A tale of DIY Halloweens

Left: 1st photographed Halloween  Right: Nick & I in thrifted and altered costume pieces (can you spot Abu?)

Last night, my mom dug out a photo from almost two decades ago. I’ve never been a fan of Halloween, and this photo kind of explains why. As a child, I remember scrounging around the house before October 31st, picking up bits and pieces for an ensemble. That year, I scored an amazing cardboard crown from a cereal box, procured some gold tinsel, and found a floaty scarf. I remember assembling all the pieces over my best dress and twirling around, feeling like a princess. That is…until I got to school and was surrounded by classmates decked-out in elaborate, purchased costumes, asking me what I was supposed to be.

Although some tears may have been shed back then, I look at this photo so fondly now. It embodies the spirit of making the most out of what you have, despite not having very much. I’d like to believe that spirit encourages me to be more prudent and resourceful with my wardrobe as an adult, even if times have changed.

On a lighter note – I can’t remember the last time I got dressed up for Halloween since Jasmine, but this year my friend Khatu convinced me to be her other half. Inspired by this film, she whipped up two incredible costumes and painted both of our faces. Talk about embodying the DIY spirit!


I had a stressful month at work, so Khatu picked up my supplies and kindly made both costumes. It worked out for the best, because there would’ve been some severe differences in quality had we each made our own. Her attention to detail -from the boning in the corsets (inserted wire and lined it with felt for comfort), the feathers and studs, the crown made out of hot glue, the wreath hoops to keep the tutus stiff- blew me away.


Below left:
parading around Times Square. Below right: While at a club, we met the sweetest ladies visiting from San Francisco who happen to be readers! Therese, Lushan and Patrice – it was so great chatting with you guys.

Switching roles on night #2 (although I’m missing the glowering eye effect):
Last but definitely not least, thank you everyone for your wellwishes in regard to hurricane Sandy. MA did not get the brunt of it, but my thoughts go out to those who live in the affected areas, and hope you guys have a speedy & safe recovery.
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  1. eliz wrote:

    It was a great movie to dress up after..I seen many black swan costumes before..non like yours! She did a great job! You guys look marvelous!

    Posted 11.4.12 Reply
  2. wow! this is amazing! both of you look stunning and Khatu is REALLY talented 🙂 the costumes look better than store-bought ones!

    Posted 11.3.12 Reply
  3. What fond memories of childhood and appreciating what you got! It just takes a while, a decade or two, to realize it ;). Great costumes, Khatu, and hope you guys won!

    Posted 11.2.12 Reply
  4. Andrea Lam wrote:

    ME TOO!!!

    Posted 11.2.12 Reply
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    I think poor people are made to feel ashamed of their experiences so I commend and thank you for sharing our story. As a daughter of a single parent, money was always tight. I could never afford a halloween costume and I remember one year my friend's mom realized this and let me borrow one of her daughter's old costumes which I was very grateful for. So thanks for reminding me of this experience.

    Today, I think I buy expensive goods and freely spend to compensate for the things I could never afford and because I don't want people to know my history. But it's good to remember that these experiences have made us strong and shaped us to be the people we are today.

    Posted 11.1.12 Reply
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    Amazing costumes!

    Posted 11.1.12 Reply
  7. Jackie wrote:

    I saw those on your Instagram! You two looked awesome! I love how you switched outfits later on. Happy (belated) Halloween! Philly didn't get the worst of the storm either, but I was without power from Monday afternoon until yesterday 🙁

    Posted 11.1.12 Reply
  8. OMG you both look fabulous and Khatu did an excellent job with the costumes. Very talented indeed. Love the eye make up as well.


    Posted 11.1.12 Reply
  9. Anonymous wrote:

    me too!!

    Posted 11.1.12 Reply
  10. Lien wrote:

    This post really tugged on some heartstrings… Back in grade school, I would wear Payless tennis shoes to school and a few of my classmates would tease and make comments regarding how it was cheap and where "poor" families shopped. Of course, I couldn't match those rude comments with something like "Well, where are YOUR shoes from?" because quite frankly, they were all name-brands that you could purchase from a retailer so I just tried my hardest to hold back the tears. In retrospect, humble beginnings are probably the best experiences our parents could have given us… And while it may not have been the case then, I am really grateful for those experiences and what it has taught me.

    On a lighter note, you and Khatu look absolutely beautiful! I like how you girls put forward a different "couples costumes" than what is usually expected.

    Posted 11.1.12 Reply
  11. Olyvia wrote:

    Khatu is amazing! The costumes look beautiful! Being super petite, finding cute costumes that fit are hard too! I'm blown away by Khatu's skills, for the outfits fit you both so wonderfully! I enjoyed this post! The pic of you and Nick made me laugh and your childhood pic is so sweet!

