Posted by Cassondra Murray Oct 9 2013, 2:19 am in Cassondra Murray, Cassondra's blogs, childhood memories, costumes, Halloween, harvest, Samhain, seasonal festivals, Witch hats
When I was a little girl, Halloween was my favorite holiday.
But…bottom line? When I was a little girl, Halloween costumes were AWFUL.
Yes, that DOES deserve to be capitalized.
Do you sense that there might be some leftover bitterness????
When I was a little girl, store-bought costumes were ridiculous plastic affairs with poorly-painted-on details. The only masks available were from the dime store, and that meant a thin piece of molded plastic, with eyes way too wide for any little kid, and a mouth hole the size of a sewing needle.
So…your mission, should you choose to accept it, was to go trick-or-treating around the neighborhood while wearing strange clothes that probably dragged the ground and were likely to make you trip, while you were able to see out of one eye MAYBE part of the time, as you dripped unnatural amounts of sweat because your skin had a plastic mask plastered against it, all while you were forced to shove the bottom of the mask away from your face periodically in order to actually…you know…breathe. And this last bit was at the risk of snapping the elastic that held your mask on. The elastic was about as thick as sewing thread and was stapled haphazardly to the mask by one staple on each side. This was, no doubt, accomplished by an overworked person in some foreign country who could not possibly care less whether your Halloween experience was a good one or a nightmare.
Should you break said thread-like elastic–or pull it out of its ill-placed staples– you had to spend the entire night walking around holding your mask in place with one hand.
Seriously, what self-respecting Frankenstein has to hold his face on with one hand while spitting “Thwiiiit-O-Thweeeth” through the barely-there mouth slit and holding out the bag with the other hand?
So…you couldn’t see and you couldn’t breathe. But by-golly you got candy.
And that’s what everybody did.
And after the candy was dropped into your sack at each successive house, you said, “Thuuuumppppthuuuu!” And then you ran for the car and your waiting parents.
Incidentally, that was “Thank you!” spoken through the needle-size slit in your mask, in case you were wondering.
Where I grew up it was a mile or two between houses, so everybody got driven around by the parents, and the code was as follows:
Porch light on—trick-or-treaters welcome.
Porch light off—stay away.
Everybody honored the code. And for doing so, you got lucky. Homemade treats at many houses. Homemade fudge or pumkin bread or chocolate chip cookies with m&m pieces.
My mom made homemade caramel apples and popcorn balls the size of your fist. Each kid got one apple and one popcorn ball. The little lady down the road made Bourbon Balls, but that’s a whole nuther story. Ahem….
Each Halloween went by and I did my best. But I longed for something better.
Frankly, I didn’t give a rat’s ass about the candy. I just wanted, for one night a year, to be somebody I wasn’t. A dream character. A vampire. A witch. An angel. Lily Munster.
This was my chance to act, and I wanted to BE that character. With a capital B. E.
We won’t talk about the year I tried to use Vaseline and baby powder to make that white, skunk-like, Lily-Munster stripe in my waist-length brown hair. No, we won’t.
Each year when September rolled around, I started thinking about my costume for Halloween. And once I got old enough to have an actual personality, given the rotten-sorry state of costumes where I lived, I started figuring out how to make my own. Of course, this involved my mother and her sewing machine.
One year I decided I would be an angel. Mom bought a few yards of cheap, white, quilt-lining fabric. I took coat hangers out of the closet and bent them into grotesque approximations of wings. We used tissue paper and Scotch tape and covered these rudimentary frames. The wings attached to my arms via two coat-hanger-wire loops. I threaded my arms through. White robe. Wire-and-tissue wings. Coat-hanger-and-tinsel halo.
I made it home with at least one wing intact.
Then there were the years when I wanted to be a witch.
A few yards of cheap black fabric?
A beat-up old broom?
A decent witches hat?
The witch hats in the dime store–back then– were an eight-inch cardboard cone with a three-inch cardboard brim and the aforementioned thread-like plastic to hold it on your head.
There are no images available on Google to illustrate how bad these hats were. Apparently even the most Halloween-deprived individual of the present day has a better witch hat than anything that was available in my community at that time.
*smooshes bitter angst into dark corner of heart*
The thread-like plastic on the witch hats of my day was always too short for any child older than, oh…eight days… so by the end of the Halloween evening the erstwhile witch had a thin, reddened line running from one temple, down her cheek and around her chin, to the other temple.
Oh…and a bag full of candy. Which I did not care about.
