Clothes Make The Creature: Transformations Through Costume

Updated: Dec 21, 2018

Halloween is ubiquitous in the United States as a time when people of all ages let loose, dress up, and try their hand at becoming someone else. The way we've come to celebrate this holiday is uniquely American; some may argue that, like Valentine’s Day with a canned color scheme and specialty candy and clothing, the spiny talons of consumer culture have closed around the last day in October.

I respectfully disagree. It isn't that they haven’t tried, of course, because capitalism will always make a grab for things that sparkle, but I argue that Halloween has an indelible quality that can’t be packaged, bought, or sold. The appeal of Halloween is the wildness, the freedom that for twenty-four hours we can be someone else and the world has to accept it. Whether you’re attending a party in full regalia or just don a cat-eared headband for work, whether you sew a costume for your child or you pick one up at CVS, you’re participating in something magical.

Truthfully, it’s the costumes that make the holiday. Valentine’s Day has candy, and those who go a wassailing in the winter know the joy of getting treats door-to-door. But the magic -- and make no mistake, it’s nothing short of magic -- of putting on a piece of clothing and feeling something within yourself stir and change, standing a bit differently when you wear a certain hat, putting on that mask and becoming someone new, is the real pull of Halloween.

No matter how (or if) you choose to celebrate, I’ve done a little digging to find some books on the power of clothing that will serve you and your little readers all year long. As with all our lists, this is a living document! We aim to add titles as we find gems that need to be shared.

Do you have any favorite books about the power of clothing? Let us know!

Nana in the City, by Lauren Castillo

It's incredible the power a cape can have. A young boy visits his grandmother in the big city, but feels nervous surrounded by the sensory overload that comes with urban adventure. With a piece of fabric and some magic specific to grandparents, Nana makes a piece of clothing that completely changes the boy's perception of the city around him.

The Hueys in ...The New Sweater, by Oliver Jeffers

"The thing about the Hueys is... that they all look the same." What happens when someone breaks with conformity? It can be terrifying to be different, to decide to stand out, but that's just the risk one Huey takes in this Jeffers book, part of his Hueys series. Sometimes, risk is exceedingly rewarding... and can even start a trend.

Julián is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love

OK, we talk about Julián all the time, but for good reason! Julián sees something new and different, something he loves, and is determined to give it a try for himself. The breaking of gender expression barriers by a child who is only trying to emulate something beautiful gives a lot to think about, talk about, and yes, pore over with this gorgeous book.

Ella Sarah Gets Dressed, by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

When you let your toddler dress themselves, you may be tempted to make suggestions. You may hope to influence their choices with hints about "matching" and "coordinating" and the concept of propriety. Ella Sarah's family does the same in this book about a child finding her style, which draws to a sweet (if predictable) conclusion.

Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do, by Deborah Hembrook and Kathryn Heling

Everyone loves an interactive book! Look at these context clues hanging on the clothesline and try to guess the job performed by the person who wears each of the outfits.

A Tiger Called Tomás, by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens

"When Tomás and his family moved to a new house on a new street, he took it into his head that the new people might not like him." This new edition of the classic Zolotow story is one of two on our list directly related to Halloween. The story of Tomás was published this past August, an updated version of Zolotow's A Tiger Called Thomas, which was originally released in 1963. The new take on the story includes Spanish phrases, Latinx characters, and vibrant illustrations by Spanish illustrator Marta Alvarez Miguens.

Behind the Mask, by Yangsook Choi

When Kimin tells his friends he's planning on going as his grandfather for Halloween, they certainly aren't picturing this: Kimin’s grandfather was a Korean mask dancer, and when he puts his mask on, stories come to life.

Print this list! Click here for a link to a condensed version of this list in Google Drive.


A note about buying books: We encourage everyone who's able to shop locally as much as possible. However, if you plan to buy this book on Amazon, you can support us by buying it with our special affiliate link, accessible by clicking the book title or image. Thank you for your support!

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