Holidays are highly anticipated among the many friends and family members of fashion and home furnishings designer Alexander Julian and his wife, Meagan. Their annual Fourth of July barbecue draws a crowd, and a New Year's Eve brunch finds their Connecticut home filled with friends of their kids, Will, 12, Huston, 8, and Lucy, 6, with visits from Alex's older daughters, Alystyre and Claire. But for this ultra-creative family, Halloween is the perfect time to let loose and gather friends for a day of fun and games.
"We make costumes whenever inspiration strikes," Meagan says with a laugh, and the proof is on view in the kids' bedrooms, where a velveteen Babar mask, an iridescent dragon suit, and papier-mâché armor hang as decorative reminders of past Halloweens. By planning a luncheon for close friends and their kids on a Sunday rather than a more typical evening Halloween gathering, Meagan guarantees the little ones' costumes (by Connecticut designer Lori Palma) will be fully appreciated. The fairy-tale-inspired outfits include a baby-size gnome and a Robin Hood suit made from Alexander Julian sheets.
"Every child loves to get involved with choosing a costume and decorating for Halloween," says Meagan, who collects vintage pieces all year, such as the wool military jacket Will wore. She buys blocks of papier-m?ch? at a craft store, then lets kids shape accessories like helmets and shields and decorate them with acrylic paint.
The kids let off steam by climbing and hiding behind the hay, then Alex and Will led everyone on an impromptu Halloween parade. "We let kids plan and lead the activities, emphasizing active games that are appropriate to the season," explains Meagan. "In the summer, there's volleyball and badminton; in the winter, the kids go sledding; in the fall, they collect leaves and decorate pumpkins. Alex and I believe that playtime without parents hovering allows children to explore and learn independence and creative thinking. Adults at a party can chat and watch from a safe distance."
Of course, when it was time to decorate the pumpkins, the grown-ups got involved. Alex and family friend Giancarlo Esposito, a father of three and an actor known for his roles in Ali and the new Fox TV series Girls Club, supervised. "This is a perfect job for me," the gregarious designer said with a grin as he invited kids to make designs by pressing cookie cutters into the scooped-out pumpkins before the dads did the carving.
As the sun began to set, the candles in the freshly carved pumpkins were lit and kids lined up to trick-or-treat for goody bags. Once again, Alex did the honors, filling rustic burlap sacks with bags of candy and cookies for guests to take home.
"I love the fact that we can have a complete celebration here with our friends," says Meagan. "Children learn a generosity of spirit when they see you welcoming people into your home."
Supplies: shirt, pants, cape, and hat pattern (we used Simplicity #8270), 2 yards green fabric (we used Alexander Julian sheets) or green cotton pajamas, wide leather belt, 4 yards green felt or store-bought cape and cone-shaped hat, 6 yards faux leather trim, feathers, 2 grommets, suede string, plastic-foam or other flexible sword (optional)
How-To: Sew shirt and pants from green fabric, or use green cotton pajamas; top with a wide belt. Sew cape and hat from green felt or use store-bought versions; embellish edges of cape with faux leather trim. Add feathers to hat. Add grommets to cape at neck, and tie with suede string.
Supplies: child-size jacket pattern (we used McCall's #2860) and 1 yard polar fleece fabric or oversized sweatshirt, 1 yard thin roping, sweatpants, store-bought booties or yarn, knitting needles, gold buttons
How-To: Sew jacket from polar fleece, or use a slightly oversized sweatshirt, cut down the front to create a jacket effect. Add rope belt. To make a hat, cut two triangles from leftover fleece fabric and sew sides together (the bottom rim should be dimension of the child's head plus 2" for seam allowance). Turn inside out and roll up brim. To make knitted booties, cast on stitches according to gauge of yarn to make a 7" square. Knitting every row (garter stitch), complete a 7" square. Cast off stitches. Fold square in on the diagonal. Sew heel seam up 2" of one side. Complete sole by sewing up entire bottom shoe seam. Turn inside out and fold corner down. Attach buttons.
Supplies: bishop smocking pattern, 2 yards lilac organdy fabric or store-bought smocked dress in white or a silky fabric, embroidery floss to match fabric, decorative appliqués, 4 yards matching organdy ribbon, child-size slip pattern,1 yard lilac cotton lining fabric, ready-made angel wings, heavy-gauge wire for halo, 3 yards silver wired ribbon, 8" bells, small silk flowers
How-To: Buy a smocked dress, or sew baby's dress from organdy fabric according to pattern instructions, adding 2" to neck to provide space for drawstring neck application. Smock using embroidery floss, and decorate with appliqués. Make two elongated bows with organdy ribbon, and attach to shoulders. Make an underslip from cotton lining fabric; finish off edges with scallop stitch. To assemble the costume, wear dress over slip and add store-bought angel wings. To make a halo, measure around child's head and shape wire to this dimension. Decorate the halo with wired silver ribbon, bells, and silk flowers.
Supplies: Raglan-sleeve blouse pattern (we used Simplicity #8270), 2 yards velvet fabric or store-bought velveteen sweatshirt, black leggings, 1/2 yard each of three coordinating velvets, bells, 3 yards bright blue roping, bias strip, snap, child-size beret or close-fitting fabric cap with no brim
How-To: Sew blouse from velvet according to the pattern instructions, or buy a velveteen sweatshirt. Add contrasting velvet cuffs to each sleeve of blouse or sweatshirt. Cut leggings to mid-calf length, and add similar cuffs to form knickers; trim cuffs with bells. Tie rope belt to secure top. Make a collar using triangles of velvet fabric attached to a bias strip to comfortably fit around child's neck. Add a snap to secure. To make a jester's hat, cut 8 long triangular shapes from velvet fabric; sew pairs of triangles together with right sides together, leaving bottom ends open; turn inside out. Attach triangles to a beret or fabric cap; add a bell to each point.
Supplies: 1 yard rust-colored nubby knit fabric, fiberfill, remnant of white faux fur, child-size beret pattern (we used Simplicity #8318) or oversized rust-colored beret, craft animal eyes and nose, black dimensional paint, white acrylic paint, animal whiskers, hot glue gun, 1 small sheet white felt
How-To: Cut fox tail from rust fabric, 24" inches long and 8" wide. Taper width toward one end. Fold fabric lengthwise with right sides together, and stitch down one side. Turn tail inside out, and lightly stuff with fiberfill. Sew or glue white tip to tail using scrap of white faux fur. Attach to child's pants. For the hat, make or buy a floppy beret. Attach eyes and nose to the top of the beret. Using black dimensional paint and white acrylic paint, add facial features to fox. Glue whiskers to the face. To make ears, cut triangle shapes from the rust fabric and white felt and glue or sew together, then attach to the top of the hat. Dress child in plain brown clothes and black boots.
Supplies: Hip-length puffy-sleeve blouse pattern (we used Simplicity #8318), 1 yard jade fleece fabric and 1 yard gold lamé fabric or ready-made tunic blouse, grommets (optional), 3 yards gold ribbon, black belt, papier mâché kit (available at craft stores), craft paint, purple leggings, purple velvet cape.
How-To: Sew or buy jade tunic. Sew gold lamé cuffs to blouse, and add grommets and ribbon to cuffs, if desired. For a puffier look, insert gold lamé strips into the sleeves of the blouse. Make a shield and armor from moldable papier mâché. Embellish papier mâché pieces with craft paint to coordinate with outfit colors. Attach gold ribbon to both sides of the armor at the top and bottom, and tie in back over the blouse, tunic, and belt. Wear with purple leggings and a purple cape.
Copyright © 2002. Reprinted with permission from the October 2002 issue of Child magazine.