Picture it: Halloween, 1980, central Ohio. A just-turned-five Kindergartener is thrilled to wear her first elaborate Halloween costume, a beautiful Miss Piggy getup complete with construction-paper ears, ropes of pearl and rhinestone necklaces, and a ruffled chiffon dress. Now, imagine her dejected heartbreak when her grandma insists she wear a proper coat over that costume because Trick or Treat naturally falls on a damp and freezing late-October evening.
When I became a mom, I silently swore to myself that my child’s Halloween fantasies would never get covered up with a puffer or parka, no matter what the weather, so I have devised many, many tricks for keeping my little one warm in her Halloween costumes, no matter how cold the deep autumn weather might get. Today, we’re going to talk about how to keep your little one warm in their Halloween costume, no everyday coat required!
Pretty much any costume a trick-or-treater might request can be made warm enough with the right planning and garments, but there are a few considerations that will make it easier to keep your little one warm in their Halloween costume. Avoid costumes that inherently call for much bare skin—mermaids, Jasmin or Moana, Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show—these are costumes that will work against you and make it much more challenging to ensure your little beggar’s warmth and safety. Help and encourage them to choose a costume that will lend itself to the following tips and tricks. Keep in mind that you can always guide your child into more of a cosplay outfit than a faithful re-creation of a character costume. For example, when my daughter was four and wanted to be Wonder Woman, we specifically chose a little-girl dress with a puffy skirt rather than the iconic (and gorgeous) Linda Carter-as-Wonder Woman 70s iteration of the classic comic book character. It was not only much more appropriate, but it provided the versatility necessary to make the costume warm enough to wear for our local Halloween Parade and Beggars’ Night.
That little Wonder Woman dress I mentioned? It was easy to get a red long-sleeved T-shirt and bright blue girls leggings for my daughter to wear under the costume. It didn’t even feel uncomfortable to her or strike her as odd, since adding leggings or a T-shirt under dresses is something she does all the time, whether it’s for modesty, convenience, or warmth. If your little one wants to be He-Man, put the costume on over a beige sweatsuit. A tiny spider is best dressed in a black sweatshirt and pants before donning his little thorax, abdomen and set of eight legs. Further, any costume that is worn as a sandwich board or a cardboard-box overlay is terrific for cold Trick or Treat evenings, because a kid can wear pretty much anything under those! Adding easy streetwear under costume pieces is one of the most straightforward ways to add warmth to a Halloween costume. Your pint-sized Princess Leia or Ruth Bader Ginsburg can wear warm outfits under those flowing white gowns or judicial robes without disrupting the feel of the costume at all.
The fairy-tale villain Ursula has lavender skin, so wearing opera-length lavender boys gloves would be an easy addition to an Ursula costume. Lots of superheroes wear capes, so if your little superhero’s costume doesn’t include one, you can add one without covering up or wrecking the aesthetic of the costume. Classic Hollywood vampires generally wear capes, but you could line your trick-or-treater’s cape with a warm fleece or faux fur to make it a proper cool-weather cloak. Old West dance hall girls (or Miss Piggy for that matter) can wear a feather boa; they are surprisingly warm! Flappers in 20s-style dresses can wear a (faux) fur coat, and bobby-soxers in poodle skirts can wear cardigans as a natural part of their costumes. A bit of thought about costume additions or simple alterations can go a long way toward keeping little ones warm and safe throughout all the outdoor Halloween festivities they will want to enjoy!
Let’s use my daughter as an example; She wanted to dress as Queen Elsa last Halloween, but she very specifically wanted to dress as Elsa when she becomes the Ice Spirit. This is a fairly skimpy costume, warmth-wise, because, as most parents know far better than we wish, “the cold never bothered her anyway.” For the indoor celebration she attended with her learning pod, my daughter wore the costume exactly as she envisioned. For the outdoor community Halloween celebration, she willingly wore a serious base layer consisting of a nude-colored dancer’s leotard which preserved the bare-shouldered look of Elsa’s dress while providing a thick layer between the cold air and her skin, and Lands’ End Thermaskins long underwear instead of regular leggings. Thermaskins long underwear actually use the body’s natural moisture to create heat, and I felt a lot better about her wearing those under her costume than little capri-length cotton leggings. In a frank use of bribery, we got Elsa’s fancy “travelling boots” for her to wear instead of the bejeweled sandals the Ice Spirit wears, which was exciting enough that verisimilitude was joyfully abandoned. The practical addition of a faux-fur trimmed hooded cloak and elbow-length gloves was readily agreed to, and slipping small hand and foot warmers into the gloves and boots was an option if the temperature dipped as much as it threatened to, although that didn’t come to pass.
This might sound time consuming, but all it really required was a couple of extra minutes online and taking care to order the leotard and Thermaskins she would need anyway in colors that worked with the costume. But the immense happiness it gave me to never have to even suggest covering up her beautiful costume combined with the total peace of mind I felt at sending her out on a cold, drizzly late-October morning to parade in perfect safety and comfort was more than worth it. And it’s not even about us grownups—it’s about the kids, and my daughter’s joy at wearing what was to her the prettiest, most complete costume she could imagine spread to everyone who saw her. Halloween is the Super Bowl of kiddom, and if we grownups can make it extra special and fun, why not go the extra mile?
Think of little Miss Piggy, circa 1980, so sad that her fancy dress and sparkly necklaces were covered with a dull green hand-me-down coat from the mid-70s, and plan instead to keep your little one warm in their Halloween costume with the clever use of streetwear, accessories and a real cold-weather gear base layer if necessary. The photos will be adorable, you will feel like the coolest, most understanding grown-up ever, your little one will be thrilled with how they look, and everyone will be happy that the trick-or-treater in question will be completely safe and warm as they tramp through the chilly October air, begging for goodies!