Halloween Help Is Here!

Woodland Creatures photo courtesy of Fawn and Feather

photo credit Heather Espana

If you, like me, are in the depths of despair over your kids’ Halloween costumes, realizing That Day is just over a week away and you have done, oh, say, NOTHING about facilitating them, finding them, or funding them, then this post is for you.  Keep reading, because you’re about to receive personalized, professional help.

If, on the other hand, you purchased your kids’ perfect, premade costumes weeks and weeks ago, and you’ve already pressed them and laid them out on your kids’ beds (which they happily make every morning), and you’re only now deciding which of 17 hair accessories best compliments your daughter’s outfit, and you’re aghast that I’ve left Halloween costume decisions for SO LONG, then you clearly read this blog because I am your schadenfreude.  In which case, this post is also for you.

Let us begin.

All my 9-year-old daughter wants, in the whole entire world, is to be a blue parrot for Halloween.

Now, you might say, full of logic and reason, “Just buy the kid a blue parrot costume.”  But I am forced to respond, “That’s the easy way, and have you met me?”

And, honestly, I found myself in an awkward position.  See, I’ve always been a staunch supporter of the Cheap First Philosophy of Halloweening (I tend to be a staunch supporter of most of the things I invent), so I just couldn’t bring myself to hop online and order a $50 parrot costume and pay expedited shipping, too.

But Aden hasn’t been suspended, not even once, since school started 7 weeks ago. And what better way to reward non-suspension than with a blue parrot costume?  I found myself between a Halloween costume rock and an empty pocketbook hard place.  How do I grant her wish on a budget?

In a frantic attempt at an easy Halloween save, I cried out for help on Facebook.  “Anyone have any fantastic, cheap and fast ideas for how to transform my daughter into a blue parrot for Halloween?  If you must choose, here they are in priority order: cheap, fast, fantastic.”

Have you ever had your butt plucked from the fire?  I have.  Because it took Rachel of Fawn and Feather four minutes – four minutes – to snatch my hind-end from the Halloween costume fire.

She replied, off the top of her head, “Blue tights and T-shirt. Blue boa for a tail (from Michael’s/JoAnn), blue visor with eyes, beak, etc…, blue plastic tablecloth from the Dollar Tree cut into fringey wings and attached along each arm across her shoulders in one piece.”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  I couldn’t come up with that in days and days of thinking.  She met all of my criteria effortlessly.

Well, I jumped right onto Rachel’s website, and I spent the next half-hour being spirited away by her images.

Woodland Creatures photos courtesy of Fawn and Feather
photo credit Heather Espana

Rachel is a self-described dreamer with a huge costume closet, and she created one of the coolest businesses I’ve ever seen.  See, Rachel takes her love of dress-up, her artistic knack, and her photography skills, and then she spins them, cotton-candy-style, into a theatrical, magical memory for her clients.

Lost Boys photos courtesy of and credit to Fawn and Feather

It’s like Rachel infuses joy with a touch of helium and sends it aloft, so that, for an hour or two, even grown-ups remember how to play.  How to frolick.  How to romp.

And I realized how much I needed Rachel’s unintentional reminder; that dressing up is about playing.

Hippie photo courtesy of Fawn and Feather
photo credit Jonathan Morell and Jon Macy

And that Halloween doesn’t have to be just one more task list.  It doesn’t have to be about checking my kids’ costumes off of my To Do list so I can get through this holiday in time to take off at a dead sprint for Thanksgiving.

I have a 9-year-old who wants to be a blue parrot.  And, this year, I get to be the mommy who makes her dream come true.

And, get this; in case you’re like me – a) out of money, b) out of time, or c) generally pathetic – or even if you’re not any of those things but you just want a little boost from a pro, RACHEL HAS AGREED TO HELP YOU, TOO!

Seriously.  Just in time for Halloween, I managed to corner a professional visual artist and talk her into giving us all advice.  I’m incredibly excited!  And what I like about Rachel is… she’s excited, too!  See?

