It's a Texas thing, y'all. Other states may have Friday night high school football. They might even have homecoming traditions and a court of coveted crowns for high schoolers deemed royal by their peers. But, nobody does it quite like the Lone Star state.
Our mum game goes deep.
Mums became a popular fall tradition in the 1930s, but recent years have seen them evolve into a competitive sport of their own. Big, dazzling, sparkling, elaborately detailed -- at times, it can seem like a matter of one-upmanship. The extravagance comes with a hefty price tag.
Designs for young women, which are typically bigger and customized down to virtually every detail, run from $200-400 and up, says an Anna, TX, -based mom who sources hers from Kristie Pinion of K-Dandie's Bling It On Designs. Garters, which are traditionally worn by young men, cost $65-200, she says.
If that sounds like a lot, consider that some students will dream also of new formal attire and perhaps even renting a fancy ride for the evening. It adds up.
Some parents foot the bill for mums from professional florists (or require their student pitch in), but's not uncommon for families to take on the task of mum and garter -making themselves. We asked the Dallas Morning News Facebook group Dallas Parents if members had experience with Do It Yourself mum-making projects, and the response was enthusiastic.
Many comments weighed in with helpful suggestions about where to source less expensive materials and how to figure out the process, even for those who are "not crafty." Some showed off photos of their handy work and one commenter graciously offered up old mums from storage to be retro-fitted into a current model.
We even got special tips for making a mum as big as Reunion Tower.
Well, OK, not that big; but, if your teen's heart is set on a giant arrangement with all of the bells and whistles (or longing to impress a special date whose is), we're here to help. One North Texas church has even asked students to consider donating a portion of their mum money to Harvey relief. Going for a DIY variety is one way to have your mum and help fellow Texans, too.
Big is in: Not all mums are comically large -- though some do look like parade floats mounted on the frames of petite young women -- but most are bigger than the modest flower and streamers parents might remember from their own high school years. Rather than safety pinning them to dresses, modern mums are often worn like a large-scale necklace.
Color guidelines: Some schools have specific traditions based on the student's year so, for example, seniors might wear white and silver ribbons, whereas freshman wear ribbons in school colors. Others have looser guidelines, and students simply choose the look they like best.
Also trending: Nontraditional sports or organizations. You're as likely to see mums decked out with FFA insignia, drama club masks or even a robotics team's mechanical mascot as ones with traditional footballs or megaphone charms.
"[W]e never found a place that made homecoming mums that could add the things [my daughter] was involved in: robotics, Girl Scouts, and Tech Theatre ... odd combination but she was heavily invested in all of them," says Paige Greenawalt-Hernandez, on Facebook.
Wow factor: Her daughter's senior mum had optical fibers and a robot that moved, lit up and made noises.
It was controlled by a remote pinned in the pocket of her letterman jacket.
Recycle an older model: This is one of the best tips we received because it helps keep costs very low -- possibly even free, if you find a generous donor ready to part with a former keepsake that's now collecting dust. Sometimes it's as easy as simply posting in an online forum like Dallas Parents or one specific to your school.
The Saleplace: This wholesaler seems like a beloved open secret; those in the know, like Dallas Morning News copy editor Kim Oglethorpe, speak of it with a mixture of reverence and glee.
Located in Balch Springs, about a 20 minute drive from downtown Dallas, The Saleplace has been family owned and operated since 1977. (Though these tenacious Texans' story starts a lot earlier, and it's a great read.) Customers travel from hundreds of miles away, the website claims. We believe it.
To grasp The Saleplace's scale, know that the 20,000-square-foot facility is a former grocery store. Inside, you'll find at least 15 different types of ribbon (what the heck is grosgrain?), trinkets, charms, literal bells and whistles, bulk hot glue sticks, staples, glitter, plush animals, instruction books, tiaras and sashes, stickers, garters and ... you get the idea. It's a one-stop shop.
And, prices are among the best you'll find.
Pro-tip: Blogger Trista Perot of Mommy Upgrade suggests taking advantage The Saleplace's bulk pricing. "[I]t's much more cost-effective -- especially when you buy a bulk dozen wolf heads and you can use them for several mums over the years," she wrote in 2016.
Another tip: Shop earlier than August, if you can, or try coming on a weekday morning to avoid "madhouse" weekend crowds. At this time of year, lines "may look like a popular ride at the State Fair" -- but with six registers open on weekends, they move quickly, The Saleplace says.
