Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Costumes of Halloween's Past

The subtitle for today's post is, "or: Have I Mentioned I Also Sew?" :)

This post was in the works (as in, on my mind to do), but it's getting done today as a response to Joni Nickrent's Halloween Costume Post on the the Hive. I don't have pictures of many of my old costumes, but here's what I can piece together. :)

I LOVE Halloween. I love that there is a day set aside every year for me to dress in whatever wacky thing I want to, and if anyone looks at me funny, I can shrug and say, it's Halloween. I remember a LOT of my costumes from when I was a kid, with the earliest I remember being when my mom took a set of pink footie pajamas, sewed on a puffy white tail and made a head band with ears, and I went as a bunny. I was probably 3 or 4. There are many, many others. I went as the Phantom of the Opera in fifth grade, and as a Toxic Waste Dump in 6th grade. I won a prize at my middle school for being a hippy when I was in 7th grade - and that's the first day I remember meeting my friend Adam, who was in 6th grade and dressed as a secret agent. I skipped 9th grade cause I thought that high school kids were too cool or too old for Halloween, only to find that lots of kids had come to school dressed up, so I was back with a vengeance in 10th grade. The earliest photo I have available for this post is from 11th grade, though.

I went to all the crappy tourist stores around Times Square, and emerged dressed as a New York City tourist for the day. I wish the picture showed my tennis shoes and Big Apple socks...

12th grade, I finally hit "rebellious teenager," and dressed as what I described as a 19th century prostitute. The highlight of that outfit was carrying the outrageous, enormous pink hat I had on the train during rush hour. Sadly, I don't have pics.

I don't have any memory what I did as a college freshman (anyone reading this remember??), but in my sophomore year is when I started getting really serious about Halloween. I don't feel I can really explain the subsequent costumes without a brief bit of personal information. I am a huge geek, and am many kinds of geek. One of the main forms of geekery I engaged in while I was in college and graduate schools is gaming. I am a table top role playing gamer (for example, Dungeons and Dragons), and a LARPer (or, Live Action Role Player). For those who don't know what this is or don't know much about this, it's basically make believe for grown-ups - in table top, it's a lot like being kids and playing doctor or school, except with rules; in LARPing, it's like that, only with dress up and acting. Now, why does this matter? Starting my sophomore year of college, I started doing costumes inspired by my characters. The first year, this involved dressing up in retro outfits so that I could look like a super hero c. 1942. Unfortunately, a bad break up by one of my roomies at the time meant a total loss of all photographs taken of that costume. In 2002, I once again dressed up as a super hero, this time from a game set in the modern age. The only photograph I know of is one that a friend posted on FB:

It's pretty terrible; I'm on the far left, blurry and laughing. The most distinctive aspect of this outfit is the ridiculous amount of red temporary dye I put in my hair to try (and fail) to make pigtails stick straight up. :)

The real change was in 2003. I wanted to dress as a character from a game called "Exalted," where I played an Asian diplomat who also had magical powers and could wield a sword (trust me, it makes some amount of sense if you've actually played Exalted. Otherwise, it makes no sense at all. :) ) Being a broke college student, I couldn't afford to buy a kimono, but my friend Jen (shameless plug: her blog, her Etsy, she makes amigurumi too!) knew how to sew, and she convinced me that I could make a kimono pretty easily with her help. I had only ever sewn one thing in my life: a little teddy bear, when I was in middle school (not counting buttons and the like) - but I like to learn new craft skills, so I was game. Again, I'm afraid I don't have pics...

In 2004, I was SUPER, CRAZY busy, but I wanted to make a costume. I had no more characters I really wanted to do (this opinion was certainly affected by my weight, which was at it's highest, and my stress level at the time). Still, I went ahead and picked out a pattern that I liked and decided that rather than be something specific, I would just wear that outfit. I don't have a pic of me wearing it that Halloween, but here's me wearing the outfit about a year later (and about 30 pounds thinner than when I first made it, which required some modification):

(by this point, I was reusing the costume for a character I played in a LARP, thus going full circle :) ).

Come 2005, and I was living in Bloomington, IN, for grad school, and I stepped up my Halloween costume again (no pics from Halloween, but here's a pic from about a month later):

I generally refer to this dress just as "the Victorian," though technically when I wore it was I was dressing up as Irene Adler, Holme's only love interest from the Sherlock Holmes book.

2006, I was living with a girl named Sara. She's very effusive and energetic, where as I tended to be more restrained. We both like to sew, so we decided that we would dress up as Eleanor and Maryanne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility (I was sense - Eleanor - and she sensibility - Maryanne):

The next year, I found myself living abroad in Japan as Halloween approached, and I wasn't planning to do anything. I didn't have many friends there, and none of them mentioned celebrating Halloween. As the day approached, I got increasingly depressed about this, until finally, when Halloween dawned, I realized: SOMETHING MUST BE DONE! So I tromped over to a nearby mall where I knew there was a Claire's Accessories, bought myself a witches hat, and spent the day wearing a floor-length black skirt, a cute shirt that I owned that had a little ghost saying "boo," and the witches hat. Every where I went, Japanese people looked at me like I was OUT of my mind, occasionally exclaiming, "oh, it's Halloween!" in Japanese. (It's not a commonly celebrated holiday there.)

In 2008, a friend of mine and I went to the Greenwich Village parade. I was dressed as Milady from the Three Musketeers; everyone thought I was Marie Antoinette (not a single person guessed this one right):

Tragically, this photo doesn't show the pleating around the bottom, which took about as long to make as the entire rest of the outfit put together. I'm not even exaggerating...

Finally, there was last year! Last year, I had a REALLY busy fall again (I closed on an apartment on Oct. 27th and moved Oct. 28th, to put it in perspective), but I was determined that not only would I make a costume, I would make an AWESOME costume. So I spent a lot of money I didn't have to get the materials to make something I'd always wanted to make: A Civil War uniform. I'm a big Civil War buff, and I've always wanted to try reenactment (though still haven't!) so I went ahead and made a costume that was as accurate as I could manage, so that if I wanted to do reenacting, I could. There are sadly not many pictures, but it is - in my opinion - my best work (and was HARD, and took three days straight standing in the kitchen in my new apartment because I didn't have a table yet - the counter was my only work space):

(this terrible picture of me at least shows most of the details - taken with a random guy on the street of the Village who was dressed all Napoleonic. :) )

And this year? This year, I have no idea. Before I started thinking about this post this morning, I had been planning to wear the uniform again. I'm so busy, I reasoned. I love the uniform, which I do. I want to focus on crafts for the business, I justified. But now that I've written this post? What can I say...I really want to make something. I'm just not sure what, yet. I'll be going through my stash tonight, if I have the time, and I know I have some wonderful cloth in there, as well as a mess of patterns (including all of the materials needed to make a Renaissance outfit I never got around to sewing; I've also got 14 yards of a wonderful off white that was once supposed to be my wedding dress, back when I was once engaged, but now I don't have a clue WHAT to do with...).

I guess I'll just have to see what I can come up with! :)

What about everyone else? :)


  1. I wanted to be a banshee but I can't find and appropriate white dress. D=

  2. Whitish or grayish, sexy up top and shredded to bits at the skirt part?