Lions, Tigers, & Bears. Oh My - It's DIY!
I'm not a huge Halloween person. I don't count down the days. I don't decorate my house. We don't get Trick-or-Treaters so I don't even buy candy (because I'll eat it!). Yet while it's not a huge holiday for me, I do revel in a little nostalgia when it comes to costumes.
Growing up my mother would rock Halloween - which is hysterical because she HATES Halloween. She would make these phenomenal costumes from scratch for my brother and I. We were always a couple; Mickey & Minnie Mouse, a flower & a bee, a cat & a mouse, Dick Tracey & Breathless Mahoney, Milk & Chocolate Syrup, and my favorite; Dorothy and the Tin Man. Her costumes were always well thought out and ALWAYS handmade. (Man, did she set the bar high!) Now that it's my turn, I want my kids to look back on their Halloween costumes and smile. I want them to think of handmade costumes and creativity when they think of Halloween, just like I do.
It's too easy now-a-days to buy ready-made outfits and call Halloween done. We live very busy lives and I don't blame parents for wanting to buy their kids costumes. I've done it myself - last year I was 7 months pregnant and exhausted. I cheated and bought them costumes. - But handmade costumes don't have be difficult or time consuming. All it takes is a little creativity and some work.
In the past I have forgotten about Halloween. Then suddenly the calendar hits mid-September and its like "holy shit! What are the kids going to be for Halloween?" For some reason this year I was on my game and came up with the theme in August! I decided to recreate my mother's Dorothy and the Tin Man.
Parental Tip: (I learned this from my mother) Don't ask your kids what they're going to be for Halloween, just tell them. This will allow you the freedom to think through a costume and not have to worry about how you're going to DIY a Lightening McQueen costume.
Now having two boys and a girl, I could have done the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Dorothy but with Esme being a baby and the boys being too young to carry her, I didn't like the picture that came to mind. So instead, I decided to draft my sister-in-law Marissa and my 3 year old niece Nora into the endeavor. Declan would be the Tin Man, Nora would be Dorothy. Breccan would be the Cowardly Lion. Marissa would be Glinda and I could be the Wicked Witch, making Esme a Flying Monkey, which would allow me to carry her. The only thing missing was our Scarecrow, and since I knew Dave would never do it, we got Marissa's brother, Jeremy to join the party.
With the idea in place all that was left was to create the costumes (that's the fun part). My mom created Glinda, the Scarecrow, and Dorothy's and I did the rest.
Nora is 3 (though she wears a 5T) so the amount of material needed was very little. With one yard of blue gingham ($4.99 on Amazon) and some basic sewing skills, my mom created Dorothy's dress. We dressed Nora in white pants and a white long sleeve shirt to help keep her warm and finish the look. For the Ruby Slippers, my mom simply took an old pair of her dress shoes (that she had almost out grown), some spray glue and red glitter - voila! Ruby Slippers.
DIY Cheat: If you don't sew well (or at all) - buy Heat n' Bond seam tape for your hems. All you have to be able to do is iron!
For Glinda's pink, fluffy dress my mom got 40 yards of pink tulle ($12.99 on Amazon) and simply
hand-tacked a full skirt and some puffed sleeves. Marissa wore a white shirt and slip underneath. She added some costume jewelry for extra glamour. Her crown and wand were made using silver craft paper and glitter glue.
Jeremy wore a pair of his own jeans and a flannel shirt. My mom added pieces of straw to some duct tape and secured it to the cuffs of his shirt and pants. For his collar, she used a square of muslin fabric, made a hole for his face and frayed the edges. A piece of black fabric was folded and hand sewn to make his hat. A few pieces of twine were added to his waist, neck, and hat to finish off his look.
DIY Cheat: Take a scrap of paper, roll it up and tie a red ribbon around it and you have the Scarecrow's "degree" from the Wizard.
