Homemade Halloween costumes presented challenges and fun

Susan Manzke
Susan's oldest son, Robby, makes an adorable little clown back in 1975.

Halloween is a sweet holiday, especially when it is filled with bags of candy.

Some people go all out with decorations. I have one pumpkin on my front porch. But as a child, I loved Halloween.

When I had my first child, Robby, I sewed a costume for him. At seven months, I turned my baby into a clown. The material was flannel so after Halloween, it could be used as a sleeper. No purchased costumes were ever used here.

The following year, I turned him into a scarecrow as his cousin, Sherri, was a lion from Oz. My homemade costume was easy as all I had to do was to add yellow yarn to a plaid shirt and overalls. The most I sewed was the covering for his head. Easy-peasy.

Robby and Rebecca model their Halloween costumes from 1981.

All this was before child number two came along. With Rebecca (Becky) I reused the early homemade costumes, as I did when baby Russell and baby Rachel came along too.

By the time number four arrived, I didn’t have time for sewing. Even to this day, I’m not fond of sewing.

Some years I haunted rummage sales for useful Halloween garb. That’s how I found long skirts. Those changed my girls into princesses and gypsies.

Other times Halloween became a family art project, like the year I made two Papier-mâché heads.

In 1983 big brother Rob, right, holds baby sister Rachel while siblings Russell and Rebecca look on.

To make the pumpkin heads I blew up two huge balloons and started covering them with strips of newspaper dipped in a goopy mixture. Over the years I’ve found the easiest Papier-mâché mixture is two parts white school glue to one part water. To make it sturdy, I covered the balloons twice with the goopy newspaper.        

It turned out to be more of a project than I expected. My family project turned into a Mom project when my crew deserted me.

When the heads were ready I glued scrap material over them to make pumpkin heads. The largest went over Russell and the second one (redder than orange) became the head of Rob’s headless horseman.

Both boys had a hard time seeing out of their homemade costumes that year.

As my children aged, they put their two cents into their Halloween costumes. Since I refused to buy anything, they had to become creative.

Once Rob wound himself up in toilet paper to become a mummy. That worked for a while until the toilet paper started coming undone. By the end of trick-or-treating, Rob had a bag filled with remnants and a few strips around his head.

1988 Rebecca, Russell, Rachel, and Rob with bag over his head that reads ‘I’m doing this for the candy.’ He was the chaperone.

Russell raided his dad’s clothes and dressed like Bob. The part that made him really look like his father was the addition of a charcoal beard.

Another time, Rob took a black garbage bag, filled it with crunched-up newspaper. Leaves were added to the outside of the bag and Rob to complete the illusion.

Many years cold temperatures meant jackets had to be worn over costumes. This brought about many sad faces as my children thought their warm jackets covered the best part of their outfits.

Many parents today don’t have time to make Halloween costumes. It is fine for them to buy what their children wear. My budget in the 1980s wouldn’t stretch far enough to dress my children in bought costumes.

All I know is that if I need a costume for myself today, I would be able to dig up odds and ends to decorate myself. Except I’ll never repeat Rob’s mummy costume. Toilet paper is just too precious these days.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;