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Which Is Creepier: Mom's Costume, or the One In the Box From the Store?
October 10, 2013 4:02 PM   Subscribe

Josh Clark from the Stuff You Should Know Podcast, has put together two amazing galleries of old Halloween costumes. Really old, homemade costumes, and Seventies and Eighties costumes.
posted by Toekneesan (49 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Re the first link: So that's where they got the look for Richard Harrow.
posted by Bromius at 4:06 PM on October 10, 2013


It occurs to me that there's a real art to creating a recognizable likeness of a character in a thin plastic mask.

It's a shame that none of the people responsible for these masks bothered to learn it.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:10 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think we kids of the 70s all look back fondly on the Hallowe'en episode of Joanie Loves Chachi where Scott Baio wore a stiff plastic Chachi mask and a polyethylene Chachi smock.
posted by fleetmouse at 4:10 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bibendum! Ahhhh!
[#2 of "homemade"]
posted by morganw at 4:14 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't have a photo online, but when I was four or five my mom dressed me up as a paper bag of groceries; she cut out the bottom of the bag, attached it to my torso and then glued small boxes of food around the top.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:14 PM on October 10, 2013


The first link is great. Halloween costumes that are actually scary. Much more interesting than o hai I'm a sexy cat.
posted by billiebee at 4:17 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


More/bigger pics of 70s costumes here.
posted by emjaybee at 4:21 PM on October 10, 2013


Ah yes, the classic vacuum-formed mask and printed trashbag combo.
posted by ckape at 4:23 PM on October 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


The first link is great. Halloween costumes that are actually scary. Much more interesting than o hai I'm a sexy cat.

I was going to post the same sentiment. Halloween is supposed to be scary, not just an excuse for cosplay. If you're going to dress as a sexy nurse, at least be a sexy zombie nurse. Your daughter likes My Little Pony? How about Rainbow Dash, after being bitten by a pony vampire or with just her head sticking out of a giant bottle of Elmer's Glue?
posted by Thoughtcrime at 4:23 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


This just reminds me of the time I went as Dracula around age 11 (?). I was wearing so much pancake make-up/greasepaint eye-pencil/weird shiny lipstick that I probably resembled an Eastern European drag king.

If my mom still has pics, I am asking her to burn them.
posted by Kitteh at 4:30 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


My mother was an art major and taught art before we kids were born, so she ended up making all our halloween costumes becuase it let her indulge her creative impulse. Fortunately she was good, so they were actually decent.

She also used her understanding of early child psychology to add something to my first halloween costume (which she saved and used for my brother for his first halloween too) - it was an owl costume, which incorporated some kind of jacket thing covered in paper feathers. But she wrote something on one of the feathers on the back - because she figured we'd be too young to remember to say it ourselves, she wrote "thank you!" in big letters so even if we forgot, we'd be thanking people as we walked away.

My brother was the one who always wanted to go with scary costumes, but I don't think he got much of a chance; we always seemed to go with double-acts (he was Tigger the year I was Winnie The Pooh, he was the Road Runner and I was the Coyote, etc.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:31 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I couldn't find a good close-up picture, but I had one of those Remco princess costumes; plastic mask and, I think, a pink plastic smock dress. The mask only went on when I was up to the actual house and asking for goodies, you couldn't see through the eyeholes for crap and your breathing made it hot. Not to mention wearing a vinyl bag over your clothes.

Being Texas, Halloween was either freezing cold or still summer. You sweated or shivered no matter what.

But it was thrilling to tromp through dark streets and ring stranger's doorbells. And when I got home, Mom and Dad would take the stuff they wanted that I didn't; malted milk balls, peanut butter bars (the little stripey ones). But no one ever wanted the black licorice or jelly beans, and there was always too much candy corn, plus a few lonely pennies and a short-lived set of wax lips.
posted by emjaybee at 4:32 PM on October 10, 2013


I remember just how those 1970s masks felt when you wore them. You could only breathe through the small mouth hole (the nose holes never lined up right) and the mask eventually would stick to your face with the accumulated sweat of walking from door to door. The mask's mouth would get flimsier and soggier as moisture from your breathing would soften the plastic/cardboardy material it was made of.

The costume part would eventually rip and one of the ties would fall off, and you'd be dragging one side of it along with you while trying to hold onto an overfull pillowcase full of candy.