Rachel’s photo courtesy of Fawn and Feather
photo credit Jonathan Morell and Jon Macy

If you need tips, from now through… oh, a few days from now… post your questions for Rachel below.  We’ve got your back, folks.

And, Rachel? Thanks for helping me be that mommy.  The playful mommy.  The wish-granting mommy.  The blue parrot’s mommy.  I’m grateful.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
37 comments
  1. […] Once upon a time, I met Rachel, the visual artist behind Fawn and Feather, because she generously offered to help me (and you!) out of a creative jam. […]

  2. I am writing on behalf of my aunt who is too afraid to actually post on a blog…here are her words for the “amazing and talented wonderwoman Rachel” seriously that’s what she said.

    “So what if one teenage child wanted to be the Tardis- police box, old school blue- from Dr. Who? Her parents may or may not watch too much Dr. Who and have succumbed their children to it as well. I thought I had it until she told me under no certain circumstances would she wear a box because then how would she talk to boys. And I thought maybe I want you to wear a box, how were you planning on talking with boys? Anyway she’s going to a very low-key Halloween party and is trying to figure out how to look like a police box. Any help?”

    1. OK Jess…so it took me all day to come up with some ideas. And to be honest, I had to do a little Internet search to even know what you were talking about. But I think I’ve got it! And hopefully the teenage cute factor will be high.
      If you have a blue (spray paint!) graduation cap laying around (or can find one at a thrift store), start with that. Otherwise, glue/tape a square of blue cardboard to a headband. I’d do it so that it’s a little jaunty and to the side just to be cute. You can stack a couple more smaller squares just to add height and to look like the top of the actual police box. Glue an empty PB container or other plastic jar to the top for the light. Those battery light up tea lights are cheap and easy, so try attaching one of those inside for the real deal. Glue or tape a 2 inch wide band of black paper along the edge so that it hangs off of the hat and white POLICE in white (chalk/white out/paint). The only other thing she needs is all blue clothes. And if you can find a long sleeve shirt, try cutting “windows” in the sleeves. That’s probably good, but I just had another thought…if she wears a blue vest open in the front, it will look like she’s got the front doors of a police box. I promise that no boys will be at her party. Right, guys?

  3. Cherice-thanks for the plug! I LOVE it when groups dress in a theme. And Narnia? Oh. Mygoodness! My next big themed shoot is hopefully going to be a Narnia one, so I’ve been dreaming of possibilities for a while.
    Joel will make a GREAT faun! Get a headband at the dollar store and then use toilet paper rolls (because they already have some curl to them) to make those funny ears that stick out. A paper bag or construction paper rolled into horns should be easy to make and glue as well. The horns communicate exactly what he is. Then I’d get a pair of dark sweatpant/pants and cut them to mid calf. If you have time/want to, get some strips of faux fur and glue or sew them along the front, just to give the illusion of fur. It can be sort of expensive at the fabric store, so keep your eyes peeled at thrift stores (faux fur jackets, blankets, costumes, etc…). I always stop at Value Village in Tigard before I head into JoAnn. I’m assuming that your husband doesn’t want to walk around topless all night, so if you can find some sort of shirt (or flip one inside out) that is fleshy colored, that will be fine. If he’s specifically wanting go as Mr. Tumnus, he carries his umbrella, a brown paper package of books, and then has his token scarf. Dark boots and dark gloves give the illusion of hooves. If you have a little bit of dark eyeshadow, shade in a line from the inside corners of his eyes and down the sides of the bridge of his nose.
    A dryad! So great. So the key for this is really just flowy, green and brown leafy bits. Whatever green/brown dresses, tights, leggings, pants, scarves, fabric bits you have can be pinned together. If you have access to ivy or want to buy some fake stuff, make yourself a crown and glue or pin strands of leaves throughout your costume. Throw some sticks into your tousled hair or you could go all Imogen Heap on us. Look up that name for some wild hair ideas. Good luck! And I hope we get to see your little family.

