Tag Archives: costumery

Welcome to Hogwarts

For all my kvetching about small town living, one of the best things to come out of our being here so long is that we’ve become good friends with some people who went to my high school. I was friendly with Karen (a class behind me) and while I knew who he was, her now-husband Andriy was an exchange student from Ukraine and I don’t know that I ever had a conversation with him back then. We randomly saw Karen and her sister and nephew in a mall in the Denver suburbs a few years ago, and since then we’d connected on Facebook, but it wasn’t until we moved to Cloverdale that I really had a chance to get to know either of them as adults.

Luckily, not long after we moved here I suggested that we hang out one evening, and the four of us hit it off. As it turns out, we’re all nerds and we all like playing games and we have quite a bit else in common, and in the months since we’ve been here we’ve spent quite a few nights playing games (the four of us), playing D&D (Dan and Andriy), and being game widows (Karen and me). Early this summer, Karen mentioned she planned to have a Harry Potter-themed party, either for the movie premiere or for her birthday. Their annual Ukraine trip in June pushed the timing back to Karen’s birthday in August, but that just gave everyone more time to prepare for the big event.

Dan made this for Karen's party

Karen spent MONTHS researching, re-reading the books, playing around on the Harry Potter Wiki, re-watching the movies. She spent many weeks planning food, activities, games, props, and decor. She went ALL OUT for this party, and I was tickled when the owl arrived in our mailbox, inviting us to be students at Hogwarts for an evening (appropriate dress required!) We’d had plenty of advance notice, and so I was finally able to plan and put together the costume I’d wanted to do both last fall and this most recent July for the midnight screenings of HP7.1 and HP7.2, but didn’t have the time.

Nagini, locket, ring, diadem, diary, cup

Internet, you should know by now that I can’t resist a good costume party theme. I went to Karen’s Harry Potter party dressed as all seven Horcruxes.

Can you spot all 7?

I won’t spoil anything for people who haven’t read the series or seen the movies and still plan to do so, but these seven things are a big part of the plots of the final two books, so read the next few paragraphs and view the photos at your own risk.

One of the most challenging things about this costume concept was that I knew we couldn’t afford to spend any money. So I had to be creative and use materials we had to put together something I thought would live up to my own standards. When we saw HP7.2 in July, for example, my sister and her friend dressed as the ring and the locket, and both costumes used this shiny gold paper stuff. So last weekend when we went down to the Bay Area to attend a garden party at Leah and Simon’s house, we stopped at my sister’s on the way so I could borrow a piece of their shiny gold paper, which I used for three of my Horcruxes: the cup, locket, and the eyes for Nagini. I cut up an old t-shirt, pulled stuffing out of an old pillow, used legs from a decade-old pair of green tights and a nearly-that-old pair of green fishnets. I dug a goblet out of one of our boxes in the garage, used old fimo leftover from making our cake toppers for the basilisk fang, and cut a piece of linen from a pair of pants that developed holes before I moved to Colorado. Sometimes I wonder why I keep so much junk, and then an occasion like this happens and I’m able to put together a neat costume without spending a dime. Sometimes it pays to be a packrat.


Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem was made possible by a birthday gift of a tiara from Leah and Simon for my 31st birthday. I had a loose blue stone with a small ring on the end from some ancient family costume jewelry, and at first I thought of hot gluing it to the tiara, but then I had the genius idea of using a blue post earring, and put the post through the ring, thereby adding TWO blue shiny bits to the tiara to make it more Ravenclaw-ish.



Nagini was the aforementioned tights and fishnets, gold paper with pupil slits, stuffed with a piece of baling wire and some old pillow stuffing. I sewed it all up and she hung down my back and under my belt, peeking over my shoulder.


Salazar Slytherin’s locket is actually an evil eye charm my sister brought back from Greece several years ago. Dan used it for his Mad-Eye Moody costume last fall, and here I was able to repurpose it by covering it with the gold foil and drawing an S using a green sharpie. I added a bit of gold wire to the top and strung it on a chain.


Helga Hufflepuff’s cup was an old goblet I have from I can’t even remember why or where, and I used the gold paper to add a letter H. At the party, I tried drinking out of the cup, and water tasted OK, but the whiskey and coke I had in it tasted weird so I stopped.

I'm all out of S-adjectives.

