Edwardsville woman creates one-of-a-kind Halloween costumes

News-DemocratOctober 27, 2013 

Renting or buying a Halloween costume would be sacrilegious for Katherine "Kat" Klebenow.

The 21-year-old rural Edwardsville woman makes her costumes from scratch each year, following in the footsteps of her mother, Joana.

"When I was little, my mom made all of our costumes," she said. "There was no going to Walmart and buying a costume. It was unheard of. It was ridiculous. It was just something that didn't happen in my family."

Kat has been sewing since first grade. She was crocheting by fourth and knitting by sixth.

In 2010, she finished in the Top 10 out of 2,800 contestants in a national prom-dress-making contest sponsored by Jo-Ann Fabric & Crafts.

Today, Kat is a senior at Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., majoring in visual communication and photography. She plans to go as a flapper for Halloween.

"I've always been interested in social history, and (the 1920s) was a really interesting time period," Kat said. "There was an economic boom, and women were starting to feel like they wanted to be more independent of men, or at least more equal.

"They bobbed their hair. They were smoking cigarettes and casually dating. In other words, dating to have fun instead of dating to find a husband."

What does your dress look like? "It's based on a pattern that is an exact replica of a pattern from the 1920s. It was exactly what flappers would have bought to make the dress. ... It's got a V neck and a drop waist with a zigzag pattern where the bodice meets the skirt. And at the waist, I bead-embroidered feathers, and then there's also going to be one at the shoulder."

The dress is made to be "shapeless." Why? "Another interesting thing about flappers is they wanted to be free of their feminine stereotypes, so they hid their feminine features, like breasts and hips. They had stopped wearing corsets in favor of things that would allow them to move around. It was all about dancing and partying."

What fabric did you use? "I could have used cotton, rayon or silk (for the time period), and I chose silk. It flows better, and it takes color really well. So I started out with white silk fabric and dyed it maroon. The lining is crepe de Chine, and it's opaque. The top layer is chiffon, and it's floating and wonderful and you can see through it a little. It fit perfectly with the vision I had."

How do you find time for costume-making? "I try to put in a couple hours every night after I finish my homework and before I go to bed, which sometimes means I go to bed later than I'd like to. But in the interest of getting it done, sacrifices had to be made. Working on it is kind of cathartic. It's very meditative. It's very slow. You have to take it one step at a time."

Where are you going for Halloween? "I'm hoping to drive to Columbia (where boyfriend Aric Pearson attends University of Missouri) and enter a costume contest down there. I asked him if he wanted to be involved, and he said he didn't have time for Halloween this year. I asked if he wanted to be a gangster to my flapper. I just don't think he was into it."

What was your most elaborate costume? "Two years ago, I was Alice in Wonderland, and (Aric) was the Mad Hatter. My dress was exactly patterned off the dress from the movie 'Alice in Wonderland' by Tim Burton.

"I had the petticoat underneath, so the skirt stuck out. And it was hand-embroidered all the way around the hem, and I made my own lace for the neckline."

Other favorites? "I was a really fabulous Puss in Boots one year in high school. I was also Pippi Longstocking, but that didn't really take much work. I just wanted to wear long stockings and braid my hair and put wires in the braids so they would stand out. It was really silly."

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