Let’s just say that for the budding drama queen who had seen the Wizard Of Oz at least five times by the time she was age seven—and the most awesome witch hats on display in said movie–these options were, at best, insulting.
Times have changed.
Nowadays, if a witch wants to go out to a party to celebrate All Hallows Eve, the options are…well…frighteningly diverse.
Two years ago I was coming home from a work trip and Steve picked me up at the airport. We have a routine. When he picks me up from an evening flight, he knows I’ll be way too tired to fix food when I get home, so we stop a few miles north of the airport at Cracker Barrel. That night there was a wait for a table, so I browsed through their Halloween displays. And that’s where I found it.
I found the first had I’d ever seen that was worthy of a discerning Halloween witch.
I was not happy with the velvet spider attached to the hat, but I could live with it to get the black and red crushed-satin roses, black and blood-red feathers, and the black mesh veil attached to a wide brim with a black, crushed-velvet crown–the pointy part that says “witch” to anyone who matters. That’s it up on the right.
So I put that hat on, and I was transformed.
The inner always-wanted-to-be-a-real-witch-at-Halloween-but-never-had-the-hat child overtook me.
Our table was called, and I walked through Cracker Barrel wearing the awesome witch hat, complete with price tag dangling from the brim, ala Minnie Pearl.
People stopped what they were doing. They looked at me, wearing the hat.
And they smiled.
Thus was born a monster..
Last year, for the first time in my life, I decided I should indulge my inner witch. I bought two more hats. One was what I lovingly refer to as the “Purple Feather Witch Hat” (up there on the left) and the other is the “Scrunch Black Pearl Feather Witch Hat”–which is on the right –the girl with the cleavage–but I cut all those mesh strips at odd angles to make them all ragged because that hat deserved so much more than blunt whacked-off mesh veil strips.
It’s okay. Other people have called me insane before. I won’t be hurt if you do. Much.
There was one I did not buy last year, but I’ve actually dreamed about it several times. It’s the Zebra Witch Hat. I think the fact that I’ve dreamed about it probably means I should buy it.
Don’t you agree?
So anyway, I have three awesome witch hats, but I don’t actually attend any Halloween functions.
All dressed up and no place to cast spells.
Oh and I’ve realized, much too late, that nobody makes BOXES to hold awesome witch hats.
What’s a witch to do?
In the United States, Halloween is the modern equivalent of Samhain (incidentally that’s pronounced Sow-un. Sow like a female pig, un like undone)– a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. It is celebrated from sunset October 31st – sunset November 1st. This was changed by the Christians to All-Hollows Eve, the time when evil spirits walk the earth on the day before All Saints Day, November 1st.
So, Bandits and Buddies…
Is Halloween, Samhain, or All Hollows Eve celebrated where you live? If not, is there a similar holiday to note the dark half of the year?
Did you have a favorite Halloween costume when you were a kid?
Did you go trick-or-treating? Or where you live, is there another ritual associated with this time of year?
If you did trick-or-treat, what was your favorite candy or goody?
Do you ever go to Halloween parties now? Do you wear costumes?
Is there a “code” in your neighborhood–like porch lights on or off means welcome or not?
What’s changed about Halloween from when you were a kid to now?
Do you still like Halloween, even as an adult?
Have you seen any good costumes show up on your front porch?
Or do you turn your lights off and wait for it to be over?
If it’s coming spring/summer where you are, what festivals mark the change of spring and fall seasons for you?
Posted by Trish Milburn Jun 15 2010, 4:12 am in costume dramas, costumes, costuming, Trish Milburn
Most little girls love to play dress-up at some point during their youth, but they eventually grow out of it or at least exchange princess attire for name-brand style. And then there are those of us who still love the idea of playing dress-up or immersing ourselves in the world of costumes — clothing that takes us to a different place and time. If I had gone another career path and possessed the talent for it, I think I would have loved to be a costume designer for movies. That’s what inspired me to give my heroine that goal in my August young adult novel, Winter Longing.
My two favorite types of costumes are science fiction/fantasy and historical. I’ll leave the former for a later post Nancy and I will be doing post-Dragon*Con in September. Today, I want to explore my love affair with historical costume and costume dramas. I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, when the TV mini-series was a big deal — stories like The Thorn Birds, Shogun, North and South (the American Civil War version based on the John Jakes novel). One of the earliest such mini-series I remember being enthralled by was Marco Polo, which came out in 1982, when I was 11 or 12, depending on the month it aired. It had costumes but also started the trend of me watching a TV show or movie based on some historical event or person and then wanting to know much more about it. I remember being so interested in Marco Polo and his travels that I read books about him after watching the mini-series. I even wrote a paper for school about him. Believe it or not, I still have that paper.