    Posted 11.1.12 Reply
  12. wow, your Halloween costumes have always been amazing, but your Black Swan duo blew me away! I loved hearing your story about your early costume memories – my situation was similar as a child, but I am happy to have cultivated a DIY spirit in myself from a young age (DIY'd my Little Mermaid costume this year too – on my blog today!)

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  13. Anonymous wrote:

    I'm a lurker on your blog but I have to come out and say this post really touched me, and it proves you're a class above other bloggers out there. My poverty-stricken childhood was full of embarrassing Halloweens where I wore the same cheap, bargain basement costume for years, while the other kids had fancy pretty costumes from the nice stores. One year I was so embarrassed that I decided I would rather pretend I didn't have a costume, and my teacher painted my face instead. These experiences do shape us and I am glad that you shared your own. I have always admired your blog for your honesty, thoughtfulness and frugality in your purchases and spending habits. You can tell many bloggers out there are vapid from their posts, and frankly don't know how to put two words together. This post was eloquent, and emotional for me. Through hard work and ambition I have seen successes and experienced things I never dreamed of. But every now and then I still feel like that little girl with the bad costume who doesn't fit in. Thank you for suggesting that it might not be a bad thing to be reminded of that.

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  14. Stunning costumes !

    Kate xo petite-adventures.blogspot.ca

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  15. Erin wrote:

    Your Jasmine costume is awesome!


    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  16. newpetite wrote:

    Ive always been a witch with a hat and black dress! You both look lovely and thats amazing DIY Khatu!

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  17. Anonymous wrote:

    Exactly! I thought it was Wendy for a second when I was just scrolling through the pictures.

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  18. I saw your costumes on IG over the weekend and LOVED them. I'm amazed at Khatu's skills! It looked like you two had a great time.

    I too, dreaded the costume part of Halloween. My sister and I were just reminiscing the other day with my daughter about how we had to make our own. She said that for years she used a black garbage bag and just came up with a different 'character' with the bag each year until a teacher realized it and gave her a real costume. I didn't remember that, but I do remember that I had some thrown together costumes too. The one I remember the most was Cleopatra. I thought I was so creative making a headpiece out of tin foil! lol But I did it so I could get the candy! Haha.

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  19. omg i love the costumes Jean! the old ones too. I remember when I was younger we didnt have money to buy fancy costumes so I always felt so left out not having the best outfits. I guess like Cee said..our childhood experiences def shapes us today. You two are stunning!

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  20. grace wrote:

    Wow, I so need to take a sewing class! Those costumes look professionally made! I saw the pics over on Facebook, but WOW….

    and I love your little Halloween story – love how prudent and resourceful you are!

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  21. Christie wrote:

    Such a lovely costume!!!! You guys rocked the costume and are so creative for making your own.



    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  22. Cee wrote:

    I won't lie, I saw your 1996 photo and thought to myself, "Wolverine, cheerleader, and… girl with cape?" But really, Jean, you couldn't have said it any better. Our childhood experiences are what shapes us into the people we are today, so thank you for sharing with us 🙂

    I LOVED seeing both you and Khatu's Halloween photos on IG over the weekend, and am glad to see a higher res version now. The costumes are so amazingly creative and you two pull it off so well. It's hard to say who makes a better black swan/white swan, so it's only fitting that you each got to be both for a night.

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  23. You girls are gorgeous! Khatu did such a brilliant job. I would never have guessed they were "homemade".

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  24. Sabrina wrote:

    Oh Jean, you and Khatu look AMAZING beyond words! I was the Black Swan last year (and kept yelling out "IT'S MY TURN"/"I'M THE SWAN QUEEN," haha) but honestly, it's nowhere near as magnificent as those costumes! And I'm kind of corny in that I love matching couples costumes, so I love your Jasmine and Nick's Aladdin. 🙂


    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  25. Seriously jaw-droppingly fantastic DIY – can't believe that crown was made from hot glue!!! You both look beautiful and I love that you switched costumes the next night 🙂

    I remember my first and only kid costume purchased from the store was She-Ra, Princess of Power. I wore that thing year after year until it wouldn't fit 🙂 Hope you recover quickly from your cold. Both kiddos have it here too.

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  26. Wow you ladies look fabulous! I thought you look like an angel in the white swan outfit but I was also blown away when you wore the black swan! Great job pulling both looks off flawlessly love and WOW, Khatu is just so talented. I need a friend who can sew. 🙂 Love you both!

