Sounds salacious and juicy, but I'm not referring to the NYC S+M scene--I'm talking about my annual October deep dive into making ridiculously detailed HOMEMADE COSTUMES for my kids, from the comfort of my kitchen, mostly using recycled materials I find around the house. If I'm feeling a little "crazy(!)," I may venture to the fabric district for fake leather spandex and metal bindings (for comicbook hero outfits!) but otherwise, I like using everyday found objects.
Halloween has always been our family's fave. Merv and I used to go all out for Halloween costumes before we had kids and we'd always be a duo: "Like a Virgin" era Madonna, and the lead singer of Flock of Seagulls; Sonny and Cher, the early years. When Dylan came along, Merv was Dr. Evil, with Dylan in the Baby Bjorn as Mini Me. At age 2, she won the Grand Prize for Best Costume at Chelsea Market NYC's Costume Contest--I sewed her a soft, stretchy and comfy outfit made out of spandex and shoulder pads, as The Spaceman from KISS. She won a huge basket of goodies, and my kid was HOOKED.
I'll talk more in detail about the "costume design process" in another blog; here, I wanted to really focus on WHY I put myself through one to two weeks of sleep deprivation to handcraft outfits that my kids might wear for 24 non-consecutive hours in a YEAR. "But Janet," you say, "That's crazy! Why sacrifice your time, energy, and self-care for such a short-lived dopamine fix for the kids?
To explain this, I want to talk about chocolate chip cookies for just a sec. I love chocolate chip cookies. Sometimes, you might want to spend just a few bucks at a deli around the corner for a small packet of Keebler cookies. It does the job cheaply to immediately satisfy a sweets craving but it's "meh" in value: it's mass produced by machines in a factory, and prepackaged to last for months. Would you request that for your last meal on death row? Most likely not. But if someone you loved, respected, and/or admired, baked cookies just for you, with you in mind, how much more special is that? They took the time to think about what you might like, found a recipe, got the ingredients, made substitutions for you if have any dietary restrictions, and then made the effort to make each cookie by hand, just because they wanted to see joy in your heart--those are the BEST cookies! And as you're eating these specially made cookies, don't you think about the person who made them for you--with love in your heart?!
I don't bake cookies much anymore but making costumes for my kids has the same exact effect, both for my kids and for me: sure, I could probably find a pre-made, inexpensive costume on amazon and they'd still have fun trick or treating but it's not the same when you compare a "mass produced by a machine" costume to Halloween costumes made to order, custom fit, from scratch! For our family, it's all about stretching our imagination to its limits--what CAN we make?
Every year, I see my kids put a lot of effort into coming up with creative costume ideas that they think no one else will have, and they also come up with ideas as to how I might be able to create it. It's the whole process that we partake in together, all year round: from listening to them discuss characters that they like/don't like and why, all the way to doing the fittings at the end and teaching them about how different materials and bindings could make or break your costume (literally!). It can't just "look good," but it also has to be able to move with their bodies well (form AND function!), since they wear their costumes all day at the NYComicon and then all day at school for Halloween. Throughout the process, I get to teach my kids about the magic of creativity and the beauty of handmade things--2 life lessons that I value, especially as a parent but also as an artist.
In this way, my kids get their one-of-a-kind, specially handmade costume of their dreams (that they'll remember forever!), and I get to see the joy in their hearts. As a kid, my grandma used to always tell us, "I'd rather hang an artwork made by my grandkids than any Picasso!" She taught me all kinds of crafts and we always gave each other handmade gifts; I treasure everything she made, just for me. Her handmade gifts are priceless to me.
It's enough of a gift for me to know that I made that happen using creativity and just my own two hands--using recycled cardboard, hot glue gun, fabric, EVA foam, paint, a lot of elbow grease, and an endless supply of love--but I must admit, it never gets old when people ask my kids, "who made your costume?" and my kids proudly say, "My mom and I made it together!" The most common response we get is, "BEST MOM EVER!"