My design criteria is simple: The costumes have to be mostly homemade, using raw materials, and household tools. Once my kids decide what they want to be, I start to plan the costumes months ahead, scouring Home Depot, thrift stores, and Dollar stores for raw materials, scraps, and whatever I can use to make my creation. Personally, I have a moment of pride when I come up w a way to repurpose/recycle some household trash or trinket from the Dollar store. The rest requires a working knowledge of adhesives, applications of duct tape, cardboard, spray paint, and the infinite uses of cable ties. Not to mention careful planning, resourcefulness, patience, and trial and error execution.
But I know I'm not alone in this costume obsession. I've gathered a number of other designers who are equally dedicated costume makers for their kids and themselves, adhering to the same homemade criterias as I do. They are all talented designers, evident in the creativity and craft of the costumes they make. So here's a little show and tell, presented in no particular order. I hope you'll find them as inspiring and fun as I do.
Tan Le, Atlanta
1. Optimus Prime Transformer, for son Mason. I started with a store-bought helmet that has a voice synthesizer, and built the costume around it. It's largely made of foamcore, plastic paint trays, recycled blister pack containers, and foam insulation tubes. I got the wheels from a dump truck scored at Goodwill. And he had lit puck 'headlights' as well as a glove that made sound effects for his hand blaster.
2. The New iPad, for daughter Melina. Like most designers, we are all big Apple fans at our house. Her costume is mostly painted foam-core, with a clear plexi front screen (from Home Depot) backed with a background print. At night, I backlit the screen with some LED, battery-powered, under-counter kitchen lights that I'd kept from a previous home. Old hardware always come in handy, especially lights.
The iPad has side 'candy' ports for her arms to stick out of, and of course, designed details like the back label is a must.
3. Megaman, for Mason. A repurposed, modified, and repainted working hand blaster; a painted helmet, and a chest harness and boot covers made from plastic trash cans and the same under-counter LED lights used on the above iPad. The blue bodysuit was purchased.
4. The Minion from Despicable Me, for Melina. Ok, this costume was a huge undertaking, both in complexity and size. The inside frame is a cage made with wood dowels and hula hoops (shown). It's wrapped with plastic sheets of styrene, then felt. The goggle is made from rims off cheap plastic hampers, rolled styrene, rivets made from plastic water bottle caps, and a 'lens' made from a grocery store clear deli tray container. Candy goes into the mouth, which is open, and covered by a sheer fabric flap that flips up to also reveal a tongue.
Andy Galliard, Atlanta
5. Lego Stormtrooper, for son Andrew (left). Everything on the trooper is built from scratch (except for the Darth Vader candy bucket). The helmet was the biggest challenge and was a three part construction starting first with paper mache form over a balloon to get the dome of the helmet. Followed by mix of foam core sections to form the sides and top "fin" and finally the use of copper pipe insulation to create the tubular rim around the bottom of the helmet.
6. Marvin the Martian, for son Matthew. The helmet is made from scratch with a mix of party hat from Party City, Foam Core and yellow square sponge for the "plume" on the helmet. The mask was a conversion of a spider-man mask from the previous year, painted to get rid of the spider webs, and the evil eyes are covered in reflector tape for a cool nighttime "glowing eyes" effect. The clothes and gloves were pretty simple, but the "skirt" was made from a trash can lid. The shoes were bedroom slippers, covered with white socks…some more copper insulation was used to exaggerate the shape of the feet – the sock hid everything perfectly.
7. Ghostbusters, all 4 of Andy's sons. The three oldest were to be the original three Ghostbusters and the youngest Adam (1.5 years at the time) was going to be Slimer driving the Ecto One; however, he wasn't having anything to do with wearing the Slimer costume so he became and honorary 4th Ghostbuster Halloween Night.
The proton packs glowed in the dark, and the propellers actually spun—driven by a small motor with speed control attached on the side of each pack.
8. Megamind, for son Andrew. The costume kind of speaks for itself, but the challenge surrounding the enormously large head. It's made with chicken wire, paper mache, and a "doughy" type substance to try and achieve the smooth head effect. Painting Andrew's face was a challenge as well as matching the blue of the head. The trademark "Black Mamba" cape was a broken down umbrella which provided the perfect arc and webbing. Lit features included a custom "De-Hydrator" gun with glowing barrel and a "reflector-tape-covered" MegaMind logo on the chest piece.
Brook Meinhardt, Eastsound, Washington
9. Question Mark and Witch, for son Henry and daughter Hazel. "I really went nuts with Hazel's devil costume, painted the pitch fork and everything. Her skirt was a fishtail design with swishy under skirts that were like flames as she walked. It was much fun to make."
10. Exclamation Point and Vampire, Henry and Hazel. A fun follow-up theme.
11. Banana and Carman Miranda, Henry and Hazel. The costume themes converge.
12. Lego minifig, Henry. "The Lego one is legendary around here. The engineering of it was the biggest challenge—how to stay true to the LEGO design, but have it be a costume that Henry could walk in. It was very tricky but I did it!"
Paula Richards, Seattle
13. Toast and butter, for daughter Kendra (right). The butter pat was removable. However, the aunt and uncle's costumes in the shot can't be identified or explained.
14. (Scary) Bookworm, Kendra.
Jarrod Glick, Orlando
15. Clock, for son Levi. At the time, Levi was obsessed with clocks, so dad turned him into one. Note the cute bell hat.
Amy Graver, New Haven
16. Kid Robots, for son and daughter. Robots are great — the more homemade the materials, the more fun and endearing the costumes are. Amy's husband is an engineer, so he rigged lights on the helmet and chest pieces. They could be seen down the block, which was added safety.
Kyle and Tina Shepard, Seattle
Last but not least are the Shepards. They set the standard for family-themed costumes. Kyle and Tina have always been legendary for their epic couples costumes at Halloween parties. Now that they have kids, Avery and Easton — the tradition has only expanded in its awesomeness. All hail the Shepards.
17. Under the Sea
18. Godilocks and The Three Bears
19. Circus Sideshow
19. Woodlawn Gnomes, Fairy, and Squirrel
20. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem
21. Mythbusters, Octopus and Frankenstein. (Their kids are starting to revolt against the family theme.)
Well that concludes our costume show and tell this year. I hope it inspires, rather than intimidates, designer parents out there. It's the effort that truly counts. Have a safe and fun Halloween!