The Mum Shop: Another longstanding, family-owned business with a great backstory, The Mum Shop in Plano makes custom mums and sells supplies in its 7,000-plus-square-foot shop on Parker Road. Here's a 2016 look inside with The Mum Shop's Amy Fogarty:
Customer service makes The Mum Shop unique. It offers starter kits for folks who are interested in DIY-ing portions of the process, but who aren't as keen to start totally from scratch.
On top of that, there are no rush or late fees, "[s]o, if you have an emergency, a last minute change of plans, or just simply forget to get a mum or garter for your Homecoming," the website assures (like a grandmother gently wrapping you in a shawl and handing you a cup of hot cocoa), The Mum Shop will get your order made.
Finally, they offer "the Mum Doctor service," which means if you try to DIY ... and it doesn't go so well ... the experts will "help you improve your mum or garter for a reasonable price."
Yard sales and thrift shops: You've seen cardboard boxes filled with half-used holiday ribbons and other crafting supplies spread out for a nickle a piece on a tired, sweaty homeowner's lawn, right? Their clutter can be your cost saver.
Craft stores: Stores like Michael's and JOANN may have a selection of homecoming-specific items like football helmet charms and glittering stickers; but, note that Michael's online selection is almost completely out-of-stock this time of year. Several Dallas Parents comments noted that it's easy to go over budget at these places.
Dollar stores: When Daiso Japan moved into D-FW in 2015, it was a game changer; the retailer carries everything you never knew you needed.
It's hard to go into Daiso -- or any other dollar store, for that matter -- for something specific; but, if you've got time to browse, you'll likely find things like ribbons, decorative stickers, craft supplies and trinkets.
Learn How to Make Mums and Garters
Eyeball it: How hard could it be, right? The great thing about a mum is that there's no one right way of doing it. That said -- there are teenagers involved. Fitting a specific vision adds a bit of pressure.
Special tips for going big:
Facebook commenter Laura Kelley offered best practices she learned by doing.
- Figure out how the girl is going to wear it. (Does she want it around her neck? How will it complement her dress or uniform? Is there something specific about her frame that affects design specs -- maybe she's very petite or quite tall?)
- "Start with the big items first -- the shape, a teddy bear, lights maybe, the big ribbon with a name/year, and the special braids," she writes. "Then the rest is kind of filler -- bells and whistles (literally), curling ribbon, and all those little charms you can buy."
Craft store classes and how-to guides: In addition to hosting occasional in-store mum making classes, craft store Michael's also keeps an archive of guides on its website's Projects & Ideas tab, including ones for homecoming mums and a homecoming garter.
The guides are set up like recipes, with needed "ingredients" on one tab and detailed instructions listed on another. Homecoming projects will take "over an hour," and are suited for an intermediate skill level, the guide suggests.
You can visit a store to browse items before purchasing or take the much easier route by adding suggested supplies to your online shopping cart in one fell swoop -- that is, if the needed items are available. Being peak homecoming season, most are currently sold out. If you're planning for next year, it's smart to make a mental note and shop early.
Pro-tip: Several commenters on our Facebook thread mentioned that it's easy to get wrapped up in the fun and buy too much at at store like Michael's. It could be easy to rack up a $100-plus tab.
Estimated cost: It's hard to say how much it would cost to make a mum or garter following Micheal's how-to guides to the letter. Prices for currently unavailable items are not listed online at this time.
Online tutorials: Ah, the internet -- teaching industrious people to do all sorts of random things since ... well, who knows when the first craft, home improvement and cooking projects appeared on the World Wide Web, but we salute the people who put them out there for our personal improvement.
A simple YouTube search brings up a lot of videos, from the basics to special ribbon techniques like the Diamond Back, the Texas Braid, the Military Braid and the Chain of Hearts. Here are tutorials for fans of big bows, making garters and reinforcing the base for a sturdier mum.
Say you want a mum in the shape of Texas -- there's a video tutorial for that. (The part about the Barbie's hair, around minute 7:45, is delightful):
Or, perhaps you just want the basics. This video is under 5 minutes and has racked up nearly 100,000 views:
Get in the game with more reading:
What's the deal with those ridonkulously huge Homecoming mums?
Some of our favorite mumstrocities from years past
'Put the home in homecoming': Frisco teens go viral with Ikea photo shoot
Our critic's take on the 2015 movie about Carter High School football
And, info on a documentary about the Kilgore Rangerettes
Have you heard about the Ford Center at The Star -- it's a big deal for Frisco teams
Swing by our Texas, Y'all tab for all things big, bold and wonderfully Texan.