Are Homemade Children’s Halloween Costumes Worth It?

by Joshua Michtom

You start by telling yourself that this bourgie, artsy parenting is great because it gives you an outlet for your creative impulses and also immerses your children in a world of creativity and encourages them to believe that they can work any job and still have room for imagination and invention in their lives. Then, many years in, when it’s too late to go back and do anything differently, you find yourself outside your apartment building at 11:00 at night, spray painting grey house slippers black while listening to the playoffs on the radio and freezing your ass off, and you think it may have been wiser simply to condition your children to expect lead-based Iron Man costumes from Wal-Mart.
One of the principal problems with children is that if you do something nice for them a couple times, they get used to it and expect it EVERY TIME. My kids expect homemade Halloween costumes. They take pride in their homemade Halloween costumes. It started when there was just one child able to articulate desires, and he said he wanted to be a rhino. You can’t just buy a rhino costume at the mall, and I had plenty of wire and plaster of paris and paint, so I said, “Sure. I can make you a rhino costume.” It came out pretty cool, and then there was no escape. Leopard, hawk, Voldemort, ninja rat (“Like Master Splinter?” I said. “Who?” he said). Every year was some other craziness that I absent-mindedly promised in September and then had to grind out after the kids were in bed on a series of late October evenings.
As years passed, I got over the abstract, quality-of-life justifications for this folly, but clung to the notion that I was, at least, saving money. Turns out that’s probably not true, as this breakdown of my efforts this year shows:
1. 2 folded paper masks from $13.00; • 3 cans of spray paint: $12.00 • 1 can of spray adhesive: $4.00 • 1 can of spray fixative: $4.00 • 1 roll of masking tape: $1.50 Total for masks: $34.50
These masks are awesome. You pay to download the templates, which you then print out, glue to manila folders that you stole from your office, cut out, and stick together with tape or glue. The whole process takes a couple hours, and then you can paint them or, if you’re a masochist like me, spray them in adhesive, coat them in shredded paper, and then paint them.
2. Fuzzy white women’s gloves, from Wal-Mart: $5.00
3. Fuzzy white women’s sweater, from the thrift store: $6.00
There was an awesome women’s coat with a fuzzy white fleece torso, sequined collar, and quilted satin sleeves, but my girlfriend said the look it created would not be “tough” enough for the eight-year-old’s conception of a polar bear. She rejected my suggestion that there is such a thing as “disco tough.”
4. Fuzzy white women’s pajama bottoms, which came with a preposterous fuzzy white long-sleeved top with a sheep on it, from Wal-Mart: $15.00
5. White slippers, from the the thrift store: $2.00
6. Fuzzy black women’s gloves, from the thrift store: $2.00
7. Black child’s fleece jacket, from the thrift store: $8.00
I already had white house paint on hand, so that didn’t cost extra. Pro-tip: black fleece soaks up white spray paint the way I soak up beer during 14-inning Mets games. Use house paint on your next homemade panda costume.
8. Black child’s fleece pants, from the thrift store: $5.00
9. Grey fleece slippers, spray-painted black, from the thrift store: $2.00
That gives us a grand total of $79.50, discounting my labor, a cost that I will pretend is offset by the warm parental feelings I get from my children’s happiness. According to the internet, I could have purchased a”>child’s panda costume and a child’s polar bear costume for $39.99 each. So basically, it’s a wash.
Moral of the story: elaborate homemade costumes are probably not a great way to save money. They are only a good idea for (a) truly artsy people with a lot of time on their hands; (b) people who really want to instill an example of DIY industriousness for their children or somehow aren’t content with having anonymous foreign children make their children’s costumes; (c) Mets fans with children and no television who are going to spend their October nights at home listening to the radio and cursing anyway. For grownups on a budget looking for last-minute costumes, the Wintercroft masks are great.

This story is part of The Billfold’s DIY Month.

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