Costume-designing family prepares for Halloween
It’s October, which means it’s that time of year that Bill and Natasha Moshenko start planning, gathering, cutting, sewing, glueing and creating magic in the form of costumes for their family. It’s a fun passion project for them, a way to encourage spirit, be creative and celebrate a holiday. But in the process, they’re becoming local legends. The Moshenkos, alongside their kids Magnum, 11, and Electra, 9, have together won first prize in the Minden Hills annual Halloween Party costume party for the past five consecutive years.
“They are a force to be reckoned with,” said Elisha Weiss, Minden Hills community development co-ordinator. “They blow it out of the water every year. I can’t speak for anyone else but I’m so excited to see what they come dressed as every year, and see how they raise the bar.”
The Moshenkos are keeping this year’s theme tucked away in their sewing kit and tool box, but the Times can confirm that Electra has chosen their 2018 group costume.
“It’s evolved over the years,” said Natasha. “At first we were just making costumes and it was no big deal. As the years have gone by, it becomes more of a big deal in our house. We literally, Halloween or the day after Halloween we’re like, so what are we doing next year? So we sort of have an idea. It’s not like we do a ton of planning, but it’s sort of in the back of our head, always. For the most part the kids kind of dictate what happens.”
Bill and Natasha remember the days pre-kids, when they were kids themselves, dressing up for Halloween.
“For me, you can’t have Halloween without dressing up,” said Natasha, who dressed up through high school into her working days. “It’s kind of an unwritten rule in my books. My parents were never big on dressing up, but the whole process of making costumes was always sort of a bit of a family affair at my house. You couldn’t buy costumes, right? You make stuff. And then if my mom wasn’t there, my grandma could come and sew things. The process was almost as much fun as the dressing up.”
“My mom loved dressing up, always, for everything,” said Bill. “If she could dress up, she would. We always made them.”
Though Bill and Natasha didn’t meet at a costume party like readers might expect, they did put the finishing touches on their own wedding outfits. Bill wanted a tux with flames, so he hand-stitched tri-coloured flames on to a used suit, while Natasha, who said she had always wanted to dress up like a ballerina, added a multi-colour tulle skirt and tiara to her corset top for their vows.
They only began putting together a themed cohesive family costume in 2011, when the Moshenkos became superheroes: Bill as Aquaman, Natasha as Wonder Woman and the kids as Batman and Robin.
“That evolved just from a conversation about how we should all dress the same,” said Natasha. “It just happened.”
The next year, the family dressed as vegetables, although their costume-making skills hadn’t been quite as finely tuned as they are now, and Bill’s potato costume wasn’t as instantly recognizable as they had planned.
“We were trick or treating, and somebody just sort of yelled out in the dark ... ‘what are you supposed to be, are you the dip?’” remembered Natasha, laughing. “And we were like, ‘oh my...yes, yes, that works!’”
In 2013, friend Erin Lynch invited the Moshenkos to the annual Minden Halloween party, where the community centre fills with kids and families for an evening of activities, food, dancing and a costume contest. Weiss, lead organizer of the party, remembers the family winning the first time they went, dressed as aliens. The next year, when the family came dressed as skeleton pirates, Weiss took notice, and she said the family has turned heads each year when they arrive.
“I like that it’s a constant family discussion, it seems to be anyway,” she said. “It’s something they’re planning, they all get to talk about it, then they all put it into motion. It embodies the entire spirit of a family initiative. Everyone has a say, they’re all totally into it. They come guns a-blazing and just nail it every year.”
Natasha said it became exciting and fun to attend the evening, but it was in 2015, the year the family dressed in their first character costumes, that changed everything. Magnum dressed as Spongebob, Electra as Patrick, Bill as Patchy the Pirate and Natasha as the pineapple house.
“That, for the kids, was sort of just epic,” she said. “We went in, and the little kids were like, ‘Spongebob!’ They just screamed. And of course my children were like, ‘what the heck’s going on?’ but they just ate it up and they loved it. It all felt like ... it kind of felt like we were Santa Claus.”
Natasha called it a game changer. The next year, the family dressed as characters from the Lego Movie causing photo ops when other families wanted to pose with them. Although that costume is Natasha’s personal favourite, she said they created them just two weeks before Halloween at the same time they were having their roof re-shingled.
“I was like, there’s no way we’re going to get these costumes done. Like, no way,” said Natasha. “Bill worked a lot of hours to get the heads all done and I worked on the bodies and we pulled it off, and it was like, awesome. I couldn’t believe we did that.”
Bill estimates it takes about 10 hours to create each costume, depending on what is involved, and the cost varies depending on what is needed beyond cardboard boxes.
“Usually what happens, it’s usually ... the kids get their costumes done, and then we have like, a day to complete our two costumes,” he said, laughing.
“We do procrastinate sometimes, we’re trying to get better at that time management thing,” said Natasha. “As you can see with the veggies and ‘dip,’ the kids’ costumes are priority one and then our costumes are kind of second. And then it’s like, oh ... it’s Halloween, well...”
When they begin creating, their living room becomes what Natasha called “a massive production facility,” and though Bill and Natasha have largely been the designers of what the kids come up with, they too are becoming more involved, with Electra learning to sew recently.
“As you can see through the years, our techniques are evolving,” said Natasha. “We don’t really have any patterns. Everything is sort of free form. We’ll do a bit of research online, but we just kind of do our best.”
After Halloween, the costumes end up getting stored, and often played with throughout the year.
“The kids play with them all the time,” said Bill, noting that the Patrick costume gets worn quite a bit.
“Pokemon is getting a little destroyed because they put them on and wrestle with them,” said Natasha, referring to the family’s 2017 costume.
Bill said he doesn’t feel any pressure at all each year, but Natasha said she feels like she doesn’t want to disappoint those anticipating the family’s costume at the Minden event, where she said it has been fun, exciting, and enjoyable to see the interactions of party-goers with her family.
“I hope [the kids] carry the tradition on as they grow up,” said Natasha. “I feel once they get out of the whole trick or treating phase, the evolution will come more to dressing up and setting stuff up at the house. I think, even as teenagers, they’ll still enjoy participating in Halloween. We can’t predict it, but that’s my hope.”
As for the prizes available at the event, the Moshenkos said it’s great to win, but they’re 100 per cent fine with not winning. Instead, they do it all for the pure fun.
“Adulthood is not exciting unless you make it exciting sometimes,” laughed Natasha.
Weiss said the Moshenkos are tough to beat, but that there are plenty of prizes in a wide variety of categories to be won at the event, and regardless, celebrating Halloween at the community centre is a treat in itself, especially in costume.
“I want families to participate, because even if you’re not going to win, it’s still the whole idea of talking with your family and doing something with your family to create these costumes,” she said.
The Family Halloween Party in Minden Hills invites people of all ages to the Minden Hills Community Centre on Oct. 26 from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission is by cash donation with prizes awarded for best individual and family costumes.