  4. So I’m ignoring my kids this morning and catching up on your blog, Beth…

    Rachel, you’re awesome! These are so fun and creative. I’m looking forward to your art show opening at Chapter’s next Friday evening, Nov. 4!!! (Full disclosure: I’m not paid anything either…)

    I also have a costume question for you. We bought Halloween costumes for the kiddos because…well…I’m not creative in that way and we found a soldier costume for E because he wanted to be Prince Caspian, because we’ve been reading the Chronicles of Narnia to him. K is a tiger, which goes with the Narnia theme, I think. I’m not sure if Joel and I will dress up but if we did it would be fun to do something Narnia-themed…if Halloween was not in the bitter cold it might go better. I was thinking of making Joel be a faun and I could be a dryad. Any thoughts on simple and cheap Narnia-themed adult costumes?

  5. OH MY GOSH, MY DAUGHTER ALSO WANTED TO BE A BLUE PARROT FOR HALLOWEEN!!! But, I couldn’t come up with ANYTHING. So, I talked her into being the evil queen from Snow White. I’m a good Mommy. I wish I would’ve seen this post yesterday!

    1. Apparently, Rio is ruining the lives of parents across the country. Way to make it work! I LOVE that character from Snow White.

  6. YEAH! There’s no way I would have come up with this on my own! You are gifted! I’ll do my best, as a totally inept craft person, to use these awesome ideas! For some weird reason I actually own a glue gun, a tutu and a battery powered fake candle, so it looks like maybe I can pull this off by next Monday night! Can’t wait to see everyone’s pictures!

  7. I’m happy to answer questions all week! Keep them coming…

  8. Dear Beth,

    Could you maybe pretty prettier prettiest PLEASE get everyone to send in the pictures of the above costumes? Maybe great fodder for a post? I’m sooooooooo curious about how they all turned out, Rachel’s amazing I tell you that! Maybe I could even use some of the ideas for our next Carnaval festivities (February 2012). Because there’s always Carnaval. Not the same, but still…

    Sincerely, Carina (you know, your Dutch friend who has to live WITHOUT Halloween… 😉 )

    1. I agree with Carina! Please figure out how to share the photos! Or if people are in Newberg, can we see them in person? Carina, I’m happy to help you, even if you live in a place where there is never Halloween.

      1. I already love you loads for that, Rachel! We celebrate ‘carnaval’ over here (which is The Netherlands to be specific), which is in February next year (it can also be in March sometimes), so I’ll be needing your help by then I think! For now, I’m enjoying the Halloween thrill with you all and marvelling at all your super-creative solutions, you rock! 🙂

        1. and of course we also have ‘sint maarten or saint martin’ next month, but I don’t think the kids dress up for that anymore…

  9. Is it too late to make a request?! My kids want to be a candy corn (“not cardboard, mom”), a fairy, and a cupcake (his birthday is the 30th). I want to do a candle on his head. Help me please if it isn’t too late! 🙂 The budget is tiny…..

    1. Candy corn! Yum. I’m imagining a girl, so that’s what you’ll get, but let me know if you need suggestions for a boy. So it’s all about the shape and the 3 colors. If you know how to tie dye, that’s an option. Dye a white garment orange on the bottom, yellow in the middle and leave it white on top. Or if you want to actually make a little dress, fleece or felt are great options because of their color options and stiffness. If you know how to sew, I would sew them on top of each other and then sew them into a tube. Cut arm holes and a head hole (feel free to use an already existing garment as a pattern). If you can’t sew, hot glue/fabric glue the heck out of it. Just don’t start this on the morning of October 31. Top it off with a white hat (or cut the sleeve of a T-shirt off) that has a plastic cup underneath (use plastic in case you need to cut it shorter to fit under the hat) to give you the pointy top of candy corn. Also, see my reply to Heidi above about a cool trick to do with hair.
      In my mind, fairies wear tutus, wings, and glitter. I recently saw a tutorial on how to make a tutu from stuff at the dollar store. They used an elastic headband (like the ones that look like a giant hair tie) as the waist band and bath loofahs as the poof. Apparently if you take them apart, there is a ton of tulle-like mesh. And they come in lots of colors. You can probably find that online somewhere. I’ve definitely seen wings there as well and would probably purchase those as they would be tricky to make well. I bought some glitter there today, so you should be set!
      I love the cupcake idea! Imagine this…a round laundry basket or plastic tub with the bottom cut out for the main part of the cupcake. You’ll need to figure out how to attach string so that it can sit on his shoulders, suspender-style (cross them in the back so the won’t slip). If you want to cover that to really make it look like a cupcake liner, you’ll need some large pieces of paper that you can fold, accordion-like and then attach to the tub. Another option would be using masking tape/paint/yarn to create the lines. Frosting is fluffy and swirls around the cake, right? So you can use a bed sheet or some tulle or some quilt batting. Twist it and then wrap it around his body. Fluff it and then glue paper sprinkles all over. If he’s game for having you glue an electric candle to a headband, go for it! Otherwise, I’d give him a “workout” headband and have a paper candle sticking up from the back of his head. You can do it!

