended a Space Shuttle landing. The adult size even in small, swallowed my nine-year-old son, but hey, spacesuits aren’t skin tight. He was happy and looked very authentic.
That particular costume was much easier than the Halloween my son Tim chose to be a pumpkin. Fortunately, some bright orange shiny polyester fabric stitched pieces together into a rotund shape with openings for his arms and legs did the trick. We stuffed him with inflated balloons to plump him up and fill him out once he had slipped it on.
The pumpkin was less of a creative challenge than the Darkwing Duck request that came from my son, Marshall, one year. That may have been my finest fitting. Darkwing Duck was a heroic cartoon character that had captured five-year-old Marshall’s attention. DD has long since faded into hero obscurity but he was a dapper masked defender dressed in a wide-brimmed hat, short, double-breasted purple jacket with big gold buttons and flowing purple cape. (Don’t ask me why a duck that can fly needed a cape.)
In one of my most inspired design moments, I constructed a hat from felt that even a milliner could respect, stitched up a cape from purple fabric, cut big round buttons from bright yellow felt and tacked them on to a purple sweatshirt along with a makeshift collar, and tied a purple satin band that kept slipping out-of-place, over my son’s eyes so that he had to keep lifting his chin to look down through the holes. He was a fine masked marauder that year. I was grateful when, in the years following, he was content to masquerade as a hockey player by wearing his own hockey sweater and carrying his stick.
Whatever happened to those Ninja Turtle shells I don’t know. I suspect they eventually fell apart with so many hours of play in the days after Halloween. So did the astronaut suit. Darkwing Duck’s cape lasted longer but it too eventually disappeared. I’m not completely certain but that pumpkin outfit may still be folded in the bottom of the ‘costume’ box waiting for another Halloween opportunity.
Certainly, there were Halloweens when we paid for costumes, the year they went as the Ghost Busters for example, or when Matthew required buckskins and a coonskin cap to become Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark). For most Halloween holidays it took a trip to the fabric store or rummaging through our own closets to come up with what I regard as their most memorable masquerade outfits.
I hope Julio’s mother finishes his Mickey Mouse costume in time for trick or treating this upcoming Tuesday night. If she does, I’ll bet that’s the one both she and her son will remember when Halloween comes around in the years ahead.