D.I.Y. -- cheap and easy Halloween costumes

Posted Online: Oct. 07, 2012, 1:08 pm
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By Laura Anderson Shaw, landerson@qconline.com
In just a few weeks, princesses, superheroes, villains, vampires and other members of the ghastly undead will take to the streets for spooks, laughs and, of course, candy.

So what will you or your child be for Halloween? This year, rather than scouring the racks for cellophane-wrapped costumes, why not make your own?

You're only limited by your imagination, area crafters say.

"Homemade costumes are much more unique, original and creative," said Angie Mapes, director of Reusable Usables Creative Arts Center in LeClaire, in an email.

"Think around the box, and let your and your child's imagination lead the way."

Anne Brown of the Adventure Orange, a do-it-yourself boutique in the Village of East Davenport, said she loves asking kids what they want to be for Halloween.

Their answers are "sometimes crazy," she said, adding that a child once told her he wanted to be a vampirate -- a vampire-pirate.

"Two things combined is always a good costume," she said.

While you're brainstorming, think of costumes "that make sense for you" by playing off what you look like, Ms. Brown said. For instance, she and her boyfriend once dressed as Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.

Once you've nailed down a costume idea, think of the materials you could use to build it. Ms. Mapes and Ms. Brown suggested taking a look around the house and then hitting area thrift and resale shops for clothing or accessories you can add to.

The easiest way to make a costume, Ms. Brown said, is to "build off of something that already exists." For example, if you're making a bear costume, Ms. Brown suggested, start with an old brown fur coat or a sweater.

Ms. Mapes said creating costumes from recycled or reused materials also is a great way to be eco-friendly, and Reusable Usables has a plethora of materials exactly for this use.

Also keep in mind how comfortable the costume will be. Planning to go out trick-or-treating? Go for warmth. Going to be navigating a Halloween party? Make sure you can move, Ms. Brown said.

When it comes time to put it all together, if you don't have strong sewing skills -- or sewing skills at all -- "don't ever hesitate to get the hot-glue gun," Ms. Brown said.The costume's seams "only have to hold up for only a day or two."

If you need a mask to complete the look, cut a few corners and use face paint instead, Ms. Brown said. Chances are, you or your child won't want to wear a mask for the entire night anyway.

If you're working on a costume for your child, Ms. Brown and Ms. Mapes suggested making it a family affair.

Ms. Brown said her mother helped her make her costumes when she was younger. "It was a big thing," she said.

Ms. Mapes suggested choosing "a day or a few evenings to create your costumes as a family."

While my husband and I haven't yet decided what we want to be for Halloween, I figured I could make something for my niece, Marley Anderson.

Marley and I march a bit to our own drum and don't consider skeletons and skulls to be Halloween-only fare, so it seemed fitting to make her a skeleton shirt to wear this Halloween (and thereafter) -- a "pooky" shirt, she would say, which is how she says "spooky."

For starters, I consulted my lifeline, Pinterest, and found a Fiskars tutorial for creating a long-sleeved shirt decorated with a ruffled spine and ribcage.

It was perfect. It had the "pooky" factor, but also a bit of a feminine ruffle.

To see the project, check out 2.fiskars.com/Activities/Crafting/Articles/Handmade-Halloween-Costumes.

The instructions called for a long-sleeved black shirt and a white T-shirt to make the bones, so I snagged an inexpensive, long-sleeved black thermal from an area store and procured one of my husband's white T-shirts.

I sliced up the T-shirt, sewed a simple in-and-out basting stich down the center of each strip, gathered the fabric into ruffles and pinned them to the shirt. Then, I tacked the "bones" down by hand, following that same center line. (Feel free to use a sewing machine; hand-sewing this project was easier for me!)

A few hours later -- I'm a slow-moving perfectionist! -- and voila! A "pooky" shirt! Pair it with black leggings and maybe a tulle skirt, and she'll be ready for some scares!

Ms. Brown said she thinks making your own costume instills confidence. I can't lie: The look on Marley's face when I told her I made her shirt was amazing.

There's nothing more exciting than someone saying "'Great costume,'" Ms. Brown said, and being able to reply, "'Oh, thanks! I made it.'"

Costume swap

Not into do-it-yourself projects? Swap last year's costume for a new one Sunday, Oct. 21, at Reusable Usables, 322 N. Cody St., LeClaire.

The swap will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Those who want to purchase used costumes may shop from 1 to 4 p.m. Reusable Usables is taking costume donations through Oct. 12.

For more information, call (563) 289-3946 or visit reusableusables.org.


Local events heading

  Today is Monday, Sept. 1, the 244th day of 2014. There are 121 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: We are informed by J.H. Hull that the reason the street sprinkler was not at work yesterday settling the dust on the streets, was because one of his horses was injured.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Bonnie McGregor, a fleet-footed stallion owned by S.W. Wheelock of this community, covered himself with glory at Lexington, Ky, when he ran a mile in 2:13 1/2. The horse's value was estimated as at least $50,000.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Troops are pouring into Paris to prepare for defense of the city. The German army is reported to be only 60 miles from the capital of France.
1939 -- 75 years ago: The German army has invaded Poland in undeclared warfare. Poland has appealed to Great Britain and France for aid.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Publication of a plant newspaper, the Farmall Works News, has been launched at the Rock Island IHC factory and replaces a managerial newsletter.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Officials predict Monday's Rock Island Labor Parade will be the biggest and best ever. Last minute work continues on floats and costumes for the parade, which steps off a 9:30 a.m.

(More History)