The Tin Man
This costume was so much fun to make. It's made our of R6 bubble wrap for duct-work and quiet flex non-insulated flex duct. My father happens to work for a plumbing and HVAC supply company and was able to get these items for me. If you don't have access to these exact things, you can substitute regular bubble wrap or cardboard and dryer venting (from your local hardware store) and silver spray paint. I took Declan's measurement and cut a piece I knew would wrap around him completely with a little overhang, and would reach from his shoulders to his bottom. I used stick on velcro to close it. The arms were attached with hot glue and silver tape. For the collar, I made a circle that was the same diameter as the body of the costume, with a split in the ring to make it easy to get on and off. I added a strip with hot glue around the neck hole and a little bow tie. For the Tin Man's "heart" I used red felt, a clock face printed from Google, and piece of chain from the jewelry section of the craft store.
I purchased the funnel hat and ax. The funnel hat was less than $5 so I could not have made it for less. The ax I purchased simply because Declan is 4 and I needed something that would hold up to his "playing" better than cardboard. It will just get added to our dress up box to be played with again and again, so I didn't mind spending a little extra on it. (It was about $8).
DIY Cheat: Dress your kid in grey sweatpants and long sleeve shirt or sweatshirt. You won't have worry about adding "legs" to your Tin Man suit. It will also help keep them warm.
The Cowardly Lion
For this costume, I bought a yard sale lion costume. To create a lion from scratch would be VERY
time consuming and would require some very good sewing skills. Lion costumes are extremely popular costumes for young children, so they are not hard to find second hand. To make it the Cowardly Lion, and not just a regular lion, I added a red satin ribbon to the mane and tail (like the Lion after their visit to Oz). I also purchased the "Courage Medal" on Amazon for less than $5.
I loved making this costume. I bought Esme a set of gray footie jammies from Primary.com. While this did cost me some money, she will be able to wear them for more than just Halloween, so I am ok with that. I bought a clip on gray mouse tail so that I would not have to alter the pjs at all. I also bought a small pair of black feather wings from the Halloween store. To add to the look and to keep her warm, I made a hat out of one of my husband's old gray t-shirts. I removed the sleeve at the seam, then hand sewed the seam end shut to create the hat and the look of the monkey head.
Parental Tip: If you have a baby to dress for Halloween, if you use footie pajamas you won't have to worry about losing shoes or socks. Also buy a size bigger so you can put another set of pajamas underneath to keep them warm.
The hardest part of this costume was the Flying Monkey uniform. I bought some blue fabric ($4.99 a yard). I folded the fabric in half. I cut the fabric to Esme's measurement side to side plus two inches (for seams). I then cut a half moon shape out of the middle of the closed end of the fabric, creating the neck opening. Then I cut a slit up the middle of the front fabric panel to the neck hole to create the opening of the vest.
For the distinctive pattern on the front of the vest, I used red and white
fabric paint and free handed the design. It doesn't have to be perfect, I just Googled an image to get the basic idea. To make the hat, I used a pint ice cream container and cut the bottom off, leaving about a 3 inch tall ring. I then covered it with the same fabric I used to make the vest. I few dabs of hot glue holds the fabric in place as well as the elastic band to keep it on her head. I then used the same fabric paint to add the design.
The Wicked Witch of the West
Last, but not least, the Wicked Witch. This costume is extremely easy. Two things are important for
making a Wicked Witch costume; a black outfit & hat and green make up. I bought a cheap hat from a Halloween store and doctored it with some black tulle I had left from another project. I wore a long black dress with a cape. I wanted my makeup to be more than just green paint so I used YouTube tutorials on how to make it better. I think it turned out pretty well.
With only a few days work and pieces gathered from here an there, my mother and I made 7 costumes, with a very distinct theme. And it was awesome to share them with everyone.
As we walked the parade in my hometown, I heard people exclaiming; "Oh wow! The Wizard of Oz!" "How cute! A Flying Monkey." "You guys look great!" It was a very cool experience for all of us and I think I kept up with the family tradition.
So next year when you're thinking of what you or your children should be for Halloween, see if you can create the costumes yourself before you run to Amazon or the Halloween store for a ready made costume. You may just create memories your children will cherish in the future.