I never had a store-bought costume. I don’t know if such a thing as a costume shop existed when I was a kid, but if they did, they certainly didn’t open a business in our neighborhood.
Grandma Mayse’s linen closet was our costume shop. Old sheets worn too thin and full of rips to use for anything but dust rags were in there. The boys could be ghosts with only one of those. Or, they would tie up their pants with a rope, wear an old torn shirt of Grandpa’s that Grandma was saving until she got around to taking off the buttons. They’d smudge their faces with burnt corks to look like whiskers so they could be hoboes. I thought the boys were either lazy or had no imagination.
They could have the sheets. I went right for the extra curtains. With one panel, a little draping, a few safety pins, and a bunch of old costume jewelry, I turned myself into a maharani. About four layers of lace might make a princess. I could drape a sheer panel over my head and be a bride.
When I got older, I had a little sewing machine that actually worked and somehow, I knew how to use it. The white curtains with the little green flowers and one of my church hats could turn me into a much simplified version of Scarlett O’Hara.
We didn’t have plastic pumpkins. The only thing anyone used to collect candy was an old pillowcase. It wasn’t only candy that the neighbors handed out. Many of the moms took the time to make cookies, or they gave out apples. One made cupcakes. Of course, if you got a cupcake, you had to eat it right away so it didn’t get smooshed in the pillowcase.
Joey Heatwhol’s mom made little net bags full of candy corn. She tied them with skinny ribbons into a pretty little bundle. Those were fun. You had the candy, and then the ribbon was long enough to tie up your pony tail the next day.
Homemade cookies and apples and things like that stopped when some true monster put needles and razor blades into the things they gave to children. Now, there’s a real demon for you.
When I had children, I made their costumes every year. By then, I was very good with a sewing machine and went whole-hog to give them something special. One year, my daughter rebelled. She didn’t want a home-made costume, she wanted one from the store like her friends had. So … I bought her one. She thought it was grand until she went out and every other girl she passed wore the same outfit. From then on, she was quite happy with her mom’s sewn-at-home gowns.
The kids are all grown up now, but last year my son requested a fortune-teller suit like the one in the movie “Big” with Tom Hanks. He loved it. I’m pretty sure he’ll wear it again. My daughter could wear the “Ann Marg-Rock” suit I made for her last year, but just in case, I bought the Batgirl pattern.
For myself, I have an almost-finished traveling dress, 1880’s style, bustle and all.
Some kids never outgrow dressing up.