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Making My Own Halloween Costume

Store bought costumes have their place in the Halloween experience. As kids we dreamt of Hollywood quality outfits, but usually ended up with stiff plastic smocks and cheap, scratchy masks. Sometimes Mom or Grandma would spend hours stitching together their best version of a Batman costume that left you looking more like Bat-Mite. For me, the greatest Halloween costumes were the ones I conceived and assembled myself. Sometimes out of desperation, sometimes the result of hours of planning, but always a memorable outcome. Allow me to share the story of my favorite homemade Halloween costume.

During my one and only Halloween on the East Coast, I caught the true spirit of the season. I had been on an extended vacation living with my Aunt’s family in New Jersey when the month of October arrived in 1993 and instantly I could tell it was going to be different than trick or treating amongst the palm trees in my California hometown. As I walked home from school each day, I saw orange and brown leaves littering the lawns of old homes with creaky wooden porches and cracking wood paneling. I could already imagine what they would look like at night decorated with glowing jack-o-lanterns and fake spider-webs.

Gnarled old trees reached out with their twisted, bare branches as if to tickle my brain with costume inspiration. In the 5 or so Halloweens I had experienced up to this point in my life, I had been everything from Yoda, to Pinocchio, to Superman, but this year I wanted to be something unique. I racked my brain for ideas, but finally I decided that I just had to go to the store and assemble my costume A-Team style from random bits and pieces.

Walking down the Halloween aisle everything seemed out of my price range or not quite my style. I didn’t want to be any of the iconic serial killers and I couldn’t afford to buy a rubbery movie style Batman cowl, but then I remembered that I already had a toy to base my costume concept around. My plastic Terminator skeleton robot hand!

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just think back to the scene in Tommy Boy where Chris Farley says , “Luuuuke, Luuuke, I am your father.” into the electric fan, then flips off David Spade for making a snarky comment. That was the exact same toy I had purchased a month prior and suddenly inspiration struck, I’ll be a Cyborg! I quickly scanned the racks and found some glow-in-the-dark face paint to give myself a synthetic look, then grabbed a couple packs of long glow stick tubes to act as my mechanical innards.

The final piece of the puzzle in my eyes was a glowing red mouthpiece which was basically a retainer with miniature glow sticks inserted. I figured if I couldn’t have glowing red eyes like the T-100, I could have a “robo laser tongue” to add menace to my outfit. When I got home and explained my “original” costume concept to my cousin, I don’t think he understood why I was putting so much thought into it. “We’re just out to get candy, who cares what we’re wearing!”

After 2 anticipation filled weeks the day was finally upon us and so was the rain. Rain on Halloween? If it had been a howling wind and lighting affair, offering the quintessential “dark and stormy night” that would have been one thing. But this was more of an annoying drizzle and by the time 6pm rolled around it hadn’t let up. I knew falling drops of rain were going to cause my make-up to run and ruin the effect, but there was no way I was missing out on the oohs and ahhs I imagined my Glowing Cyborg Outfit would get as these New Jersey townsfolk opened their doors with a Reese’s peanut butter cup in hand. As I started getting dressed and looked out the window I realized another hiccup in my costume plan, daylight!

It was almost 7pm and the sun still had not gone down. How were people going to see the synthetic veins of radioactive cyber-blood running beneath my shirt? What about the terrifying sight of my robo laser tongue? Without the black of night, I was just a pasty kid with a plastic robot hand and lumpy shirt. The plan was falling apart! My aunt had put a strict curfew on us getting back by 9pm, so I had to accept the fact that my fellow trick or treaters would likely only see the faintest glow of futuristic bio-mechanical engineering as I raced the clock back home with my bag of treats.

I remember taking to the streets of small town New Jersey that evening with my cousin in a Grim Reaper outfit as we collected our goodies from kind homeowners who didn’t quite know what to make of the soggy, dripping mess on their front stoop. Still, I was proud of the concept, if not the execution. Soon I forgot all about the fact that my costume wasn’t getting me praise from passers-by and just enjoyed the sights.

Orange jack-o-lantern trash bags filled with leaves, suburban graveyards with funny tombstones and flickering strobe lights all made me smile. Walking down main street to see the Halloween displays in the store windows provided a sense of nostalgia for spooky celebrations during decades in which I wasn’t even born. It was such a classic, early Americana feel. Is that a stuffed scarecrow with a pumpkin head sitting in that lawn chair or a real guy playing dead? “Raaaaawwrr!” Oh, he got us!

As we went home to sort our candy, I reflected and realized this may have been have been my most memorable Halloween ever. I made my own costume, I battled the elements and got to enjoy the atmosphere of the Fall season that only the East Coast could offer. I may not have put the fright into people that I was expecting, but there was still a lot of fun to be had.

So let’s hear about your favorite homemade Halloween costumes? What kind of ideas did your young mind come up with?

Tweet some twicks, er, I mean, Twix, dang it, TRICKS my way on Twitter @hojukoolander.

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Hoju Koolander Posted on Oct 02, 2015 at 03:33 AM

@Vaporman87 It really does come down to one central costume item sometimes, doesn't it.

@echidna64 Sounds classic.

@onipar The hobo is a nearly forgotten costume choice, so kudos for keeping it alive.

onipar Posted on Sep 30, 2015 at 02:09 AM

As much as I love Halloween, I was never crazy into the costume part. Though I did construct a makeshift hobo costume on more than one occasion as a last minute fix.

echidna64 Posted on Sep 29, 2015 at 02:19 PM

Best costume I ever made was from a couple years ago. I sewed together a ghost costume for a Deamau5 concert on Halloween; I even gave it a matching Space Invaders tattoo from the music video "Ghosts N Stuff."

Vaporman87 Posted on Sep 29, 2015 at 04:53 AM

The most memorable homemade costume I came up with on my own was a basic monster costume, with a plaid shirt and jeans, some gloves that looked like monster hands, and the real star of the getup... a pricey monster mask with light up eyes!

I had purchased the mask some weeks earlier for a very pretty penny, and I was very excited to wow the neighborhood with it. The only problem... it was EXTREMELY difficult to see anything. The light up eyes had slits below them for my REAL eyes. This didn't offer a very good view of things, especially with darkness setting in. So in between houses I would have to raise up my mask so I could see where I was going.

Other than that issue, the costume was a real success. I wish I would have kept that mask. It was such a great one for the time.

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