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Homemade Halloween: How to create your costume yourself

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Kayla Schmidt says nostalgic costumes – like these Jurassic Park characters – are always a hit on Halloween. Special to Forum News Service2 / 6
Using her artistic abilities, Carrie Schwanke creates a cracked doll face. Special to Forum News Service3 / 6
Special effects makeup artist Carrie Schwanke poses in her home studio on Oct. 17, 2017. Alexandra Floersch / The Forum4 / 6
Carrie Schwanke has created many costumes, including these killer clown ensembles she and her husband wore. Special to Forum News Service5 / 6
As a child, Erin Fallgatter’s mom helped her create her own costumes; now she’s able to do the same with her own kids. Special to Forum News Service6 / 6

FARGO — For many Halloween costume DIYers, the tradition was crafted early on.

"My mom made a lot of cool costumes when we were young, and the time we spent putting costumes together made me feel special," says Erin Fallgatter of West Fargo, N.D. "In a world full of Power Rangers and Jasmines, I was the dead prom queen. Now that I'm a parent, I love to do the same with my own kids."

For Carrie Schwanke, a special effects makeup artist and owner of Carrie's Twisted Art in Fargo, childhood was full of memories spent creating an original costume.

"A lot of it had to do with the fact we weren't rich," she says. "I come from the background that you work with what you have."

Years later, Schwanke's love of costume design — and art in general — turned into curiosity for makeup to coordinate. More than three years ago, she started her business where she began experimenting with 3D makeup — from open wounds and stitches to missing eyeballs and saw blades running through her face.

Prep and process

From pop culture to Pinterest, there's no shortage of inspiration in 2017. When all else fails, Kayla Schmidt says nostalgic costumes — featuring childhood favorites — are always a hit. But, for those in a hurry, the Bismarck resident says the quickest costumes are those that involve puns.

"Once when I had little time to prep, I safety-pinned some sandpaper to a black cape, added a witch hat and became a 'sand witch,'" she says.

Another year Schmidt went as a "wisdom tooth," using a heavily-starched bedsheet over balloons to shape a molar, paired with a graduation cap and diploma. To reuse the props another year, she switched out the cap for heels and a boa to transform the costume into a "loose tooth."

"Never underestimate puns," she says. "It's the one time of year everyone finds puns funny — embrace it!"

Schwanke also knows the time it takes to craft a quality handmade costume. This year, she's creating a "big bad wolf" costume for a client she anticipates will take 8 to 10 hours to make plus more for special effects makeup.

Creative materials

For Schmidt, her obsession with cardboard started when she made a washing machine costume out of a box.

"Cardboard is cheap and often free. It's lightweight, and you can create any shape you'd like out of it," she says. "For those headed to the bars, when it's all over, you can dispose of it without feeling guilty. Cardboard takes the 'cost' out of 'costume.'"

Taking creativity a step further, Schwanke also utilizes items she has around home.

"I try and use stuff that I have without spending a ton of money," she says. Even in my art, I'm really into recycling."

For special effects makeup, Schwanke utilizes drugstore eyeshadow palettes for bruising and household items like karo syrup to make blood, vegetable glycerin to grease hair or make gelatin molds and oatmeal to create uneven zombie skin. Among the professional special effects makeup in her toolkit is products called "blood gel," "fresh scab," "bottle of blood," "chunky blood," fake teeth and polyplastics — moldable plastic pellets.

Saving money might be the motive for some, but DIYing an elaborate, quality costume isn't always cost-efficient.

"Unfortunately, most of my costumes probably haven't saved me a lot of money, but they create some good memories, and I hope my kids love them," Fallgatter says. "If you make your own costumes by piecing things together, it's going to fit you right and last longer."

Alexandra Floersch

Alexandra Floersch has worked for Forum Communications since February 2015. She is a content producer and photographer who enjoys writing about finance, fashion and home.

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