Hello. My Name is Deborah, and I am a Halloween Failure.

I have this vision of myself as a Crafty Mom.  The one who sews clothes for her kids, who makes every Halloween costume from scratch.  I almost get the feeling that if I don’t make a Halloween costume each year, I am dropping the ball, that I have a rep to protect, and really can’t afford to NOT sew something for my kids.

So I have a confession to make:

These are…what they look like.  They are store-bought Halloween costumes.  That’s right: I am a Halloween failure.  I will not be sewing costumes for any of my kids this year.

And here’s the thing: I don’t care.  I confess that I feel guilty–G U I L T Y–that I spent what I spent, because even on sale (which these were–I haven’t completely lost my marbles), a store-bought costume seems to cost way more than seems strictly necessary.  But do I feel guilty that I didn’t sew this year?  No.  I don’t.

And here’s why:

  1. Like every other mom I know, I’m busy.  Like, super busy.  And I could have chosen to sew costumes for my kids this week–or I could have devoted myself to the other nine million tasks (like feeding them and folding their laundry and getting them to and from school, etc) that were calling me.  Halloween matters, but man, that other stuff is what builds a life.
  2. I offered to sew costumes for them, I really did–and I would have made the time to do it.  But our five-year-old saw a Rapunzel costume at Target the other day, and asked me to buy it for her, and when I said I would sew her one instead, she cried.  She cried, y’all.  Not because she thought I wouldn’t do a good job, but because she just really loved that one.  Halloween isn’t about making me look good–it’s about having fun and dressing up and laughing and staying up past dark and consuming unnatural amounts of high fructose corn syrup.  Who says I have to sew a costume by hand in order to make that what the kids are hoping for?
  3. When we go trick-or-treating on Monday night, I don’t want to be the cranky mom, the don’t-get-any-dirt-on-that-costume-I-slaved-over mom, the too-tired-from-staying-up-late mom.  I want to be the mom who is at least as excited about Halloween as the kids are (heaven knows my husband will be completely dressed up from head to toe and the first one out the door).  If my choice is between being that mom and buying costumes, or sewing costumes so I can save my pride but being so crotchety that I don’t enjoy myself and no one else does either, I’ll take store-bought every time, thankyouverymuch.


I think it’s easy in Craftland to perpetuate the myth that we moms can–and SHOULD–do absolutely everything.  I revel in the things I do for my children, for my family.  I delight in those tasks, because they are a gift that springs whole from my heart and one that I am proud to offer them.  But the minute that gift becomes an onerous task, the minute I become a Craft Martyr, the instant it stops being about love and starts being about What I Have To Do (or worse, What You Owe Me Because Of All The Things I Do For You That I Don’t Really Want To Do), that’s when I pull the plug. That’s not what love looks like, dude.

Yes, I would have made every stitch of these costumes late at night with my very hands, if that was what my children were dreaming of. They weren’t, so I didn’t.  And I can tell you with 96% certainty that we will all think the candy is that much sweeter as a result.

44 Comments on “Hello. My Name is Deborah, and I am a Halloween Failure.

  1. Yes, yes, yes! The family you are is not only more important than the family you appear to be, it’s the only important thing. Thanks for the confession and kudos for making the right choice.

    • Yes, exactly! I just want to be able to enjoy them and see them make the memories that they’ll love later on–my pride isn’t the issue here. So glad I’m not the only one who feels that way!

  2. Thanks for this post, Deborah. I really lack the desire to make my kids’ costumes, and fortunately my MIL has hat desire in spades. So, even though it makes me feel the slacker, I totally let her!

