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Making Homemade Halloween Costumes COVID-19 Friendly

Halloween festivities in 2020 are sure to be different than they were in the past. Keeping safety in mind, Professor Rayna Dexter shares some tips on making the perfect costume.

By Mia Mercer ‘23

Photo of Pumpkin with mask on.

Professor Rayna Dexter emphasizes the importance of being safe while celebrating Halloween.

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, many traditions and everyday experiences have been forced to change, and Halloween is no exception. 

In order for people to participate in festivities while remaining safe in the midst of a pandemic, Rayna Dexter, an instructional assistant professor in the Department of Performance Studies at Texas A&M University, shares some helpful suggestions. By providing guided tips and tricks, Dexter uses her area of expertise to help individuals create COVID-19 friendly, homemade Halloween costumes just in time for October 31. 

“I am definitely an advocate for following the safety regulations, and I don’t think that this is a time for us to be having Halloween parties,” Dexter said. “However, I think it’s really important for us to stay socially connected and to find moments of joy in a year that is really hard, and making Halloween costumes is a great way to do just that.”

Dexter has been making costumes for almost 20 years. Her passion for it began after taking a costume design course in college, and now she teaches and supervises students at Texas A&M and works for theater companies around Bryan-College Station.

“I just fell in love with it,” Dexter said. “Now, I work on projects with my students and work professionally for productions to shop, build, do costume fittings with actors, manage alterations, and go into dress rehearsals.” 

While Halloween is certain to be different this year, Dexter believes that it can still be celebrated in a safe way—like making face masks part of the costume.

“Instead of putting makeup on the bottom half of your face, you can use your mask,” Dexter said. “You could do the Joker’s smile; you could be a vampire and draw on vampire’s teeth; or you could do a skeleton smile on the mask.”

The ideas don’t stop there. 

“If you just have a white cotton mask, you could draw whatever you wanted on it. Animal noses would be really cute, and it would be funny to attach fake beards and mustaches to the masks,” Dexter said. “Also, how easy would it be for a bandit, cowboy, or ninja costume to have a simple bandana? Just think of the things you could dress up as that already require you to cover your face.”

Photo of masks with festive character smiles.

Making your mask coordinate with your costume is easier than you might thank, said professor Rayna Dexter.

Although buying costumes seems like an easier choice, oftentimes people are paying more for a low-quality product. Dexter suggests looking for things you already have and thinking about how you could use that first. 

“Halloween costumes tend to be hot and sticky polyester, and that doesn’t feel good to wear,” Dexter said. “Sometimes it’s easier to find items of clothing you own that you can adapt, because if you’re going to put time into something, you wouldn’t want to wear it for just one night.”

Dexter usually goes to local fabric stores to purchase materials, but she likes to upcycle whenever she can. As an advocate for going green, Dexter and her students have participated in many community service projects, creating gifts for local shelters. When thinking about costume-making, she suggests going through old clothes for inspiration.

“If you don’t know what you want to be, look at what you would have donated or thrown away and think ‘what can I make out of this?'” Dexter said. “Try to use second-hand things, reuse stuff you would have thrown away, and avoid buying new one-use items. That’s the Halloween practice that I think we should all adopt.”

This year, Dexter is creating an angel costume for her six-year-old daughter. 

“She spends months figuring out what she wants to be. I enjoy making her costumes and trying to figure out how I can make something fun and also durable,” Dexter said. “And of course I’m going to make her wear a mask to match her dress.”

The pandemic has been a stumbling block for many people, but like all problems, there are ways to work around it. This Halloween, remember to practice social distancing and other safety habits, but don’t let masks ruin your plans. 

“There’s absolutely a way to participate in Halloween safely,” professor Dexter said. “And presenting yourself with a creative challenge can be fruitful.” 

How can You Celebrate Halloween Safely this Year?

Photo of kid dressed up as ghost.

Social distanced trick-or-treating can still be possible as long as people follow CDC safety guidelines.

You’ve got your costume idea. Now what? 

Although COVID-19 is going to change how people go about celebrating Halloween, Dexter provided ideas for how to safely participate in festivities. Whether staying indoors or going outside, here is a list of activities that provide agreeable alternatives to celebrating the spookiest night of the year. 

Social Distanced Trick-or-Treating
Rather than running up to ring the doorbell or knocking on every door in the neighborhood, encourage neighbors to set out bowls of candy on the porch or at the end of the driveway to avoid close contact with each other.

“Trick or treating socially distanced is totally possible,” Dexter said. “Putting bowls of candy at the end of the driveway is just one example of how to do this.”

Have a Socially Distanced Block Party 
Much like how people spent Labor Day weekend or the Fourth of July, this Halloween, look into socially distanced block parties. Keeping in mind the 10 person maximum, get a few neighbors together and pull out lawn chairs six feet apart. Except for when eating or drinking, wear a mask and hang out, while watching trick or treaters grab from a bowl of candy you might have left out!

“Be outside, stay in small groups, and wear your mask,” professor Dexter said. 

Enter an Online Halloween Costume Contest 
If you decided to create the perfect costume and you want to share your creation, do as Dexter said, and look into uploading your work to online platforms! Even if contests aren’t your forte, there are plenty of online activities where people can promote their hard work and get connected from the safety of their homes. 

“If you do isolate or have to be isolated, participate in an online costume contest!” Dexter said. “You can still do something creative and share that online.”

Get Creative
Not everyone enjoys or is interested in the same things. Some people may not want to go trick or treating or feel comfortable getting together in a small gathering or posting their work online. Instead, they may find staying home and carving pumpkins to be more enjoyable, or making fall foods and watching scary movies all day. Continue to think outside the box and come up with plans you find enjoyable. Don’t let COVID-19 spoil the fun!

“There are lots of things you can do while staying safe,” Dexter said. “Sometimes you just have to get creative with the possibilities.”