Marvolo Gaunt’s ring set with the Resurrection Stone was gold wire I bought last fall to make my Cleopatra costume and a flat glass marble. The original marble was a seafoam green, so I used blue nail polish to paint the back, making it a murky color, and used silver nail polish to paint the Deathly Hallows symbol on the front, and hot glued the marble to the ring base.

Shabby. But still kind of cool.

My biggest triumph, I think, was Tom Riddle’s diary. I made the basilisk fang out of polymer clay leftover from when Dan made our wedding cake toppers, and the book was some cardboard, some scrap paper, a piece of linen cut from old pants colored with a sharpie, and a couple of snips off a piece of gold rickrack from the Cleopatra costume. It was hot glued together and then I stabbed the fang through the diary and hot glued the whole contraption to one of Dan’s old t-shirts on which I’d already cut the neck and sleeves.


So! Costumes assembled and donned, we headed over to Karen and Andriy’s house. When we got there, we were welcomed to Hogwarts and given free reign of the house and grounds to explore. Karen did a fantastic job of coming up with activity ideas that appealed to both kids and adults, including entrance exams for people less-than-familiar with the wizarding world, OWLs and NEWTs for more hardcore HP fans, and each room or area a different classroom or theme from the books. There was a treasure hunt for hidden horcruxes and other items important to the story, and a “sniff the potion ingredient” guessing game. There was a potion-mixing station for kids (I am told it was mostly colored sugars and different sodas), a potion-mixing station for adults (tasty adult beverages), and a Quidditch pitch. Dan and I collaborated on our OWLs and NEWTs and I spent a fair amount of time both inside and out, searching for the horcruxes.

We contributed a few of these bottles to the cause

There are days I could use a good wit sharpening.

One of the horcruxes in the graveyard

One of the ingredients smelled like dirty feet, but I'm betting that's not what was in the bottle

Not pictured: NEWTs

The best part of the party, however, was seeing the gleeful grins on Karen’s face as her friends and family had fun participating in all of the events and socializing with one another. Everyone was amazed at the sheer volume of work that had gone into transforming every room in their house and a fair amount of their yard into Hogwarts, and every person who came seemed to have a great time. The kids played Quidditch, the adults mixed potions, and I was thrilled to be amongst friendly people who were all at least a little nerdy (even if they weren’t actually Harry Potter nerds). Prizes were awarded to top scorers in the various games and contests, and Karen opened presents, and we all ate cake and sat around a bonfire.


Weasley twins and a Hogwarts student play Quidditch

Professor Gilderoy Lockhart and a Weasley throw the water balloon bludgers

At Karen’s party, I got to reconnect with an old high school friend (we took driver’s training together, and I was delighted to discover that she had the exact same sense of humor). I got to see a couple of people who were younger siblings of people I knew, hadn’t seen since they were teenagers, and learned they had turned into awesome people. And I met a couple of new people who I feel could become really good friends. Karen and Andriy know a lot of good folks, and I felt so touched to be included with such a fantastic group, everyone geeking out a little, one guy with four-foot-long dreads and one girl in skinny jeans and one woman who’d named her daughter the same thing we’d name a hypothetical daughter, and one guy who didn’t come in costume but he sure did have a great time with the OWLs and NEWTs even though nobody knew he was a Harry Potter fan. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon and evening.


And now I remember why I am too old for midnight movies

I has a hat!

Dan gave his coat to Laurel. What a nice brother-in-law!

A couple of years ago, my sisters and a few of their friends dressed up for the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Photos of Laurel as the Fat Lady in the portrait, Lindsey as Professor Trelawney, Lissa as Tonks and Curtis as Lupin showed up in my Facebook feed, and I looked at each one hungrily, a little sad that I wouldn’t have been able to participate with them (even had they invited me) since I was so far away.

On Halloween this year (and yes, I do still have Halloween photos that haven’t been shared yet), we were at Lissa and Curtis’s party, and the subject of dressing up for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1 (aka HP7.1.) Dan and I were invited to join the gang to dress up and attend the 12:01 AM showing. When we got home from the weekend, I started brainstorming, trying to come up with a couple of good costume ideas that wouldn’t duplicate any of the costumes already being worn and wouldn’t involve buying anything. I thought and thought and, after some inspiration from my yarn stash, I came up with two ideas: I could knit a scarf with all of the house colors, and one of us could be Hogwarts; and we had or could easily make enough items that the other of us could be the Horcruxes.

