Fake Banner
    The Science Behind The Perfect Costume: From Homemade Miracles To Storebought Extravagance
    By Erin Richards | October 31st 2008 12:05 AM | 3 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Erin

    I am a current graduate student at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. I write for Neon Tommy, a digital news website, as a science...

    View Erin's Profile

    Every year at about this time, I start to wonder what I am going to be for Halloween. Despite my best efforts, it usually takes up a large amount of my brainpower until a few days before Halloween, and then I am so excited about my impending costume debut, I parade it around the house, and end up feeling like an idiot. It’s okay, you can laugh.

    Halloween is just one of those holidays. It allows people to express themselves in ways that are simply unacceptable the other 364 days of the year. For one day (or weekend for the adults) you may dress as anything or anyone you can imagine, from the most classic of Halloween costumes, to the latest in vogue celebrity. So if either you want to dress as a devil or Sarah Palin (or both), here are some ideas to get those creative juices flowing so you can fulfill your heart's desire on Halloween.

    Historical Costumes: This category can include costumes from any time period in History. Some of the most popular are the 60's 70's and 80's, since they have each produced iconic symbols of cultural phenomena during that decade.

    60s- The Flower Child: This costume can be quite elaborate or fairly simple depending on the wearer. Hippie costumes include a lot of tie-dye, Birkenstock-like sandals, and faded jeans or billowy skirts. Men can show off their beards while women wear long, straight hair. Headbands, peace signs, hemp jewelry, and face paint can also be added to this ensemble to make a convincing costume. You may also include some rounded rose-colored glasses to add some John Lennon vibe (who is, of course, your hero). Most if not all of these items can be found at your local thrift store (or perhaps in the back of your closet) for little cost.

    Hippie Guy

    Peace, dude: Tie dye, peace signs and an overall mismosh of stuff makes this the essential hippie costume, although attempting this much tie dye is not for the faint of heart. Photo credit: flikr user comiquero.

    70s- Disco King/Queen: The iconic disco costume can be achieved if you simply know where to look. The Disco King requires some sort of psychedelic print, with lots of colors, glitzy accessories (think sequins or glitter) and white go-go boots. For guys, just imagine John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Think bell bottom pants and shirts with either really ugly paisley print and clashing colors. Add an afro wig (or frizz out your own hair) and some aviator glasses for that extra special touch.

    Superfly: Although this costume attempts the look of a disco ball, it is the epitome of 70's opulence. Boots and lots of silver, with an afro and aviators make this a great costume. Photo credit: flikr user tifotter.

    80s- Flashdance/Rocker: Ahh, the ever popular 80s costume. Countless college parties have been thrown in its honor. It is also remarkably simple to make an adequate 80s costume. For girls, you can either go for one of two popular looks, the Madonna wannabe or the Flashdance remake. Those that wish for the Madonna wannabe look go for a little more glam. We are talking big prom dresses, with bows and frills, coupled with metallic heels, lots of big jewelry, and fingerless gloves. Don’t forget your blue eye shadow, colored mascara and scrunchies! The Flashdance Wannabe consists of dancewear. Legwarmers and leggings, and oversized sweatshirt with the neck cut out so that sits over one shoulder. Polish off this look with a side ponytail and an exercise headband and you’re ready to dance like a maniac. For guys, all you need is some acid wash jeans and a somewhat dirty rock and roll band t-shirt. Add a leather jacket and some big hairdo for that extra pizzazz. Check the local thrift store for your basic items.

    Crazy 80s: This costume is definately channeling some Oliva Newton John as an aerobics instructor. Made with a leotard, leggings and exercise bands (with big hair) you have a perfect 80's costume. Photo credit: flikr user Sung Sook.

    Historical costumes can also include outfits from beyond recent decades. Medieval, Victorian and Colonial costumes are also popular choices.

    Cultural Costumes: Cultural costumes encompass a broad spectrum of looks. You may opt for the cultural costume of any country: samurai and geisha for Japan, flamenco dancer and matador for Spain or don some lederhosen and a stein for Germany. This category also includes US cultural costumes like Western cowboys or Native American costumes. Looks of this nature may be very specific, but should be recognizable to people you wish to talk with at whatever Halloween event you might be attending.

