Have you been to one of the Halloween superstores yet? Believe me, I have. They’re a great place to go, though I tend to only get a few pieces there each year. I prefer to put my costumes together myself to ensure I don’t encounter anyone else who is dressed just like me.
That’s harder to do these days, but back when I was a kid — back when kids got to wear costumes to school and parade through other classrooms to show them off — it was very easy to find yourself in a room where others were wearing the exact same outfit.
Kids costumes used to come in a box, just like this one. I can remember many Octobers poring over the shelves of boxed Halloween costumes at the nearby T.G.&Y. store, trying to decide what I wanted to be. This cat isn’t the scariest of images (and it isn’t mine), but it’s surprisingly hard to find online photos of those old costumes, particularly still in the box. I can’t remember how much these things went for back in the day. I want to say about $4.99; it seemed like quite a bit even to a kid who wasn’t paying for it, considering how generic and mass produced they were.
Nonetheless, I had my share of these kinds of costumes. Here’s a 1972 photo of me and the oldest of my two sisters. This is the only boxed costume I actually remember, and I probably only remember it because as I was standing on the front porch ready to wear it to school some older girls walked by and made a big deal about how scary I looked. Lisa didn’t go for the cat costume like the one above, but the tiger isn’t far off. I remember one year she was a gypsy.
A few years later I broke out of the boxed costumes and, with the help of my mom, created my first custom outfit, and the only one to ever win a contest. This hobo outfit was one of my dad’s old sweat shirts and one of his belts, with a store bought fake beard, a straw hat I got a few years before at Dogpatch, U.S.A. theme park, a big plastic cigar, and some makeup. I won the best costume prize at our October Cub Scout pack meeting that year. Sadly, whoever was supposed to bring the prize forgot it, so all I got for winning was a Snickers bar. I did wear this to school that year. I’m sure these days the fake plastic cigar wouldn’t be allowed through the front door of any school.
My, how times have changed. Trick-or-treating was THE event of the year. Okay, maybe Christmas was still a little better, but going out on Halloween night was mighty close. Almost all the houses in our neighborhood in Enid participated. Back then the Bond bakery was still in operation and they’d make little loaves of bread for employees to give away. I love candy, but that bread was pretty awesome.
You’d think I’d do a lot for Halloween these days, being a horror writer and all. But alas, no. My big Halloween event now is helping at the high school carnival, but I do dress up for it. Unfortunately, my costumes are seldom appreciated. This scarecrow from 2011 made the little kids too afraid to come to the classroom door for candy so I had to take the mask off. On Halloween night I made a quick T frame and “hung” myself on it in the front yard. The bigger kids would ask each other if I was real … and I was happy to jump off the frame and show them.
Boxed costumes these days are usually in a bag, usually made for women, and usually designed to make the girls look slutty. Don’t get me wrong — I like to see a full grown woman dressed as Little Bo Beep, Little Red Riding Hood, or a naughty cop as much as the next guy, but this year I just felt nostalgic for the easy, innocent days of buying a costume in a box from a department store that existed before Walmart took over the world.