Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A wee tale of DollinkDaughter Halloween costumes...

Once upon a time, when my DollinkDaughters were little, they really had fun at Halloween.
I think they still do, actually.

Back then, I also enjoyed Halloween.
Well, most everything about it anyway.
Trips to the pumpkin farm, buying candy, a little decorating, a lot of seasonal brouhaha - all good.
The one thing I never looked forward to with great anticipation was - the costumes. More specifically, how to create who or what it was that I, or my children - wanted to 'dress up as'. I looked on this task with what could be called Excited Dread.

As a kid growing up in San Francisco, my brothers and I didn't wear homemade costumes. Mom took us to 'Five and Dime' aka Woolworth's - so we could choose from the boxed costumes there. Just about all of those outfits featured a suffocating plastic face mask with elastic that stretched too tight around the back of your head - and an itchy glitter-shedding nylon apron pullover thingy which tied at the back of your neck. On this was printed your Halloween identity: a Disney princess, witch, ghost et cetera. Some of the boys costumes had matching long pants, also uncomfortable to wear. The masks were often scary, even when they weren't meant to be.

Even stated that way, wouldn't you know - I still delighted in wearing my storebought costume. After all, Halloween was really more about going out at night, more or less incognito - and scoring a bag full of free candy, right?

It didn't occur to me until I was older that the boxed costumes were cheesy. Homemade costumes were rare in Chinatown. Many of my friends had parents who worked all day (sometimes nights) in the neighborhood restaurants, sweat shops or down in the tall office buildings in the Financial District. Our folks were exhausted at the end of their workday, and just getting dinner on the table was all the energy that was left to them. No one I knew had a dad who came home to happily engage in his woodworking hobby or a mom who sewed after hours 'for fun'.

That being so, of course, when I had children of my own - you better believe that ALL their Halloween costumes HAD to be homemade. Being part of the next generation, we really did live life a bit easier than our parents had it. Less of a rigorous work schedule and more leisure time. Translation: My kid's costumes were Made by Me their Mama.

I eschewed ready-made sewing patterns for costume-making. Not sure why that was. OK, I confess to being something of a sewing snob when it came to Halloween costumes.
Looking back though, not using a costume pattern can be likened to shooting oneself in the foot before embarking on a 100 mile hike...

Consequently, for me, the process of conceptualizing and then creating Halloween costumes was something of a mystery every year. I never knew how it was going to come out until it came out. For me, costume-making was really something to be labored over.

I've come to the conclusion (only very recently) that this laboring-over-thing is my true creative process. Even now. Working and reworking something until it suits me, with no preliminary sketches to define the final product. Lovin' it -Hatin' it.

Like life isn't tough enough without having a plan before setting out to do something creative. Come to think of it - the working and reworking thing best describes my approach to life .... little to no long range planning...OMG.

But - I digress (don't you just hate when people go off on a tangent and come back with that catch phrase).

During the rather grueling creative process, it didn't help matters any when the DollinkDaughters would, a few days before the 31st -  change their minds about who or what they wanted to be. Fortunately, this didn't happen often - maybe it was the Evil Eye I shot their way if they even entertained the notion.

The plot thickens...
So I designed as I went along, stopping my kids in their homework or play time to hold fabric up to them for yet another measure and fit. Trimming, re-directing a collar or hem. Tightening with extra seams, pleats and darts or adding strips of fabric or trim for a looser fit. Plenty of pinning and unpinning. Tedious hand-sewing. For a kid's Halloween costume? You betcha.

I was quite tortured in the process. As I'm sure my DollinkDaughters were, though they never complained. Out loud, anyway.

Happy endings:
Typically, in the 11th hour, as a costume came together, I would begin to get Very Excited. All costume ingredients had been decided on, purchased, assembled, cut, sewn, glued, re-cut, re-fitted and finally pressed. Time to sit back and admire my handiwork (though there were always very uneven and untidy bits). The next day, the kids would get dressed and made up. They always looked sooooooo amazing. I dare say that they loved their Halloween costumes.

Great memories, those.

Here are two of the many homemade costumes the DollinkDaughters wore over the years. I'd scan and attach more if I wanted to be more show-offy about my costume-making ability as well as the cuteness of the Dollinks, but hey - you get the idea...

DollinkDaughterJrS as a devil (she called it 'Debo' in 1983.
If memory serves me (it doesn't always), JrS
liked this costume so much she wore it again the following Halloween.

DollinkDaughterLLS as Snow White (1981)
Below is a little scrap of paper
that LLS wrote describing her costume. Adorable.
Click on the 
scrap of paper to enlarge. 
It really is cute.

" This is Me on Halloween Dressed as Snow white and I Thought I was Pretty
I wore a cape a collar a ribbon a skirt and a blouse.
The make-up was eye shaeow blusher and lipstick "


Lauren said...

We always had the best Halloween costumes! I got to be a Hershey Kiss, an Egyptian Princess, a Sandwich, and of course, Snow White. I remember waking on the mornings of the big Halloween parade at school and the costume would be magically completed and laid out on the sofa. Little did I know that you'd stayed up half the night hand sewing all the pieces together!!

baffle said...

another great costume was when you and Sarah were The Wright Brothers, complete with the two of you sitting in a cardboard airplane. I'll have to look for and scan that one to post!

B said...

I was often jealous of Lauren's costumes, especially the sandwich! i think I have that Snow White picture also...


House Dreams said...

Bronnie, for you I pulled off a beauuutiful witch/princess in purpley crepe trimmed with gold sequins. Everybody was a clown at age 2: footsie pj's, a homemade ruff, makeup, wig and puffy buttons down the front. Making a wig with yarn was ridiculously too hard! I made a fabric Batman mask (got it fitted so nicely)from scratch to go with the storebought Btmn pjs. Memories!

Conn said...

ummmm. cute? me thinks so.
i remember da sangwich costume too.