THE UNHAPPIEST ASTRONAUT

How to craft an adorable DIY Halloween costume for your child to look sad in

“The unhappiest astronaut.” Cardboard, white electrical tape, markers, and gold paper on child, 2014.
“The unhappiest astronaut.” Cardboard, white electrical tape, markers, and gold paper on child, 2014.
Image: Emily Withrow
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Looking for a last-minute Halloween idea? Ditch Pinterest and follow these easy steps to throw together a kind of janky but perfectly Instagrammable costume. Just insert child.

“The unhappiest astronaut.” Cardboard, white electrical tape, markers, and gold paper on child, 2014.
“The unhappiest astronaut.” Cardboard, white electrical tape, markers, and gold paper on child, 2014.
Image: Emily Withrow

Prepare yourself mentally

  1. Look at your child. He just walked into his preschool with cream cheese smeared on his face, blue paint on his wrist from three days ago, and some sweatpants that you’re pretty sure actually belong to the school.
  2. Look at the other children. Who are all these parents with constant access to wipes and washcloths?
  3. Exit school. Note that there are pumpkins.
  4. What is today’s date?
  5. Remember that Halloween exists.
  6. Remember that your kid wants to be [an astronaut, a lion, a bat, a witch].
  7. Remind yourself: You were crafty once. In high school you had a tub of Mod Podge. Your handwriting is legible most of the time.
  8. Notice the swell in your heart as you imagine your adorable child in your lovingly made DIY costume.
  9. Resolve: Your child will be the cutest [astronaut, lion, bat, witch] that ever was.
“The easiest year.” Cut white sheet and hair clips on four-year-old child. 2016.
“The easiest year.” Cut white sheet and hair clips on four-year-old child. 2016.

Prepare your workspace

  1. What does [an astronaut, a lion, a bat, a witch] even look like?
  2. Google image search.
  3. Divide the image into its parts. What is a thing, if not a collection of simple shapes?
  4. Match those shapes to materials. Does the thing have ears? That’s a headband and paper triangles. Need a body? The answer is always either a box or an existing outfit of the same color.
  5. Remember the rules: Rigidity of any kind = cardboard. Stripes = electrical tape.
  6. Begin to collect scraps of cardboard, fabric, and tape, which you suddenly see all around you. It’s your new superpower.
“Cold baby tiger.” Orange snow suit, electrical tape and headband on two-year-old child, 2016.
“Cold baby tiger.” Orange snow suit, electrical tape and headband on two-year-old child, 2016.

Prepare yourself emotionally

  1. Don’t look at Pinterest.
  2. Seriously.
  3. Stay off Etsy, too.
  4. Also Instagram.
  5. You know what? Just throw away your phone, your aspirations, and any memories involving Martha Stewart or the influencer your generation prefers.

Execute with precision

  1. Wait, what is today’s date?
  2. Okay, so you have tonight after they’re in bed and before you’re in bed. That’s about and hour. That seems fine.
  3. Totally fine.
  4. Who spends hours and hours crafting Halloween costumes anyway? Probably the parents of those clean-faced kids. Your kid is scrappy, and this costume will make a statement.
  5. Do not leave work early to go to Target. Everything Halloween is gone. Trust me. Even the candy.
  6. OK, so you’re at Target. No, your child cannot be Santa for Halloween.
  7. Fake it til you make it. Spend most of dinner hyping the amazing costumes you’re making.
  8. No, you cannot help, kids. You’ll just mess it up.
  9. After they’re in bed, take a deep breath. Gather your materials.
  10. Set a timer for one hour.
  11. Construct. Tape. Glue.
  12. Take a step back and squint.
  13. Google again. Tape some more. Embellish with Sharpies. Aluminum foil. Repurpose a dog toy or two.
  14. When the timer goes off, stand back and assess your creation.
  15. OK, it doesn’t look exactly like a lion, but really, does anything look like anything? I mean everything looked like something different when it existed for the first time, right?
  16. You should probably go to bed.
“Lion.” Wired ribbon, yellow t-shirt, and safety pins on five-year-old child, 2017.
“Lion.” Wired ribbon, yellow t-shirt, and safety pins on five-year-old child, 2017.

On Halloween

  1. Put the child in the costume.
  2. Take photos for posterity.
  3. Stop making that sad face. Smile!
  4. Go trick-or-treating.
  5. Bring a bag to tote around the parts of the costume that fall off along the way, or your child discards.
  6. Discreetly throw out the bag before you re-enter your home.
  7. Pour yourself a drink. Put this all behind you until next year.