Rachel: Halloween Treats

Welcome to the family tradition.

Happy holidays, you guys! I know most people use that phrase in December, but in my family, Halloween is the holidays.

Growing up, I always had pretty great homemade costumes. After all, we were theater people. The costumes were designed to be really cute, and to hide layers of clothes in case it was freezing on Halloween. (No daughter of my mother was going to go out with a coat covering up her costume!)

homemade costumes

After my brother Preston was born in 2005, my mom took her costuming to a new level. And so did I. While I enjoyed Halloween as a kid, it was actually as a young adult that I began to bond with my mom over it. It became a new family tradition and a way for me to feel close to her and my new baby brother. When you have two children who are nineteen years apart in age, the relationship is often not very sibling-like. And since I missed out on the opportunity to have those naked sibling bath time photos that everyone else has from their childhood, I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to share Halloween with my little brother.

When I was in college, my mom would dress Preston up in one of his amazing costumes and bring him to Safe Halloween, a block-party-like Halloween event that the Greek community at MSU put on each year. Over the years, Preston went to Safe Halloween dressed as a Navy seal, a deviled egg, and a ghost train. (He wanted to be a train. My mom was like, “Just a train? Yeah, I don’t think so.”)

homemade costumes

At the same time she was making punny little costumes for her son, she was making slutty little costumes for her daughter. When I was a senior in college, she made me my favorite costume of all time: the sexy iPod. The Apple logo I requested she add on the lower back of the dress was the perfect sorority girl touch, and a sign that I had inherited my mom’s attention to detail with regard to costumes.

sexy ipod costume

(The sad thing is that while I could probably actually fit into that costume now, the technology that inspired it is completely obsolete.)

When she wasn’t helping me excel at Slutoween, my mom was winning national contests with costumes like the couch potato and the Wild Things costumes she made for my brother and cousins to wear (which, I’m told, are pretty big on Pinterest).

homemade costumes

She also still found time to make inanimate objects sexy for her firstborn.

wild thing & sushi costume

When I started dating Eric in 2010, I suddenly had the opportunity to play with something I’d never had access to before: couples costumes. The downside was that I was now living thirteen hundred miles from home in a climate that made me straight up forget that Halloween was approaching. But Eric knew how much I love Halloween and how happy my family was to make him a part of our Halloween costume tradition, so he flew with me to Michigan for our first Halloween together so he could be the headlights to my deer.

deer in headlights

The working headlights, real windshield wiper, and air freshener were my mom’s special touches on his truck costume. This was also the year I figured out that I really love costumes with elaborate headpieces.

The following year, my mom made our costumes again; this time, he was the bull to my china shop. You break it, you buy it.

bull in a china shop

That was the same year my brother had decided Johnny Depp was his hero, and my mom made him an incredibly detailed Jack Sparrow costume. (Though the tipsy walk was all Preston’s.)


In 2012, I realized that traveling to Michigan for Halloween wasn’t going to be an option, which was far harder for me to accept than our decision to not go to either of our respective homes for Christmas that year. To help me cope with the fact that I wasn’t going to be with my family for my real family holiday, we decided to host a Halloween party in our new house. (Nothing could help with the fact that I would punch a baby in the face if it meant I could experience crisp October air here in Houston.) It was also the first year that Eric and I made our own costumes without any help from my mom, but we did our best on our own. He went as Bob Ross, and I went as a happy little tree. (If Kate Middleton were a tree.)

bob ross & happy little tree costume

Meanwhile, Preston was a bellhop for a haunted hotel, and while it’s hard to see the detail work from these photos, I think this was one of my mom’s best costumes to date.


But 2013 was the first year when I just felt really uninspired. I didn’t have any immediate ideas for a couples costume, and watching our budget carefully for the wedding meant we couldn’t throw a Halloween party or spend a ton on our costumes. I put off thinking about it, and by last Friday, I was ready to just opt out of Halloween entirely for 2013. But Eric wouldn’t allow it. So we spent most of our weekend running to Target and Joann’s, wrestling with foam, and burning our fingers with hot glue. My mom was making my brother’s costume on Saturday as well, and we texted all day. Thanks to technology, it really felt like we were making the costumes together.

