On Homemade Halloween Costumes and Mom Guilt

Last week, I posted an instagram story confessing that I’d spent the last 2.5 hours since the kids went to bed working on Halloween costumes… and that I was seriously wondering why I hadn’t just bought costumes from Costco… I was surprised at how many fellow mamas responded to that story so I wanted to expand my thoughts a bit more…

Last year, we kept costumes super simple… aka my husband and I were in the middle of directing a play, heading toward tech week, and I ordered PJ Mask masks on amazon last minute and got a buzz light year costume at goodwill because that was all we had time for. It was… fine. It was cute, the kids are still young enough not to notice a difference, but I was wracked with guilt over not “planning a better Halloween” and promised I’d do homemade costumes the next year…

Please notice, that I already admitted the KIDS DID NOT KNOW THE DIFFERENCE! My son has a fabulous imagination and enthusiasm and truly a little felt mask that matched his shirt was all he needed to feel like he was saving the nighttime and a used Buzz Light Year costume that didn’t come with the fancy extendable wings some costumes have was enough to get him screaming “To Infinity And Beyond!” all day and night. My daughter was still under 2 and didn’t really understand what was going on at all aside from people were giving her more sugar than usual. And yet… I actively thought about it for the next month and carried around a crazy amount of guilt about it. Part of this was because I’m still a recovering perfectionist and that inner critic was telling me I’d somehow cheated. Which is just absurd- I can’t imagine ever talking

to a friend that way. I have ZERO judgement for mamas who store buy costumes, buy used costumes, buy t-shirts that say “this is my halloween costume” or don’t do costumes at all! But for some reason when it comes to me doing the same I felt totally guilty. Another reason for that may be that I have really fond memories of my own mom making so many different halloween costumes. I feel like we had homemade costumes more often than store bought ones and so that’s just part of making it feel like Halloween to me. So, as I said, I promised that 2019 would be a homemade costume year…

OF course, at the time I didn’t think I’d be pregnant Halloween 2019… but even once I found out we were expecting I told myself that the pregnancy insomnia would just help the homemade costume situation… somehow pushing aside the other factors of nausea and exhaustion. And so at 2AM on the Friday morning before Halloween (because that is when our favorite Halloween tradition always happens- the Friday before Halloween…) when I found myself cursing at my sewing machine and wanting to cry over cardboard tie fighter wings, I promised myself I’d share some honest frustration with the homemade halloween costume process in an attempt to temper my own goals and perfectionism next year when we’ll have a kid less than a year old and also to hopefully get every parent out there (because while I believe it is mostly moms dealing with this, I know there are some dads whose THING is halloween) to give themselves a break whether you went homemade, store bought, something in between, etc.

Note that I finally gave up on sewing the dress perfectly and just pinned the neckline… and no one cared…

SO… here are a few things I regret about homemade costumes this year and a few things I feel really good about/were totally worth it:
*Goodwill is pain around this time of year. I can’t tell you how much time was wasted on trips there that did not provide anything fruitful
*BUT the times that Goodwill worked out, it really came through. We scored a light saber for my son on the third or fourth time looking and while it didn’t light up, it did pop out and look awesome with his costume and saved us a good amount… something that is always a win with a little boy who inadvertently destroys toys with his force and enthusiasm.
*You either spend the time or you spend the money. We had a pretty tight Halloween budget this year. It wouldn’t have been so tight if we were just buying for the kids, but I was determined to do a family themed costume this year because it is honestly probably the last year we’ll have kids willing to do the same theme. My son is 5 and got to dictate his costume this year and I just barely talked his sister into going along with it. I don’t think I’ll get so lucky next year! So… trying to costume all four of us for the price of about one store bought costume was TOUGH. But I still paid for it… with a whole lot of time. Hence the 2 AM why am I doing this question. I’m glad that we get to save that money for the expenses of Baby 3, but I want to remember how much time I will not have next year when there’s a crawler who may not yet be on a regular sleep schedule. So parents who chose to spend money rather than time- good for you! Parents who spent time over money- good for you! (speaking of… I had a different round of mom guilt that I was spending time making costumes instead of with the kids…. my husband has never felt guilt in any way about any configuration of Halloween costumes. I’m going to try and take a cue from him next year…)
*Here was the best part of homemade costumes this year- customizing them to the kids I have. I didn’t want to spend $30-$40 on a Princess Leah costume or $20 on just the wig when I knew I could make a yarn headband for the buns for about $2 and that on top of that- she would never keep a wig on through Halloween festivities but she’s totally used to headbands. I knew that my son would be happy if his clothes were semi- the correct color for Luke and he had a lightsaber, so once we found the lightsaber (so glad I didn’t have to try and make one of those! his expectations might have been high on that one component…). Of course, one of the reasons I probably felt good about the headband buns is because I did them several days ahead of time, which brings me to my next point…
*For the love of everything, if you are doing homemade Halloween costumes, don’t wait until the evening before for the “last few things” because they will turn into the most time consuming projects. For me, this meant the cardboard wings for my husband’s tie fighter costume and sewing my daughter’s gown. I had already cut the wings and the gown, I figured it would be easy to do those last two things once I had more time to clear space in the office… of course, the time to clear that space was not made until that night before we needed the costumes as I frantically tried to finish… the paint needed several coats and just didn’t seem to be the right type to easily cover the cardboard, and then the sewing machine didn’t work except to sew backwards (My seamstress/costumer friend thinks this could have something to do with the TWO YEARS worth of dust that was on the machine… literally. I hadn’t used it since making Halloween costumes 2 years earlier…) and this was when the stress hit. I probably should have made some compromises on those costumes once it became clear I didn’t have as much time as I thought in the days leading up to Halloween activities, but I was stubborn and that little guilt-voice in my head made me push through until I publicly admitted I was questioning my whole decision about doing anything homemade at all.

All this to say… I don’t plan to do homemade costumes next year, and if I do I will be intentionally keeping them SIMPLE … and maybe even JUST for the kids.

What do you do to keep Halloween something FUN for the family instead of a source of stress? I’m trying to focus on fun, family, and simplicity as we head into the rest of the holidays for the year so this was a good lesson for me that I have to continue to let go of the guilt over what I’m not doing well enough or not doing at all… and just decide to enjoy what we’ve decided to spend our time and money on… or to change the plans and not spend our time and money on that anymore. If you are feeling any guilt about your holiday plans- be that halloween costumes or looking forward to the Christmas season- you aren’t alone, but let’s try to let go of the guilt together!


5 thoughts on “On Homemade Halloween Costumes and Mom Guilt

    • Not stupid at all!! Our favorite Halloween celebration is a local community event that always takes place the Friday before Halloween (and I know a lot of friends around hear did “trunk or treat” events this past weekend), so that’s what I was staying up late for… and I figured since there were still a few days before actual Halloween that maybe someone could benefit from my slight insanity!


      • Ah, that makes more sense 🙂
        Hopefully the right people will read it and cut themselves some slack..
        I’ve never made costumes but I totally get the staying up way too late to get things done part..
        Here’s to a more relaxed “who actually cares?” attitude 🙂 (when you figure out how they work, please let me know ;p)


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