Dan liked the ideas, and I set about knitting myself a 4-house scarf. Luckily, I already had yarn in all the necessary colors. With iron-on transfers we already had, I was able to put the basic house crest on a tank top. And Dan printed a few pages with grayscale photograph of stone wall, and I put together a turret hat. Voila, Hogwarts! At the last minute, however, while we were still trying to assemble the horcrux costume, Dan changed his mind and decided to be Mad-Eye Moody, which was easy enough to put together and worked out just fine.

We drove south, had dinner with our friend Brian, and put on our costumes, then headed over to the theater in Jack London Square in Oakland. Laurel and a couple of her friends were already there; Professor Trelawney¬† made a repeat appearance, but Laurel had decided to be the Golden Snitch and another friend was Dobby the House Elf. I guess Lissa and Curtis hadn’t managed to get tickets somehow, or maybe they had just decided they were too old for midnight movies, but we were later joined by a Moaning Myrtle, and we all sat or stood on the sidewalk in the chilly November night air, joking and laughing and stamping our feet. I became Laurel’s blanket, since as the snitch she was bare-armed with a pillow stuffed down the front of her shiny gold dress (to be more round), and I was thoroughly glad that both Dan and I had decided on costumes that would be warm. Lots of silly photos were taken, although I accidentally left my camera at Brian’s house and so I don’t have any of them other than the one above, taken with Laurel’s iphone and sent to my Facebook wall.

I knew that I was going to have a hard time staying up late enough to begin watching the movie, let alone stay awake through the whole thing. I had some diet coke with my dinner, something I almost never do, and had some regular coke while we were waiting in line. It made me jittery, but I decided that was better than falling asleep halfway through the movie. They finally let us in to the theater at around 11 PM, and we spent the last hour of our wait shedding layers and playing a Harry Potter trivia version of 20 questions. Thanks to all the caffeine I’d consumed, I peed four times during that hour while we were waiting. But at least I wasn’t sleepy!

At long last, the previews and commercials started, while the audience reacted to whatever was on the screen (my favorite part was when everybody boo’d when Glen Beck’s visage showed up). Yet at the instant it was clear the movie was starting, a hush came over the theater.

While we’d been waiting in line, and while we were in the theater waiting for the movie to begin, I had noticed that Dan and I were probably the oldest people in the audience. Most of the moviegoers looked to be college-age (in fact, most of them seemed to be wearing Cal Bears paraphernalia), some even younger, and the rest in their early to mid-20s. These were all kids who had grown up with Harry Potter; for most of them, I am guessing, there was no world WITHOUT, at the very least, the Harry Potter books, and some, I’m sure, had been Harry Potter’s age or younger when the first movie came out in 2001. These were the true hardcore fan base, the first generation of kids who had been KIDS at the beginning of the Harry Potter phenomenon. In other words, some of them were probably half my age. I was vaguely aware of the Harry Potter books during college, which is when they first started coming out, and I remember seeing someone reading the fourth book while I was traveling in Europe after graduation, but I don’t think I started reading them until 2001 or so.

(I don’t plan to review the movie at all, only to say that I liked it far, far more than I’ve liked the last few movies, and I think they made some excellent choices as far as what to keep and what to cut while still maintaining the story. The choice to split the book into two movies might have been profit-driven, but it must have also been a logistical nightmare to try to cram the previous two books into 2.5 hour movies, and the quality of those films really suffered. Splitting Deathly Hallows into two movies was definitely the right thing to do.)

There were moments in the film when the crowd laughed, others where they protested, and a few when everyone spontaneously cheered. After it was over, people milled around the lobby, discussing what they’d just seen with their friends, and I saw several more people in costume (the theater had showed the 12:01 screening on three screens, so there were LOTS of people in that lobby). Dan, Brian and I hugged the rest of the crowd and headed back to the car. I was bleary-eyed and exhausted, and as soon as our bed was inflated I fell asleep.