    • Actually, I got really snippity when my MIL bought the costume our youngest will be wearing–which has also been worn by ALL the other kids–but it made her happy and it makes them happy, and I’ve had to learn to recognize when it’s my sense of rightness as a mom talking and when it’s my pride running the show. Some years, I get crow in my stocking. :)

  3. i don’t think that making a costume just for the sake of making a costume makes sense. i tend to make my costumes (i don’t have any kids) because a) i’m a tough fit, b) i like weird things, and c) because i usually like my costumes and details BETTER than store-bought. that didn’t stop me at all from buying 2 foam heads last year: the alien from toy story and the count from sesame street, especially since i was doing a contract job on the side and had zero spare time.

    this year i had the time and money and i made a Hit Girl costume. i saw some in stores but mine is fitted to me and i fell in love with the fabric that i used. but had i not had the time and not thought i could do a better job than the store, i would have just as quickly purchased it.

    • Agreed! If they’d all wanted to be something really unusual (one year, I wanted to be a fried egg, which they totally didn’t have on the rack at Toys-R-Us), I would have gleefully made it for them. But this year, it was Rapunzel and Spiderman, so why not? Now I can hardly wait for them to come home from school so I can show them their new prizes!

  4. Totally OT, but I read the first line of #1 as “every other single mom” and thought whoah, what happened?!

    • Wanna hear something funnier? I did the same thing!! Might have to go back and re-arrange some syntax there… All is well at our house, fear not! :)

  5. YES YES!!!! When my daughter was young, I felt an incredible need to make them all….after we put my son in superman pjs {with cape included} from Target when he was three…I was able to realize that I do not have to do it all, nor can I !!! That was the best Halloween ever! Two store bought costumes, two happy kiddos, one very happy and stress free momma!!! :)

    • I had the same feeling last Christmas when we decided to get each of the kids ONE major present–and nothing else. We were worried it would make for a crummy holiday, but it was actually the best one we’ve ever had as a family–and I think leaving the striving out of their childhoods is pretty great. So: store-bought it is! Whee! Plus: more time for me to do other stuff. It’s not as though the list is getting any shorter, am I right? :)

  6. Thank you for writing that! I was wrestling with this same dilemma this week and you have absolved me of [most of ] my guilt.

    • Dude. I knew it was bad when I realized the thought, “But what will everyone THINK??” was drifting through my head. Who needs *that* nonsense? Viva la Target! The kids will be thrilled, and I get four hours back–everyone wins.

  7. ME TOO!

    I helped a friend make three costumes for her kids this year since she could not afford them and then I bought all store-bought for my own kids because I was burned out and out of time.

    But my kids headed to Trunk-Or-Treat last night and were more than happy in their store-bought items and that is what Halloween is about.

    So…NO GUILT!!!

    • You are a woman of true generosity–I think my selfishness prevents me from pitching in to that degree! So glad there were some good store-bought options out there this year, for both of us!

  8. I found your blog and website several weeks ago. I have found the trend in your thinking refreshing. You are thoughtful, down to earth (except when you want to be “FANCY”, and pretty much no nonsense. I am so glad you came around on the Halloween costumes. In sewing, as in life, you have to pick your battles. Some are just not worth the effort! I am older than most of the people who comment on this blog. My kiddos are in their 40’s and have children of their own. I have made a couple of special things for a couple of the grandkids. (A Star Wars cape and a devil cape-neither of which could be found on the rack.) But for the most part they are on their own.

    My greatest battle now days is finding the time to sew as I am still working full time. Soon! Keep writing and creating. I will get to the shop someday soon and introduce myself.

    • Lindsey–

      What incredibly kind and generous words–thank you so much!! You totally made my day. I completely agree with you: some battles are not worth fighting, and the older I get, the more I realize that when we choose to fight a losing battle, it’s our pride that is demanding it, and not anything of real value. I struggle to find days when I feel like I’ve done any sewing at all, too, so I’d love it if you came by the shop and we could share notes on how to fit that into our days! :)

  9. I see you and raise you a Thanksgiving dinner, precooked and purchased from Eatzi’s, Whole Foods, Publix or wherever. If Target had them, too, that’s probably where’d I’d get them. Happiest, most relaxed Thanksgivings I’ve ever had!

    • DUDE. Is Eatzi’s even still open? But more importantly: do you think OK Cafe does take-away Thanksgiving?? Because I might be willing to commit a severe misdemeanor for their meatloaf and milkshakes.

