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 Friday, Sept. 19, the 262nd day of 2014. There are 103 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: Charles M. Osborn of this city, a lawyer of prominence, who voted for Lincoln in 1860 is now out strong for McClellan and will take the stump for him.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The George Fleming company had begun its dried fruit packing in a branch plant on 16th Street, Rock Island, employing nearly a hundred workers.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The cornerstone of the new Eagles home was laid. Building committee members were John Kobeman, Fred Ehmke and Frank Wich.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Former Kaiser Wilhelm, in exile, is sad as the Nazis march with communists.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Ninety-two members of the acappella choir at Davenport's West High School today accepted an invitation to perform at the New York World's Fair on June 13, 1965.
1989 -- 25 years ago: A Rock Island woman is one of 50 winners of $10,000 in cash in the Illinois State Lottery's "Celebration "89" instant ticket game. Dawn Loeffler was the third winner to be chosen through daily drawings that began Aug. 28 and will run 50 consecutive days.

(More History)