This morning, I woke up at 9 AM. I’d had about six hours of sleep. And I’ve been a useless, brain-dead husk all day. I don’t blame Lissa and Curtis or other sane people over the age of 25 who had to work today for not attending the midnight screening of HP7.1, because holy hell, if I’d had to get up at 6 AM to go to work I would not have been able to function. It’s been over 10 years since I’ve gone to any sort of midnight movie…and I’m not sure I’ll ever do it again. I’m too old to bounce back after a night like last night well enough to function at a job the next day, and even a Saturday midnight movie would probably mean I lost an entire Sunday. I had a lot of fun with my sister and her friends, but from now on I’ll leave the premieres to the youngins.

A sneak preview of what we are doing tonight

I decided against the costume that involved wearing a tiara

A green costume

OK, internets, I need your assistance.

Dan and I have been invited to a Springoween party – that is, a costume party in the middle of the spring. And the theme? Green. As in, reduce, reuse, recycle. The evite says:

“This is, of course, an interpretive theme so crack open those brains and scramble that sucker ’til it fits. Reduce a sheet to strips and come as a mummy. Reuse a costume or costumes pieced together from Halloweens passed. Recycle someone else’s costume from Halloweens passed. (Cross-dressing is welcome, as always.) Recycle a costume idea not yet suited to another themed party. (Um yeah, that’s a convenient loophole to let in new costumes.) Hell, come as an aluminum can or a compost heap, just Reduce, Reuse and/or Recycle. Just be prepared to explain which. “

So, I had a few ideas for costumes. We’ve got lots of leftover costume pieces from Halloweens (and other costume events) past. And I like the idea of going with something both green (recycled/reused) and green (the color). Here were my thoughts:

Option A: Green Fairy (see: absinthe, Moulin Rouge) I have bits and pieces that could make this work, since I tried to do something similar for Halloween back in…2002? I could make wings out of coat hangers and old holey green tights, and I could carry a flask with absinthe in it. Or make a wand. I’m picturing tattered, fractured. Pros: I’ve got everything I need for it. Con: I’d still need to do some work (making wings, figuring out top part of costume, etc.) to make it happen.

Option B: What better way to recycle a costume than to wear my wedding dress again? It’s got green on it, and I can’t imagine when I’d ever be able to wear it again for anything. I’ve still got my shoes and my necklace. And hell, I could still make those wings. Pros: I get to wear my wedding dress again! Cons: It’s kind of heavy and less open to interpretation, costume wise.

Option C: I do something entirely different that doesn’t involve the color green at all.

So, internet, what should I wear to Springoween? Any ideas I haven’t thought of?

Pumpkins scream in the dead of night

Somehow we got invited to two different Halloween parties this year; one a huge event that was attended by hundreds of people at a Masonic temple, and one that was a house party with a theme of The Future.

The first party was last weekend, and we dressed up in the same costumes we had from my birthday party back in March: the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. Sadly, the party wasn’t as fun as I’d hoped. The most entertaining thing about it was looking at everyone else’s costumes. It was an alcohol-free event, which wasn’t so much a problem as there also wasn’t much to do other than stare at everyone else. There were some pagan rituals and a band played for a little while and some booths were set up in one place where you could buy standard Ren Faire crap. I was impressed with quite a few of the costumes, and there were about 5 other Mad Hatters there. Plus, we found an Alice.

The second party was on Saturday night. We spent some time at the thrift store, got some fabric, some yarn, and some other supplies, and I knitted Dan a cunning hat and sewed myself up a costume. Then, on Saturday, I spent a couple of hours preparing my hair, since I knew the only way I could get curls to stay for more than a few minutes would be zulu knots, something I hadn’t done in years.

Dan made a stencil and painted himself up a Blue Sun tshirt.

I sewed a dress quite a bit like the ones I made for the bridesmaids in our wedding, only I made a long, a-line skirt. My hair was up and curly, I invested in some fake eyelashes and liquid eyeliner, and we went off to the party as Inara Serra and Jayne Cobb from Firefly.

This party was, in a word, awesome. The hosts had spend over a month decorating the entire downstairs of the house, each room in a different theme: the 1950s silver and lights, the post-apocalyptic, when nature takes back over, the mad scientist, the bat room, and (my favorite) the 2001 room, complete with Hal and a monolith in the middle and an animatronic Elvis. Everyone who attended was be-costumed, and there were some mighty impressive ones. The hosts were characters from Alien. Our friends who had invited us dressed as characters from From Dusk Till Dawn. There was a Miss Galaxie 1959, a Buy N Large citizen from Wall-E, Dr. Who, some Terminators, and Dan and I even found some Two By Two Hands of Blue from the same show as our costumes. We had so much fun, especially since all the attendees had made a concerted effort to not only dress up but think of something that went with the theme of the party. Also, the hosts are artists and photographers, and they had a photography studio set up in their basement to take photos of all the attendees. You can see the full set here.

