It used to be only ghoulies, ghosties and long-legged beasties who went out on Halloween.
Now it’s a wizard of a night out for all the family. Halloween has bewitched us; we’ve followed our American cousins, who have long celebrated October 31 with themed trick or treat parties, and Halloween is now a monster event on the British social calendar.
From a child’s viewpoint, though, unless you’ve got your freak on in ghastly gear, you’re just not dressed.
Consequently, parents throughout South Yorkshire are under pressure to turn their little cherubs into devils, skeltons and vampires next week. Home-made outfit are the cheapest option and the most fun to put together, particularly if the kids get involved.
But many families don’t have the time - or the artistic skills. Making Halloween costumes sounds a lot easier than it is.
When my son was little, I spent ages wrapping him in crepe bandages and dousing them tomato ketchup, only to find my little mummy was unravelling before we’d got to the end of the street.
His little pal from next door made a great ghost thanks to his mum’s bed-sheet and a couple of bicycle chains, but he toddled straight into the first lamp-post and wailed like a banshee; his dad had cut the eye-holes too high.
Swoop onto the High Street and stake out the supermarkets instead; scores of stores now sell Halloween outfits so cheaply, they won’t put the frighteners on the family budget.
We called in a fancy selection and found a gang of little ghouls and guise to help us find the best buys...
Our pictures were taken by Glenn Ashley at Heeley City Farm, where a free Halloween event is taking place 1-3pm on Wednesday.
Pumpkin carving and a witch’s broomstick-making workshop will be staged and Forest Schools tutor Gareth Hills will be serving up pumpkin soup cooked outdoors.
Classic witch outfits, with towering, pointy hats and dainty broomsticks to accessorise, will always be top choice for girls. We found a pretty purple bargain at Aldi in ages three to eight for £3.99, complete with hat. A star-studded net dress from Clinton Cards at £4.99 was also good value and could be worn as a party dress afterwards, but didn’t come with its own hat.
But other treats for girls this year include a cool black catsuit om Sainsburys (£10 complete with cat ears headband and a bell on the flashy pink collar). Amelia Mackin, aged six, was impressed.
For older girls, it’s tricky to work up an outfit that is sophisticated enough to appeal to them, yet innocent enough to appease parents terrified of sending their daughters out into the night looking like they’ve just stepped out of an Ann Summers shop.
But we found a happy medium at Clinton Cards, who have a very good range of unusual, well-made costumes from just £4.99. Their high-collared Flaming Devil Dress with a jagged hemline and fancy cummerbund (£9.99, in ages 12-14)
Looked great teamed with a pair of stripy tights on 12-year-old Jordan Bernard.
The outfits that appealed to our girls - and their mums - were home-grown, though.
Wickedly Cute was launched by two Sheffield mums in September.
Becky Joel and Jane Midgeley formed a friendship at the school gates and when their little girls asked for a fabulously frou-frou net tutu apiece, the women decided to have a go themselves.
The results were so good, they set up their own business making children’s pretty party and fancy dress outfits, with the ballerina-style tutu at the heart of each.
Ex marketing manager Jane and former teaching assistant Becky hand-make net skirts and themed headbands from £15 and applique co-designs onto co-ordinating T-shirts priced from £7.
They supplied us with a red devil outfit for Jordan, 12, and a sweet autumn fairy outfit for two-year-old Elsie Mackin.
The girls – and their mums – loved them. “They have an almost magical quality to them; they are absolutely beautiful and really unusual; perfect for an older child,” said Jordan’s mum Nancy Fielder, of Heeley.
Elsie’s mum Katherine added: “As fancy dress outfits go they are expensive, but they’re worth it. They are really good quality and will last and last. I expect Elsie will want to wear her outfit most of the time!”
Boys will be boys... and zombies, Draculas, skeletons and ghosts.
Good costumes for boys were the easiest to find and also generally the cheapest.
At Home Bargains, the discount chain store with branches in Hillsbrough, Parkway, Rotherham, Conisbrough,, Denaby and Doncaster, we found a great Dracula outfit with bat-winged cape, fake waistcoat and a light-up bat tie for £6.99 - though the fabric was very flimsy.
High marks went to a pirate skeleton from Clinton Cards for £4.99, modelled by Jamie Bernard, eight: “Bright, unusual and cheap, it’s perfect for an indoor party though not warm enough for Trick Or Treating,” said mum Nancy.
Sainsbury’s zombie suit at £10, modeled by Jimi Mackin, eight, also scored highly: “Witty and well-made, with a rubber-fronted face mask and rubber ribs to match,” commented Sheffield mum of four Katherine.
A £4.99 skeleton suit – embossed stretchy trousers and long-sleeved top – won approval for Clinton Cards.
Again, Aldi scored highly with its cute pumpkin suit, which fits ages three to five.
Four-year-old Harvey Mackin’s mum Katherine was impressed: “It’s only £3.99 but is well-made and doesn’t look like it will fall to bits. I especially like its funky collar of metallic leaves.”
For babies, Mothercare’s selection of cute and cuddly outfits for children under three takes some beating.
Nancy Fielder fell for their cosy red Mummy’s little Devil suit, which fitted the bill for her 10-month-old son Jaden.
“I love it because it’s cute, but also because it’s a faily thick cotton all-in-one with feet and a matching devil hat, so it will keep him warm. At £11 it’s good value and it could be worn, minus the hat, on wintry bed-times.”
Morphsuits, the full-body Lycra costumes grown-ups have been sporting everywhere from the London Olympics to the Ryder Cup, are now available for kids.
The brand say they can help children develop confidence and character, and the light pressure on skin is thought to be comforting for autistic children.
They are pricey at £20.97 (from ages six to over 10s in plain colours and a range of characters), but so novel they were worth testing.
However, we were disappointed; the largest suit, a spectacular skeleton number, didn’t fit our 12-year-old girl and although her eight-year-old brother Jamie slipped easily into his 8-10 years Alien suit, his hair didn’t.
“Makers obviously didn’t think about kids with Afros,” said his mum Nancy.
MorphKids suits come complete with a built-in mask children can see, breathe and drink through and it’s easy to undo the Velcro fastening at the back, but Nancy didn’t think Jamie would last a whole evening in the suit. “He would get hot and uncomfortable and once you take the head section off, the suit loses its impact,” she commented.
Morphsuits do offer a full money back guarantee if suits don’t fit, we should point out.