  10. though we don’t celebrate Halloween over here (we have ‘Saint Martin’ on November 11th, which is similar), I’m both excited&curious as to how Rachel’s going to help everyone! 🙂

  11. Such great (and random and hilarious) ideas from your kiddos for Halloween 2011. I’ve got some fun ideas already that I will share soon! I’m recovering from a freshly pressed apple cider hangover, one of my most favorite things about living in Oregon in the fall. Thanks for all the questions!

  12. And have I mentioned how EXCITED I am that you’re doing this, Rachel? SO excited!

  13. And one from Kim via the Facebook page: “My 3 year old daughter requested benedryll- not to ingest (which we do a lot here, unfortunately), but to ‘be’. Little help, please?”

    (This one CRACKED ME UP.)

    1. Oh. My. Goodness. More like you 80 year old daughter. Hilarious!
      Does she mean the pink pill or is she referring to a bottle of it? If she’s wanting to be a pink pill, I think that getting the color right is key. An all BRIGHT pink outfit of whatever you’ve got. Spray paint or fabric paint might be necessary to get the right shade and then a large “B” on her chest should do it. If she’s really wanting the oval shape, you could cut a piece of cardboard and then glue it to a headband as the top part of the oval. If she’s wanting to be a bottle (is that a thing?), I think that the bottle top and the label is all you need to focus on. A lamp shade makes for a great top. You might need to figure out a way to make it so that it doesn’t come down over her face (i.e. stacking foam or wash clothes or something). I don’t know what color the liquid is, but a head to toe outfit in that color is perfect and then a cardboard sign around her neck with the Benadryl logo should be perfect! Bless you (no pun intended).

  14. And one from Alisa via the Facebook page: “deer antlers!!!!!! for my kids. i swear.” (We totally believe you, Alisa. ;))

    1. Oh man Alisa. You may have me stumped on this one…and not because I haven’t tried! The deer in the photos from my Woodland Creature shoot is wearing actual deer antlers. And I can’t begin to express to you a)how tricky it was to find a pair that matched b)how heavy they were were on my sweet friend’s head and c)how high and low I have looked to figure this out. Fortunately, I have a cheap plastic pair (from a thrift store and previously from a Burger King meal, I believe), so keep your eyes peeled for that sort of thing. What I’ve learned is that keeping them lightweight is the most important thing. Air dry clay (found at any craft store, probably in the kid’s section) is super easy to work with and dries light as a feather. I would start there, but give them a few days to actually “air dry.” Inserting a core of wire or rolled tin foil might be a good idea to give them some structure and will help you attach them to a headband. Make them shorter than you think, because the taller you get, the more likely they are to slip off the head (besides little fawn antlers would be so darling!) Get a nice, wide headband, some hot glue, super glue, and wire. Then get them on there however you can! Let me know how these turn out!

  15. And one from Leanne via the Facebook page: “My oldest has a dress she wants to use (black and white mini with hypnotic design) and a wacky head band, but doesn’t really know what she should do to pull it all together and what it should ‘be.'”

