Adventures in Low-Cost Costuming

Creating Purim costumes without spending the college fund.

Originally published March 18, 2011

Low Cost Costuming 1

On Saturday night and Sunday, Michael and I will be celebrating the Jewish holiday of Purim, commemorating the victory against the plot of Haman as told in the biblical book of Esther. One tradition for this holiday is the wearing of costumes. Last year, . But this year, we wanted to do something different. (For one thing, Muffin and Squeaker have outgrown their astronaut uniforms.)

Most years I don’t think about Purim until about a month before the holiday, as I am not much of a costume wearer. Usually I just wear some sort of silly hat and call it sufficient. But we wanted to do something more elaborate and fun for Muffin and Squeaker. Starting at Rosh HaShannah, in the back of my mind I was contemplating Purim costumes for the girls. As luck would have it, in early October the ideas for the costumes came to us.

See, Muffin has an outfit for wearing to synagogue on the Sabbath that is a black shirt with a black, pink and white jumper over it. And in early October, one of the first times she wore the outfit, the weather was cool enough that I paired it with a set of black leggings. When I took the jumper off at the end of the day, there was Muffin sitting on the diaper table in all black. “Look,” I said to Michael, “Ninja Muffin!” “That should be her Purim costume,” Michael responded. From there, Squeaker’s costume was obvious, at least to us—following the Internet meme, where there is a ninja, there must be a pirate. Ninja Muffin and Pirate Squeaker! While the origins of “Pirates vs. Ninjas” is murky, the idea seems to go back at least as far as 2003.

So with the costumes at least minimally conceptualized, I set about trying to design them. I had a number of constraints, including time and money. I didn’t have a huge amount of free time to devote to figuring out a pirate costume, and since I am currently unemployed, we’re not in a position to spend a lot of money on a costume that Squeaker will outgrow before next year. I figured I would make her costume. However, searching for the one thing I could not figure out how to make myself—a pirate hat—I found an inexpensive full pirate costume that was just the right size for Squeaker.

Low Cost Costuming 2

With the basics of the costumes squared away, I started pondering accessories. What does a pirate need? Well, a cutlass, but I wasn’t about to arm my child. So what else does a pirate need? A parrot, of course! Since I am a knitter with a significant yarn stash, I looked through my pattern resources and found a parrot pattern. But what to do about Ninja Muffin? Ninja accessories—nunchucks and throwing stars—are not particularly child-safe. However, on a whim I searched online for patterns for ninja accessories and found patterns for knitted nunchucks and throwing stars. Never one to turn down a knitting challenge, I decided to take on the project. The pattern assumed the accessories were for adults and therefore called for wooden dowels in the handles of the nunchucks, but after a fun discussion with a salesperson at on Beacon Street, I settled on lightweight vinyl tubing to stiffen the handles. I also knit a black balaclava for Muffin, though it is unclear whether or not she will be willing to wear it (she was highly resistant during our pre-Purim photo shoot).

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In the end, I was happy with the low-cost way in which we were able to create interesting costumes for the girls. In all, the money spent specifically on the Purim costumes came to under $15, proving to me that in the pursuit of low-cost costumes, the best resource is creativity.

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This week’s column is written by Nomi S. Burstein.

About this column: The adventures of two Brookline parents and their twin daughters, Muffin and Squeaker. This column originally appeared on the Brookline Patch website. Copyright 2011 by Brookline Patch.

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