    Here is an example of an easy cultural costume that you can put together with inexpensive materials. Greek Roman costume: This classic costume is not as boring as you may think, as you can add your own personal touches to it. The base of this costume is a plain white tunic which can be to the knees or full length. This tunic can have sleeves or be one shouldered, whichever you prefer. Add a rope belt around the waist, a red, or blue (purple if you are Caesar) sash or gold for women and some gladiator sandals ($15 on eBay) and an olive branch headband (you can use fake leaves from any craft store) and you are free to run around spouting Homer and conquering your neighbors.

    Animals Personified: Lions and Tigers and Bears, O My! This category is open to emulate any number of creatures in the Animal Kingdom. Most popular are cat costumes, of which you can find sets of tails, ears and bowties (don’t ask me why) at almost any Halloween or costume store. Pair it with black tights, shirt and whiskers and Ta Da: you’re a cat. But fear not, any animal is possible with a little creativity, imagination and help from your local crafts store. But for those of you who would rather just purchase your favorite animal costume, they can be fairly inexpensive, e.g., a full size gorilla costume at Walgreens for $20.

    Gorrilla Madness: These fellow costume wearers have dressed up the usual boring gorrilla suit with extra special touches like a tutu and tiara or boxing gloves. Make your animal costume your own with a personal twist and it will be big hit. Photo credit: flikr user internets dairy.

    Creepy/classic Costumes: Ghost, Zombie, Mummy, Axe Murderer, Vampire, Witch, Sorcerer, Angel, Devil, etc: If you want to try a classic Halloween costume, it’s all about the accessories and the makeup. You can still be a ghost, devil or vampire this Halloween without feeling that you have no imagination. The key is commitment to the costume.

    Vampires: The vampire costume requires the teeth above all. You can buy a set of vampire teeth just about anywhere and there are numerous varieties. Other than teeth, vampires wear dark clothes (mostly red and black) with cloaks and gothic type jewelry. For an extra effect you can apply white makeup to the face with fake blood to the corners of the mouth or bite marks to the neck. Women should have dark lipstick and eyeliner. Try thrift stores and/or cheap clothing stores for your clothes, and then costume stores or drug stores for the rest. All and all, the costume is relatively inexpensive if you know where to look. Remember to speak in a Transylvanian accent and be constantly looking for more blood.

    Vampire costume: Some black clothes and well placed fake(?) blood, and you are ready to terrorize everyone in sight. Photo credit: flikr user jon360

    Fantasy: Fairies, Sexy costumes, Superheroes, sexy fairies and sexy superheroes: Halloween in the recent years has seen a perversion of normal costumes into “sexy” versions of normal costumes. There is a “sexy” Harry Potter costume, a “sexy” witch, devil, angel, fairy, sailor, racecar driver and even a “sexy” bumblebee. This evolution into increasingly scant costume coverage, fishnets and stilettos is the result of the transformation of Halloween from imitation to freedom of self-expression. On this day, we are allowed to let out expressions of ourselves that are unacceptable the rest of the year. Therefore, lots of women choose a “sexy” Halloween costume to show off their sexuality in a way that is inappropriate other times. For that reason I say, hey, if you got it, go ahead and be whatever you please. However, dressing in lingerie is NOT a costume (unless of course you are dressing as a prostitute). A sexy costume is acceptable, but should be kept somewhat tasteful. For women, an inexpensive dress can be found at cheap clothing stores, and then dressed up with accessories to fit your costume. Fishnets, boots, gloves, wigs, wings and other accessories are available for moderate prices to complete your costume. Then feel free to let you “sexy” self shine.

      

    Fairy Tales: Throw on a frilly skirt, wings and matching top and poof, instant fairy. Let your inner child roam in fully fairy elegance.  Photo credit: James W. Bailey

    Superheroes are also a popular choice for Halloween, but can be difficult to pull off without spending some serious dough. Batman, Superman, Spiderman and The Hulk costumes abound in costume shops, but if you are thinking of venturing outside the mainstream, be careful not to pick something too obscure. Try Anakin or Obi-wan from Star Wars, a mutant from x-men. (try a trench coat and playing cards for Gambit or orange glasses for Cyborg) Neo from The Matrix is also easy to do, with a black sunglasses and trench coat. Or, for you creative individuals, you can create your own superhero costume. Essentials include boots, spandex tights and bodysuit (think bright colors), mask, gloves and cape. Think about your symbol and superpowers as you craft the perfect superhero.