Eric and I did opt out of doing a couples costume, which was fine by me—there was something I had wanted to be for a while, I couldn’t think of a good counterpart of it, and I wasn’t about to let my relationship hold me back. By Saturday night, I had completed most of a perfectly respectable no-sew nutcracker costume, including the made-from-scratch twelve-inch-tall hat that was the whole reason I wanted to be a nutcracker in the first place.

halloween costume

halloween costume

I kept my costume simple so I could put my energy into working on Eric’s costume… which, I could tell, even when it was still a work in progress on Sunday, was the first costume I’ve made without my mom’s help wherein I truly feel like I’m making her proud.

halloween costume

On Tuesday night, as I cut a square of black felt to cover the safety pin that is tucked inside the tornado to anchor the tulle to the foam, I knew I was doing it because it was the exact thing my mom would have done. As I hot glued tulle to his leggings and made every attempt not to burn his junk, I had the sense of, This is something I’ll remember. This is a thing that I do, that my family does, and now Eric and I do it too. And when I was helping him finish the costume at 10:00 last night whilst nursing a serious burn on my thumb (glue guns are no joke, you guys) because he had insisted on adding more complex details to the costume to make it even more amazing—something my mom does every year and it drives me crazy—it was a clear, “Welp… welcome to the family tradition, Eric,” moment.

Also, I think now that we’ve demonstrated our commitment to the family tradition through some pretty legit hot glue craftsmanship that left both of us without fingertips, we’re going to earn ourselves our very first sewing machine for Christmas. Happy holidays indeed.

Photos from Rachel’s personal collection

Featured Sponsored Content

  • Rachel

    I love this post Rachel – thanks so much for sharing all your awesome photos. It really made me remember my Halloween’s growing up and what a fun holiday this truly is. You, your mom and Eric have real costume talent for sure. And I love the photos of Preston. You made my day brighter for sure. Thank you!

  • Sheila

    SHARKNADO!!! That is so awesome. :)

    My mom also made my costumes growing up… I was Santa Claus once, and a bookworm (green body suit with a cardboard “book” worn like a sandwich board that had a bite taken out of it), and of course a few years of princesses in there too.

    We don’t get as into Halloween as you do but now I’m thinking that’s a mistake… maybe I can start a new tradition with my kids!

  • lady brett

    i love this! the costumes are *amazing* (and your bro makes one hell of a captain jack sparrow). also, i adore halloween – i think in large part because, similarly, my dad was a theater techie, and always helped us pull off some pretty fly costumes. someday i would really like to make it more of a priority again (today is not that day, though).

  • Preston as Jack Sparrow + tipsy walk completely made my day. Happy Halloween!

  • Meg

    This post gave me such warm fuzzies, Rachel! I also have really fond memories of my Halloween costumes lovingly made by my mom growing up . . . and my sister and I were usually in some sort of complementary get-up. I definitely miss those days, but love the idea of you starting new traditions with Eric. I want to do the same!

    Happy Halloween, everyone!

  • Miriam

    Since my husband and I met at a Halloween Party, this was a particularly enjoyable read. We don’t exchange wedding anniversary gifts, but every year we buy each other’s Halloween costume. This year, we’re doing Pirates v. Ninjas.

    • Rachel

      Awesome tradition!!

  • Mrs. T-Lee

    I LOVE that Eric was Sharknado!!! Thanks for this piece! Your family is quite talented, and halloween is one of my favorite holidays too!!

  • Kat R

    Wow, I don’t know which one of these I love the most! It is a tie between the deer/headlights and the sharknado. Fiance and I actually made couples costumes for the first time this year. We did The Doctor and the TARDIS, because we’re nerds like that. (He had the jacket, too, but Houston is hot…) http://imgur.com/3r97VmS

    • Rachel

      I love those!! Your Tardis is so elegant!

    • Doctor and TARDIS! So cute!

      Our DragonCon costumes typically become our Halloween costumes, so we have a Doctor and TARDIS costume from this year, genderswapped.

      Last year we did the S.Q.U.A.T. team, from this video.

      • Kat R

        Those are both awesome! I was excited about ours because we can wear it to Renaissance Festival, too, and Comic Con if I go again! And maybe just sitting at home for the 50th Anniversary… Any chance to dress up!

