COSTUMES UNDER COVER by Ellen Donker
Maplewood family keeps an annual Halloween secret
Halloween is a favorite holiday for Walter Egbert, Brian Crowe and their two children Xander and Izzie. For this family, like many, it’s all about the costumes, but they take dressing up to a whole new level.
Last year the family dressed up as Batman super villains, wowing the crowds in Maplewood’s Halloween parade as they assumed the roles of the Riddler, Joker, Catwoman, and Penguin. In 2017 they inhabited the characters from Roald Dahl’s story James and the Giant Peach. Their costumes have also been inspired from stories such as How to Train Your Dragon, Where the Wild Things Are, and The Wizard of Oz. The theme that started the tradition was The Flintstones. The children were just nine months old when Egbert and Crowe dressed them as Pebbles and Bam Bam.
After nine years of costume-making, the stakes for originality are high. Although the family starts brainstorming ideas for the next year as soon as Halloween is over, Labor Day is when they commit to their theme and start designing the costumes in earnest. To make the cut, the theme must have four recognizable characters, the kids should have a connection to them, and the project must lend itself to fun and creativity.
Of course, all of this is conducted as top secret business. It’s hard not to breath a word, especially when you’re a kid. What’s more, family and friends of all ages pester them for the inside track. To satisfy curious minds, Egbert gradually releases clues on his Instagram feed. Crowe says, “He drives all of our friends completely crazy. They’re furious because the clues make no sense. And you see the costume and they’re like oh, yeah, that makes perfect sense.”
The impetus for making such grand Halloween costumes comes from Crowe, who works as the director of education at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. His job title doesn’t encompass costume design, but he has taught himself over time, and recalls making costumes since he was young. He admits, “It’s a lot of trial and error and there’s some things we’ve done that were complete disasters, and that’s why we start two months early.”
As the only sewer in the family (Crowe’s mother taught him how to use a sewing machine), he’s in charge of stitching together the costumes. Egbert, who works as a patent attorney but has creative bones, likes to craft various props, such as the Riddler’s cane used last year, and Xander and Izzie have become proficient at cutting and pinning. Together the family scouts out the materials at various shops and this is what makes it a favorite bonding experience.
Egbert and Crowe hope to enjoy another few years of familial Halloween costume design but know that the children will eventually age out of appearing in the family tableau. Izzie confirms their hunch. “Eventually me and Xander will go off with groups of friends and be home by a certain time.” Until then, the family will be spending upwards of 350 hours just this season problem-solving their way through wardrobe challenges.
To get in on guessing the family’s theme, follow them on Instagram
@walt21012. The first clue? Musical insects. If that doesn’t help, see the costumes live at Maplewood’s Halloween Parade. The family insists it will all make sense.