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OCTOBER 9, 2011 1:17AM

Costume Time in the Children's Room (plus recipes)

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I grew up in the last days of pre-internet, pre-credit card catalog shopping in a small town.  My mother hated shopping.  She really hated clothes.  She had her polyester slacks, her Keds, her white anklet socks, and camp shirts.  There were a few dresses in the closet for when she couldn’t get out of going to church or a wedding. 

                I was the third daughter.  By the time I came along, polyester ruled the supply chain.  It was washable.  Washable—you had to work at getting dirt to stick to it!  Periodically my mother would haul out some hand-me-downs from my sisters—all of which were ten years out of date.  I think that she bought them as they went out of style.

                This was back when girls and ladies and women were not allowed to wear pants.  Yes, I know I said that my mom wore pants every day, but that was the privilege of a house-wife.  Schools, businesses, restaurants, and country clubs forbid women to wear pants.  We also could not get a credit card without our husbands’ permission.  And if you applied for a job, you had to be ready to answer questions about your marital status, engagement, marriage plans, and birth control.

                We had a lot of dignity then.

                I had ideas about clothes.  That made it more interesting.  I had seen a photo of a fashion model in a green dress with black tights, so I tried to get out of the house like that one day.  Eventually, my mother gave up.  I wore the costume my sister had for the State Centennial to school every week in sixth and seventh grade.  It was a skirt!  It was probably made of polyester.

 schoolmarm dress from Michigan

                Nowadays I buy normal clothes.  I support whatever slave or prison labor in China makes my shoes and clothes.  Every now and then I get something from the USA.  What happened to the United Garment Workers Union?   For a few years I was poorer every month than the month before, so I made a habit of searching the closet for anything remotely unfrayed, un-holed, un-stained. 


But I am facing a professional crisis.  I am a Children’s Librarian.  We have two Halloween parties.  I have forbidden the Children’s Room staff to come as witches, because . . . well, we don’t want to give anyone ideas about us.

                It can’t be a witch thing, which is the easiest costume in the world—black, black and more black, and a hat.  Maybe messed-up hair.

groovy witch from French Quarter 2007 from Wikimedia commons.  Not me!  Not me, but a cool family mostly doing the Wizard of Oz--see the little flying monkey!

                I am too fat and middle-aged to wear any sexy costume.  Not to mention, did I mention, these are Children’s parties. 

                It can’t be scary because one party is the Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and the other one that we hold on Saturday usually brings in as many pre-schoolers as the other one.  Moms???


                It has to be something I can work in—because I am not a guest, I am the Children’s Librarian.

                It has to be something the little kids will recognize.  The kids born in New Orleans between 2007 and 2011 probably have seen more falling down houses and rotten streets than anything else. 

The rich kids end up with the entire set of Baby Einstein videos.  Then they get a computer around the time they learn to read.

                So cultural icons are far and few between. 

                The worst part is:   I have to make it. 

I don’t know why.

 I think I was bitten by an Etsy-fly in 2008.  Buying a costume off the rack would make the whole thing even more humiliating.  Sewing it gives me a little dignity. 

                So I can’t be Jason, or a headless queen, or a zombie.  I would make a great zombie.  It can’t be anything political because I am a Civil Service drone.

                The history of my costumes:

In 2007, I was a ladybug with big foamcore wings and an antennae bobble I made myself.  All-black clothes.   It was hot. 

I did it again in 2008.


                In 2009, I was Little Bo-Peep.  It rocked, but I made it myself and the pants-pantalettes were too loose and kept falling down.  It was hot, too?

           bo peep

     In 2010, I made a Minnie Mouse Costume out of bright red polyester polkadot material.  I had black tights and black shoes.  Minnie wears yellow shoes, but I don’t have any.

Minnie Mouse is trademarked, but this pattern says it all!

 red polka dot

                It’s October.  It’s costume time.  I’m trying to figure out what happened to the friggin’ bo-peep skirt or if I have any pink material to make a new one.


                The Zombie War cannot come soon enough for me.




Swamp Punch, Witch’s Brew, and Slimey Slug Juice

Ginger ale

Lime sherbet

Big chunk of ice with plastic eyeballs in it.  Or freeze some gummi worms in it.

Do you think we measure this stuff?  We’re the Children’s Librarians.  You’re lucky we don’t put glitter glue in it!

 Frozen gummi worms.

Let them thaw slightly.

Bet the kids that they can’t eat them. 

They are about the most flavorless things on the planet, and the texture is like rotting flesh . . .

 Lugosi in White Zombie Bela in White Zombie









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I remember those polyester days. My mother sewed us matching pantsuits from Bicentennial double knit (printed with patriotic scenes!). We were stylin'!

We have to dress up where I work as well -- all week. I have a costume closet full of options. My favorite is "teenage fairy" -- a poufy tulle prom dress (which the little girls love) that I wear over a printed long-sleeve thermal top, printed or striped tights, converse sneakers and fairy wings, hair in pony tails. (You can pretty much put a pair of wings on anything and be a ___ Fairy, right?)

I've also done Heidi -- a green square-dancing dress with white ric-rac trim topped with a nipped-in black equestrian jacket, a Germanic-print apron, head kerchief, black tights and ankle boots.
Bellwether. You sound fully equipped for the job. Teenage fairy---I like that.

Dianaani. I feel like a snail sometimes.

Best easy costume I've seen... my son's preschool teacher came as a spider. All black (black pants, black turtleneck). She rigged up six extra legs on each side with some black felt, black yarn, and a little sewing. They were sort of like bat's wings, sewn onto her shirt--between the sleeve seam and the side seam. All six legs (three on each side) came from the underarm, and were suspended from the sleeve seam and side seam with yarn. You couldn't see them until she held her arms up. It looked very easy to do and easy to wear. Hope this makes sense.
OK... and can you tell I love costumes? Sometimes the funniest costumes are when you dress as a thing rather than a person or animal. My daughter this year is going as a basket of laundry. I'm sewing (big fast stitches) a bunch of mismatched socks onto a plain white or black sweatshirt. We got a laundry basket from the dollar store. I'm cutting the bottom out, and she'll wear it around her middle with suspenders to keep it on. Might sew (loosely) some more bits and pieces to the basket if I have time.

Another literary idea is to go as Gulliver... lots of little green army men and a whole bunch of string.

Another one was someone who came as a serial killer... he bought a whole load of those tiny cereal boxes, stuck a plastic knife through each one, and taped them all over himself. Probably not for the children's library though.

For the teens who love Douglas Adams, and easy costume is Arthur Dent (bathrobe, slippers, towel, and a copy of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy with "Don't Panic" on the cover in large friendly letters).