The best times ever, really.
posted by xingcat at 4:34 PM on October 10, 2013 [21 favorites]


when i was four (1987) my mom made me a pterodactyl costume. she was a professional seamstress at the time so it was a super neat little jumpsuit with wings and a tail and a hood with the pointy head crest thing that some pterosaurs had and it was amazing, and then halloween night turned out to be so cold i had to wear my winter coat which wouldn't fit over the pterosaur wings so at the last minute before we went trick or treating my awesome pterodactyl suit got set aside and replaced with pinning a pair of hastily-cut-out calico wings onto the sleeves of my winter coat and making a crest and a beak by tying a pair of empty paper towel tubes onto my head

i wanted to be ALF but the ALF costume was 1) one of those creepy plastic masks-and-bibs things, which my mom disapproved of on principle and 2) cost money, which making a pterodactyl suit out of fabric mom already had a round didn't
posted by titus n. owl at 4:35 PM on October 10, 2013


My mom was a dressmaker for most of my childhood and extremely artistic and cool. So I had the best Halloween costumes ever. No plastic smocks for us! Nope! (Even now I try to convince her to make me costumes and she just laughs.)

I kind of admire those now even though as I kid I felt so completely superior. There's such a weird simplicity to them that they almost become abstract.

I think it's appropriate to link to Ladyhawke's awesome "Dusk Till Dawn" video here.
posted by darksong at 4:39 PM on October 10, 2013


i clicked on the 80s link specifically to see if the blowup head hat thing was featured, and there it was on the first picture! my brothers and i wore those one year. they didn't stay up very well.
posted by nadawi at 4:40 PM on October 10, 2013


When I was a kid, I thought those plastic smocks with the character's name and picture were a total cop-out. I mean, everyone knows Spider-Man doesn't walk around wearing a shirt with him on it. But I bet they were fantastic for the parents handing out candy, who could instantly tell who you were supposed to be and accurately comment on your costume.

I wish I had a shirt with my name and picture on it so I could go as myself for Halloween.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:43 PM on October 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


[M]y mom made me a pterodactyl costume. she was a professional seamstress at the time so it was a super neat little jumpsuit with wings and a tail and a hood with the pointy head crest thing that some pterosaurs had and it was amazing

You realize I am now picturing young 1987 titus n. owl as this, right? And, of course, also this. (Adorable, needless to say.)
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 4:46 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Strawberry Shortcake vinyl dress (#29) recalls an epic childhood battle with Mom. She bought it because it was super cute, but unfortunately her incorrigible daughter wanted to be Oscar the Grouch! I didn't get a lot of choice in choosing my own clothes, but Mom decided it wasn't a battle worth picking and returned it.

It's so weird to see that those boxed costumes were that craptastic in hindsight. Thanks for posting.
posted by Calzephyr at 4:46 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think Seinfeld really covered all the bases in his classic Halloween bit.
Yeah, I'm Superman. Look at the pant legs!
posted by ShutterBun at 4:51 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's so weird to see that those boxed costumes were that craptastic in hindsight.

They totally were. And the masks were kind of dangerous (or I've absorbed my parents' propaganda 30 years later) since you couldn't really see which isn't great when wandering around trying to score candy. My mom wouldn't buy any of them on the basis of them being cheap and I'd have really beautiful costumes like a princess costume my mom had a seamstress make or cool clothes my grandmother brought back from her travels (before I was old enough to know/worry about cultural appropriation) like kimonos and saris and I still raged at the injustice of being denied the cheap plastic She-Ra costume like all the OTHER kids had.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 4:51 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I had the exact same experience, HonoriaGlossop. My parents refused to ever get me one of those cheapo boxed costumes, and instead helped me make elaborate homemade costumes (even got me a really expensive Dick Smith Monster Makeup Kit when I was 8 years old) and some of my costumes were really great!

But that didn't matter. I still wanted the stupid plastic Darth Vader poncho all the cool kids had.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:58 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


But I bet they were fantastic for the parents handing out candy, who could instantly tell who you were supposed to be and accurately comment on your costume.

Mind. Blown. That makes total sense!
posted by ShutterBun at 5:00 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was wearing so much pancake make-up/greasepaint eye-pencil/weird shiny lipstick that I probably resembled an Eastern European drag king.

