All that glitters isn’t gold


Daphne Yu

halloween costume timeline
Art by Yasmeen El-Jayyousi
Sore muscles, freezing fingers and the warmth of friends and sisters trick-or-treating together define only half of my childhood Halloween memories – the good half.
The other half – picking out a costume – I dreaded. Decked in a Sacagawea costume one year and Laura Ingalls from “Little House on the Prairie” the next, I always felt there was always something different about my costumes than most everyone elses’. Mine were homemade, while my co-younguns’ costumes were nearly all store-bought.
My mother never thought spending $40 on a cheap set of clothing I would wear for one night only was worth the money. Instead, she pushed my sisters and I toward making our own. In the weeks leading up to Halloween, the question, “What am I going to be this year?” constantly flitted around my head, igniting bits and pieces of my creativity as I mentally pictured my homemade outfit.
But no matter how well-planned my outfit was, when the 31st finally rolled around, I always looked at other children’s perfect, crisp, store-bought outfits will a hint of envy. “Those Sacagawea bead necklaces look more authentic than mine,” would pop into my head one year, and “That blue matches Cinderella’s dress color much better,” the next (not that I knew which exact shade of blue was really “perfect”).
It wasn’t until I took a step back from trick-or-treating I realized how lucky I was to develop the skill for homemade costumes. With store-bought costumes, there are only a limited amount of choices. Witches,  vampires and bumblebees are all adorable for little kids. And as I aged, the costumes took on a new look – exposed. A chest-baring bumblebee costume in Walmart, super heroine costumes designed to accentuate the legs and chest and other skimpy attires are all on sale for children.
As for women, if you wanted a “career” costume, a stripper-like soldeir, prostitute-esque referee and the oh-so-pleasing, full-figured nurse costumes are all up for grabs. Or, if you were looking for a circus costume, there’s a perfect ring master one, complete with a whip And a princess? The mini-skirt version of Belle (who, I had to remind myself, was a bookworm-type girl)
After perusing stores and the web for a suitable costume this year and unable to come up with one, I realized my obsession with store-bought costumes as a child was not only encased in the glamour of materialism, but was unduly needed. In my eyes, I saw the world evolve from cute costumes for kids to a sexualized world producing costumes devoid of creativity because that has become the social norm.
And kids flock to replicate what they see, learn and idolise; once upon a time, I was in their shoes. I dreamed of donning a machine-made ready-to-go costume set. I dreamed of being the same as everyone else. But now, watching young girls and boys nearly clean out the costume aisle in Walmart, so eager to rip away the see-through plastic and touch their new costumes, I feel extremely lucky that my mother did not buy me store garb.
Instead of stepping out behind a different costume year after year, fresh from the plastic package of social expectations, making my own costume has taught me to accept the hard work I put into making mine unique. No one else will have that chipped bead in their Sacagawea necklace or that straw hat a slight lopsidedness. Only me.
For a second, when I look at those seemingly perfect costumes with just the right tilt to a witch hat, the gloss still momentarily blinds me. But when I look beneath the materialistic allure and see only the gossamer-thin cloth and the weak threads holding the costume together, I tell myself those types of costumes aren’t worth it.
By Daphne Yu