Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Halloween Madness

Over at Quiet Paths, Christine has a post on the spending that has come to characterize all our holidays, including Halloween. Now, I personally *love* to celebrate Halloween - well, all of it but candy corn. I never did get why sweetened paraffin was supposed to be a good thing. I like telling spooky stories by the fire or while sitting under the bedsheets with my sister and a flashlight. I like listening to them, too. I like costumes - making them and wearing them. I like making people smile when they see me in costume.

And I really really don't like most of the costumes out there. I don't like that they are wasteful and cheaply made. I don't like that the costumes for women are frequently based on a highly stereotyped view of women. I don't like that many costumes limit the mobility of the wearers. I don't like that some of them are dangerous - even the costumes that are "fire retardant" will emit highly noxious chemicals when heated up, and they will melt if exposed to high temperatures.

My own costume this year consisted of a dress that is very comfortable and warm for the cooling autumn temperatures, worn with a $6 apron I made myself (I mistakenly wrote $12 in a comment over on Quiet Paths, thinking of the dress length I bought at the same time), my summer straw hat refurbished with some old artificial flowers (which I intend to keep there - they look nice and help hide the frightening length of my hatpin), and enough clown white and greasepaint to transform my face into a skull. Oh, and a bit of scrap fabric from the ragbag to make a headwrap to conceal my hair and help anchor the big straw hat. And thus... La Catrina.

And that apron? You better bet that I plan to keep wearing it, long after the holiday is over - they're such *happy* dancing skeletons, and since it's cotton, it's washable, reasonably burn resistant (cotton mostly self extinguishes except when there's other fuel - which is why candles and lamps can have cotton wicks, but I feel perfectly safe wearing a cotton apron while cooking.), and fairly sturdy.

Not bad. $6 and enough time to make an apron and put on makeup. And my costume was safe, simple, good (I took second place in my office's costume contest), and fun to do. Plus, my summer hat got refurbished into the bargain.

Edited to add: One of the things that occurs to me as I think about this is that I know commercial costumes were available when I was a child - there's even a picture of me in a commercial clown costume when I was 4 and my mom was busy with me and my baby brother, and finishing college and working retail.

But all of the costumes I really *remember* involved at least some home fixin's - the year I wore a homemade dress and cape, cut a nurse's cap out of posterboard, and carried around the barn lantern all night as Florence Nightengale (Note: barn lanterns are heavy. While I managed, anyone wanting to emulate this costume might want to think about the range of light pierced tin lanterns available or make one out of posterboard.) The next Christmas, the same dress was an angel's robe. In spring, it became part of a May Crowning outfit. Later in the summer, it provided the base for my early experiments in historical costuming. Then, I handed it on to my sister. Or the year I borrowed scrubs and a stethoscope from my dad, and made a cardboard head lamp...

And those were fun. I wonder how many children would actually *prefer* to do something homemade, but don't even know it's an option?


Blogger ef (Pam) said...

I love this

I've sort of lost track of halloween, I just wasn't inspired this year, somehow, but it's an excellent holiday.

I wore storebought costumes as a kid until I was 8, I think, at which point I refused. They were So cheap, and SO bad, I just couldn't take it anymore. That year my dad and I cut holes in a box and painted letters on it and I was a baby's building block. I loved it.

The next year my godmother helped me modify a bunny costume pattern into a kangaroo, my animal of obsessesion at the time. I loved that costume, and wore it as often as possible. Would have worn it to school if I'd been allowed, but my mom was pretty conservative about such things :P

Ah, sweet memories!

11/02/2007 9:48 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

It sounds like you've had other things on your mind. I love that description of the kangaroo costume. I'd have wanted to wear it to school, too. We weren't allowed to wear costumes to school except at Halloween because I went to private school, but we kept everything that could possibly be kept for "dress up" - homemade tutus, spangly bits from dance costumes (and the dance costumes themselves, which are usually too cold to wear for Halloween) old unfashionable hats, a wig from the 60's, feathers and bits of lace and trim...

And I just noticed that the two costumes I described here are both medically oriented - not all of my costumes were - we spray painted a bleach stained sweater silver once to make a "knight" costume (a trick which Hollywood also uses - most "chainmail" in movies is garter stitch and spray paint) The cape from Florence Nightengale went on to be part of a witch costume and a historical costume.

11/02/2007 10:09 AM  
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