Finding the perfect Halloween costume

Halloween is one of the most anxious times for kids.
Halloween is one of the most anxious times for kids. Oh, not because of all the ghosts and goblins and witches and monsters and all that. But because they have to a make a decision. And not any decision, mind you. One that’s so important that, if wrong, it could ruin their playground image for the rest of the school year: choosing the right Halloween costume.

In fact, kids in the elementary-aged crowd have very specific rules and regulations on Halloween costume choosing. The top five are:

1. A costume should be sufficiently unique to stand out in the crowd, but not so unique that people can’t tell what you are.

2. Never, under any circumstances, wear the same costume two years in a row. However, you can wear someone else’s old costume as long as they live in another town, several hundred miles away, preferably somewhere in Alaska.

3. Do not try to pass off your soccer uniform as a costume. This doesn’t fool anyone.

4. The eyeholes in your mask should not be so big that people will know it’s you in there. However, the eyeholes must not be so small that you keep running into annoying things like, say, cars and the sides of buildings.

5. After first grade, no whimsy of any kind is acceptable. This includes dinosaurs, cartoon characters, and any costume with wings.

And then, if this isn’t enough, there are the accessories to consider. Does the costume come with a set of fangs? A magic wand? Any sort of a gadget? Of course with girls, glittery shoes are a plus. So are pom-poms, bridal veils, and fancy hats. Boys prefer more realistic accessories like rubber bats, giant fake eyeballs, or anything that can be used as a light saber. These are the crucial things that you must consider before committing.

Now, I don’t have to point out that one of the problems with choosing a Halloween costume is that, every year, there are only a few costumes on this planet that meet this strict criteria. And they are snapped up way back in August, almost the very second they hit the rack.

So, you’d think, knowing this, that I’d start shopping early. You’d think.

But, I admit, I’m more the type of person who likes surprises. Each year around mid-October, I suddenly look up and realize that Halloween is coming, and then I wander willy-nilly into the closest store to see what’s left. Once there, I’m faced with the usual choices: a clown mask, maybe a cowboy hat or two, or a straggly fairy princess costume with wings.

Now, on the surface, this may not seem like such a good system. But, as shocking as it may seem, over the years I’ve come to realize that this method is much better than you think.

Because the second biggest problem with Halloween costumes is that you can’t buy them too early because most children change their minds about what they want to be at least 18 bazillion times. Sometimes more. Chances are, by the time October rolls around, they’ve traded in swords for karate belts, and halos for pitchforks; meanwhile, all of the good fake jewelry is lost somewhere in the sandbox and Cinderella’s tiara is living upstairs, doubling as a Barbie hot tub.

In short, they would’ve ended up with the very same kind of costume as the ones left on the rack in October. Except, chances are, back then you would’ve paid full price.

It’s like what my friend Julie always says, “There’s just no easy way around it. You just learn to work the system and hope for the best.”

Sometimes that’s all you can do.

Debbie Farmer’s column appears every Monday.