  • mimi

    Great costumes! My mom always made our costumes growing up too, but your mom is much more creative! Also, it’s 60 and raining here in Michigan, so it’s not a crisp fall day here either.

  • Cleo

    amazing costumes! I love that this has become a family tradition that you and your partner have adopted.

    Also — the iPod costume, not completely obsolete. :) I love what’s now referred to as the “iPod Classic” and Apple still has them! I just got a new one after my first one died after 10 years of faithful service (I’m not going to be distracted by emails, games, or the internet when I’m on a run)!

    • I still have an iPod classic, too! I load it up for runs and for long trips so I can conserve my iPhone for texting. :-)

    • Rachel

      Ah! In my mind, it was an ipod nano (for completely in my mind reasons) so I didn’t even think of that! Also, I can’t believe click wheels still exist somewhere. :)

      • Cleo

        That does make sense…you were wearing a tiny dress :) so…Nano.

        And I do love the click wheel. Even though the click is a sound effect, it’s so satisfying to hear it when I’m scrolling through music/podcasts!

  • Halloween seems to get away from me, as it seems to every year. I WANT to dress up and be cool, but I’m always scrambling the week of the holiday to get something together. This year we… may have tornadic activity in our area tonight, so I’m not dressed up. Had I remembered the black fish nets last night I’d be a sexy Sailor Moon. I do, however, already have my costume for next year: Louise from Bob’s Burgers. I’m already working on how to make the bunny-ear hat (pattern-wise. if all goes according to plan, I’ll have a Singer machine that my mom doesn’t use in my house by Sunday.. I just need to buy feet. and bobbins).

    • ART

      I am the same way! This year I bought a blank eye mask from the craft store and some felt so I could be a fox backup dancer from What the Fox Say…I painted the mask and cut some awesome ears, and then life got in the way and I wasn’t able to finish it (and took a sick day today anyway). Oh well.

  • Katie

    Hello fellow Houstonian! I love love love Halloween and am so sad that this year, I did not have any costume parties to go to, since I was at a wedding during my favorite one. BTW, if you’re still in H-town next year, check out The Halloween Party at http://www.2212Woodhead.com for a great charity halloween party the weekend before Halloween each year.

    • Rachel

      I’ll definitely check that out, thanks for sharing!

  • My mom was also the maker of costumes when I was a kid. We had some great ones. When I was six, we got a baby brother for Halloween, so it has always been a particularly special holiday in our family as well. (Candy! Costumes! Birthday!) In fact, tonight is his golden birthday.

    Over the years since college, I drifted away from crafty costume making and more into thrift store clothing finds costumes. I’ve built up a nice collection of hats and skirts and coats and such that can assemble into new combos. My costume for work today involves a long black academic/judicial/preacher/choir/wizard robe, a maroon and gold scarf I made from a long-sleeved striped polo skirt, a long hair stick with an ornate top, and a glow-in-the-dark frog. (I’m a non-specific member of the Hogwarts faculty or staff.And I work at a college, so it makes even more sense.)

  • (I’m wondering if my comment go eaten by gnomes? It isn’t showing up.)

    • Maddie

      Sorry, the site thought you were spam today. TRICK OR TREAT.

      • Is my reply to Kirstin’s post below also hanging out in the moderation/spam queue?

  • Kirstin

    I love this post! I totally relate to the costumes you could wear layers underneath. My mom made my sister and I homemade clown costumes specifically that could fit a snow suit. And growing up in Wisconsin, we had more than one year where it snowed on Trick or Treating.

    I still take the homemade Halloween costume pretty seriously too. My favorites have been: A pig, the statue of liberty a sheep, and the gameboard from Operation.

    The sheep costume was a bit of a fire hazard with all of the glue and cotton balls, but something about strutting around in sheep costume made me have a whole new attitude.

    • Yes. Costumes that involved layer and coats were always a feature.

      I envy the trick or treat experience of some others. I grew up in Milwaukee, where trick or treat was always starting at 3 PM on the closest Sunday to Halloween (or was it just the Sunday before?) and ended by sunset. Which, I guess, made it a little less cold. But it was always exciting when that Sunday was also actual Halloween. More special.