      • DUDE, How could I have failed to mention OK Cafe? They have provided 50% of my storebought Thanksgiving AND Xmas dinners! I just went in and shopped on the takeout side the day before. It was AWESOME. Or, as you say, AWESOME SAUCE.

        So should I call the cops and tell them to watch out for a gorgeous redhead with 8″ dressmaker’s shears?

        • Do I say awesome sauce? That might be Diana…

          And no need to warn them: they already know me. I know who WON’T be making a ham this Christmas–meatloaf is soooooo much better!! Woot!

  10. I sorta cheat, and certainly did with my girls, too, by devising costumes from stuff already in the closet.

    One year, Crocodile Dundee, with khaki bush vest and rubber snake. I said “crikey” a lot. Another year, long jeans skirt, vest, cowboy boots and sheriff’s star. Last year, longish skirt, sequined headscarf, shawl for an elegant gypsy.

    No one at my office wants to dress up this year (poopy-heads) so I’m going to do Mad Men and sport a (new) 60s dress, hairdo with clip, and pointy-toed pumps. Except for the clip, just another day at the office. But my ATTITUDE will be Madison Avenue circa 1964!

    Personally, I think everyday is dress-up day! Bravo, Deb, for knowing how to allot your time and energy.

    • That fried egg costume you made me for Halloween when I was in the fifth grade, based on an idea I got out of some novel that I don’t even remember now, is still my gold standard when it comes to costumes: simple but plucky, easy to sew but big on impact. And I decided: if I can’t hit that benchmark, it is wise to channel my energies elsewhere.

  11. Since I have learned to sew everyone asks if I am gonna sew the kids halloween costumes. I was feeling guilty cause I have NO INTEREST. I think of all the time that I would put into it and they would wear it once!

    This year I scored cause my dtr is wearing the princess outfit we got in the spring at Disneyland and my son is wearing the monkey costume my dtr wore when she was two. I have had to do NOTHING. Woo Hoo.

    • Ugh–I realized the only interest I had was in maintaining my image, and that’s dumb. Our youngest is wearing the costume my MIL bought the 5yo when SHE was 18 months–sweet! Glad you’re having a blissfully lazy H’ween, too!

  12. I totally agree with you, Deborah–it’s about them having fun, NOT me. A few years ago, I made a personal commitment to NOT make Halloween costumes for my kids (unless they specifically ask me to) because doing so would make Halloween a chore and a source of anxiety for me and, as a result, no fun for anyone else. SO, we’re rocking the Target versions of Luke Skywalker and Yoda:). And I’m loving it. I’m glad to know I’m not the only crafty (and busy) mom making that choice:)

    • I’m so on that same page: if they ASK me to make one, I’d fall over a chair getting to the machine to do it for them. If they don’t, why should I make it all about ME and ignore what they want? So much easier, and such a better lesson–for all of us. So glad you feel the same way!

  13. This made me laugh and drool (I *really* miss Eatzi) but I also loved what you said about the Christmas gift situation. We were just having that talk last night about not over-doing things with our little one. Last year she was just happy to sit and play with the first thing she opened so that’s going to be the plan for this year too, with dolls under little mama made quilts in the cutest little IKEA doll bed (I swear it’s for her, I haven’t played with any of it).

    • I think last year’s Christmas will end up being a whole other post–a lot of folks can’t believe we really only did ONE gift for each kid, but other than itty-bitties and stocking stuffers, we really didn’t. And it was the BEST EVER. This year: Santa’s bringing everyone a bike (contingent on this house purchase going through, or else where will we ride them?). Should be nuclear, dude. Nuclear.

  14. We’ve had an Ariel costume from Costco since Labor Day hanging on Kid One’s closet door. For under $20 (and seeing it in a catalog for more than double that price) I couldn’t make make one better or cheaper. Yay for you and here’s hoping for good candy!

    • I love to buy ahead–silly me, I thought I’d buy the fabric ahead and be OK, but now I’m thrilled just to have made my peace with it and be done! Bring on the Take5 bars!!

