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The real Halloween costume contest: Homemade vs. store-bought

Heidi Treuenfels made her son's robot costume for Halloween last year.
Heidi Treuenfels made her son's robot costume for Halloween last year. (Courtesy Heidi Treuenfels)

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By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 28, 2010; 5:20 PM

Sarah Palin will certainly haunt us again. And Lady Gaga is expected to be ubiquitous. Perhaps a few dads will feel clever pairing a Strasburg jersey and an arm sling.

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The real newshounds - or simply the grandest procrastinators - will have full beards, rolling suitcases bristling with faux explosives and a Metro card (no suicide bomber would invest in SmarTrip, natch).

Those kinds of Halloween costumes rule Washington's adults and high school students, the do-it-yourself scramble to be clever and play off the news.

But when it comes to little kids, the days of McCall's patterns and cardboard box costumes are fading fast. The debit card is increasingly edging out the Singer and the glue gun.

"Really, who has the time for that?" Rita Monner asked me, as her 5-year-old Darth Vader (40 bucks at Target) avoided the girls bouncing around in their $30 princess costumes.

"Store bought? Just about all of them, I think," she said, surveying the Brownie troop members preparing to walk in the Vienna Halloween parade Wednesday night.

Among the hundreds of kids strutting their stuff, there was a flock of princesses, a Vampira, a couple of Indians, a witch doctor (online-purchased doctor's costume and drugstore pointy hat).

"At some point, you just decide: 'This is easier.' But you've gotta work to make it economical," said Erin Kane of Vienna, mother to one phantom and one cat.

I found 10-year-old swimming skeleton twins - skeleton outfits topped with Speedo racing suits, latex caps and goggles.

"We kind of put it together," said Kim Buckingham of Great Falls. "But we did buy the skeleton suits online." Points for creative assembly.

There were others, I'm sure, but I found just one truly homemade, start-from-scratch costume: A 5-year-old werewolf cheerleader with a gorgeous, pink sequined outfit, meticulously sewn couture.

"It's my sister. She doesn't have kids, so she spends a lot of time making these," said dad Greg Schmidt, who on this night was a zombie hockey player (that jersey again).

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