School Play Costumes: Sew Easy?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 11:00am

schoolplay.jpgStory by Cynthia Darling
It all starts with a letter home from school.
An upcoming school play, an end of the year concert–whatever the event, you know that the colored sheet of paper in your son or daughter’s backpack contains the latest demand for a costume or outfit and the requisite parent involvement of the creative kind.
And then the hunt begins. The hunt for the materials to make that perfect costume or outfit, often for very specific and unusual themes. But, how far should parents go? How can parents get a good final product without breaking the bank and without staying up into the wee hours of the night?

One parent, Oneka Sangster, longtime resident of Montclair who now lives in Iselin, says that including her child in the process helps. Sangster recounts the time she and her daughter made a Michael Jackson outfit for a school show. “It took two weeks of scrounging around for materials, going to thrift shops, and asking people for materials.” But, that two weeks of prep time made the process more fun. When they finally started to assemble the costume, it wasn’t easy going. But, she says, “Every mistake became a new design for the outfit.” In the end, “All that grey hair the project gave me paid off! My daughter had the best costume in the school.”
Making it a family project that the child can participate in seems to be key here. Of course, including one’s much younger child in the activity of making the costume is not always possible.
Two other moms admit that they are more likely to buy any getups their children need for school. Jennifer Garner of Nutley says, “If what I need is right there in the store and easily accessible, I will buy the costume. Whatever makes it easiest is the motto. There is no martyrdom on my part!” Her friend Allyson Gardener of Nutley nods in agreement. For a recent talent show at their children’s school, Dancing Through the Decades, the children wore a combination of outfits bought online along with personal flourishes added by the girls and their moms. Gardener points out that buying costumes does risk skimping on quality. “One of the costumes we bought online was cheap and we had to get out the sewing needle and hot glue to hold it all together.” Gardener also advises recycling old dance recital outfits for school plays, if appropriate.
Gretchen Rubin, author of the memoir, The Happiness Project, weighs in with her own well-tested parenting advice. She advises, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. In those kinds of situations, I would focus on making a good-enough costume – one that a child enjoys wearing (or at least is not embarrassed to wear) – and restrain myself from worrying about making the best costume.”
Indeed, the parents described above were able to enjoy putting the costumes together at their own level of creativity. The personal accents for the store bought costumes were just as meaningful as the completely handmade 2-week project. Says Rubin, “Some parents truly enjoy that kind of [creative] work, but I don’t, and the difference between ‘good-enough’ and ‘best’ is about 1,000 hours of work!”
What’s your tale of costume creativity? Do you stick to store bought or go DIY?
(Photo: Flickr / ViNull)

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And we can get this project completed in time for Montclair's sesquicentennial when we can stick a fork into historic preservation as a public policy.

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