Growing up my sister and I always had fantastic Halloween costumes. My mom is a pretty excellent seamstress (she even used to make her own jeans) with the creativity and patience needed to whip things up from scratch - she painstakingly painted exact replicas of three different spieces of butterfly wings for me three years in a row (thanks, Mom).
I always loved my costume and felt a little bad for the kids whose parents didn't have the time, patience, or sewing skills to make coordinating alien costumes with stand up collars out of just-enough purple taffeta for the entire family.
But let's be honest here. Store bought costumes have come a long way since the plastic mask and jumpsuit days. A lot of them are adorable and you cannot buy the fabric for less than the cost of the completed costume. Even better, retailers have gotten smart and made pajamas that look like skeletons, bears and bunnies so they can be worn over and over again. Once you factor in your labor hours, a homemade costume is often haute couture in cost.
Last year, I realized early on that I did not have the energy or patience to sew my four month old's costume. I felt a little bad about it, after all, mom had been holding on to that adorable baby lion/elephant/panda pattern since I was in college "just in case." But, there were adorable lion/elephant/panda costumes to found pre-made.
When I went online to look my husband could not pass up the opportunity to dress our son like a hamburger. Um...sure. The best part was that silly costume made for an easy family costume. Aprons, BBQ utensils, plaid shirts and et voilà - we made an adorable baby that people wanted to nom.
There is a middle ground for those of us who don't have the time and energy, but still want to provide our babies and toddlers with homemade costumes.
Personally I am a fan of embellishment. You can do a lot with store-bought basics and a little creativity. Here are a few examples for those of us who have the inclination but limited time, broken down into options for those who own a sewing machine and those who are limited to weilding a glue gun and happen to have a travel sewing kit.
Basics: Solid color shirt and pants (American Apparel is a sure bet, but H&M, Old Navy and Walmart might be cheaper) in the signature colors of your hero. Even better? The most popular superheroes can be found already printed on t-shirts. My son already owns Batman and Superman onesies. If you don't have an emblazoned t-shirt, make your superhero logo out of craft felt and hot glue it on the shirt - this will actually be the best option even if you have a sewing machine since applique is time intensive and tricky. Now all you need is a cape.
The Glue Gun: Cut a piece of fabric that is slightly trapezoidal and won't fray too much if left un-hemmed. Jersey is fantasic for this purpose so an old adult t-shirt that isn't too faded can work in a pinch. Safety pin it to the shirt's shoulders.
Sewing machine: Make a cape with this easy pattern. I'm not the best seamstress so I would opt for some precise ironing rather than topstitching - even easier!
Bonus: Oh, your kid wants to be Iron Man? No problem. Hot glue a tap light to the middle of the shirt and you don't even have to worry about a cape!
Bonus 2: Sometimes the best superheroes are invented. Captain Spit Up just needs a onsie with his title written on it and a burp cloth as a cape.
The Basics: Solid color leotard or onesie and tights.
The Glue Gun: Okay this will take a tiny bit of hand sewing, but all you need is a couple of sitches to turn a piece of elastic into a waist band and then loop endless amounts of tulle around it - like this.
To make the wings, you can go the traditional wire and pantyhose route, like this, or you can make it even easier (particularly for little ones) and cut them out of craft felt, draw your pattern with sharpies (because really, puff paint is kind of a pain) and stiffen them up a bit with spray starch.
Sewing machine: Nope, don't even need one! But, this is a great basis for a host of more complicated costumes like the incredible Glinda costume a friend made for her daughter.
Of course there are lots of other simple no-sew options. A friend made her child a sweet owl costume by adding half cirlces of fabric to a thermal shirt to imitate feathers and adding an owl hat he already had. You can make a pretty cute dinosaur by adding triangles of craft felt down the hood and back of a hoodie. The ubiquitos hoddie can also become a bunny, cat or bear with a little felt glued on as ears. And there is a reason kids have been going as scarecrows (overalls, plaid shirt and some raffia stuffed in the cuffs) and ghosts for a century.
But, I won't judge you if you buy an adorable dragon (or burger) costume. Babies and toddlers always look cute no matter who made their costume, and Halloween will be much more fun if parents aren't frazzled from staying up all night. Besides, with only a day to go they are all on sale.