      In Madison, trick or treat is always on Halloween, and it goes after dark. I find that kind of exciting.

    • Rachel

      Would love to see the Operation one…that sounds really cool!

  • Kayjayoh

    (Here’s hoping the internet gnomes, let this comment go through this time. Fingers cross and breath held…)

    My mom was also the maker of costumes when I was a kid. We had some great ones. When I was six, we got a baby brother for Halloween, so it has always been a particularly special holiday in our family as well. (Candy! Costumes! Birthday!) In fact, tonight is his golden birthday.

    Over the years since college, I drifted away from crafty costume making and more into thrift store clothing finds costumes. I’ve built up a nice collection of hats and skirts and coats and such that can assemble into new combos. My costume for work today involves a long black academic/judicial/preacher/choir/wizard robe, a maroon and gold scarf I made from a long-sleeved striped polo skirt, a long hair stick with an ornate top, and a glow-in-the-dark frog. (I’m a non-specific member of the Hogwarts faculty or staff.And I work at a college, so it makes even more sense.)

    • Kayjayoh

      ….polo *shirt*…

  • Rachel, one year you need to come to Atlanta and do DragonCon, because I have a feeling you would adore it.

    Also Eric’s Sharknado puts the 3 Sharknado costumes I saw there this year TO SHAME. It’s so good!

    • Rachel

      Thanks! Also every time I start talking about Halloween, I’m now like, “You know, I should probably look into cosplay…that…seems like this might actually be what I’m about…”

  • LifeSheWrote

    Awww, not only was this highly entertaining, I totally teared up at the end when you tied this into families and traditions and sniffle. So special!

  • Liz


    • Rachel

      I know, I know! Come back for happy hour tomorrow!!

  • Abby Mae

    AHHH! Halloween!

    It’s my absolute favorite holiday! My parents were extremely religious growing up so we were never allowed to participate in any Halloween related activities. Now that I’m an adult I go ALL OUT. My husband got his first taste of my Halloween fanaticism last year and it’s been so fun for me to have someone be all in with going all out for Halloween.

    Also, I have to say I’m extremely jealous of your moms’ mad costume makin’ skills, Rachel! And the sharknado costume-all I could do was giggle. LOVE!

  • Caroline

    My mom was a maker of costumes when I was a kid. We bought costumes only a few years. Some of the best included a panda, a jockey, Daisy Duck… Those were my sister’s. the only one I remember of mine was a princess although I know she made me many great costumes ( and the renaissance dress which was two dress and 8 yards of fabric that she finished in one all nighter for the school renaissance fair), oh and the flamenco dancer one was great.

    We haven’t done anything at all for Halloween since my partner and I moved in together. I know it is one of his favorite holidays so I feel a little bad about it, but he hasn’t taken the lead. He hasn’t made many friends here yet, and my friends aren’t really Halloween type people. And I don’t know how to do costumes on a limited money and time budget. My mom did over the top costumes which she sewed, and as a student I don’t feel like I have time for over the top. I haven’t really had much affection for Halloween since I stopped trick or treating, and am just not so into it. I’d like to do something for him, but I don’t know what, and I don’t quite know why.

    I love that you had so many costumes with headpieces though! I cover my head (at least partly) everyday for religious reasons, so either become “the Jewish Ada Lovelace wearing a kippah” or have to fid a costume with a hat. Now that you suggest headdresses, I’m able to think of way more costumes …

    • Can I just say how adorable the idea of “the Jewish Ada Lovelace wearing a kippah” as a costume is?

      [dear internet gnomes, I promise I’m not spam. please don’t eat me. -kjo]

  • Bethany

    This is awesome! Thanks so much for sharing! I’m in South Korea for work this Halloween and have been a little bummed to not see any costumes. This was really a treat (hardy har har)!

  • Riah

    Costumes! Halloween just isn’t the same when you’re not in America, so I’ve been missing out for the last several years.

    Also, what’s your costume in the picture next to Preston from the Wild Things? I’m trying to figure it out and I can’t.

    • Rachel


  • Manya

    I LOVE me a good halloween costume!