Costumes: Homemade or Store-bought

“You Never Know What You Can Become”

  • Captain America, Dragon Queen, Snow King

The Creative Costume Queen (arguably) lives in a suburb of a major Midwestern metropolis. She’s a teacher, with over 20 years guiding students ranging anywhere from Kindergarten to 6th grade.

(And her teenage daughter prefers…store-bought costumes.)

Going all out

As a child, Kathy H.’s own mom always created homemade costumes for her. It’s just what they did. “A bird with HUGE wings and real feathers all up and down my arms and body, with this tremendous plumage.” Kathy recalls this homemade costume as a favorite from her youth. “Every single house we trick-or-treated at, everyone wanted to stop me and take a longer look, ask me questions, how I made it, all sorts of attention in a very positive way.”

The homemade costume bug had bitten Kathy deep: “in college, five sorority sisters and I became a six-pack of Old Milwaukee beer. Silver pop tops on our heads, plastic rings around our necks, connecting us all as we shuffled around campus.

Then the next Monday I was in class, and I heard a guy in the back saying: ‘Oh, I saw the BEST costume this weekend. There were these girls walking down the street, they were a six pack of beer! It was the best thing I’ve ever seen.’ I was pretty proud.”

Becoming a teacher, Kathy knew that dressing up for Halloween was required for the role. She vowed to go all out. “Halloween is a pretty big deal in an elementary school – there’s even a parade where the grades march in order around the neighborhood encircling the school, showing off their costumes.”

“I love the homemade ones, obviously – some of them are SO creative. But many of the kids come in with the store-bought ones, and they couldn’t be cuter – with the little masks on and their arms shoved through the sleeves. And they’re so proud of those costumes.”

“So it doesn’t matter whether a parent spent 10 hours making it, or ten minutes on Shop Your Way, at K-mart or in a Halloween pop-up store, it wouldn’t matter. The kids are just so excited. That’s what counts. To see their faces on those mornings…”

Being known as the teacher with the all-out costumes lasts longer than one day each October. “Former students, now grown, bump into me out and about, and they always recall a memory of a costume or two I wore as their teacher. Even parents whose kids have long graduated stop and chat; their memories are incredible.”

The one mentioned most is Wrigley Field (“Even kids that weren’t in my class!”). She’s worn it three times in her 20+ years of teaching. “I resurrect it. And that’s the one so many remember.” No need to be a Cubs fan to appreciate it – it actually won two costume party awards at downtown establishments. The manual scoreboard, the foul poles, the ivy-covered brick t-shirt – it is memorable.

Wrigley Field


“I really prefer not to dress up as celebrities or characters, but as ‘things.’ Inanimate objects. Things you see around you every day.” She gains inspiration from simply looking around her – driving, at the store, at school, at home – things that are THINGS, and can be created. Then she collaborates with husband John to see how they can bring these ideas to ‘reality.’ “He always says yes, as he’s up for the challenge.”

“Be aware of the LEAST likely things you’d think could be a costume.” As she talks, she points to a tissue box. “Like this. Think of how fun and easy it would be to be a tissue box. With the tissues coming out up top near your head…”

Some of the more creative “things” Kathy has become over the years:

  • Teacher Barbie in a (life-sized) box
  • Wind-blown (a backwards umbrella, leaf stuck to forehead, a newspaper around a leg, a tie with a wire in it so it appears to be blown sideways – and a lot of hairspray so it looks like it’s blowing hard to one side
  • Brady Bunch on TV – the wearer is ‘Alice’ in the middle, with the eight Brady’s around. “We went old school for a throw back-looking television set, with woodgrain contact paper; we even had old ‘rabbit ears’ – the wire loop antennae from way back when.”
  • Elmer’s glue bottle
  • A mailbox (complete with letters coming out and the red flag up)
  • Red Vines candy
  • A basketball hoop (with a basketball cut in half to wear as a cap inside the hoop)
  • Railroad crossing – very easy to make (and great for “traffic control” at the kids’ parade!)

Homemade vs. Store-bought

But it all depends on the person. Even with Kathy as her mom, Audrey recalls using store-bought costumes as a grade-schooler – a cheerleader, a hippie, a dog, a zebra. But they’d add their own creative, homemade elements to the store-bought costumes to bring them to the next level. “A nerd with glasses and tape, mismatched shirt, old suspenders, things like that” Audrey offers.

Kathy bets this year she’ll see many students dressed as Fortnight characters (just like she saw other fads influence costumes: Minecrafter, Pokemon, etc.).

But for her, it’s homemade all the way. Things.

“I notice things, I guess, that others might not notice. You never know. You never know what you can become.”



What about you? Are you a homemade or store-bought type costumer? Or somewhere in between?

Share your (spooky) comments!

LifeYourWay Editor

Add comment