No-sew vintage costumes: Five tips to avoid suffocation and spontaneous combustion while you’re wearing them

Remember the days of hand-made halloween costumes? When I was little, my mom stayed up late the night before Halloween sewing–and in the morning, my sisters and I would transform into cats, dogs, mice or even a giant box of cereal.

Lovingly and patiently crafted, a hand-made costume brings a certain magic to Halloween:

1920s butterfly (source: vintageprintables)
Children dressed in Batman & Robin costumes, 1966
Batman and Robin, 1969 (Credit: Wikipedia)

Would you like to put a little magic into your Halloween this year? Take a look at 1970’s Scholastic classic “Easy Costumes you don’t have to sew”. Author Goldie Taub Chernoff promises:

“All you need are scissors, staples, and some paper or cloth. There’s not a stick to sew! And chances are you’ll have everything around the house so there’s little or no expense involved.”

Before you get started, here are five tips on how to navigate the world of vintage costumes:

1.  Avoid open flame:

The upside is that all the costumes in this book are readily made with basic paper items found around your home. On the downside, they are 100% flammable:

2. Don’t forget to breathe:

This giant chicken costume is fun and creative, as long as you don’t mind putting a paper bag over your child’s head:

3. Watch out for oncoming traffic:

The robot is my favourite. Mobility and vision may be partially impaired here, but that’s the fun of it!


4. Get mom or dad to hold your candy bag (cell phone, blackberry, IPod, etc):

Here’s one the kids will love: the monster lobster! The life-like claws will make it hard to carry a treat bag, but real lobsters don’t eat candy anyway!

How to get into this contraption? It’s easy! Simply staple, glue and tape your child into it!

5. Think outside the box:

Finally, this “strange fish” costume is perfect for anyone who wants be truly original this year (I can’t help but think of the Simpson’s three-eyed fish Blinky):

Perhaps “vintage” isn’t always practical for the modern mom or child (my daughter is not keen to put a box on her head). If you’re like me, you can always make your own magic by rummaging through your closet or hitting thrift shops for inspiration. And it doesn’t hurt to have a crafty friend or relative close by to loan you something special.

Happy trick-or-treating to all the ghosts, princesses and strange fish out there!

For Halloween safety tips visit Safe Kids Canada.


  1. I was a gypsy about a thousand times when I was a kid–I raided my mom’s closet and wore her special earrings that dangled with coins. Then of course because it was cold I would have to wear a coat over my pretty costume!

    • Thank you for your comment. A gypsy is a great costume! It’s always a bit discouraging to get a cold/snowy Halloween, isn’t it? My daughter hates having to cover up her costume and usually goes out not fully dressed for the weather — and then she gets so cold we have to come in!! That’s life in Canada, eh?

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