We LOVE Halloween!
Carving pumpkins, apple bobbing, all the sweets and goodies from trick or treating and best of all…the dressing up!
Normally we’d buy costumes not only based on how good they look, but also on how expensive they are, because let’s face it you’re only going to wear it for one night of the year, so unless you’re going somewhere fancy there’s no point in spending a fortune. However, after the tragic accident that happened to Claudia Winkleman’s daughter last Halloween, the safety of fancy dress costumes is very much a poignant subject and we will certainly be taking a lot more care and consideration when choosing what costumes to dress both ourselves and our children in this year.
Sales of fancy dress costumes have soared in recent years and Halloween has become one of the busiest times for consumer spending. The increasing demand for cheaper costumes has inevitably resulted in costumes being imported from other countries, with the unfortunate result of lower safety standards, something Winkleman feels very strongly about.
Last Halloween, Winkleman’s eight-year-old daughter, Matilda, went out trick or treating dressed in her supermarket bought witches costume complete with hat, cape, striped tights and flowing skirt. As she brushed past a lit candle from a pumpkin, her costume burst into flames and resulted in her needing several operations to treat the severe burns she suffered. She is now recovering, but it has prompted Winkleman to question why Halloween costumes are classified in the same category as toys, meaning they don’t need to comply with the same rules applied to normal children’s clothing and therefore do not need to be as fire retardant.
This is now about to change!
Government ministers have ordered a nationwide crackdown on cheap fancy dress costumes, which will now be subjected to spot checks by trading standards inspectors. Winkleman, who hosts the popular BBC show Strictly Come Dancing, said “We’re extremely happy the government are taking action on this and we’re so grateful to the supermarkets who are selling safer costumes.” and the business secretary, Sajid Javid, added: “My immediate concern as a father and a minister is that children wearing these fancy dress costumes are safe. It is unacceptable for any costumes to be sold that do not comply with safety standards. That’s why I’ve granted funding to trading standards to carry out spot checks as part of a nationwide investigation. Parents should feel confident that any fancy dress they buy meets required standards.”
Since an investigation into the safety of children’s fancy dress costumes, launched by Winkleman and the BBC1 consumer programme Watchdog, some retailers, including Tesco, Aldi, Asda, Morrisons, and Sainsbury’s, have even gone so far as to agree they will go further than the minimum standards to meet the same high requirements that are currently set for children’s nightwear. A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said: “We have looked at every detail of our children’s dress-up range in creating our new standard and believe that it will be industry leading. This has not been a simple task, but the safety of children is our number one priority and introducing more rigorous safety standards for our children’s dress-up is the right thing to do. All clothing carries some fire risk, but we hope that introducing our own rigorous testing standards that test clothes as clothes rather than as toys will be the first step towards safer testing across the industry.”
This is all fantastic and a humungous step in the right direction, but as parents is there anything else we can do to ensure our children are as safe as we can possibly make them when they dress up for Halloween?
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) advise: “All children’s Halloween costumes, masks and wigs must carry a CE mark, which means they comply with the European Toy Safety Directive and should they catch alight, the rate of burning is slow.” So, make this the first thing you check when looking at costumes either in store or online. If you can’t find the information online, either email the company for confirmation, or shop elsewhere. In terms of adult costumes, it is at present not mandatory for adult costumes to comply with the Toy Safety Directive, however many products will apply the same CE mark and it is definitely worth paying that little bit extra on a costume that does display this mark.
Here are our top tips for a safe and happy Halloween:
Flame resistant materials
Always ensure the costume you buy has been labelled with the CE mark and ideally choose one that is made from either polyester or nylon, as these are both flame-resistant materials. It is difficult to avoid flames and lit candles at Halloween, but if you are holding a party at home, think about swapping a candle inside your pumpkin for battery operated tealights. They are cheap, available to buy from many high street stores, they look great, last longer and most importantly of all they pose zero fire risk.
On a similar note, it is a good idea to choose a costume that is made of one type of material, as these tend to catch fire a lot more slowly than those made of a combination of different materials. The fabric should ideally be one layer of heavy material, rather than made of thin, frilly, layers, which are frequently seen on girls’ costumes in particular. Different materials react to a flame in different ways and flimsy layers only serve to fuel the fire even faster. Onesie styles costumes are the best option and clothes can also be worn underneath to provide an extra layer of warmth on a cold trick-or-treating night as well as giving an extra barrier between costume and skin.
