Growing up and being the youngest of 5 children Halloween was a challenge for all of us. You didn’t just run out and buy a costume, money was tight and only my father worked. Mom had found interesting ways make some extra cash from making candles in our basement to driving a school bus. (I will discuss that at a later date.)
My father’s sister would come to visit about twice a year and would always bring us bags of clothing of course meant for my mom but we would pick through them after she left and my older sisters would cackle and giggle about some of her choices. In hindsight, she was married to an high powered attorney and she would update her closet every few months, I cringe now thinking there might have been some Halston or Chanel in there!
What does this have to do with costuming? Mom was awesome … there I said it. She could create anything for anyone. She had a Singer Slant-o-matic Series 503a from 1961 and she had every attachment and embroidery wheel known to man. I would love to sit with her as she made stuffed animals, matching dresses – I had 2 sisters, blankets, curtains, and of course costumes! I love this machine, its the one machine that I can do everything on. It has wonderful attachments and it is a work horse. (Don’t worry I will do a All About My Machine next week).
My middle sister wore a teddy bear costume she created from old black fuzzy fabric (I still have the ears), that same outfit mom made me a Skunk. Yes I said it I was a Skunk! Thank you Aunt Dottie for the fake white fur stole that made my stripe. My tail was stuffed and puffy. I will say it again my mom was Awesome. I believe we later repurposed that skunk into a cow.
I was in second grade and there was a Halloween parade at my school, back mom goes to the boxes of fabric and remnants to see what she could pull off. This is one of my favorites. I believe at the time my brother Jim worked at a local garment factory and he would get pieces of this or that. In the bottom of the hall closet where she kept her treasures of patterns, fabric, and notions was this albeit gold sparkly stiff type of polyester fabric. She laid it out on the dining room table and pinned and cut and sewed while I was off learning to ride my bike. Next thing I knew I was called into “turn around” and have her check the length. I never questioned her creativity and went back to playing.
Mom disappeared to the laundry area in the basement for about an hour. When she emerged in her had was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. A crown! I treasured that little thing for so many years. As the day passed by it was time to get ready to go . Mom dressed me in warm layers after all it was October in Northwest New Jersey and she did not want a crabby 6 year old to deal with. My sparkly gown, white crown with brown jewels, red ribbon sash and red velvet cape made me Miss America. I won the contest that year.
Mom helped me break down the components of that costume years later. The red cape was hers from high school that she wore over her prom gown. She used glue and glitter to make me a sash and big pearl button on the bottom to make it look like a rosette. But the crown was the most ingenious idea, a simple bleach bottle that she cut apart in to a fun shape, used funky trim she found in the treasure closet of goodness, she even found gems to put on it. Those gems were from her candle making adornments, as was the paint and coloring that she used also please remember this was the 70’s the glitz and glamour of disco was always around.
I repeat my mom was awesome.
In my early twenties, my friends and I needed a group contest idea, so we went with Miss America, Miss Universe and Miss World, recycle those prom gowns ladies! Remnant ribbon and puffy fabric paint you can do anything!. You can even find a tiara at Walmart to adorn your heads. Embrace your inner beauty queen!
This is where my Up-cycling Costuming comes from take what you have and have a Tim Gunn Moment – Make it Work!