Friday, October 28, 2011

Generation X and the Mom-Made Costume

My brother emailed me yesterday with the news that our hometown is having its 53rd annual Halloween parade this weekend. This is the same parade we participated in ourselves every year as kids.

The parade still follows the same route through downtown, still hands out the same "goody bag" to every participant, still gives prizes for the best costumes. That parade was something every kid in town looked forward to, racing home from school on October 31st to change into our costumes to meet up to march. I love that the tradition continues. I only wish I still lived there to go watch it this year.

Gen X costumes were usually Mom-made. Our moms had craft closets and dress-up suitcases from which we pieced together odss and ends.

Some years my brother and I were dressed as a theme...

1973 was Nurse/Doctor. Mom was a nurse, so the props were easy:

In 1974 we were Gypsies:

1975, ladybug and lion. Mom spent a lot of time on these, cutting the newspaper into layers of strips for the lion's fur. Brother was a real fire hazard that year.

In 1976 my mom was really motivated in her creativity. She fashioned a totem pole for my brother, and covered it in original designs she cut from construction paper. I think it was terribly uncomfortable for him to wear. Meanwhile, my costume was a piece of cake--literally. This was clearly my mom's idea, and that's her in the picture in the chef's outfit. My costume was made out of a folded cardboard box which was too awkward and heavy for me to carry with the handles she attached inside, so she made shoulder straps out of rope to ease some of the weight. I challenge my brother to a debate on who was more uncomfortable that year. I chose my own costumes after this.

In 1977 my brother was sick, so I paraded alone in a pilgrim costume my grandmother had hand-sewn for my aunt in the 1950s. I LOVED wearing this outfit. I loved the long flowy skirt and the smell of the old material. I won a 2nd place award in the costume contest that year. I think my prize was a $2 bill.

1978, hobo and fancy lady: I wasn't much into scary costumes. This Halloween we had a torrential downpour, which wasn't unusual in Florida. We lived on a dirt road, and it was so muddy that my mom made we wear plastic bags on my feet while trick-or-treating so I wouldn't ruin my Sunday shoes. I was so embarassed, I kept trying to hid my feet from the neighbors. "Trick or treat, don't look at my feet, give me something good to eat!"

1979 was the last year my brother and I dressed up together. While waiting for the parade to start, a very concerned kid walked up to him and asked "what happened?" He really thought my brother was injured. Duh. My Flamenco outfit was one my mom had worn 20 years prior, and it was huge on me. I think I wore it 3 years in a row, hoping I'd eventually grow into it.

I never had a store-bought costume, not even a mask! Our candy bags were old pillowcases, and trick-or-treating was done on October 31st, not the weekend before when it's more "convenient" like so many towns do these days. And the next day at school everyone compared the candy they'd acquired. If you could make yours last until Thanksgiving, you'd done good.

For more Gen X costume photos, visit my friend Jen's blog, GenerationX


  1. Fancy lady !!!! That is hilarious!

  2. Your mom was so creative! I loved all of these looks. I may have to borrow one of these vintage looks and update the look for my kids next year.

    I think I was a nurse one year. I loved that costume best, but I rarely see one anymore. At least not with the hat, which is of course the best part. Any nurse can wear scrubs! I suppose everyone would ask, "What are you supposed to be?"

  3. Mom says "Thanks for the sweet comments and the trip down memory lane. It was fun then, and fun to recall."

  4. I LOVE this, I LOVE these costumes. In a world gone mad with Buzz Lightyear and Disney generic princesses, these are spectacular.