Make sure it fits!
There’s nothing more hazardous than a costume that is too long and drapes all over the flaw. Not only is there a potential fire risk, but there is also a high possibility the wearer will trip and fall over. It is also important to make sure the costume isn’t so big that it makes it difficult to walk around in and isn’t so wide that you are unable to fit through doorways. Costumes should be comfortable and if you try the costume on and it feels in any way awkward, scratchy or you’re pulling it down every few seconds, then trust your judgement and put it back on the hanger.
Know what to do if something bad happens
If you’re sensible and follow safety guidelines it is highly unlikely that anything bad will happen to you or one of your party when you celebrate Halloween, however accidents can still happen and it is worth knowing what to do should you be faced with one. Kevin O’Neill from the Fire and Rescue Service says that adults should teach their children the ‘stop, drop and roll’ drill – “Stop what you’re doing, get on the ground and roll. Allow the ground to be the means of suffocating a fire and not a person’s hands”.
It’s the one night of the year where we would advise you not to accessorise your outfit. Capes, broomsticks, wands, etc. all look lovely and give a costume that finishing touch, but there’s no need to take them out with you when you go trick or treating. Set a rule that all accessories remain at home, because not only do you risk losing them, but they can get trapped in doors, caught under foot and are definitely a fire hazard. Also bear in mind that children shouldn’t have anything tied around their necks, like jewellery, capes etc., as this increases the risk of strangulation.
Having your face painted can really make our Halloween character come alive, but some face paints are not so great for our skin, particularly the delicate skin of children. All children’s face paints should be FDA approved, have a CE mark and display clear ingredients in English. We would suggest you do an allergy test before painting the whole face, simply by rubbing some face paint on a small patch of skin. You should know within a couple of hours whether you are likely to experience any reaction or irritation. Oh and ALWAYS make sure you remove face paints at the end of the night. Aside from not wanting face paint smeared all over your bedding, it will do your skin absolutely no favours and will result in irritation and other problems.
If you prefer wearing a mask rather than smearing face paint over your skin, just make sure it fits properly. The eye holes should be big enough and positioned properly so that the wearer can see clearly at all times and there should be nose holes to allow comfortable breathing. Masks should also have a visible CE mark, so remember to check before you buy.
Not many costumes include shoes, but some of the onesie style outfits will fit over the feet, so it is important to remember to put other footwear over the top when you go outside. Soft fabric on the feet of a onesie definitely do not offer enough support or comfort when walking around the streets. You may think your outfit looks amazing with heels, or your little princess may even insist that she simply must wear her glittery heels as well, but now is the time to be sensible and literally put your foot down and rule trick-or-treating as a no heel zone. There will be lots of walking, sometimes up and down steps, or across lawns and we can guarantee after 5 minutes both of you will be wishing you’d put your Converse on instead!
We hope that these tips will help you have a happy Halloween with the peace of mind that you have done everything you can to ensure the safety of your loved ones. It is a very serious topic and one that we, as do many, feel very strongly about, but we wanted to end on a lighter note and take a look at some of the best and worst costumes ideas we have seen on the web.
This group of girls came up with the very original idea of dressing up as Crayola crayons. Picking their favourite colour, they styled themselves brilliantly and not only have they managed to keep their long hair up and out of the way, but those outfits look like they’re made out of one material and have no loose frills or capes, making them perfect examples of what is safe to wear at Halloween. Well done girls!
We couldn’t help but laugh at the look on this poor child’s face as he clings onto his three-headed pet. Dressed as Harry Potter he does however, manage to break some of the rules. Can you work out what they are? 1. He’s got a scarf tied round his neck, 2. His outfit looks slightly too big for him and 3. That dog is stealing his thunder!
And, finally, anyone for sushi? This child’s parents were clearly hungry when they set about deciding what to dress her up as. It is without doubt a cleverly made costume, with intricate attention to detail but how, may we ask, is the poor thing expected to walk in it!? Aha hang on, we get it, she’s a sushi roll, so you’re meant to roll her, right? Not safe, not comfortable and oh how embarrassed that child is going to be when she looks back at the photos.