Monday, November 01, 2010

Un-Halloween Costumes

Halloween goes by without a blip on the radar here. While some communities in Cape Town and around have started organizing trick or treating for their kids, it’s an import, not really engrained in the culture in South Africa and out on the farm it’s not even an option. Reading American blogs though it sounds like the biggest fun is thinking up and choosing a costume and our girls did get to do that this weekend. Our school spring fair had a fancy dress competition and they both entered straight away, as soon as it was announced.

Last year was the first year that it had been put on and almost every little girl went as either a princess or a fairy. So this year, in a bid for diversity, the teachers told them they’d get more points for thinking up an original costume, funny, ugly, different.

Much deliberation went into coming up with ideas. Youngest and I went through an online list of suggestions for Halloween and she came up with a shortlist of six options that we thought we could manage. Little Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, a gypsy fortune teller, a jockey, Little Bo Peep or a cowgirl. She likes to take time over her decision making, weighing every single option fully before coming to a final conclusion.

Then we went through to the bedroom, where Older Daughter was thinking about her costume. She had only one plan so far: a genuine Chinese dress and parasol brought back from China by her aunt. But she wasn’t convinced it would meet the originality/funny criteria. So when I grabbed my bright red winter dressing gown from the back of the door and jokingly suggested to Youngest that we could also add Father Christmas to her list of options, it was Older Daughter that ran with the idea.

She spent the rest of the day searching out an old Father Christmas hat, making a cotton wool beard and trying on cushions round her middle. We unearthed our old sledge from the garage and she carefully oiled it with linseed oil over the next couple of days. She wrapped up boxes in saved Christmas paper. Filled a black bag with soft toys and practised saying Ho ho ho in a deep voice.

Youngest meanwhile had got her list down to three, then two and finally settled on being a jockey. All this needed was her riding gear plus the creation of some jockey silks, which of course I left till the very last minute. Friday afternoon saw me recklessly cutting out some leftover silky fabric into a vest shape, hand-stitching hems and shoulder darts (sewing machines frighten me to death), as I sat on the bench watching her riding lesson, and then handing it over to my sister in law, who is a sewing whizz, to machine stitch on the contrasting pink triangle and contrive a fastening.

I had the bright idea of ironing the hat band into hems to save stitches and fell victim to the menace of a hot iron in contact with man-made fabrics. Before I knew what had happened the band had shrivelled away altogether and the iron was blackened... I still have to Google a way of cleaning it.... But I salvaged enough fabric from the ruins and the costume was complete.

They both looked great on the day. Father Christmas won a prize, our jockey didn’t. In a way Halloween trick or treating would have been a better option for all-round happiness with no winners and losers, but in the end most of the fun was had already in the costume creation itself.

1 comment:

  1. The drama of making the costumes is one of the best parts of childhood - and part of learning how to deal with things that come up, just like in life! I was never a fan of those costume stores where you just buy an outfit, that's totally cheating. It's like buying cookies instead of making them at home.

    You did a fab job with your kids' outfits, Kit! I bet they'll remember your efforts and the fun you had making stuff together for the rest of their lives.


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