I have been passionate about dressing up and designing costumes my entire life. In junior high and high school I would often win costume contests (around Halloween) for my homemade costumes – as well as other similar contests (like hat day!)
When I was in college (17-18-19 years old), I worked for the New York University Tisch School of the Arts costume design shop for a brief stint for my work study (to help pay for my college tuition). During that time (1987 /1988 /1989) I helped design and build costumes for school shows (and professional off-broadway shows too). In addition to learning my way around a sewing machine (and how to hand-hem delicate silk skirts and take in center-back-seams on vintage 1940s era mens slacks!), as part of my job I got to go to all of the major New York City theatrical costume shops looking for pieces to be used as costumes for plays I was working on (and this meant lots of digging around in the NYC vintage costume archives!) I loved it.
Growing up in New England, Halloween was pretty much always my absolute favorite holiday. I don’t know if my passion for costume design was inspired by my love of Halloween or vice versa – but designing costumes for (and with) my kids (over the past 23 years) has always been one of my absolute favorite things to do.
In recent years I have been sharing my family’s Halloween photos on Facebook, but I thought it would be fun to share a few of them here too (as Facebook sends me reminders of some of my more popular photos over time – since I joined it 10 years ago – c. 2009!)
Below are two photos from Halloween 2013. They are not any testament to my costume design skills but they are fun none-the-less. The first is my son Charlie. This was 6 years ago so that means he was 5 years old in this picture (he is 11 today). At the time he described his self-assembled costume (using findings from our costume box which we always keep available and full of fun things in the play room) as follows: “I’m knight-skeleton-a superman-cowboy”!
And then that year we went to a Halloween party – one of the last I have gone to in a long time because my kids’ disabilities make it hard for me to go to parties… and I decided to dress up as a “sexy sheriff”… and well – since I am a lot older and worn now – while this is no great costume (photo below) – this simple picture brings back happy memories of “before” (before my life took wild turns into the unknown realm of being politically persecuted for my work trying to protect children from being exposed to Lead in their homes and environment!) And since I am 49 years old today (2019, the day I am posting this)… this means I was a young ‘un of just 43 in this photo! OMG – to go back in time right about now… #sigh! [Please continue reading below the photo.]
#LeadSafeMama’s Lead-safe tips for Halloween costumes & parties
As a family we have always had a few points we focus on for Halloween costumes & parties that actually fall within the realm of being “Lead-safe tips” (and general safety tips) for celebrating the holiday – and here those are:
- We make our own costumes… always… every year. [This is a great educational opportunity for kiddos as they need to research their choices to make them as accurate and appropriate as possible.]
- We avoid most store bought rubber masks (although I must admit that a few have crept into our home over the years). [You can see the XRF test results for those here.]
- We avoid all facepaint and makeup (my kids have just had too many reactions to make that something worth experimenting with). Of course there have been exceptions over the years but they are few and far between. [Here’s a lead-free face paint I have tested, link.]
- We focus on the clothing making the costume (and looking for / making/ buidling/ finding vintage or other clothing items to help pull together a look!)
- We do avoid vintage hats (see link here) and vintage costume jewelry (see link here) – because of Lead and Mercury concerns.
- As a result of point #4 above my sons have had to learn to SEW and KNIT to make their costumes – which has been an amazing learning opportunity for them (and an exercise in self sufficiency!)
- We use cardboard, cloth, ribbon, string, paint, paper mâché, balloons, wood and other findings (recycling and reusing as much as possible to make costumes.)
- An important point I have taught my boys: If you are going to make something, make it right – make it to last… make it using real techniques so it can be used over and over again (don’t just think of it as a Halloween costume!) To this point: I still have the red and black satin vampire cloak that I made for my boyfriend to wear in the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade in 1987 (and my kids wear it for dress up all the time!) Plus here’s a little video of my son working on knitting his Dr. Who scarf (we researched the colors and style and length!):
- Less is more: It’s super important that you can walk, sit and otherwise move around in your costume (and also that you are not cold, wet or uncomfortable!)
- Bring a flashlight and use a pillow case (not the good organic ones though!) to collect your candy!
- Most important: My kids start planning and working on their costumes a year in advance (yes – it’s a thing – every day is halloween in our house! Lol!)
- We avoid store-bought decorations and instead I encourage the kids to make ghosts and skeletons and other things out of construction paper and other art supplies and we buy ALL THE PUMPKINS (as many as we can afford) to decorate our house and yard.
- Avoid Halloween twinkly lights (they either are high in Antimony or high in Lead and are just not worth the compromise – in terms of the environmental impact.)
- If we are having a party we also buy hay bales or straw bales from the local farm store to decorate the yard (and these help to keep Lead dust down in areas where we have bare soil.)
- Halloween Party Pro-Tip: If you want it to smell like Halloween in the house: simmer organic apple juice with organic cloves, organic nutmeg and organic cinnamon all day! (…add water so it doesn’t boil down to nothing.)
I’m planning on posting more photos and random stories from my life on my blog too – peppered in among the pieces about Lead… because I want this website to be a glimpse at my life (and my work) one day… for my kids (after I am gone – in 25 or 50 years or whenever that happens!) I have to look into how to pay a host to host your website forever once you die! There must be a service that offers that (if you know of something like that, please let me know.)
Happy Halloween! Have a great time celebrating with your family.