Friday, October 10, 2008

We Interupt All This Serious Blogging...

...for something that, in the grand scheme of things, isn't really all that important; but it's just something I need to say.

Lots of Catholic mommy bloggers have reviewed the costumes coming from this company, around this time each year as homeschooling families get ready for All Saint's Day parties. I want to be clear, here: the costumes are lovely, small businesses deserve to be paid a fair price for handcrafted goods, and there's nothing wrong with a business choosing to make and sell such items; indeed, there is plenty that is admirable.

But let's be honest. The average homeschooling Catholic one-income many-child (or even not-so-many) family simply cannot afford All Saint's Day costumes or dress-up clothes that range in price from about $30 for a "diocesan shirt" (for a priest costume) to upwards of $70. In fact, only two items, the shirt and a brown Franciscan robe, are less than $40; most items are in the $50-$70 price range.

I'm sure I'm not alone (being the completely non-crafty type of mom) in that I read one of these reviews a year or two ago, ooohed and aahed over the lovely costumes, clicked on the link--and suffered severe sticker shock. To put it in perspective, when my girls needed a nice new dressy church outfit for a recent occasion I swept through the local bargain stores and clearance racks both in town and online, and managed to outfit them all for a staggering total of about $80.00--for three complete girls' Sunday outfits. And two of the three are tall enough to have to wear women's sizes (they're taller than me, actually). So the very idea of paying nearly that much (or, probably, that much by the time you add shipping) for one dress-up/costume item sent shivers down my thrifty spine. In a word, we can't afford something like that, not in our wildest dreams of affluence. Buying three of those costumes would cost at least half, if not more than half of my total bill for the year's educational supplies.

Now, I'm not saying that people who can easily afford these costumes shouldn't support a Catholic family business and enjoy the costumes to the fullest extent; that ought to go without saying. But as I said, the idea, sometimes repeated on the blogs of various homeschooling moms who are reviewing these costumes, that these are an "affordable" dress-up product is really going to depend on your individual family circumstances, and unless I'm completely crazy and off-base, I think that many, many families would find a $50-$70 price tag for a single gift for one child to be not exactly synonymous with their experience of the meaning of the word "affordable," especially right now.

So, All Saint's Day is coming, and your children saw the pretty costumes on your Google Reader feed, but there's no way you can afford one for even one let alone all three or four or five or eight or twelve of your kids. And, like me, you're afflicted with the uncrafty gene; you're a M.I.S.C.R.E.A.N.T., whose best efforts are a little...well...

So what do you do?

The great thing about costumes is that, lovely as the examples of the ones for sale are, costumes don't actually have to be perfect. One year my girls went to our family All Saints' Party as Faith, Hope, and Charity--different colored tee shirts to which we had affixed big felt symbols, the anchor, the cross, and the heart, pretty much sufficed for the costume--but we added some capes (buy fabric, buy large pins to secure fabric around neck or directly to shirt, repeat as necessary) just for fun. Any nun saint uses an old black knit dress of mine, belted around the waste, with a bit of fabric or an old white pillowcase for a veil; if a cape is required we follow the "cape procedure" above. Queen saints need a pretty dress--usually one they actually wear to Sunday Mass--with lots of glittery accessories and a crown; and such favorites as Kateri Tekakwitha or St. Joan of Arc just need a slightly modified inexpensive secular costume, or the accessories for such a costume with normal clothes of an appropriate type and color underneath.

And if you've done the typical saint costumes for years now and want to try something different, there's the "patron of..." choices. Your son's been St. Michael multiple times? St. Michael is the patron of policemen, so a pair of dark pants, a dark shirt, and a shiny badge (plastic from the dollar store, or tinfoil over cardboard) and you're good to go! Your daughter has been every nun saint in the calendar? Two of mine, this year, are dressing up as some of Our Lady's titles: Mirror of Justice and Mystical Rose, to be exact. And there are the virtues: a cardboard box with marker lines for bricks, with arm holes cut out at the sides, would be cute for "Fortitude," right? (Fort...itude, that is.) I have, so far, resisted the temptation to festoon a child in tacky felt banners and send her along as the "Spirit of Vatican II..." but you can tell I've considered it. :)

Most children I know love to play dress-up. But they don't look for perfection or beauty in their costumes, and are content with whatever we can do. A wisp of fabric and a carefully-selected accessory or two are all that are needed to set their imaginations soaring. Again, that doesn't mean that the lovely handcrafted costumes aren't a treasure to those who do can and do buy them; but in our imitation of the saints, being content with what we have, avoiding all covetousness, and refusing to make something that is childlike in its simplicity into a materialistic value that is beyond our means is more important than trying very hard to look like a saint--from the outside only.

8 comments:

Wendy in VA said...

Whew! I'm glad I'm not the only one. They are beautiful costumes, but we have 4 children to house, feed, clothe, and educate on a cop's salary. Thanks for the other ideas! I may have to try that Vatican II felt banner. :o)

freddy said...

Yup, saw that site, had to reach up and pull my eyebrows back into place. We've done many of the things you suggested -- boy saints are just about as easy. Old Testament saints are fun, too -- we had a beautiful lion mask, so one year we had Daniel (pillow case with arm cut out & belt, nondescript pants under for warmth, sandles) and his trusty non-prophet eating lion friend!

LeeAnn said...

I have to admit, my mouse hovered over the "submit order" button for a good twenty minutes or so. But then I backed away from the laptop and realized I would be spending half a month's grocery budget on rarely worn, however lovely, costumes. And that I would want to hide the receipt from my husband. Never a good thing.

When I was little, Halloween costumes were either do-it-yourself or came in boxes with plastic masks and plastic jumpsuits/dresses. I have some plastic tablecloths left over from VBS, I may try stapling those for a cheap, throwaway costume that will look good for the night...and then it's gone.
--I'm Little Red Hen on Dreher's blog.

Maria said...

Re: the Spirit of Vatican II outfit...I thought we were supposed be dressing as saints, not demons. :)

Deirdre Mundy said...

ooh... instead of fortitude, how about a two-person costume...

Joshua and the walls of Jericho!!!

The marching around, tumbling down action would be truly hyperiffic!

(I'll have to try that once my kids are a bit older.)

JennGM said...

I totally concur! To me, the creativity of making the costume is half the fun, even if it's last minute tying on the toga sheet for St. Augustine.

Shelly said...

I use stitch-witchery [iron-on, no-sew seams] and lots of sheets, fabric and/or pillow cases [cut the sides open and put a hole in the middle - viola [!] nice tunic over a robe!

Lisa said...

Amen to this! We usually sew up one "real" costume a year, which some lucky duck gets to use, then it's added to our All Saint's Day trunk for future years. We've been doing this for 20 years now, so we have a pretty durn good selection for everyone now.

But, you're right, there's no way we could afford to actually BUY costumes for our crowd ~ and it's not worth the stress of sewing everyone a new one every year. Pillowcases, black fabric and pins can work wonders!