10/12/2012 12:06 EDT | Updated 12/12/2012 05:12 EST

National Costume Swap Day: Event Aims To Help Parents Save On Kids' Halloween Costumes


Robin Rivers doesn't need to think too hard to recall her favourite costume: she joyfully wore the same one by choice every year.

She sported a cardboard and tinfoil crown swathed in scarves and would wear every bauble and trinket from her mother's costume jewelry box, transforming into a pirate gypsy princess.

"I just loved it because it was that one chance that I had to just glitter," Rivers recalled with a laugh in a phone interview from Halifax.

But for those who want to wear something a little different this Halloween, there's National Costume Swap Day Canada, a collection of more than two dozen local events taking place in Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Ontario.

While Saturday is the designated swap day, events are being staged throughout the weekend, with the last swap currently registered to take place on Oct. 19, said Rivers, national director of National Costume Swap Day Canada.

Individuals can visit the National Costume Swap Day Canada website to register swaps in their own communities, and will receive a welcome kit including posters, banners and a rundown on how to organize their own events.

Rivers sees the appeal of trading for preloved getups — beyond just taking home a free find.

"I think parents really like that idea because when we were kids, for the most part, our parents said, 'Go into the closet and find your costume' — and that's kind of what this is," she said.

"This is like going into the closet and finding your costume again, and what kids come out with most of the time is pretty amazing.

"Sometimes they'll come out with a Star Wars costume or the princess costume for the 900th time. But often they'll come out with something they'd never even think they'd go in and find."

A few Canadian groups have previously held costume swaps as part of an initiative which started in the U.S. three years ago. But this year, Rivers said they decided to stage a full-on event that was national in scope.

Costumes are typically dropped off in advance but can be brought to the door on the day of. When would-be swappers arrive, they'll get a ticket and will be able to see costumes others have brought in to exchange.

While living in Comox on Vancouver Island last year, Rivers hosted a swap that saw 500 costumes traded within two hours, including getups related to "Transformers" and "Star Wars" and newer favourites like "Monster High."

In its third annual Halloween Shopping Survey of 1,000 consumers, thrift retailer Value Village found that a family of four is expected to spend $330 on average for costumes and decorations, up 10 per cent from last year.

Rivers will be contributing a fluffy owl costume and Wonder Woman ensemble to her swap, and estimates she'll save about $50 by not purchasing new costumes for her daughters, aged seven and two.

"That's a special dinner out or a half-week of groceries or something like that that we can put back into the family coffers," she said. "I think saving money is a big motivation."


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