HAHA YES one year (maybe 10 or 11) I went as a dirty hobo out of spite for my mom who used to always make me wear a heavy coat over my princess t-rex spaceman costumes. I made a fake beard with mascara and wore clothes that I literally smeared garbage and dirt on, and was refused entrance to my friend's party by her shocked mother who later said that she thought I was a weird creepy small filthy man.
posted by elizardbits at 5:22 PM on October 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


Metafilter: a weird creepy small filthy man.
posted by The Whelk at 5:37 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Speak for yourself.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:40 PM on October 10, 2013


Haha. The costume where your head is a Rubik's Cube and the one with little girls with Batman, Spider-Man, and Colonel Sanders heads were pretty awesome.
posted by limeonaire at 5:49 PM on October 10, 2013


Oh wow, they also had the Wonder Woman mask I wore in kindergarten!
posted by limeonaire at 5:55 PM on October 10, 2013


[M]y mom made me a pterodactyl costume. she was a professional seamstress at the time so it was a super neat little jumpsuit with wings and a tail and a hood with the pointy head crest thing that some pterosaurs had and it was amazing

Allie Brosh, is that you?
posted by BlueHorse at 5:55 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think I may have been Darth Vader two years in a row because that's what they have at this store so just pick something we need to go home and get dinner started.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:38 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hadn't realized until now, but unless you are going as a masked character (like Iron Man) almost no kids wear masks anymore. Instead of disguising yourself under a mask of that character, you just become the character. I thought about it looking at the Wonder Woman mask. My kid is into WW right now, and she wouldn't want a WW mask--she would want to get the outfit and accessories and be Wonder Woman in a way that you can't if you are obviously wearing a mask. I guess concealing who you actually were used to be a thing, but that has dropped off the radar since the 80's--a cultural development that I hadn't noticed before.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:56 PM on October 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


When I was a kid, I thought those plastic smocks with the character's name and picture were a total cop-out. I mean, everyone knows Spider-Man doesn't walk around wearing a shirt with him on it.

God yes. Even as a little kid I remember thinking I DON'T WANT A YODA MASK AND A SHIRT WITH YODA ON IT I WANT TO LOOK LIKE DINGDANG YODA.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:07 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Almost all of those old homemade costume pictures are disturbing. If I found one in the woods, or in an old trunk I'd be freaking out thinking I'd found evidence of a cult or demon possession or something.
posted by Biblio at 8:39 PM on October 10, 2013


My mom always made all our costumes (black cat, doctor, jester), but it was possible in the 70/ 80s to purchase a costume that was not of the printed-plastic-bag type. Those were truly the bottom of the barrel, and there would only be one or two kids in my class that ever wore them.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:17 PM on October 10, 2013


Not all of the homemade costumes are Hallowe'en costumes, some are probably from theatrical productions, and number 14 is of a Yuletide Krampus with his chains and birch switches.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:27 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I swear every Halloween my sibs and I would trade off being the ghost, the Indian, the hobo, the cowboy, and the pirate. We were never anything else, and it was always a sheet, the toy bow and arrow or six shooter, with a feather stuck in a headband, or the cheap red felt cowboy hat, the hankie on a stick and ripped jeans, or the bandana and eye patch, plus whatever makeup Mom had that would suit. Booooring.

We never used store-bought costumes, and I thought they were wonderful, until I wore my cousin's Casper the Friendly Ghost costume and realized how much more comfortable a sheet was.

Now I really get into Halloween, and my costumes are as fantastic or realistic as I can make them.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:07 PM on October 10, 2013


My folks can't sew and didn't have much money for a while, so I had a couple of smock/mask costumes (I was wearing #40 the year the drunk guy swung open the screen door so vehemently that I was knocked off the steps into the bushes), but most years we hunted at thrift stores (like the old rag-bin kinda stores that don't seem to exist anymore) and cobbled things together, which is what I still do, for the most part.

But I don't make masks because those are fucking creepy, every one.

My favorite year was when I got to wear my dad's converse, one black & one red with my own shoes inside for my clown costume.

And a big thumbs-down to winter coats, ruining Halloween (and my life) for as long as I can remember.
posted by MsDaniB at 12:47 AM on October 11, 2013


My family didn't like Halloween. As a kid, I was stuck as a generic witch or vampire or black cat or whatever. Meanwhile, I wanted to go as a werewolf in a realistic werewolf-y costume (because the masks generally sucked), or the Crypt Keeper, or a mummy in authentic bandages, or a drowning victim complete with five cans of hairspray... I was a weird kid, but I also had a weird older brother who encouraged me.

I feel kind of envious of all of you who have family members who can sew and create original costumes from scratch.

