Waverly’s Costume Rank: ★★★★★

Dad’s Costume Rank: ★★★★★

Halloween Costume 2010

Since Waverly was three years old, “Strongman of the Circus” has been a suggestion I have slipped into the ongoing conversation of potential Halloween costumes.

Hope springs eternal. In my mind the visage of a tiny tyke carrying a dumbbell was irresistible. Waverly has consistently rejected my entreaties. Until…

Waverly and I were in Home Depot last August and after sharing a laugh about something or other there was a long pause in our conversation as we passed through the “door and cabinet hardware” aisle. As if by habit I blurted out, “How about ‘Strongman of the Circus’ for Halloween this year?” Waverly, quietly and without hesitation, said “yes”—with a smirk on her face no less. Maybe after all of these years I had worn her down with my persistence but I dare say she was excited about the idea and was not just taking one “for the team.” I will always remember this moment.

Da muscles from Brussels.


Construction-wise, this was one of our easiest costumes. The hardest part (at least made hard by our own exuberance) was the construction of the dumbbells. We thought we would outsmart ourselves by injecting spray foam insulation into two large kick balls. When the foam dried, we would cut and peel the ball away and be left with perfect Styrofoam spheres—light weight and ready for painting. I was so sure this would work that I was terrified of injecting too much foam into the ball, having it explode and then being covered by the obnoxious stuff. Sorry to say, after injecting a full can and seeing no expansion or hardening, we had to abandon the process and resort to purchasing the Styrofoam on-line. Next time, I will do a more thorough internet search before performing home-science experiments. (Thank you, Smoothfoam!)

Perhaps my favorite, but hidden part of the dumbells is how the bar is connected to the weights. I embedded a female PVC connector in each styrofoam ball and then added male connectors to each end of a length of PVC pipe. I then had three interchangeable lengths of PVC pipe so we could get just the right proportion and collapse the dumbbells if need be.

The kid carries her own weight.

We had several conversations about using the dumbbells as “candy holders”, but after our experience with the Ostrich mouth, we decided against it. The muscles were made from foam left over from our Easter Island Head costume (2008) tucked into flesh-colored body suits. The bald cap was not part of our original vision, but with Waverly being game, we went for it! I think Waverly’s favorite part was seeing herself with a mustache.

I admit that Waverly as a 3-year old strongman would have been funnier, but she has really pulled this off.

the big night

Success! Another fabulous Halloween is in the books. Waverly actually received applause this year. Perhaps the first time ever. Actual gasping occurred. She only bonked one or two people in the head with her prop dumbbells as they gave her treats—less than I expected. Our dumbbell props also survived relatively unscathed, also unexpected.

Lifting Weights

Waverly and I keep our ears wide open as the comments that are not made directly to us are the most telling barometer of our success. Lots of oohs and ahhs this year. Lots of ‘best costume’ comments. Waverly’s favorite indirect compliment was overhead from a teenager who mentioned they were going to copy her costume next year. She liked that!

Waverly and I both loved it when people would say, “better take some extra candy. You need your strength—you’re carrying a lot of weight.” I wish I could remember all of the funny comments.

Scene from behind.

Waverly turned on her acting gene right from the start. She would go to a front door, check her dumbbells to make sure the type was facing correctly (that’s my girl!), ring the doorbell and then raise the dumbbells over her head, striking a pose. I loved seeing her and the dumbbells in silhouette at door after door.

We carried two sets of dumbbells this night. After constructing the first large set I began to get nervous about the size so I conjured up a smaller set. Waverly would size up each next house and make a judgment call. “Hmm, small porch. Better give me the 100 lb weights.” I began to feel like a golf caddy on our trek and expected her to ask me for the seven iron next.

Thanks to everyone on our route who makes this night special for Waverly. You know who you are. Waverly eats up your attention.

Strongman: it’s what’s
for lunch.


We often try to keep our costume ideas secret in order to make the “reveal” all the more exciting. This year we issued a surreptitious clue when Natasha decorated one of Waverly’s lunch bags with a circus tableau. Sorry if you were not in Waverly’s school cafeteria to see it.

As an example of my type-nerdiness, I have to say that my favorite part of this year’s costume construction was selecting the typeface for the dumbbells. I was surprised to find so much image reference that used sans-serif type for the weight labels. I’ve always been a big fan of Le Corbusier’s stencil typeface and selected a variant for our purpose (for reference, see Lettres à jour: public stencil lettering in France). It is likely we made the 500 pound weights just because we loved the number “5” in stencil type.

As mentioned, we actually built two sets of weights—a 200 pound set (2 x 100) and a 1,000 pound set (2 x 500) as we were not sure which would be easier for Waverly to navigate small porches with. I did not want Waverly to knock little tykes off their feet as she swung the large weights around. She is a bit of a “bull in a china shop.” The strongman of the circus persona fits her well. Waverly has often been heard to exclaim, “I’m no girly-girl!”

The family circus
Our little monkey girl.