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Homemade Halloween costumes bring generations of families together

October 6, 2012
By Sharon Bopp ( , The Marietta Times

Over the course of a child's life, Halloween costumes that are homemade and handmade become the spooky stuff of trick or treating memories-whether it's mom, papaw, dad, nana or some other family member that helps create the creepy costume.

This year, four generations of one Belpre family will join together to help one special little girl dress up as Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween.

Heather Wilcoxen, 34, of Belpre found the perfect do-it-yourself costume for her daughter Isabella "Bella" Grace, 2, on Wilcoxen is the daughter of Beverly Neff of Belpre and granddaughter of Sue Barnhart of Belpre.

Together grandmother, mother and daughter will craft the fairy tale costume.

All three are experienced sewers, which helps when it comes to costume making.

"We worked on the skirt and we have the cape to do," said Neff. "We'll probably get together to make the cape."

Fact Box

If you trick or treat:

This year's predictions for top Halloween costumes are out. Those who dare may want to dress as:

Tan Mom.

Honey Boo Boo.

Black Widow from The Avengers.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.

Big Ang.

Barack and Michelle Obama.

Snooki and her new baby.

Neff made costumes for her son, daughter, nieces and nephews, who are all adults now.

"I was always the seamstress of the family. It was something I learned from my mother," Neff remembered.

She fondly remembers the year her then 8-year-old daughter wanted to be a princess for Halloween.

The pretty, sparkly princess outfit she made her even had a shimmering cape.

"The more glitter for her, the better," Neff laughingly said.

Beverly's son Dennis Neff was interested in everything that was G.I. Joe or camouflage related.

"He even helped make his Halloween costumes," said Neff.

Neff said her children never had a store bought Halloween costume.

"We never thought to go and just buy a costume. We always made them from scratch," she said. "You kind of hate to see a tradition die."

Fortunately the tradition of homemade Halloween costumes hasn't gone entirely six feet under.

Today's costumers are combining creativity with unusual items like cardboard boxes and recycled materials to patch together a fetching, zany or spooky Halloween get-up.

Using a cardboard box, paint, props and a Halloween-loving child, costume makers have designed a "Barbie like" doll inside her cellophane packaging, a costume that resembles a take-out carton of yummy Chinese food and a familiar yellow Caterpillar tractor "worn" by a boy wearing an orange safety vest and hard hat.

Recycled materials repurposed as costume elements are also gaining in popularity.

One creative mom made a cupcake costume for her daughter from recycled tights and leggings stuffed and shaped into rows of icing, an old laundry basket for the cupcake paper and bits of brightly colored leftover fabric as sprinkles.

Another clever recycler who wanted to be a Halloween bat used sections of an old black umbrella to fashion a pair of bat wings, then dressed entirely in black. Her triangle shaped, fabric bat ears were attached to the hood of a used sweatshirt.

Debbie Stocky, 53, of Watertown and her husband Mike, 56, made it a joint effort to create their 13-year-old daughter Sienna's Halloween costumes when she was younger.

"Sienna loved to be in the Marietta Halloween parade," Debbie said. "She'd ask 'What will I be this year?'"

Debbie called Mike the "mastermind" behind the costumes.

"We're the do-it-yourself type people, we're always building things, creating things, making things," she said.

Sienna's fabulous, oversized costumes have been themed around insects because she was fascinated by the critters when she was a youngster.

Her first costume, a giant praying mantis, weighed 11 pounds, took three or four days to make and cost about $30. The Stockys kept costs low by using recycled materials like rolled-up plastic fencing and a plant pole.

"We're talking big costumes. The praying mantis just fit inside my SUV from front to back," Debbie remembered.

The Stockys' largest project as costume makers was a 14-foot caterpillar that weighed in at around 30 pounds.

"Everything on that costume was difficult," Debbie chuckled. "The caterpillar was so long you couldn't just drag it down the road. You needed to have wheels."

Debbie said she stole two sets of wheels from a baby stroller to help the caterpillar "crawl" and put four or five giant beach balls inside it. Covered with felt, the entire costume cost around $100 and was completed in two weeks.

As a teenager, Sienna has set aside her trick or treating parade days.

"I miss it as much as she does. We're both going through withdrawals," Debbie said.

Judy Adams, 69, of Waterford made Halloween costumes for two generations of her grandson Michael, now 19, and son Dennis, 47.

Adams has kept the Halloween costume she made for her grandson when he was just a toddler-of a blue M&M character he was crazy about.

When Dennis was 12 and ready for his last year of trick or treating, he decided to be "Batman" from the TV show of the same name.

"I'd made a cape for my husband to use in a high school theatrical production," Adams said. "When (Dennis) found that cape in the basement he said 'Let's go ahead and go with that.'"

Adams also remembered making Dennis an ugly old man costume.

"He always appreciated it and liked to have something that wasn't like everybody else's," said Adams.



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