A good time was had by all.

Memories of Halloween Past, Part 2

This week brings a plethora of birthday celebrations, as three of my friends celebrate natal days in this week and my mom’s birthday is today. Dan and I had flowers sent to her at school in honor of her big day. I’d hoped to be able to fly out there for a visit, but a) we’ve spent a ton of dough on trips to CA in the past year and change, and b) I’ve spent the last five weeks traveling so I’d kind of like to stay at home, and c) I only get to see Dan on the weekends so had I gone out I would have gone two weeks without seeing him, essentially. I realize it’s kind of silly considering the first year and a half of our relationship we lived in 2 different STATES and saw each other maybe once a month, but in the past several years have living together I’ve grown accustomed to seeing him all the time.

A blog that I read sometimes had a contest earlier this month for people to send in stories and/or photos of the best or most memorable costumes they’ve ever had. I didn’t see the post in time to send anything (and I couldn’t top the winner anyhow) but it got me thinking about costumes I’ve worn.

When I was little, my mom made my Halloween costume every year. I was a tomato plant, a princess, a clown. One year I don’t remember what I wore but my sister went as a flower in a flower pot (an old lampshade frame covered in brown fabric was the pot) and she won the fire station’s costume contest for her age group. Her prize was a My Little Pony puzzle, and I was So Jealous.

As I got older, my costume ideas got more unusual. In the fifth grade I decided to make my own costume – I was “Over the Rainbow” and drew the Oz characters on a mortar board, wore the most colorful and stripiest clothing I could find, and constructed a rainbow-shaped cardboard hat, painted like the rainbow. I think my dad helped by drawing some birds on cardboard that I cut out and attached to the top.

Unfortunately, the only photographic evidence of this costume that exists is in my fifth grade yearbook. And it’s a b&w photo. Maybe someday I’ll scan it.

In sixth grade, I decided to be Mac Tonight. Not Mac the Knife. Mac Tonight, from the McDonalds commercials with the guy playing the piano who had a moon head. My mom helped make the moon head, and surprisingly, a few people knew who I was. I was a gypsy, a spider, Scarlett O’Hara. In college, my costumes were mostly put together at the last minute and involved lots of makeup. I never did the sexy/slutty thing, though.

Then, in December of 2000, I saw the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas on a big screen re-release. I loved it. I loved Sally in particular. Then and there I decided to grow my hair out so I could be Sally for Halloween of 2001 – and I did! I rented the movie a few times so I could get it just right; I sewed that costume by hand, painted my face blue, dyed my hair red. It was a great costume. Since then, my costumes have been, for the most part, not as exciting. Dan and I dressed as Lucy and Charlie Brown my first Halloween in Colorado, Dan even going so far as to shave his head (save one lock over the forehead). Since then, I’ve been out of town for work most Halloweens so I haven’t gotten much into costuming, save two years ago when I made Dan a Max from Where the Wild Things Are costume and I went as Pippi Longstocking (henna’ing my hair again).

I love costumes, and I love to dress up. The Dorothy costume this year was hand-sewn for my 23rd birthday party (a costume party, natch) and the only new part was the ruby slippers. I think they turned out pretty well, though if I ever intend to wear this costume again I should really get a different blouse. Dorothy-Busting-Out is not the best look.

The question is what Dan and I will do tonight, and tomorrow night. We have a lot of options but haven’t made any decisions about what we will do. There are concerts, parties, pillow fights, and there is a slight possibility we’ll get a few trick-or-treaters, though when they don’t wear costumes I just get kind of pissed off. Because if I’m 29 freaking years old and dressed as Dorothy and you want me to give you some candy, you’re going to have to do better than Crazy Normal Looking Kid Wearing Regular Clothes. I mean, even Adam Sandler was more creative than that.

(Most photos were taken on Sunday after we attended the Obama rally. Dan’s got photos he took at the rally here.)