Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Costumes of Halloween Past

As I look back to the Halloween’s of my childhood, I realize that most of my memories are memories of my children’s Halloweens instead of my own. I have always loved Halloween, but in trying to remember these holiday memories, I have found that my love for all things spooky was an evolution.

Of course, Jack-O-Lanterns will always been one of my favorite parts of Halloween. Even though Jack-O-Lanterns originated through a pagen culture, these bright orange faces are deeply rooted in the Halloween season. I also enjoy corn shocks, gourds and Indian corn - nothing says autumn like these precise signs of the season.

As a child growing up in the 1960’s, I have fuzzy memories of carving pumpkins with my Dad. We did the traditional “triangle” features and we always wanted to carve the pumpkin well before Halloween, so that by the time we were ready to go trick-or-treating, the pumpkin was so badly shriveled that the lid had already fallen onto the candle inside. Again, my pumpkin carving has been a long evolution.

When Marie and Amber were about four and five years old, I became fascinated with carving more elaborate pumpkins. I collected carving tools and pumpkin “patterns” and I pushed myself into making one spectacular creation after another. As Marie and Amber grew older, they were interested in pumpkin carving as well, so it became a family activity. By the time Christine was born, our entire family had entered numerous pumpkin carving contests and we had all taken home many first prizes.

By the time Amber and, two years later Marie, graduated from high school, Christine was entering her teenage years and she wasn’t as interested in carving Halloween pumpkins. Because of her lack of enthusiasm, my enthusiasm had declined and it has shown in the number of annual pumpkins I carved. Last year, 2007, was the first year since I can remember that I didn’t carve a Jack-O-Lantern.

The Halloween costumes my children wore also showed the same type of evolution as my pumpkin carving traditions have shown. When Amber was born, something inside of me made an unconscious decision to make all her Halloween costumes. Since she was only six weeks old for her first Halloween, there was no need for a costume, but the next year, I dressed her up as Raggedy Ann. I had found an old dress as a yard sale that I knew would make the perfect costume. Amber was 13 months old and her hair was shoulder length, so I braided it with yarn ribbons and added rosy lipstick to her little cheeks. This was just the beginning of a Halloween costume obsession that lasted for almost twenty years.

Marie was seven months old for her first Halloween, so I turned her into a pumpkin with a padded orange poncho and an orange bonnet complete with pumpkin stem and two leaves. Even though this costume took me no time to complete, Marie looked adorable. But her costume was not my pride and joy. No, my masterpiece for 1984 was Amber’s Rainbow Brite costume.

Amber loved watching Rainbow Brite and she had many of the dolls, which she played with every day. She had just celebrated her second birthday the month before, and her cake had been decorated with Rainbow Brite. When I found a pattern for the replica costume, I knew I would be turning Amber into Rainbow Brite. I worked two months on this costume, sewing and stuffing each colorful layer by hand. Amber was in heaven; she wore the costume in the house for a week before Halloween, and only a chocolate milk spill got it off of her after Halloween. This costume was hand washed and worn so many times that I’m surprised it didn’t fall apart. I still have this costume packed lovingly away in the closet. Amber has been turned into a pink unicorn - complete with a silver horn - two different versions of Dracula, a mad nurse, and a witch, just to name a few.

When Marie was going through the terrible twos, I turned her into a miniature devil. Of course, she was also a fairy princess one year, a vampire the next and who could forget the green dinosaur? Marie was such a tiny child, that she wore her dinosaur costume three years in a row. The green dinosaur was a another difficult costume because it involved numerous padded layer be sewn to the body. The first year Marie wore the costume as it was originally designed, complete with mittens for her hands and booties for her feet. She loved this costume so much, that the next year she wanted to wear it again. So, I painted brightly colored polka-dots on each of the dinosaur's spines. The mittens still fit, but the booties were too much trouble to walk in. By the third year, I was surprised the costume still fit. It was a little too short in the legs, but we remedied that by having Marie wear a pair of green sweat pants under the costume. In the dark, no one ever noticed the difference. We also added silver and gold paint and sparkles to the polka-dots we added last year.

For Christine’s first Halloween, she was only three months old, but I wanted to take her with us trick-or-treating on Main Street. Because I had such luck turning Marie into a pumpkin eight years before, it was easy to whip up an outfit. But Christine’s outfit was only the icing on the cake. This particular year, Keith dressed up like a pumpkin farmer and carried Christine as his pumpkin. They won third place in the costume contest. Christine has also been turned into the Lion King, a zombie, a devil, a pirate and a mad scientist.

In 1994 I turned all three of my girls into M & M’s – red, green, and yellow. They looked like we had just poured out a bag of the candies. This was the one and only year that my girls had matching costumes. After that, Amber and Marie started drifting away from trick-or-treating.

I have kept a list of all the girls’ Halloween costumes in each of their baby books. As I was recently reviewing each year’s entries, I was astonished at the number of costumes I have made over the years. I've become lax with my scrapbooking over the past few years, so Halloween picture seem to be scattered here and there. I'm currently working on holiday scrapbooks, so I eventually hope to have all the Halloween picture in one spot. It will be nice to have all the memories of Halloween past at my fingertips in one easy spot.

© Bobbi Rightmyer 2008