The Thorn Birds began my fascination with Australia, Shogun brought feudal Japan into my rural Kentucky living room, and North and South was filled with glorious costumes from my own country’s worst days. Later came the classic Gone With the Wind, and Scarlett O’Hara and her many gorgeous dresses. Who could forget the white and green picnic dress? The red gown? The green dress made from the curtains?
When I first saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, love of a different era and costuming was born — that of ancient China. The Chinese films are simply gorgeous, full of eye-popping color. My favorite is House of Flying Daggers, which included some stunning costumes worn by Ziya Zhang, pictured here.
I know many of my fellow Banditas are great fans of Regency England. True, the dramas such as the newest Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly and Matthew MacFadyen are filled with gorgeous costuming that can spawn many a story idea. But the era of English history that fascinates me most is that of the Tudors. Numerous dramas about the Tudors have been feasts for the eyes and have led me to read more about this period of history that I knew so little about before. Hey, I can now name Henry VIII’s six wives in order and what happened to them. (BTW, seriously, how odd is it that he had six wives and three were named Catherine? Confusing, much?) While once I would have had to go to the library to gather more information, now I watch an episode of The Tudors and then hop on the Internet to figure out the truth about people like Sir Thomas More, the Duke of Suffolk Charles Brandon and Henry’s various wives.
First, I saw the wonderful portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I by Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth. She is a fabulous actress and made this impressive queen come to life.
Then there was The Other Boleyn Girl, first the movie starring Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn, and then the book by Philippa Gregory on which it was based. I enjoyed that book so much that I now have four more of Gregory’s books on order. I plan to read The Constant Princess first, the story of Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife.
In recent weeks, I’ve been watching Showtime’s The Tudors on DVD and via streaming video on Netflix. While the series is full of historical inaccuracies, the costuming is wonderful. Scores of beautiful dresses such as this rich red number worn by Natalie Dormer, who played Anne Boleyn (hmm, does one have to be named Natalie to play that ill-fated queen?)…
and this regal black ensemble worn by the wonderful actress Maria Doyle Kennedy, who played Katherine of Aragon…
And I simply love this headdress worn by Joss Stone, who plays Anne of Cleaves, Henry’s fourth wife.
Are you a fan of costume dramas? If so, what are some of your favorites? If you were going to a costume party and could dress as any historical figure, who would it be?
Posted by Beth Andrews Oct 20 2007, 11:18 am in Beth Andrews, costumes, Halloween
by Beth Andrews
I’m supposed to be thinking about my Work-In-Progress, my next proposal for Harlequin Superromance. Unfortunately, my thoughts keep wandering away from my tortured hero. And where are my thoughts wandering to?
I love Halloween, not so much for the scare factor but for the FUN factor. I love the decorations, the treats and especially dressing up. When I was little, most kids’ costumes were plastic. Remember those? They were some sort of plastic cape-like thing complete with plastic mask. I believe I was even Barbie one year *g*
When my first child was born, I swore there would be no plastic costumes for him! His birthday is close to Halloween so when he turned one, we had a costume-themed party. I dressed him in the jester costume I’d spent hours behind my sewing machine making him.
He screamed. He cried. He HATED that costume.
But I was not to be deterred and the next year I made him the most adorable dinosaur costume. Again with the tears. When he was three I made him a scarecrow outfit. You can guess what happened. When he was four we went to the store and he bought a Power Rangers outfit complete with mask (I don’t think it was plastic). That kid wore that outfit just about everyday for the next six months. Lesson learned. Costumes don’t have to take enormous amounts of time or energy for kids to love them.
When my son was five and my daughter one and a half, I bought them matching blue sweat pants and sweatshirts, cut out a Superman S, sewed it on the shirt, made them each a red cape and voila! Superman and Supergirl! When my daughters were three and one, I raided my mother-in-law’s dress up box, dressed the older daughter in frilly pantaloons, topped it with a ruffled dress, slapped a bonnet on her head and had her carry a wooden crook. My younger daughter had fuzzy, white, one-piece pajamas. I stuck a tail on her, my friend made her ears out of a headband and felt and we had Mary and her Little Lamb
So while I might feel the pull of the sewing machine, I’ll resist and encourage my kids (the ones still young enough to trick or treat) to use their imaginations when deciding on their costumes. After all, we all know how a little imagination goes a long way
What was your favorite or most memorable costume? Did it take you hours or days to put together? Do you still dress-up? Attend costume parties?