A Halloween Princess Nightmare

A replica of my princess mask, circa 1965.

A replica of my princess mask, circa 1965.

It was Halloween night, 1965. I closed my bedroom door and removed my costume from the box; a delicate, puffy sleeved gown and cheap plastic mask, the kind with cut out almond-shaped eyes and small holes for nostrils. The kind probably considered unsafe by today’s standards, since kids could barely breathe or see very well when wearing them.

The temperatures had dropped, a chillier than usual Halloween night. I slipped the thin gown over my shirt and pants then studied the mask; a perfect oval face with flaxen hair and a built-in crown.

Tonight I wouldn’t be an ordinary first grader…I’d transform into a stunning princess.

My mother opened the bedroom door and walked in. “It’s cold outside. You need to wear your winter coat.”

“How can I wear a coat with this? It’ll look stupid.”

“Put it under the costume.” My mother tossed the coat on the bed. “Nobody will notice.”

The injustice left me stunned and grasping for a defense. My winter coat, made of a fake, wooly man-made fabric was bulky enough to make me feel like the Hulk and not befitting of a princess.

“I don’t want to. I’ll look fat.” There… I said it. I wasn’t a tiny girl. Not fat. More sturdy, or what the Sears clothing line called “husky.”

Calling this dilemma a nightmare might sound drastic by some standards. But any six-year-old girl’s dream of becoming such a beauty – even if just for one short evening – is nothing to dismiss.

For a few minutes, I argued and pouted. Guess who won? For such a nice woman, my mom could sure dig in her heels.

We canvassed the neighborhood collecting treats. Behind the fake outer smile of my mask, however, I frowned. Instead of feeling like a princess, the bulk of my coat made me feel like a line-backer dressed in drag.

Over forty-five years later, whenever I see a girl dressed as a princess, I remember that Halloween. When I take a second look at the mask (an identical one pictured below), I’m not so sure what the fuss was all about.

Anybody else have a costume story to share?  Favorite costume. Worst costume. A costume malfunction?

19 responses to “A Halloween Princess Nightmare

  1. I grew up in Southern California, so it was usually warm enough on Halloween to wear a sweater under my costume. I loved this holiday even as an adult. Living in Hollywood during grad school gave me tons of opportunities to dress up. For my last party, a friend who was a costume designer, made me a nun’s habit complete with long robes and a white wimple. The back of the costume was black netting. Underneath, I wore a sting bikini, garter belt, black fishnet stockings and red CFM spikes. Um, I won first place in the costume contest. The man who won came as an erect penis. Ah, Hollywood. Such a great place to express yourself.

    • Betsy,
      Holy cow! Great costume! I don’t think I could walk in CFM spikes any more. Good for you! Dare I ask how the man who won made his costume…where my mind is going with it is probably crazier then what he did.
      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Sharon I remember having a similar halloween when my brother (3 years younger than I) and I dressed up at Raggedy Ann and Andy – good thing he was younger.  If he was older it would not have happened I’m sure! 

    Donna Shaw


    • Hi Donna,
      It sounds like an adorable costume, but I’ll bet he’d rather have been a super hero or cowboy. Well, we parents get away with what we can while our kids are too little to protest, right?
      Thanks for sharing!

  3. LOL, Sharon. Great post, but best of all is the memory of those horrible plastic masks. Remember trying to breath and then they’d get all wet and sweaty inside. I too had a few cold Halloweens under my belt but my mother always made me wear the coat on the outside but I could unbutton it when I went to someone’s door 🙂 I was a hippy one year, probably in the early 70’s when I was 11 or 12. I don’t know why, but it was one of my favorite costumes. Happy Halloween.

    • Hi Debbie. Oh yeah, breathing in those was hard. And remember how the lips were kind of sharp? Yes, in my middle school years, I did the hippie costume. Even as an adult I’ve used it. Easy and comfortable. And no horrible mask! Thanks for posting.

  4. For my last costume as a kid, my best friend took metal clothes hangers, twisted them in awesome spirals, added ping pong balls to the tips, covered the works with tin foil, and mounted them to plastic hairbands. I can’t recall the rest of our Martian costumes. I think green garbage bags and lots of green makeup were involved. But I’ll never forget those antennae.