    1. It sounds to me like she’s got the beginnings of a Go Go Girl outfit. The Go Go Girls were known for their music and style in the late 60’s and early 70’s. A key accessory for them was the knee high boots. When I think of this costume, I think of white boots, but whatever you can find will do the trick. You can throw on any sort of “hippy” accessory: peace symbol, beads, round sunglasses, a fur vest, and psychedelic tights. If you can figure out how to give her a bouffant (youtube that) hair style and some wild 60’s makeup, she’ll be a hit. Good luck!

  16. And one from Leslie via the Facebook page: “My daughter wants to be a “piece of candy” – i have no idea how to do this and I don’t sew. Rachel – can you help me?!”

    1. Leslie, I’ve been in LaLa land all weekend dreaming about your daughter’s costume. I’m imagining a classic piece of candy in a wrapper…like a piece of swirly, pink taffy (for explanation purposes). The emphasis for this costume will be the color of the candy and the shape of the twisted paper on the tops! Get a light colored beanie hat (I’ve seen them at the dollar store) and some wax paper/parchment paper/white tissue paper. Make sure that the height of the paper is long enough to give a good twisty top. If you need to glue 2 pieces of paper together (1 on top of the other laying down long way), do that first. With the hat on a head, hot glue (be so so careful!) the paper all the way around the hat. Now twist the paper and either wrap it with clear tape or secure the twist using a cute ribbon. Let her wear as much pink (or blue or yellow or whatever) as she can, or simply wear all white and pin/paint a large swirl on her shirt. To balance out the twisted top, see if you can track down an all white tutu or skirt. It’s a similar shape as the twisted paper hat, but flares out in the opposite direction! I recently picked up a tutu at Value Village but have seen them at Ross type stores and in most Halloween sections. Or, if you search for “no sew DIY tutu,” there are lots of tutorials online. IF you tied a bow on her head, tie one around her waist. Frilly socks have that flared shape too if you have some. Have fun and make sure that we get to see what you end up with!

  17. Here’s a question from the Facebook page for you, Rachel! Angela writes: “I would be interested in hearing some ideas for infant costumes! I know that I can buy one at the store, but it seems silly for a one year old. Any cute cheap ideas for this age group?”

    1. So I don’t have any kids of my own yet, but these are the things I’ve noticed about babies on Halloween:
      1. It’s cold and their costumes get covered in jackets and hats
      2. They can’t walk and therefore become an accessory to the parent.
      3. A lot of babies HATE hats or things on their head (which are usually the most identifying piece of the costume).
      I’ll try to embrace the above statements in my suggestions, but face it babies, hats are necessary.
      I LOVE babies as animals. But I sort of hate the full getups that make up costumes for kids. I’ve started picking up partial animal costumes at the thrift store and just using the parts I want! For example, I recently bought the upper part of a lion costume for $4.99 at Goodwill. It’s got a furry torso, an accurate tail and a mane hood with ears and fur. I HATE the torso but couldn’t even dream of making the tail and mane on my own. Enter scissors. I removed the hood and tail and dressed a little friend in overalls and a plaid shirt. Boom. He’s still obviously a lion, but not a cliche one. This is also a great option because the costume size doesn’t matter. Buy the cheapest one at the thrift store! Other easy options for little ones (and you can match) are a lumberjack or a scarecrow. Plaid shirt, overalls/denim, boots, and a hat. For the scarecrow, tie bits of yellow yarn in a knot around a hair tie and put them around the wrists for straw. A rainbow is easy…literally anything that is colorful in their wardrobe, throw it on them. You can dress as a cloud or a pot of gold. Lots of costumes start with an oversized sweatshirt and go from there (think tomato, carrot, owl). Felt is an easy and cheap way to add to costumes and is easy to come by at the fabric store and in the fabric section at thrift stores. Cut it, glue it, velcro it, whatever and it goes a long way. Superheros are another easy solution. Here’s a great cape recipe from my friend Ashlee: take a T-shirt, cut up the back sides in the shape of a cape, stop when you get to collar, cut the rest of the shirt off at the collar. You should just be left with the collar and the back. This is great because your kids can slip the cape on and off over their head because the collar is stretchy. A great way to give them an emblem on their chest is with fusible web (found at fabric stores-ask at the cutting counter). It makes any fabric an iron-on transfer. So, put that “P” for poopy pants on his/her chest!

