I’ll admit it, I wasn’t always a huge fan of family costumes until recently. They always felt a bit… forced. Dressing up our 7 month old like a kangaroo for our own enjoyment two years ago was one thing, but more often it feels like parents pushing their own interests onto their children — I mean, the cast of Stranger Things? Really? Do your three and seven year old watch the show? I bet dressing up as Mom and Dad Tiger from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood would be happening if we were being a little less vain here, people.
Moana quickly became E’s favorite last winter so there was hardly even a discussion that we’d be going as Moana, Te Fiti, Maui and Pua — Emilia assigned us our costumes in February. I just wish I’d been able to pivot her birthday party theme to Moana because I think her obsession was at its peak just in time for the Frozen invitations to get out the door. Naturally. But that’s another story for another.
I was just relieved she didn’t want me to be the crab, Tamatoa, so I leaned into Te Fiti hard. I was going to do the moss wig, I’d make the heart with some green flowers. I even grabbed some green body makeup to make it really come to life. My goal was to make it happen on a budget, so I spent months hunting down all the pieces we’d need to pull it off. Here’s one of my inspo pictures above. I was excited because Emilia was so excited.
Then we had a major kitchen floor renovation fiasco and all of October was shot and I found myself scrambling to pull the pieces together. Above, you’ll note Brian in a “leaf” grass shirt made of a dollar store table cloth. [I’d envisioned sewing some gorgeous felt monstera leaves using my felt stash and hand shaping Maui’s shark teeth necklace using salt dough and twine. You know, as one does.]
Thankfully, both friends and family pulled together to help us source what we needed (and reminded me that it didn’t need to be perfect) and we made it to the local Halloween parade outfitted as Moana and crew.
With all the controversy about cultural appropriation after the release of a culturally insensitive “Maui” costume, I was nervous to even attempt a Moana family costume. But after reading so many articles, including this one, about the board of Pacific Islander scholarly advisors that Disney consulted with as the movie was being developed, I realized that we could pull it off respectfully by not donning tattooed muscle suits and painting culturally symbolic designs onto play clothes.
The message of Moana and the strong female main character obviously spoke to our family, (and my daughter), but I made a point to take some children’s books out of the library about Polynesian culture to read with my daughter too. No offense to Disney, but there is only so much that an animated movie can provide context for, so we enjoyed reading about the social lifestyle of Pacific Island cultures and how family and community are very much intertwined and celebrated through traditional music, dance, and food.
Although Hawaii is just a part of Polynesia, it’s especially close to our hearts because we celebrated our honeymoon there. As a child, I also read about Queen Liliʻuokalani, the first queen and last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Later, as I became interested in quilting, I learned that she’d also been an accomplished quilter herself.
Anyways, here is the breakdown on everything we put together for our costumes:
Maui Costume DIY
Since we weren’t going the muscled Maui route, I just cut out and had Brian iron the letters M-A-U-I onto a Jo-Anne’s t-shirt I’d purchased for another project (cost: > $5 for the fabric). I also grabbed a green table cloth at the dollar store for some leaves. Brian’s parents found a green grass skirt and a matching “teeth” necklace and bracelet and my mom found a sword that we fashioned into a hook using cardboard, duct tape, prayers, and tears. Hah! No, it was twine and an old shredded white sheet remnant I saved in my fabric stash for years, waiting for this day when it would come to the rescue of some crazy project I’d left for the last minute. It delivered.
Moana Costume DIY
There is a Disney version of Moana’s costume that is actually pretty cute, but I like to sew and it’s important to me to make my children’s costumes as much as I can, versus buying something off the shelf so when my mom found a long, two-piece, skirt and tank set on clearance at Target over the summer with a slightly “Moana” feel to it, I decided to work with it and make things a bit easier on myself. I found some rope-y looking trim and twine, grabbed the hand shaped, yellow plumeria hair clip I bought as a souvenir on my honeymoon, and dusted off the embroidery floss necklace-making skills I honed in elementary and middle school, and quickly fashioned Moana’s blue shell necklace using an actual seashell, some twine, and some pearlescent white beads. Brian drilled a super fine hole into the top of the seashell using a teeny tiny drill bit. A little paint and some shimmer dust, and we had a necklace that only elicited 4 or 5: “But where is the heart, Mama?!” Whoops. Sorry, E. I’m not that good. The shell necklace isn’t going to open up to reveal the heart of Te Fiti, my bad. If I’d had more time at home, I’d planned to paper mache
Hei Hei Candy Bucket
My piece de resistance.