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Creative costuming offers families many Halloween treats

By Cynthia Reugh For The Spokesman-Review

If your kids love Halloween, but expensive costumes leave you spooked, you might want to gather up the goblins and explore local thrift stores for a creative holiday change. It’s difficult to justify $40 or more for a new costume that is likely to be ripped, outgrown or thrown in a closet by Christmas.

Area thrift stores are now stocked with an assortment of used costumes and other supplies for creating your own Halloween masterpiece, most with prices that won’t leave you trembling with holiday sticker shock.

Heather Alexander, senior associate vice president of marketing and communications for Goodwill Industries of the Inland Northwest, said Halloween remained popular last year despite the pandemic, and she expects the same enthusiasm this year.

“People were still dressing up. They were finding ways to do Halloween parties at home even if it was just them and their kids,” Alexander said. “They were finding ways to make it feel a little more normal, and I think we’re going to see that continue this year.”

Alexander suggests shopping thrift stores early for the best selection of Halloween items. Purchasing a new costume buys you convenience, but shopping used in a thrift store offers big savings while also providing families with an opportunity to reuse and recycle.

While many popular comic book, TV and movie character costumes are hanging on thrift store racks, Becky Rudd, CEO and clinical director of the Center for Solace Behavioral Health Services, said creating costumes as a family is a great way to immerse children in an exciting, open-ended learning experience for all involved.

“You give kids a refrigerator box, and they’ll play with that thing until it’s on the ground, so imagine going to the thrift store and parents engaging in this creativity process, as well – it is an added benefit,” Rudd said.

“They are getting to put it together looking at all the various things. The sky’s the limit on creativity, and sometimes our creative costumes are actually the ones that turn out to be the most impressive,” she said.

Thrift stores offer a vast assortment of unusual items, and Rudd suggests encouraging children to incorporate nonspecific things into costumes, such as a feather boa or big poofy skirt, to allow them greater control over what the outfit becomes.

“To that child, it can be so many different things, and it could even change throughout the month. It could change throughout the day,” Rudd said, adding just wearing an itchy or difficult costume offers children opportunities to learn about dealing with frustration or problem solving as they are motivated by a desire to keep that costume.

For teenagers, who often feel pressured to fit into social norms, designing costumes offers freedom and independence to be creative without being judged. “It’s an opportunity once a year for kids to be engaged in that process and rewarded for it,” Rudd said.

For maximum savings, be sure to check home closets and drawers for common costuming items such as sunglasses, leggings, plain-colored shirts, boots, belts and gloves before hitting thrift stores. Alexander suggests choosing items that can be reused or repurposed after Halloween and recommends bringing a cellphone with pictures of the outfit you want to create for reference.

And allow plenty of time. Halloween inventory varies by store, and you may need to hit several places before finding all your supplies. Don’t worry about small flaws or imperfections, as they aren’t likely to be noticed. Even torn costumes often contain unusual fabrics, gemstones, patches or other items that can be used to create another outfit.

Fabric paints, hot glue guns and other supplies for completing a costume can be found in many discount, craft and fabric stores. Other inexpensive costuming sources include fall yard or estate sales and local vendor malls.

Rudd encourages adults to dress up in costumes along with their children. “It’s like the one time of year when adults get to play,” she said. “I think adults have just as much fun as our kids do.”

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