A Thought about Homemade and Used Costumes

Watch Target Corporation crap on its customers in 15 seconds.

[Link via Slate]

Target is mocking awesome homemade costumes. So… maybe I’m not what Target has in mind for its ideal customer.  I’d never pay $30 for a costume. I would spend $30 building a costume to be proud of, and I’ve failed as a parent if my kid reacts like the kid in that horrible commercial.

And, at the age depicted in the commercial, that kid should have been involved in his costume’s creation and he should be beaming with pride.

For toddlers, I’d absolutely buy a ready-to-wear costume from a thrift store. Such stores are absolutely swimming in used costumes right now. Plus, costumes double as dress-up clothes the rest of the year.

This Halloween, my son will be dressing as a chicken or elephant, whichever costume (we obtained from garage sales) that he’s agreeable to at the moment. My daughter vacillates between wanting to be a vampire (we bought fabric to make a cape) and medieval lady-in-waiting (we already have the dress-up clothes).

My wife? She’s always a witch.


The most expensive costume will be mine as I dress as a spiv. Boy, it took a while to track down that word. I’m shooting for the Hollywood stereotype of a wartime trader of questionable goods, selling wristwatches filling my arms and jewelry lining the interior of my coat. (Side note: you wouldn’t believe what people pay for batches of broken watches on eBay. It’s insane. But, a schmaltzy plaid suit coat runs only $6 at a thrift store.)

We only do trick-or-treating in our immediate neighborhood just to those neighbors who will get a kick out of seeing our kids. Our family tradition is to attend a Halloween festival put on by a local church (no proselytizing involved) where the kids walk a path through a field visiting a dozen venues where skits (Peter Pan, Wizard of Oz, fairy tales, etc.) are played out for each group of passing kids.


14 Responses to “A Thought about Homemade and Used Costumes”

  1. Jennifer in MamaLand says:

    Ugh; what a terrible commercial.
    I am SO with you on the costumes thing. We’re Jewish, so we don’t celebrate Hallowe’en, but do enjoy Purim, a dress-up festival in late winter. The best part is buying used Hallowe’en costumes on sale at Value Village come November 1st and stashing them away ’till February/March! (I paid $2 for a Barbie princess dress for dd!)
    Most of my kids’ costumes have been homemade. The secret, I’ve found, is drilling the child to find the ONE KEY ACCESSORY that will make him/her truly feel he/she really is a turtle, cowboy, ninja, astronaut, flower-selling girl, etc.
    Honestly, the rest of the costume could totally suck, but if they have a cool shell, or a cool hat, or cool homemade horse-ears, they’ll be happy.
    (secret #2: a good glue gun…!)

    October 22nd, 2010 at 6:23 am

  2. Angelique says:

    personally, I thought the homemade ironman was awesome… :) The taplight is great.

    October 22nd, 2010 at 9:49 am

  3. BloggerFather says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you %100 percent. At the same time, as the only kid in my class with a poorly made costume, I can see both sides. It took me years to appreciate what my mom did, and I feel it actually made me start thinking critically about materialism as a kid, but at the time, it felt horrible to be the only one. (In school, anything that makes you feel like THE ONLY ONE is traumatic, after all.)

    October 22nd, 2010 at 9:14 pm

  4. KB 111 says:

    My mom always made my costumes (post-toddlerhood, anyway), which was handy when I wanted to be something obscure or off-the-wall. (At six, I was determined to be a sabretooth rabbit — and my mom pulled it off, no problem.) High school saw a drastically reduced interest in costume-wearing, but my first year in college I started making my own (and after that, costumes for the Mister, as well).

    Now, this is probably only fun for the creative (and non-mortifying for children of creative parents; BloggerFather, I’m sorry to hear about the traumatic experience), but there’s definitely a sense of pride in coming up with something yourself! …Even if you have to explain it, or it doesn’t hold up the duration of the day. Halloween should be fun, right? Not an “Oh great. Halloween’s in a week, and we’ve got to hit Wal-Mart for something quick and cheap.” Now, I’m not harping on anyone who does that (I understand, believe me), but it’s like slowing down to eat dinner with the family: even if you can’t always do it, there are some awesome memories to be had there when you can. :)

    October 22nd, 2010 at 10:29 pm

  5. Lady in a Smalltown says:

    Last year, my son’s first Halloween, I took white footie pajamas, felt, pipe cleaner, and a little fur and made my son a Max (from Where the Wild Things Are). This year we are using a stuffed pumpkin costume I got from a mom at the school where I teach. I am going to dress it up with fabric to make it a Jack-o-lantern. This year I just couldn’t get into making something.

