Some of my favorite childhood memories consist of Halloween memories because my mom always created our costumes from scratch and she always did such an amazing job and I have loved creating those same memories for my own family now. I’ve lived out of my home state and away from my family since getting married, and recently moved back to my home town. So this is the first Halloween I’ve been close to my mom so that she and I could collaborate on costumes together in about 7 years, so it was extra special!
My 6 year old’s dream is to become a ballerina, and specifically, to star in The Nutcracker Ballet! So our Family costume this year was inspired by her and, of course, the iconic ballet.
Before I can actually begin the making process, it helps me to draw out stick figures with rough drawings of how I want the costumes to look, what colors to use to make sure it is all cohesive, etc, so that I know all of the components I’m going to need. When working on a family costume, it also helps tremendously to actually list all of the pieces I’m going to need so that the “foraging” and shopping phases go more easily.
I always begin making costumes by foraging from our closets to see if there are any base pieces I can use. (Especially this year, as my husband is in flight school so I had to make costumes with a careful budget). For example, The Nutcrackers green pants and rain boots are from his closet, and the Sugar Plum Fairy’s crown is from her Pretty Pretty Princess board game, and I didn’t need to glue anything to them, so those are a few of the many pieces I started with very first.
Next, I bring out my crafting boxes and bins to see what scrap fabric, buttons, ribbon, paint, etc I already have on hand and continue to cross things off of my master list that I created at the beginning. Thankfully, my mom also had quite a few costume pieces (like the swords) and craft supplies (like tan duct tape that we used for the rat tail) that we used as well.
Once I’ve accounted for all of the things I already have, which saves a lot of money, I like to hit up a secondhand store to find the rest of the “base pieces”. Base pieces are the articles of clothing that I layer and hot glue things onto throughout the process of creation. The most important piece I thrifted this year is the coat that the Rat King is wearing. I felt he really needed that pointed lapel to give him a feeling of being ominous.
I’m a very tactile person, so I always take the master list with me and continue crossing things off as I go.
Lastly for the prepping phase, I head to a local craft store to buy all the additional bits and bobbles that will be needed to create each look. This year I headed to Hobby Lobby where all Christmas decor was on sale for 50%. So it actually ended up being less expensive to buy most of the candies for the Sugar Plum Fairies outfit, but I did want some variety in size and also bought foam discs and iridescent cellophane to create a few bigger candies of my own. Of course I also decided to break from the traditional costumes and added some fake peppermint candies to the Candy Cane Hoop Dancer’s costume at her waistline as well, because the deal on fake candy was too good to pass up!
I felt like I was very organized up to this point. But when I got home and created a massive pile of “stuff”, I instantly got overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start.
For several days I felt overwhelmed trying to work on costumes in between caring for my small children and it was a disorganized, stressful mess.
Here’s where my mom, as a seasoned veteran, came in and saved the day. She came over & helped me gather 5 cardboard boxes/bins from around my house and we organized each piece of clothing and craft supply into the boxes, separated by individual costumes. A weight was instantly lifted off my shoulders just having everything organized into more “bite sized pieces”.
But anyone who has small children knows that “focus” is something that is in short supply. So I took this next level of organization to a new level and created lists on every single box of all of the steps I needed to take to bring each costume to completion. For example, the Candy cane Dancers costume list began with these steps:
- Paint the red stripes onto white shirt
- Add red fabric frills to top of shirt
- Create tulle tutu
- Glue peppermint candies on tutu
Then I took time to finish this list and create full lists for each costume. Once again, a weight was lifted off my shoulders! It was so much easier to work on costumes whenever I had a spare moment and to feel like I wasn’t running in circles and forgetting what I still needed to do every time I came back to creating.
From there, the process of painting and gluing was pretty straightforward! I plowed through it all, until it came down to the Rat King mask. I had planned to buy a rat mask, but I was feeling the pressure to keep saving money everywhere I could… so I had the overzealous idea of making his mask out of cardboard. I found a tutorial online for how to make a mouse mask out of cardboard, but thought it looked more like a wolf. So I made a few changes to the overall shape and continued to layer on pieces until it felt right. Once the mask had a nice 3D feel, I painted it to give it even more depth. I was terrified it would end up looking cheesy, but am actually really proud of how it turned out! And I didn’t have to buy a single extra item in order to make it because I already had cardboard, hot glue, and paint at home!
That was the last piece I had to complete and it felt SO good to be done. It was so fun to put it all together and see how it looked on everyone! We all had so much fun parading around together!
The only downside was that my mom and dad both ended up catching my children’s colds and didn’t get to play with us wearing the Uncle Drosselmeyer and Mother Ginger costumes that she had worked so hard on!
Overall, it was such a fun creative process and I am already brainstorming what we will be next year!