Greening Halloween: Reuse & Crafty Modifications

Our three kids and their grandmother in their Halloween costumes
Halloween Costumes – New, reused and modified!

With our busy lives, coming up with Halloween costumes for three kids is a struggle.  We have to balance the time needed to make something from scratch, the environmental and budget costs of buying commercial costumes and most importantly what the kids want to be for Halloween.  I am very proud of how we accomplished this balance this year with a mixture of reuse, recycling, crafting and buying.

Our youngest made it very clear over a month ago that he wanted to be the Gold Ranger from Power Rangers Samurai.  He was consistent about being Antonio the Gold Ranger for a couple weeks, so when Alicia saw a costume in  at a reasonable price that would make him very happy and solve one of our costume needs, we bought it.

young boy as Commander Rex for Halloween
Our son as Command Rex last year

Last year, my older son went as Commander Rex from Star Wars Clone Wars.  We had bought the costume last year which had a face mask and jumpsuit with blue detailing that distinguishes Commander Rex from other clone troopers.  This year, he wanted to be Commander Cody, another clone trooper.  He asked us to go out and buy a costume and he REALLY wanted a full helmet instead of just a face mask.  For those not familiar with Star Wars Clone Wars, the big difference between Rex and Cody is that Cody has orange markings on his helmet and uniform, while Cody has blue.

fabric paint plus some crafting turns last year's Halloween costume into awesome new costume
Changing Commander Rex to Commander Cody

I decided I could take the costume we already had, which still fit, and make it into a new one for this year.  At first, my plan was to sew on patches of orange fabric to cover the blue, but I’m not much of a seamstress and sanity prevailed.  Instead, I bought some orange fabric paint and an orange Sharpie paint pen at the local craft store.

The paint pen easily and quickly covered the blue details on the face mask.  On the blue sections of the jumpsuit I needed to use two coats of the fabric paint.  One trick I figured out, because the paint will bleed through, is to stuff plastic shopping bags in the legs and arms to keep the paint from getting on unintended areas.  I also added some extra orange sections to make it even better.

Velcro cable strap connection

Our son was really psyched, though he still desperately wanted a full helmet.  Where was I going to get a rigid white plastic helmet to make his costume complete?  Then I saw the gallon orange juice container in our recycling bin and I realized it was about the perfect size for the back of a kid’s helmet.

To make the face mask into a full helmet, I cut off orange juice container’s handle and part of the top.  Then I tried unsuccessfully to sand off the label which was molded into the plastic.  Instead I ended up heating up the plastic in a big pot of hot water and flipping it inside out.  Now I had the front and back of a costume helmet and our son was super excited.

orange velcro strap attaches mask to plastic oj bottle to form helmet
Cut small slit for strap to go through

To connect the front to the back I used orange velcro cable wraps I happened to already have.  Using my Dremel I cut two slits in the hard plastic on the face mark to slide the straps through.  A small drill and crafting knife would have worked too if I didn’t have the Dremel.  I then cut a third strap into two sections for the straps to stick to on the helmet back.  At first I tried super glue to attach them, but that didn’t stick, except to my fingers.  In the end my hot glue gun did the trick.

For an added bonus and safety improvement, I also added some orange glow in the dark fabric paint.  I traced some of the detail lines, painted a few glow in the dark panels and accessories and even added some glow in the dark details to the helmet.  What 8 year old doesn’t love glow in the dark stuff and what parent doesn’t want their kids to be more visible when Trick-or-Treating down the street?

I had taken the costume we already owned from last year and with about $10 in materials, I converted it to exactly what my son wanted.  He has proudly worn it to two parties already and is excited to go Trick-or-Treating on Wednesday (if Hurricane Sandy doesn’t get in the way).  He has even commented that the way the paint came out makes it look even more authentic now.

Young kids in black cat and Commander Cody costumes
Reused and Recycled Costumes for Halloween

Our daughter has been harder and easier to costume this year.  Unlike her brothers, she has not had a clear idea in mind of what she wanted to be this year.  This week, she eventually settled on being a butterfly and her grandmother purchased her a costume, but her grandmother could not bring it to us before the first costume party so she happily went as a black kitty cat.  She found her own black clothes and combined with a tail and cat ears from one of Alicia’s past costumes and a little face paint, she was a cute black cat for the party.

While I would love to be that parent that makes the original and cool costumes for all their kids, like the three young boys who were Pac-man and the ghosts made from cardboard, that just isn’t a reality for us given all the political volunteering and other activities we have.  I am very proud that for our three kids, we were able to make them very happy, and buy only one of their costumes this year.

Happy Halloween!

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