HalloweenStoreLeadPixIt started out with an early weekend-morning errand that some parents would dread. A trip to Party City, to buy some needed supplies for an upcoming celebration. It ended with the discovery that I was clearly way behind in the kids Halloween costume department. Eek! Boo!

Roaming the massive aisles looking for cups, matching plates and napkins in the 11am hour, I was struck by a long line that had already formed down one row that was chock full o’ children’s costumes. Parents had already queued in hopes of getting their child’s first choice of costume, in an appropriate size. From Fairies, to Superheroes to NYC Firemen, little ones stood with costume in-hand, waiting to make it to a special register. But it was only 11am, and Halloween is still some weeks away, I thought! As my child reminded me that we’d not yet figured out what she was going to be, I became overwhelmed looking at the line and all the options. We left, much to my daughter’s chagrin, and to mine, knowing I’d still have to deal with this at some point.

A Pop-Up Store

PoliticalMasksAs we made our way home, we happened upon a Spirit Halloween pop-up store. My daughter and her friend ran inside and began oogle-ing racks of rubber eyeballs, skeleton fingers, and the rows and rows of costumes. In a moment, they’d both put on masks—one Obama mask, one Romney mask—and they danced to the song “Thriller” that played throughout the store. A giant spider had been set up at the front door that sprung forward at unsuspecting customers. People were laughing and in a good mood. I was still overwhelmed by the choices, but as there was nothing in this store BUT Halloween costumes and related items, I was more able to focus.

Act Fast

AngryBirdsI spoke with Lou Maldonado, the Assistant Store Manager, asking him for his advice to parents who were still looking for a costume for their kid. “People like to wait until the last minute, and then they come in and are disappointed because at that point most of the stuff they want is gone.” Ok, point taken. Do as I say, not as I do—don’t wait until the last minute if you’re going to buy a costume, as there’s a chance your little one may end up as an angry M&M, as opposed to that Angry Bird they’d hoped to be.

The Popular Choices

Speaking of angry birds–these are still a popular costume for both kids and adults this year. Some of the most popular costumes according to Maldonado, and representatives from a number of the bigger box stores are Bane from the latest Batman flick, and Batman himself. Power Rangers are still the rage—for both girls AND boys. And where are some of the most popular places to get these costumes? From Party City, to Halloween City, to WalMart, Kmart, Target, and Toys R Us—plenty of choices abound.

It’s All In The Timing

Maldonado suggests the best time to do your costume shopping is during the daytime on weekdays, warning that weekends get very crowded. But maybe you don’t have that luxury, so perhaps online options are for you. Sites to check out include: costumeexpress.com and costumesupercenter.com. A number of them advertise free shipping and price matching. And if you’re on a budget, you may want to try: cheaphalloweencostumes.com or costumediscounters.com.

Make Your Own

Don’t be intimidated about making your own costumes either. You probably already have plenty of things available to use at home. Check your closets, your basement, that old attic trunk. Before you know it, one of your tacky old bridesmaid dresses is transformed into a princess gown, a hat and cane inspires a mini-Charlie Chaplin, and a bandana, an old necklace and a piece of black felt becomes a young pirate. Think comfort. Keep it simple. Most of us don’t own a sewing machine, but you’d be surprised how a little double-sided tape, glue or staples can come in handy this time of year.

ScaryspiderWatch any make-up you choose for kids—the heavy, oil-based makeup that’s easily found in these stores can irritate young skin, and stain costumes, clothes and furniture. Look instead for water-based face and body paints, and watch glitter too close to the eyes. We’ve had good luck with the “Klutz Book of Face Painting” which not only has the paints, but easy suggestions and instructions on how to do different faces.

Maldonado says one of their surprise “big sellers” this season is the new “Skins” line of costumes. It’s a one-piece outfit that he says, “…you can do just about anything with depending on how creative you want to be.” The “Skins” come with accessories, but you can also add your own.

And lastly, it’s certainly worth checking out the Consumer Product Safety Commission website for any costume recalls or advisories, safety tips to prevent Halloween-related injuries, and costume tips in general.

I promised my daughter I’d get my act together and together we’ll make her and/or get her what she needs before it’s too late. Now if only she can make up her mind as to what she wants to be this year.