  15. So love your posts Deborah and all of your reply comments too. Hubs is from the ATL and used to talk about Eatzis all the time- I didn’t make Halloween costumes this year either and kept encouraging the ones in the dress up box as they were already there. The little guy around here (1 year old this week) doesn’t have any kind of costume and that is OK by me- he’s cute enough as it is. :)
    Thanks for your always refreshing, wise and well-spoken blog- love your reading your thoughts you put down on paper (well, online.)

    • Oh, thanks so much!! If any of the previous princess costumes–and there have been many–had survived the many, many, MANY trips they take in the washing machine, this would have been a non-issue. Now, we just have a fresh, new princess costume to wear five out of seven days and reduce to tatters. We’re all thrilled, seriously! Also: babies look best when rosy-cheeked and happy, so am sure your little one will be perfect with no particular costume. Bless them, they don’t even know what *candy* is at that age! :)

  16. Thank you for writing this! We’re in the midst of a move into a new house and a round of sick family members, and I was STILL beating myself up over no home-made costumes….until I read your post. :) Trip to Diddums tomorrow to at least get whatever dregs are left for the little one!

    • Hooray and glad I could help!! FWIW, Target actually had a pretty decent selection left, and most of them were 10ish percent off–we got exactly what we’d gone to get, and the children are elated. They think I’m supermommy, and I’m just glad we’re set to roll on Monday. Quit beating yourself up–moving is haaaaarrrrd. Have some candy! Meet the new neighbors in store-bought costumes! Keep your crafty ninja skillz on the down-low a little longer, then BLIND THEM come Christmas! :)

  17. Glad you are keeping it real, Deb! With 4 kids – you have multiple upon multiple years to make things (if you so decide).

    I do a lot of what Diane does – mix it up with what I’ve already got in the house.
    little one is a reused sacagawea costume from older sister (LOVE reusing storebought) – only had to buy a wig b/c apparently Sacagawea doesn’t have short blond hair.
    middle one is a musketeer – I did actually do some quick & easy sewing on this one & it turned out SO CUTE! will have to show you pix.
    eldest I raided the thrift shops for her Dryad costume – how it all comes together will be out of her own imagination.

    Remember its all supossed to be fun!

  18. I am with you on this one Deborah. Sometimes is much better to go out and buy something than stressing over making it yourself. With so many chores you can’t simply do it all, let alone for 4 kids. Then kids sometimes like being like their friends and simply having a store-bought costume does just that. Although I must admit I felt like you yesterday when I decided to buy some clothes for me instead of making them!

  19. I love that you did this too! My sister gave me grief because I ordered my son’s crazy expensive blue Batman online instead of making it. But when a kids request is that expensive, I didn’t really want to disappoint, and I’m not about to attempt a muscle chest. And besides, it’s hard to compete with the Mr.T costume I didn’t for myself a few years back. Happy Halloween!

  20. I was totally thinking ahead when I typed that because it was supposed to be ‘when a kid’s request is that descriptive . . . .I hope that makes more since :)

  21. I have to laugh because I was SO EXCITED to make my daughter’s costume this year. I had this moment, two weeks before Halloween, when I realized, “Hey! I could make something like that! I may not know how to sew much, but I could *do this* and it wouldn’t look completely jacked up.” Of course, my daughter is two and as long as it came close to what she wanted, she was pleased as punch. My husband, on the other hand, was nervous this was going to become another instance of self-inflicted craft insanity.

    I was so proud of myself for finishing it. It’s nothing complicated. It’s not perfect, but I was so happy that just this once I had a chance to be That Mom who made her kid’s costume. Now I never have to do it again 😉

    • Ha! Yes, I feel the same way: when I *want* to do it, I’m so excited and love every step of the process and the memories that get made. The problem is when I *don’t* want to do it but feel like I have to. Isn’t it great to know that box has been checked and we’re off the hook now?? :)

  22. Pingback: Halloweens Past and Present | Whipstitch