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  27. Ping wrote:

    i love the costumes khatu made!! you guys look fab.
    the costume of you and nick made me LOL! nick really looks like Aladdin. i too was jasmine once (in grade school), but didn't have a magic carpet like you or Aladdin by my side. i also remember my mom made my wear a tank under to cover my belly. HAHAHA!

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  28. Such amazing costumes, she did a wonderful job! You both look stunning. Hope you two had a blast! Happy Halloween!

    xo, Yi-chia

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  29. Such a cute post! I completely understand how you feel about cheap DIY costumes during childhood. I think I worn the same felt-made cat ears for years in elementary and junior high. Khatu's costumes are amazing!! The eye makeup is also very well done! Looks like you guys had a blast!!

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  30. So fun! You guys took great!

    We're working with pumpkin over at The Glitter Life! http://the-glitter-life.com/2012/10/31/pumpkin-eater/

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  31. gigiofca wrote:

    The diy spirit is what Halloween should be. You were on the right track! I love the swan costumes. Khatu did an excellent job and I love your heels for en pointe 😉

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  32. Vivian F wrote:

    Lord! I wish I was that talented. Those both look amazing. How much time did it take you all for this? You guys look gorgeous!


    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  33. Rachelle wrote:

    wow! you make a gorgeous swan.

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  34. Aleksandra wrote:

    Amazing Halloween looks !

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  35. Janki wrote:

    reading your post made me smile… I was telling my son all about the old plastic costumes I used the have (with the plastic mask held together by elastic). I remember wishing I had one of those elaborate hand-sewn costumes that other girls had. And, it was always hard for us brown girls to find good costumes– Jasmine, Mulan, and Tiana weren't known then. It was Snow White, Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella. I remember even as a young child always cobbling together a costume since I didn't want to spend money on something.
    Now, as an adult, that DIY spirit has lead to creating really fun birthday parties for my son when other kids just rent a bounce house or play lazer tag.
    Your costumes are both amazing! I'm so impressed how talented you both are: and this isn't even your profession!

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  36. I am a long time lurker, but today I had to come out of hiding to tell you that you were such a lovely little princess! Honestly, the princess costume that you put together is absolutely more adorable than the purchased costumes that the other kids were wearing. I would have been compelled to give you all my candy if you came trick or treating at my door! 🙂

    (The Black Swan outfits are amazing!)

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  37. completely agree about halloween, it was always a holiday that made me feel a little slighted and uncool, but i'm glad you had the chance to rewrite those memories by dressing up with a friend. how sweet that she took all that time to construct both costumes!

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  38. Anonymous wrote:

    In the first photo of u & Khatu, for a moment, I thought I'm looking at Wendy from wendyslookbook.com.

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  39. Angie wrote:

    AMAZING costume, Jean! if you could only tell your younger self that 😉 Ugh I have the same costume-trauma, I was once dressed up as a carrot… and everyone else were princesses and stuff… oh my gosh.

    Love the little Abu, by the way!


    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  40. Suzie Q wrote:

    Wow, you and Khatu look stunning! Khatu did an AMAZING job with the costumes, they're gorgeous. I love how you guys switched costumes in the middle =)

    Suzie Q

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  41. Sarah wrote:

    I felt the exact same way about Halloween growing up!!! You describe it so well. LOVE the black swan costumes.

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  42. m wrote:

    happy halloween! the black swan costumes are amazing. khatu did a great job!

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  43. Carol Li wrote:

    Such lovely costumes. It looks like you had a great time too!


    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  44. Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  45. Meegaa wrote:

    beautiful Halloween look, I personaly don´t like bloody scary looks.

    I would wear it, when we celebrate Halloween.


    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  46. You're so adorable as a princess! I too live by the motto of making the best with what you have – and it's something I try to teach my children as well – in this day and age you can buy anything – but it's much sweeter when you work on something unique.

    The swan costumes are breathtaking! You two look gorgeous – and it's good you got the chance to switch between the two. Khatu's work is amazing – she's so talented – and her makeup is lovely (yours is too!)

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  47. Mary Ann wrote:

    Wow, what fabulous costumes – you two look awesome! And nice "port de bras en avant," haha. 😉

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  48. chloe_e wrote:

    you looked incredible!!!

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  49. Anonymous wrote:

    Your hair color in 2005 suited you very well! Did you make a conscious decision to go back to black hair (which also looks very nice on you), and are you considering any new hair colors in the future?

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  50. happy halloween! you and khatu stole the show and then some! i'm a huge fan of the poofy tulle on both dresses (white swan is so beautiful) and that you switched roles !

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply

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