From Mary Poppins to Rosie the Riveter, Woodbury local Elizabeth Kriel has designed, thrifted and found DIY Halloween costumes for her daughter Lilly for over five years now, all without touching a sewing machine. "I don’t have any ability to sew, still don’t,” Kriel says. “None of the costumes are a bought pattern.”
Although she’s not an experienced seamstress, Kriel is still creative in her own right. From her position as a marketing manager for Jerry’s Foods to a photography hobby, Kriel’s eye and skill at design still add to the success of her homemade costumes.
“I’ve always loved the dress-up part of Halloween,” Kriel says. While the spooks and haunts of the holiday never much appealed to her, fun costumes have always been a highlight.
Kriel says it was a creative aunt that started the family tradition of creating homemade costumes, a tradition Kriel hopes to pass down to her own kids. “I still have all the costumes,” Kriel says. “My mom saved my costumes—my son has worn a lot of the things my brother had worn when he was little—so I’m hoping to do the same for my kids.”
For Kriel, the thrill of costume creation is twofold; the hunt for the costume itself at various thrift stores around town, and the costs she can cut along the way. “Nothing gets me more excited than finding the perfect piece or finding a piece I can make my own,” Kriel says.
The process of creating DIY Halloween looks can be just as fun as wearing them on the holiday. Whether your little one wants to dress up as something that isn’t available in stores, or you simply enjoy the creative challenge of making something yourself, Kriel shares some of her tips and tricks for creating your own homemade Halloween look.
How to Hallo-win: Elizabeth Kriel’s Guide to Costume Creation
Kriel says that by the start of September, she and Lilly have already decided what Lilly’s costume is going to be. “It changes each year but generally, I give her three or four different options that I think, based on whatever age she is that year, are appropriate and that she thinks are fun,” Kriel says.
Other times, Lilly pitches her own ideas based on something that has captured her imagination that particular year. Whichever way inspiration strikes, Kriel notes that it’s important to let your child have input and be included in the creative process.
Have A Plan
Once Kriel and her daughter have decided on a costume, they start brainstorming what different elements and pieces they need to find. “I definitely [shop] with a costume in mind; I don’t wander, I don’t have time for that, ” Kriel says.
Sometimes Kriel will see something in a shop that sparks inspiration for that year’s costume. Other times she’ll take to Google for ideas; “I’ll brainstorm on the internet and think, ‘Oh, I can get this here,’ or, ‘I need to wait to find something like this piece,’” Kriel says.
Next, Kriel starts visiting local thrift stores like Savers and Goodwill as frequently as possible, often with Lilly tagging along. Not every visit is a success, but the hunt can be part of the fun. “It’s very hit or miss,” Kriel says, “One day it could be there, one day it won’t be or something new will be there instead.”
Usually, Kriel says that finding the elements they’re looking for isn’t very hard. Most thrift stores gear up early for Halloween, she explains, so lots of unique items start appearing on the racks in early autumn.
Along with thrift stores being hit or miss, Kriel notes that she’ll often find something close, but not quite right, while searching store aisles or even the closets of her own home. In these instances, it’s helpful to find creative fixes.
“A good example is that the Mary Poppins hat. It was originally an Easter bonnet in Lilly’s closet,” Kriel says. “We roughed it up to look tattered, like Mary’s, spray painted it black, and added daisies to the side. It was something we already had that could be altered into the perfect costume piece!”
From there, all that’s left for this mother and daughter pair is to scope out the perfect spot for some glamor shots of their current creation. “We’ve ended up in downtown Stillwater with a backdrop as simple as a brick wall or an old front door, ” Kriel says.
For Lilly’s Alice in Wonderland look, the photoshoot was in a little park. For Rosie the Riveter, Kriel found an old brick wall in Spring Lake painted with the American flag. “The costume was awesome, but the photos were absolute perfection,” Kriel says, referring to that backdrop. “The photoshoots are just always something we have fun doing together.”