Timeout New York Kids

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Homemade Halloween costumes

Five creative Brooklyn parents share the inspiration-and shortcuts-behind their handcrafted Halloween designs.

  • Snow Globe and Banana

  • Homer and Marge Simpson

  • "My Neighbor" Totoro

  • Witch and F Train

  • Snow Globe and Banana

  • Snow Globe and Banana

  • Snow Globe and Banana

Snow Globe and Banana


Designer: Joel Potischman

Neighborhood: Boerum Hill

Occupation: Lead software architect at arc90

Child: Nina, 10 and Coby, 7

You've created a ton of Halloween costumes. What's your favorite?
When my son was younger, I turned his stroller into an F train. I felt I really captured the curved walls of the train. I also had a lot of fun with details like crowds in the windows and working lights. And it still worked as a stroller, which is important when you're dragging a two-year-old around town. About 100 people took pictures of it. At one point we passed a woman on a cell phone who said to her friend, "Oh my God, there's the F train costume! I heard about this one!" Clearly a buzz preceded us.

That sounds elaborate! What's been your biggest challenge?
Figuring out how to meet my daughter's request for a color-changing octopus. It took two weeks of thinking before I came up with the solution—lights and colored cellophane mounted inside the mantle.

Wait—exactly how much time do you spend on these?
Building them usually takes three to five nights after work. Most of my costumes are foam or cardboard hot-glued together and spray-painted. I save a lot of time by not hand-painting or using a sewing machine. It took some practice to get good at cutting and joining the foam into realistic shapes—often curved—but that has been key in making believable organic objects. For a banana costume, I once peeled a banana and measured each strip—they're all different—and then used Excel to scale them up. Quite geeky, but it worked.

Any advice for first-time costume makers?
Embrace silliness. I know I've nailed a costume when I crack myself up. And always get help from the client. Let the kids participate in the process so there are no unpleasant surprises or tantrums when it's done. Nina and I trekked around Brooklyn to pick out the materials together for the snow globe costume.

For behind-the-scenes photos of Joel making these creations, visit his flickr page.

Joel Potischman | Melanie Conklin | Jenna Park
Jennifer Yun | Jennifer Ward


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