boy dressed up in grownup-sized suit

Halloween was so much fun when I was growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s. The anticipation in the weeks leading up to the big day was almost as much fun as going trick-or-treating.

Certain candies were staples of the holiday, like candy corn, little candy pumpkins, and sweetened wax lips and harmonicas that we would chew on. These sweets were special because we could only get them in the Halloween season.

Making Our Own Halloween Costumes

But, by far, most important part of the holiday was the costume. Most years, my siblings and I created our costumes ourselves. An old off-the-shoulder top and huge plastic earrings could be part of a gypsy costume. Patched jeans and a bag tied to stick could turn you into a hobo. You could be a witch with a black dress and a broom, or a pirate with a big shirt and a sash. The possibilities seemed endless — especially when your mom and grandma had boxes of old clothes and shoes in the cellar!

And then the day came! After school and before dark, we would dress up in our costumes (along with some of Mom’s makeup if we needed it to complete the look). With treat bag in hand, we went out trick-or-treating up and down our block in the crisp, fall air. There was no fear in those days because Grandma had lived on the block for about 30 years and we knew everyone. What wonderful memories!

Putting together a costume and becoming a character was part of the magic of the season. But I don’t think kids need to wait until Halloween to enjoy the fun of dressing up.

Dressing Up for Fun

In the hands of a child, outdated or worn clothes can really fuel the imagination; they can pretend to be anything that they want to be. The best clothes for playing “dress-up” are out of style or worn out. That dress from the 1990s could be part of a queen’s robes, or an old prom dress can become a fairy costume. A man’s oversized shirt and one large earring could be an outfit for a pirate. Even old hats, scarves, pocketbooks, and briefcases could become part of a costume.

I think that this is a perfect use for clothing and accessories that are no longer usable. A single earring, a stained tie, an old tie-dye T-shirt, or a blouse with shoulder pads could be great items for children to play with. They could even tailor the old clothing by taking off sleeves, letting down hems, coloring or tie-dyeing it, or even sewing patches on it. Let your child’s imagination run wild.

After a child no longer uses the dress-up clothing, you could repurpose the cloth, or search for a location that accepts clothing for recycling.

So, why not capture some of the magic of years gone by and spark a child’s imagination by using old clothes in a fun way? The best costumes could be the ones you and your child create together.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.