Book Review and author Q & A: Ghoulish Get-Ups: How to Create Your Own Freaky Costumes, by Fifi Colston


Available in bookstores nationwide.

Fifi Colston is the Jamie Oliver of the costume world. Give her a cupboard of recycling and art supplies, or even a bag of them, and she is certain to come up with something incredible-looking, at pretty well zero cost. This book, which is the second of its kin after the bestselling, award-winning Wearable Wonders, has truly got something for everybody.

I am not a great crafter. In fact, though I have been involved in Storylines Family Days since 2007, I have never once put my hand up to manage one of the craft stands. This book has costumes at my beginners’ level (I managed to make ladybird tights from red stockings with holes over black tights), but it also has costumes that somebody who sees a fancy dress party as a chance to strut their crafty stuff, can make and be proud of. It is the perfect book for desperate parents, as well as older school kids who are discovering their own creative abilities.

costume fyna arteryThe layout of the book sees several ideas for full outfits, combined with ‘quick costume’ hints; followed by techniques to use to achieve these looks. I particularly liked the ‘quick costume hint’ to hang a name tag on yourself saying ‘Book Awards Judge’. My favourite full costumes were Fyna Artery (left) – wonderful and very simple-looking to achieve, and Fundorsaurus, which looks great but may well be beyond my painting abilities! I passed this to 4-year-old Dan to tell me which he would like me to make for Halloween, and he put it down and said a ‘Skeleton’. There is no skeleton in there. Kids, huh.

One of the most useful sections of the book is ‘Get Creating’. This gives you handy tips on what to save. Egg cartons are a no-brainer. Fifi recently posted a photo on facebook of her towering stack of them (below). I have now become obsessed with washing and saving all of our recycling – yoghurt pots being a particular nuisance for my husband, whom I need to remind not to throw them out.

In ‘Look in the Laundry’ I learned how egg_cartonsmany ways you could tie a T-shirt, how many ways you could use stockings (I donated a very bright stocking to Fifi’s collection which is used in the ‘Terrifying Tightacle’), and how many different things could be created from rubbish bags. And if the costumes aren’t enough, there are even some recipes for gross-looking snacks for Halloween parties. I have just today been invited to one and asked to bring a themed snack: zombie fingers should hit the mark, I think.

Fifi also gives good tips for some gruesome make-up. The grossest thing in the book, to my mind, is the ‘Bursting Boils’ made using a large bubble wrap bubble and some natural yoghurt. Ick.

I am looking forward to future Halloween parties, as a chance for me to dress my boys in some nasty-awesome creations, based on this essential book. This needs to be part of every mum’s secret box of essentials. Perhaps you could even get a second copy for the kids to use.

Ghoulish Get-ups
by Fifi Colston
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775432470

Q & A with Fifi Colston, author, illustrator, creator of wearable arts…

  1. Did your kids fully appreciate that they had a genius mother when they asked for difficult dress-ups for parties and Halloween? What was your proudest dressing-up your kids moment?
    I don’t think they truly appreciated my efforts − I have a son who refused point blank to dress up at all, although he did request a full scale Furbee head for a school production the day before. I still have it and take it to schools − kids love it. It is probably my best effort and my son actually wore it − so that’s my coup! My daughter totally had her own style and still does − she appreciated that I had a large resource (read attic) of clothes and props and still raids it. On holiday, my sarong doubled as all kinds of costumes, from hippy outfits to hula girl and she let me dress her up in that when she was a kid. I spent hours making an Cherokee outfit for her once when she was at kindy but she absolutely wouldn’t wear it. I was so cross I sort of threw it at the teacher and said ‘good luck with International dress up day!’ and stormed off to find coffee.

    Fifi's Attic

    Fifi’s Attic

  2. In terms of crafting costumes, do you have an absolute favourite thing to do?
    I have this dress that I wore pre motherhood to a family wedding about 30 years ago. That dress has since become a 17th century milkmaids outfit, a pirate gals dress, a vampire dress and now currently a steampunk dress. It has been added onto, bleached, dyed and repurposed so many times and what’s more it still fits! (because it has elastic in the waistline!) So upcycling rocks!
  3. Talofa_lavaTell us about your most recent ‘Eureka’ moment when looking at a pile of craft materials / recycling!
    Probably my 2014 wearable arts entry where I looked at painters drop sheet made from felted recycled material and thought…that’s cool, I bet I could make something out of that. And I did − it became lava flows on a dress inspired by lava fields in Samoa. (Left: one of Fifi’s entries to 2014 Wearable Arts, Talofa Lava, credit: World of WearableArt)
  4. How do you keep your studio organised?
    I have a big clean up after each project before I start the next one but it’s a running battle to keep organised. I actually have many studios- they are my messy place studio in Owhiro bay at Nautilus Creative Space; this is where I do splattery paint and smelly glue stuff, my home office where I do my computer graphics and writing, my kitchen table where I do my sewing, the attic in our house where I store things and my family say, everywhere else in the house too because I’m always making stuff!

    studio messy

    Featuring part of the steampunk costume, as well as some terrifying tightacles

  5. What do you love most about working with students on crafts and costumery?
    Their unparalleled enthusiasm for cutting, glueing and experimenting, without being afraid that something isn’t good enough. They just get stuck in and we all have heaps of fun. Recently we made fake wounds from my recent book and they wore them home to terrify their mothers!
  6. What books or website do you have near you at all times?
    My sketchbook and google images. With those two resources, I can make anything!

Review and Q & A by Sarah Forster

Fifi Colston will be promoting the book on What Now on Sunday 26 October, and Good Morning on Wednesday 29 October- keep your eyes peeled!