  18. I LOVE fawn and feather. Rachel is inspiring. My pinky finger wishes it had her creativity. I’ve told the kids that I am spending exactly ZERO dollars on Halloween costumes this year, so they had to go old school and dig around the house for stuff. They’ve pulled it together… a chef, an ’80’s chick, and a medeival princess. The new little man though…. all I’ve got for him is a plush ducky costume complete with stripey big bird tights. I just don’t know if I can do it to him. I know it would make for great graduation or wedding slide show laughter, but the ONLY boy in a family of girls… think I just need to man up the duckie somehow. Plus, he absolutely HATES the billed hood. Considering my budget, what do you suggest for the world’s cutest curley haired hat hating reluctant to walk 15 month old?

    1. Julie, my husband says that he doesn’t remember one thing about being 15 months old…shove him in the ducky costume. Some people! He obviously doesn’t get that Halloween isn’t about kids, it’s about adults. Thanks for the comment! See my response to Angela below for some infant ideas. Your curly haired boy doesn’t have to be an ugly duckling (even though I’m sure it’s the cutest thing ever).

  19. I have two girls that want to be oompa loopma’s. I have a few lame ideas but I would love to hear Rachael’s thoughts!

    1. Love this throw back to my childhood! The key thing about them is the green hair, orange face, brown shirt and crisscrossy white pants. Wigs are abundant this time of year in thrift stores and you’ll have no trouble tracking down a bright green “hair spray” in the Halloween section of most stores. The stripes on their brown shirts can either be painted (fabric paint or whatever white you’ve got) or try using thin masking tape. You’ll get straight lines and won’t ruin the shirt. White sweatpants or scrubs that are too big are a great start for the pants. Use whatever strips you cut to make them cropped for the criss crossed suspenders! Or if you can find actual white suspenders, put them on backwards to see the X in front. Top it off with white gloves (latex or knit from a dollar store), baby powdered eyebrows, and some mischief!

  20. i just found fawn and feather this week and spent forever looking at every image. she is AMAZING!

    1. Thanks Kim! Sometimes I do that too.

  21. This is such good news because Grace is being forced to go from wanting to be an “Aquarium” for Halloween, to being “Water” because her mom is lame-o. I still say no to the aquarium idea because her idea involved an actual glass box and real water around her head and neck. But I went to the costume sale at the dance academy, and the only thing that stood out to me for Grace was a turquoise/aqua shiny slicker raincoat with a raindrop sewn on, same color boot coverings and rain hat. I talked her into being “water” while she gave me her most skeptical look, only with the promise that she could paint her face and spray her hair blue. But I think she’ll probably just end up looking that a hot messy smurf in the end. Any suggestions would be so appreciated!

    1. Don’t give up on the aquarium! If you’re daughter’s willing to bring the aquarium down to her body, then a cardboard box with the front (and back) cut out can look awesome. You’ll also need to cut a circle for her head and the bottom so that it can fit around her torso. When you cut the front, cut it the width of plastic wrap (so you don’t have to mess with taping 2 pieces together). This will hopefully give her enough of the glass illusion. Cut out paper fish, attach them to string and tape them to the inside so that they “swim” in her tank. She can dress as a scuba diver or simply throw a pair of goggles on her head. If you want to stick with the water costume, I love what you got! Those sound perfect. To prevent the messy smurf potential, I would stay away from painting her face blue. Try to go the “water is sparkley and clear” route. Glitter would look way better on her face. White glue is amazing (try it first) to paint with and then stays tacky for things like glitter. If you could figure out how to make her hair look like a wave, that could help when you spray it blue. If she’s got long hair and you want to make her look like a drip drop, have her flip her head upsidedown and place a plastic cup directly on the top of her head (clear the hair). Gather all of her hair up and on to the top of it ans secure using a hair tie. It’s a hilarious look that I love doing. You’ll go from lame-o awesome pretty quickly!

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