Friday, November 16, 2007

The Times They Are A-changin': Halloween

We have already talked about changes in habits, customs and perceptions which are not necessarily bad, but which take some getting used to. There was the Jesuit reliance on Wikipedia as a source and the vetting of baby sitters, worthy of Homeland Security. I can’t let Halloween pass without a comment. Well, I did, but I was unhooked, so to speak, so I am making up for it now.

When my children were little, I made most of their clothes. The girls hardly ever wore anything I didn’t make, and the boys had plenty of handmade shorts and pj’s. I had boxes of patterns, which I threw away, thinking there would be modern versions of the old favorites by the time I had grandchildren. But Simplicity, Butterick and McCalls no longer offer a wide range of designs, unless you want your kids to look like Hannah Montana.

There is, however, one section in the pattern books that is crammed with patterns—costumes. Naturally I always use the past as a yardstick, in a good-natured way, I hope. I am not a crabby old lady! In the good old days we used old sheets, lumps of cardboard (you should have seen Kate as an M&M) and adapted patterns we already had to produce a bunch of pirates, clowns and hobos. These days everybody turns into a Project Runway wannabe in October. There are costume patterns for babies, toddlers, kids and adults. Every suburban housewife can fulfill her long-held desire to become a French maid, while her husband can emulate Johnny Depp. I can’t tell you how many times I have giggled in the fabric store a few days before Halloween as moms drive up in their SUVs, clearly thinking “How had can it be to sew a costume?” and ask the kind of questions that drive the Joann’s employees crazy. For a start, the patterns are extremely complex and making wings and antennae and sewing on dinosaur tails isn’t always as easy as it looks. Then there’s the fabric. If you bought fabric for costumes 20 years ago, you just bought it from the regular stock. Now bolts of special fabric arrive in August—shiny, flimsy fabric with sequins, shaggy furs for animal outfits, lame and pleather. I made a purple butterfly outfit one year out of the paillette-encrusted fabric which was just perfect, but which frayed my thread every second stitch. I found out later I should have used a ballpoint needle. Even Kate, who knows better, got fooled and bought black pleather for her Ninja this year, only to discover she couldn’t sew in on her machine.

There are lots more opportunities to wear costumes these days, at school. community parties, even church, so I am sure there will be many more emerging from my sewing machine over the years. Here are a few that my grandchildren have worn.
The first photo is Emmanuel in the first costume I ever made for him—a dinosaur. The photo below is the king costume I made for him a couple of years ago. Then we have Theodore and Liesl, who were Peter Pan and Wendy this year. Below that is Evelyn in her Raggedy Ann costume. Cleaning supplies have certainly changed over the years, so I was glad I was able to find a mop to dye for wig. I was afraid I would have to cram a Swiffer on her head. Last but not least is Eleanor, starring as Holly Hobbe. I made the dress, but Kate made the lovely apron, bloomers and bonnet. There are lots more in the costume file, but no space. Watch this spot again next year.

1 comment:

candyschultz said...

They had those fabrics 20-25 years ago, even 30-35 years ago. I went as a Rocky Horror character in 1980 and they definitely had the stuff I needed. I always made my children's costumes and Sarah was a brown cat (misunderstanding there - she meant black - how did I know) when she was three. She was a wizard a couple years later complete with wizard fabric. By the way she will be 25 in January. How could this have happened?