For my entire childhood, I never once wore a store-bought Halloween costume. My mother sewed my costumes every year, and I thought that was the norm -- that everyone's mom can sew and, therefore, everyone's mom makes their Halloween costumes.
Kids are kind of dumb.
It wasn't until adolescence, when my enthusiasm for Halloween was on the decline, that I started realizing just how special my mom's artistic and sewing talents are.
Shortly after my aunt Jane graduated with a fashion-design degree from Pratt (whoa, weird -- Jane, Pratt), Mom was considering her college options and wanted to follow a similar path. Here's what she told me:
"My mother wanted me to live at home [in Queens] because she was divorced and felt she needed someone living with her. Really, she just wanted someone to grocery shop and do laundry for her. I liked the idea of FIT, but at that time  it was a strictly two-year school with an associate's degree. Since I had skipped a year in school, my mother thought I would be too young when I finished and wanted me to get a bachelor's degree."
So, following in her sister's footsteps, she got a bachelor's degree in fashion design from Pratt, and then got a job designing girls' dresses for a company called Joseph Love. She eventually worked for a juniors sportswear company interpreting higher-end designs for the lower-priced market.
"I worked there for over five years, through my pregnancy until my doctor put me on bed rest," and she became a stay-at-home mom.
In other words, I ruined my mother's fashion-design career. And how do I repay her? By forcing her to use her skills to sew my Halloween costumes year after year. OK, so she did that on her own, willingly and lovingly, because mom.
Let's look back through some of her masterpieces in chronological order, shall we?
Least-Scary Clown Ever
This pastel clown fluff fest was the very first costume my mom ever made for me. I was just two-and-a-half, and not yet capable of making Halloween-costume decisions for myself.
I probably won't dress myself or a child as a clown in the future, but if you're pretty sure you will, you can actually get the very same pattern my mom used for this costume on Etsy.
This was my 1982 costume, of course -- the year "Annie" was in theaters. I was obsessed, like so many other little girls, so Mom whipped up this damn-near perfect Annie dress. And I'm still totally into that look.
This is the one exception to the Mom-made-all-my-costumes theme, but I wanted to give a shout-out to my aunt, who had made this for one of my cousins and handed it down to me. The tail, eyes and horns were constructed without a pattern, stuffed with styrofoam, and attached to a hoodie. Thanks, Aunt Jane!
Jungle Cat Of Some Sort
This was first grade, and at this point, Mom was letting me pick my costumes.
"From around age five, you would look through pattern books and choose," she told me. "You'd start at the end of summer and change your mind often. At the beginning of October, you weren't allowed to change your mind again."
Apparently, that year, I wanted to be an ambiguous jungle cat -- though not nearly as ambiguous as whatever the hell Kammy and Roger are supposed to be.
I wanted a Snow White costume, and Mom came through with this pattern (yep, Etsy again).
I remember having a lot anxiety over my hair not being as short as Disney's imagining of the character, but being unwilling to cut my hair or wear a wig. So in addition to making an awesome dress, my mom did my hair in a way that felt like the perfect compromise.
I don't remember thinking "I wanna go as a superhero" so much as I remember seeing the picture on the pattern envelope and thinking, "I wanna wear metallic fabric!"
Rabbit Emerging From a Magician's Top Hat
My mother and I were so proud of this costume. We thought it was super-clever, and that I'd definitely win Best Costume at the Halloween dance, about which I wrote extensively in my diary because I really wanted Kyle Banashek to dance with me, even though no one actually danced with anyone because it was fourth grade.
Anyway, I didn't win, for two reasons. First, Jonathan Gaynor was dressed as Mac Tonight, and it was undeniably awesome. Second, some other girl was wearing a store-bought version of the costume my mother worked so hard on. It was total bullshit.
Can of Sprite
I was literally afraid of carbonated beverages when I was a kid, so I don't know what made me want to dress up as a can of Sprite. But even 10-year-old me could appreciate what a phenomenal job my mom did.
I asked her how she got the (1989) logo so accurate -- it didn't come with the pattern (Etsy is a goddamn treasure trove), which is also intended for crayon costumes -- and she said, "Just kept a can in front of me and played with the lettering until it was the right size and font. Made a pattern and cut the letters out."
Look at that no-pronoun nonchalance. My mom's so cool.
Here's a funny little story about this, my eighth-grade costume (there's no photographic evidence of my sixth- and seventh-grade costumes).
I was the captain of my Pop Warner Football cheerleading squad, so of course I attended our coach-chaperoned Halloween party. Dozens of my middle-school classmates were there, girls on one side of the room, boys on the other.
At one point, we decided to have a costume contest, but instead of a simple Best Costume designation, the boys came up with superlatives for the girls' costumes and vice-versa, like Funniest and Most Creative. Except, when they got to me, the boys announced that I had won Most Likely To Get Raped.
Isn't that hilarious? Middle-school boys are the best. Coaches that don't speak up when hearing things like that are also the best.
"Star Trek" Crew Member
I'd like to tell you that the last costume I ever wore trick-or-treating was inspired by a love of classic "Star Trek," but I had never seen an episode in all my 14 years on Earth. That, however, didn't stop me from asking my mother to make this costume for me, because I thought it was super-cute.
Teenagers are kind of dumb.
Although I haven't consistently dressed up for Halloween since then, my mom has always been willing to make costumes for me, even to this day, and I now know how lucky I am. But I still have to obey the no-changing-my-mind-after-September rule.
Did you ever wear home-sewn Halloween costumes? I sure would love to see pictures of them in the comments!