The Hippo


Jul 23, 2019








Managing Editor Meghan Siegler’s son Ben at age 3. His desire to be a bowling pin was fulfilled with white felt, red ribbon, and a little cutting, sewing and gluing. Photo by Meghan Siegler.

Kid costumes get creative
How to make your trick-or-treater look awesome

By Kelly Sennott

Ugly or expensive: pick one.

If you’re buying your kid a costume this Halloween, you’re likely going to face this dilemma.
You can, however, avoid both by trying the DIY route. A couple area costume experts — Dorcas Duclos, who coordinates costumes for Goffstown High School productions, and Mary Selvoski, who’s been involved with the business 40 years — provided some tips on how to go about it.
Thrift store connoisseur
One option: get cheap clothes to refashion, either from the back of your closet or at the second-hand store clearance rack.
“I’m a big fan of thrift stores,” Duclos said in a phone interview last week. “I do a lot of work with the community clothing store in Goffstown. I’ve found it’s very easy to refashion something into something else.”
Under her watch, a pair of old gym shorts became a Mickey Mouse costume for her kids one Halloween with the addition of two white buttons, black tights, a black turtleneck and a knit hat with Mickey Mouse ears.
When you’re refashioning, shorts don’t need to be shorts. A skirt, for example, could become a cape.
“I’m one who will go into a thrift store, buy a skirt, cut a slit up the side, remove the zipper, and make a black cape by putting ribbon around it,” Duclos said. 
Duclos is currently working on building costumes for the school’s twist on The Nutcracker this holiday season, which will be told from the perspective of the Mouse King. For the tutus, she takes netting and tulle from second-hand dresses, and for a nutcracker costume, she took a women’s red jacket, added gold braid and turned up the collar. GHS also performs A Night of the Macabre: Dracula! this fall, for which Victorian-esque costumes were made by adding embellishments like lace and cuffs to silky shirts.
If you can’t find what you want at the first store, it doesn’t hurt to try the next, although you need to be flexible, too. If you can’t find a second-hand fur hat for your wolf costume, look in the coat section. 
“Certain Goodwills will have more formal wear clothes. Another will carry more casual wear, depending on the area. Dollar Tree stores and Ocean State Job Lots are also great resources for low-priced items,” Duclos said.
For more specialty items, Selvoski recommends Hobby Lobby and Jo-Ann Fabrics.
The tools
“My best friend is a hot glue gun,” Duclos said. “It’s quickest and easiest for people who don’t sew.”
Other handy tools: felt, wires, coat hangers, headbands and face paint. Duclos has made bat wings out of simple felt designs over coat hangers, and bee wings with coat hangers, black nylons, glitter and stretchy headbands for armholes.
She said headbands have many uses, particularly for kids dressing up as animals.
“When I’m making any kind of animal ears, I take felt and pieces of fur and glue them to the headbands. I’ve made donkey ears, rabbit ears, but you can make any of a million kinds of things,” she said. (To help it stand straight, add wiring.)
As for makeup, less is more.
“I find that some younger children get frightened by makeup. If you have makeup involved with a costume, my advice is to make it as simple as possible so you can still recognize the face underneath. For a cat, you can make it as simple as a black nose with whiskers,” Duclos said. (Extra tip: Add a dab of moisturizer and the paint will stick better.)
The Internet is a great tool for ideas too.
“Sometimes it just takes going on the Internet and Googling. Pinterest is a great resource,” Duclos said. “Sometimes when you’re making a costume, it helps to see other people’s ideas. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.”
The illusion
“If you’re going to dress up as a duck, it will be an altered idea of what a duck might be. It doesn’t have to be a yellow duck! You can make the costume by painting a visor orange while wearing striped tights and flippers on your feet. Sometimes it’s about creating the illusion of the character instead of the exact replica,” Duclos said.
Even in professional costuming, Selvoski takes that approach; she’d just finished costuming a huge cast of The Sound of Music at the time of the interview. Her goat costumes for the puppet scene had fur and horns, but they were attached to simple hoodies.
Trending for 2014
“It’s about what kids are watching on TV,” Selvoski said. “I have a couple of grandchildren, and I make a lot of their outfits. They all love to look like princesses from Frozen, Fiona from Shrek. … I definitely go online to stay within that trend when I’m sewing.”
For the girl who doesn’t want the Disney princess look: “What a lot of girls love to do is the princess bride thing — go into a second-hand store, buy a gown, and gore it up with blood,” Duclos said.
For boys, Duclos says you can’t go wrong with video games. She’s seen kids make Minecraft and Lego costumes with the help of cardboard boxes and acrylic paint. 
As seen in the October 23, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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