    On a side note: I “slaved” over his costume for hours after he went to bed, because I work during the day. All the other moms in our new moms group stayed at home a lot longer than I did and they all had store bought costumes!

    October 23rd, 2010 at 7:09 am

  6. Tonia says:

    I pay no mind whatsoever to commercials. It’s a blessing and a curse that my husband works for them. lol. As for costumes, this is my daughters third. The first year her grandmother bought her bunny bunting to wear as she was only 2 1/2 months old. We walked with my sister & her children. Last year she was a frog, costume obtained from a high school friend (along wih 95% of the rest of my daughters wardrobe.). This year she’ll be a monkey with a tutu. Again the costume is from the friend, and the tutu was made by another. We’ll continue the tradition until she decides she doesn’t want hand me down costumes, then we’ll make her costumes together. I refuse to pay that kind of money for something that’s probably made in China anyways.

    October 23rd, 2010 at 9:05 am

  7. observer says:

    i really liked the costume in the commercial.costumes should not just be an off the cuff buying experience. they should be home made, and require thought as to how to wear them. my father once gave my sisters some beautiful scarves several years ago, and they made the best costume accessories ever. home made costumes are to be treasured.

    October 23rd, 2010 at 11:56 am

  8. Traci says:

    At the day care where I used to work we would have a costume contest with the school age kids. The kids would vote for their favorite costumes on ballots homemade costumes always won most creative and best costume overall. We had a washing machine, a box of candy, jellyfish, turtle, ipod, bag of trash and more over the years. The first year we only had one or two homemade costumes but as the years went on more and more kids were making fun creative costumes with their families.

    October 24th, 2010 at 10:58 am

  9. AJ says:

    Traci, that’s a thought. Target could distribute free flyers profiling various homemade costumes, complete with a shopping list of everything you need that can be bought at Target. Suddenly I’m buying a tap light and duct tape.

    Heck, sell virgin sheets of cardboard for parents who don’t want to hunt for cardboard boxes. This is a huge idea that would get me into Target buying stuff. The key, though, would be having a large selection of costumes to choose from. They could make a website around this idea, saving a ton by not printing so many flyers.

    October 24th, 2010 at 11:07 am

  10. Patti says:

    I wish I was good at conceiving of and making costumes. The best I’ve done has been to buy a pair secondhand that were first home made by another parent. Those may be the best costumes my kids ever wear.

    October 25th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

  11. ararechan says:

    It’s so nice to hear about how so many people go the diy route.. I was on the fence and made a headband with our lil ones name embroidered on it and a felt sushi “bento box”, to make a sushi chef costume.

    sure, I had to explain the costume to some people but it was fun!

    AJ, you are so right- the cost of getting supplies to MAKE these costumes should be enough to encourage going the diy route (by retailers!)

    I did make it to joanns fabrics on oct 30th and can happily report that our local store (not far from SF) was quite busy with DIY-ers!! (some who brought entire fabric bolts to the refister, unaware of the “take a number and get fabric cut” process)

    November 2nd, 2010 at 12:59 am

  12. ararechan says:

    REGISTER, sorry.

    November 2nd, 2010 at 1:01 am

  13. Penguinmommy says:

    The do-it-yourself at the store list is BRILLIANT! I also loved the home-made iron man in that commercial. I mean, working light on the chest AND arm? Yes, Please!

    My Mom always made our costumes right up until she taught us to sew. I can’t help my thrift store addiction though and this year saw my son’s first Halloween with five costumes over the course of the week… and none of those were the set we had from each day of Dragon*Con ;)

    November 3rd, 2010 at 12:58 pm

  14. RookieMom Whitney says:

    Agree agree agree. WTF, Target? Love your idea AJ about turning it around. Celebrate the homemade AND get us into the store to load up our carts with the raw materials. And I’m still gloating that my kid wore his homemade costume with pride.

    November 6th, 2010 at 11:40 pm