    • Hi Joan! What a great costume. We need more creative, recycling and less prepackaged costumes. It’s amazing what you can put together if you put your mind to it. 🙂 Thanks for posting!

  5. Great post, Sharon! I had a few of those plastic masks during my kid trick or treating career. My favorite costume as a little girl was a southern belle outfit my mother sewed for me. My favorite costume when I was a teenager was the year I dressed up as The Pinball Wizard from the movie Tommy. The last grown up costume party I went to, the hubby and I dressed up as Gomez and Morticia Addams. That was fun. 🙂

    • Hi Maura. What great costumes! With your new skinny self, maybe you should start wearing that Morticia dress around town. I wouldn’t even tempt that costume! Thanks for sharing!

  6. OK, so I’m a day late and a few dollars on the down side. I appreciated reading everyone’s costume ideas. I wondered if the man who won as the erect penis was erect because of Betsy’s outfit?

    I have this weird thing about dressing up. I hope this doesn’t sound too boring but I just like to be myself. Weird enough. For years I’ve gone out as a hippie – long hair, blue jean bell bottoms, white t-shirt, herringbone sports jacket, and bare feet (in other words what I wore every day). When I was in senior in high school, I went out and got my bag filled with treats for those times when I got really outrageously hungry. They came in handy.

    Also – in true Lars form, that same Halloween – I met and fell in love with a girl in a tight black leotard outfit dressed as a cat. She was from another town and I thought I’d never see her again. My heart broke. A year later, I recognized her at college and we lived happily ever after (at least for the time we were together). Ah! Love.

    One more – when I was 5 and my sister, Jude was 4, my mom dressed us up for the Halloween Parade. We won the prize for the best costumes. My mom cut out a big cardboard hearts for the front and back of each of us and sandwiched us in between. She made us really cool crowns out of cardboard with tinfoil. I was the king of hearts and Jude was the queen of hearts. I remember loving being on stage. Sharing with my sister was fun, too.

    So now I’ll be a little early – Happy Holidays and . . . Rock ‘n’ Roll!!!

    • Hi Larry! I really did laugh out loud over your comment on Betsy’s costume…how funny! I’m glad you’ve found your never-ending hippie status to help you out on the costume front, too. Mom sounds pretty creative with those card costumes. I was never that good with my own kids, usually resorting to packaged items. Hope you had a happy halloween! Thanks for posting!

  7. Terri-Lynne DeFino

    Ah, during the storm bruhaha, I missed this. Dang! Another Halloween fun-type thing Sandy ruined. Stupid Sandy.

    My favorite costume as a child? I couldn’t tell you. They all merge into one. I think I was a gypsy almost every year–it was my highest aspiration. My FAVORITE costume is one I donned the first time as an adult, about…maybe eight years ago. Big, black raven wings, a black cape that dragged six feet behind me, black flowy skirt and a maroon bustier bodice. Sometimes I wore horns. Sometimes I wore a feathery garland, and I always carried my super-cool walking stick. What was I? Not a clue. Cool. That’s what I was.

    Except for the last two storm-ridden years, I’ve always dressed up for Halloween, even after my kids no longer did. Truth be told, there was a time I’d wear my raven wings (or one of the two pairs of fairy wings I own) while sitting up on my loft, writing.

    That doesn’t surprise you in the slightest, does it…

  8. Sharon, thanks for letting me re-live the Halloweens of my childhood. I remember the princess with the flimsy gown and plastic princessy face. It was adorable, but I was more tomboyish. Throughout the 8 – 13 years I wore the easiest to make outfits. It seemed like I alternated between 50’s girl, (high pony tail tied with a scarf, a man’s button down shirt and jeans rolled up) or a bum (a roughed up version of the above, except no hair in pony tail). I mostly remember using a pillowcase to gather my candy and walking neighborhoods until the porch lights were turned off, just to be sure I had candy stashes to last me until Christmas:)

    • Hi Kristi…Homemade sure is easier. Love the 50’s girl idea. Easy. I love my Mom, but even she’d admit to not being the craftiest person around, hence the store bought stuff in my younger years. I remember thinking that no matter how much candy you put in those pillowcases, it never felt like enough. I mean, that’s a lot of space to fill!
      Thanks for sharing!

  9. Pingback: A Halloween Princess Nightmare | Musings from the Middle Ages & More

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