Since I was a little girl, I always had one focus from the middle of summer all the way through October: What was I going to be for Halloween?
My mother being the seamstress she is has always been a huge help to me. She taught me how to sew simple things, and all year-round I would accompany her to JoAnn Fabrics and look through bolt after bolt of fabric. I was always fascinated with the colors and textures, quickly learning which pieces could be used to make different things and what I could use for costumes.
So all year long, I would brainstorm costumes. Watching my favorite movies and getting ideas from the characters became second nature to me. Not only was I searching for the perfect costume, I wanted to play the part as well. My love for acting came into play as I mastered imitations of characters – actions, voices and famous quotes – never leaving out the details; I'm a stickler for the details.
My first big costume success that I played a major role in designing came the same year I first visited Disney World for Halloween festivities in 2006. Of course, I knew I wanted to dress as a Disney character.
One of my favorite Disney movies is "Sleeping Beauty." With that in mind, know that I wasn't a typical little girl. I never wanted to be a fairy or a princess or something sparkly and cute. I had an inherent love for the spooky, creepy, villainous and sometimes just flat-out weird. With that said, I went for the obvious choice in my mind: Maleficent (also known as the evil witch from "Sleeping Beauty," for those who aren't Disney or fairy tale fanatics such as myself).
I remember wanting every aspect of my costume to be perfect. Maleficent has horns. So how do you make large black horns for an 11-year-old girl? My mother, a creative genius, bought a large piece of foam, a black headband and black silky fabric. Through many trials and many more errors, she cut out a foam piece in the shape of Maleficent's horns, wrapped them in black fabric and fastened them to the headband. My costume was complete.
We attended Mickey's Boo To You Celebration, the Halloween party that takes place in the Magic Kingdom after park hours during the Halloween season. What's better for a kid than being able to celebrate their favorite holiday in Walt Disney World? Absolutely nothing.
Walking through the Magic Kingdom seemed like a whole new experience to me, despite having been there multiple times before. The spooky music playing through loudspeakers, all the characters dressed up in costumes, and free candy were just a few highlights. I just had to get some photos with my favorite villains. Right in front of Cinderella's castle, the best villains of Disney waited as lines formed so children could have a few moments with the characters. I immediately got in line for Maleficent, who had the largest crowd by far.
The people in front of me seemed to dissipate quickly, which made me wonder just how much time I would get to spend with my all-time favorite villain. My 11-year-old self became worried about what to say to her when I got there but my time to be nervous was running out as the line was extending behind me.
Finally, it was my turn.
I walked cautiously up to Maleficent and she looked back at me and cracked a smile. It was a wicked one, but what more could I expect from the villain of all villains? She began telling me how much she loved my outfit and invited me to be her "apprentice of evil." I responded excitedly but played off the character and shot her a cool, villainous smile. The entire line was watching us. She seemed to spend more time with me, and everyone seemed to adore my costume and my acting. Eventually, my mother said it was time to take a picture. Maleficent and I turned toward the camera and just as my mother said, "Strike a pose!" we both threw our arms up, extending our capes and gave sinister glares. The crowd went wild. I remember many people taking my picture with her.
I moved on in my Halloween ventures to become various characters and attended many parties, but it wasn't until high school that I was allowed to wear a costume to school.
My freshman year I was a bit timid. I didn't know how "all-out" the girls at my school would go, so I opted for a simpler costume – recognizable but nothing with face paint. Max from "Where The Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak was my pick. "Where The Wild Things Are" is one of my favorite children's books and in 2009 the movie was just being released. It was perfect timing.
After learning that the girls at Immaculata Academy really get into the Halloween spirit, I had no problem picking an extroverted character for my sophomore year. Three days after my birthday, March 5, a remake of one of my favorite Disney movies and a remarkable novel, "Alice in Wonderland," was released into theaters. The new "Alice," directed by my favorite director, Tim Burton, and starring my all-time favorite actor, Johnny Depp, was the focus of my 2010 Halloween.
My mother and I scoured fabric stores for the best fabric, colors, textures and layers. I became the Mad Hatter on Oct. 31, 2010. As a stickler for details, I had the Hatter's attire down pat, complete with the chain of spools; his hat, which I had to buy plain and decorate myself with fuchsia fabric, hat pins, feathers and card; and even the makeup, which I did myself. I frolicked around school that day, as only the Hatter could, saying things that made no sense and asking people if they knew why a raven was like a writing desk. I took great pride in not having the slightest idea of the answer.
For my junior year, I had to somehow top the Hatter. With the fourth installment of "Pirates of the Caribbean" in 2011, my choice seemed clear. Being able to play another Depp character made me ecstatic. This costume had to be even more precise than the last. I spent that entire summer watching all of the "Pirates" movies, despite having already seen them more than anyone could ever count. I mastered the drunken pirate walk, the accented talk and the mannerisms. I examined every outfit Captain Jack had ever worn and made sure to include it in my final masterpiece. My mother constructed a puffy pirate shirt, identical to Jack's, a beautiful jacket with all mismatched buttons (what pirate ever matches?), a vest, a bandana and pants. We searched high and low for the perfect belts and scarves to tie around my waist as well as the tricorne hat, a signature piece to Captain Jack. I fastened a sword holster to my waist and added a plastic pistol and sword that I bought at the "Pirates of the Caribbean" attraction in Disney World.
But I was still missing three crucial elements: snarly hair, a compass that doesn't point north and makeup to make it look as if I hadn't showered in weeks. At a Halloween store, I found a wig, which I was quite reluctant to buy because I despise store-bought costumes. It seemed like I was selling out, but for a girl with hair the length of Johnny Depp's real hair, I didn't have much of a choice. I bought the wig but refused to accept it as it came. I braided it in different ways and added beads, coins and ribbons to achieve the look of Jack's trinket-filled hair.
I couldn't make a compass that didn't point north so I bought a regular compass and encased the body of it in black silk material. I also purchased a small, lightweight octagon-shaped box, which I painted navy blue and put golden striping around it. I placed the compass inside the box and my dad drilled holes into the box, fastened the top to the bottom and then we added black ribbon so it could hang off of my belt like Jack's did.
The makeup was solely my department. Since Jack has facial hair, I had reached an obstacle. However, with a little thought, it was easily overcome. My aunt is a hairdresser and owns a salon. So when I got 11 inches of hair cut off a few years before, she had saved it to send to Locks of Love. However, neither of us got around to doing so and there it sat. Luckily for me, she agreed to cut it to the proper size, braid it and have it ready for me. And just like that I had Jack's goatee braids. I also created a mustache as well. When Halloween finally rolled around, I did my makeup and then attached the hair to my face using theatrical glue.
Not a soul at school recognized me at first. Once people caught on, however, I had a ball joking in my Sparrow voice and walking down the halls yelling "Why is the rum always gone?!"
This year my quest for the perfect costume started in January. It ended in March and my mother and I started construction in September. While this costume hasn't taken quite as much planning and effort as last year, it still is complicated. My costumes always remain a secret until Halloween.
If there is one thing I've learned after all these years, it's to have fun with the things you love. I'm grateful to have a talented mother who is willing to give up her time and money to make my favorite holiday special year after year.
So, if you're thinking about dressing up as something that seems outrageous this year, remember there's nothing wrong with having a little fun.
Hannah Gordon is a senior at Immaculata Academy.