To hell with those heavy winter coats. I remember freezing while trick-or-treating because I refused to cover up my costume. The costumes always fell apart, and yeah, I remember walking home with bags of candy while trying to hold the costume together.

I'm now an adult, too old for that stuff but not too old for parties, and certainly not too old to scare the next generation of trick-or-treaters. I'm into prosthetics and makeup and hardcore special effects, and I blame that entirely on my deprived childhood. I designed my first Plague Doctor costume complete with creepy bird mask at age 12 or 13.

Then and now, masks tend to be creepy unless they're meant to be creepy. Those serial killer masks are perfectly OK, but the attempted replications of a character's smiling face? No. Wrong. Body-horror wrong.
posted by quiet earth at 1:56 AM on October 11, 2013


Is this when I mention borrowing my Mom's Carmen Miranda costume for answering doors Halloween night? Or, how about wearing a lab coat with slits in the shoulders, a headband reflector, and a harness with stirrups (yes, ladies, THOSE stirrups) on my shoulders as a freelance gynaecologist for an adult-themed Halloween party? Or when my ex-girlfriend (who's 6'2" and blonde and reasonably slender) and myself (5'11.5" and chunky) did Jay and Silent Bob, except I was Jay and she was Silent Bob, wigs, fake beards and all?
posted by Samizdata at 2:35 AM on October 11, 2013


And EVER so happy Deslide worked for me, as neither of the slideshows would advance.
posted by Samizdata at 2:38 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


when i was four (1987) my mom made me a pterodactyl costume

I think it's awesome that you went as me when we were both four.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:01 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


My dad was an artistic architect, so he made me some pretty great costumes through the years. Unfortunately (or, actually, apropos for this thread), the only picture I could find was this, which would've been right around 1972, I'd say.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:55 AM on October 11, 2013


This reminds me of my Lando Calrissian: Jedi Knight outfit to a school dance thing in whatever year it was, at Halloween, probably in 1980, before ESB had come out and all we had to go on were the Kenner action figures (because that's how things worked then).

Why I thought Lando was a Jedi I have no idea, but it made sense at the time, and it was better than my The Black Hole outfit, which was inexplicable.

And may explain why I hate Halloween.
posted by Mezentian at 7:40 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I made my own costumes when I was 7, 8 & 9, which was fun. (end of 1960's).

My favorite was a cardboard box painted to represent a candy bar - the whole point of the event. Except that whenever I tripped over anything and fell down my candy spilled and I couldn't get up. My brother left me behind and then I had to pee.... OK I guess it was sucky but I had a great time.

When I was 10 we moved to the boonies so that was the end of trick or treating. Lack of candy bars was a serious disappointment.
posted by mightshould at 8:12 AM on October 11, 2013


My mom was entirely clever with costumes for her kids - doing so on the cheap was part of the fun.

The best costume I remember was one I didn't even understand at the time...in 1973 Mom dressed me in all black, un-wound a cassette tape and tack-stitched it in generous loops all around my clothes. A little sign hung around my neck proclaiming me "The missing 18 1/2 minutes".

Brilliant mom!
posted by faineant at 8:44 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


My brothers and I were also beneficiaries of my mother's costume skills (Wizard robe and hat, astronaut costume with treat slot cut into the oxygen backpack).

I moved on to making my own costumes thanks to mom's guidance (McDonald's french fry box, Charmin roll of TP).

I always enjoyed the elementary school costume parades, tromping around the basketball court to show off.
posted by JDC8 at 8:52 AM on October 11, 2013


As oneirodynia said a lot of the ones in the first set aren't from Halloween. Some of them are Thanksgiving maskers. And a bunch just look like they are from costume parties. Fun costumes though.
posted by interplanetjanet at 9:56 AM on October 11, 2013


I definitely remember seeing the one with the bunch of women who are looking like their heads cut off in a book about the 1920's - it was a staged photo on a college campus, done up by a sorority. The Brownie camera had just come out around then and people were getting all into photography on a hobby level, so there's all sorts of weirdness in the photo world at about that time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:06 AM on October 11, 2013


It occurs to me that there's a real art to creating a recognizable likeness of a character in a thin plastic mask.

It's a shame that none of the people responsible for these masks bothered to learn it.


Doesn't need to look like the character, the character is on the smock! ;)
(i never understood that part to be honest.)
posted by usagizero at 1:58 PM on October 11, 2013


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