    Its a bird, Its a plane: This Clark Kent/Superman costume is great beacuse all it requires is a superman t-shirt (available at any Target) and some black rimmed glasses along with a white shirt, tie and pants. Overall, this costume is inexpenisve and well, super. Photo credit: flikr user Toastie14.

    Cultural Phenomena: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Transformers, Nightmare before Christmas, Disney characters, I-Pod dancer: Whether you dress as an elf or Megatron for Halloween, costumes inspired by movies and cultural icons are among the cleverest costumes out there. For an elf costume, you need to make your ears pointy, either by fake ears or some other means (not permanent I hope). Elves have cloaks, boots and long tunics and leggings. Add a bow and quiver of arrows (can be made out of pipe cleaner) and you are ready to kill orcs and prance around elfishly. More elaborate costumes like Megatron can be made out of cardboard and paint if you are ambitious about your costume and have some time on your hands.

    From the big screen: As you can see here, this is me and my friend Samantha. She made her own ghostbusters costume using a pair of blue coveralls, ghostbuster logo, cardboardbox with various bits and pieces collected from Ace Hardware, and a backpack placed inside. Pure genuis. I was a Jedi. Don't laugh, you know its cool. More specifically, I was Leia (post-Jedi training). Thus the need for a Jedi cloak and a light saber. I made my own costume using found clothes, boots, black cloack and a light saber (Target). Photo credit: Me. 

    Celebrity Persona: Sarah Palin, Amy Winehouse, Barack Obama, Marilyn Monroe: The celebrity persona is a fad costume that follows the newest star or starlet in Hollywood or a recently famed public figure. This Halloween expect to see a lot of Sarah Palins, Amy Winehouses and Miley Cyruses. If you want to attempt a costume after a celebrity, simply model your look to a famous picture of that person. Of course, if you want to model your costume after someone like Gregor Mendel, be prepared to explain your costume to the throngs of people who will for sure, not get it. You are better off picking a persona immortalized in a picture or painting. 

    Marilyn Monroe: This costume is actually really easy to put together. It requires only a few essential items including the white halter dress and a curly short blond wig (if needed). Add some red lipstick, mascara and heels, and poof, you are an instant Marilyn. For an extra touch, speak in a breathy voice and sing happy birthday Mr. President to anyone that will listen. The dress is available for $20 at costume stores or elsewhere. Wigs can be anywhere from $10-20.

    Marilyn Costume: A simple white halter dress, white heels, short blonde hair and red lipstick make a perfect Marilyn Monroe costume. Photo credit: flikr user allygirl520.

    Object: Rubik’s Cube, Game Boy, Pumpkin, Tetris pieces: Lastly, we explore the realm of the object costume. This is by far the easiest and most inspired of categories. Again the key to this costume is commitment. Essentials for these costumes are cardboard, duct tape, paint and creativity. Tetris pieces are often good with other people so you can arrange yourselves in different ways throughout the night. A Tetris piece costume just takes some cardboard and paint. Other costume ideas achieved with cardboard are Game boys, I-Pods (or phones) Rubik’s cube, MySpace and YouTube profiles, TVs, Refrigerators, Dice, Robots, Racecars, Playing Cards, X-ray Machine, and many more. Advantages of this costume are that it is CHEAP, it will get some laughs and attention for your efforts, and you can wear comfortable clothes along with your cardboard. Let your imagination run wild with your crazy ideas. Just don’t knock into me with your costume try to get to the punch.

    Rubiks Cube: This costume took a lot of time, but is easy on the wallet. Just aquire some cardboard and some paint and you are free to create a sensational costume all your own. Photo credit: flikr user JaseMan.

    Group Costumes: If you have friends that are also unsure of what do don this Halloween, why not try a costume for a group. Some ideas are the Care Bears, Disney princesses, band of pirates, Street Fighters, characters from Star Wars or Star Trek, or practically any other movie, tv show or any other group within reach of the imagination. Remember, things come better in multiples!

    Group fun: This group decided to dress up as the "Fanta Girls. Costumes as a group just make the idea more awesome. I have no idea what flavor green Fanta is, so don't ask. Photo credit: Erin Richards, Halloween 2005.

    Captain Planet, he's our hero: I just couldn't resist putting this picture up. This picture is of a bunch of my friends who dressed as Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Also, featuring Gaia (Mother Earth). This is an awesome idea beacuse most of the costumes are simply shorts, vests, colored shirts and paper logos (yes paper). Captain planet's blue facepaint and green hair add the over-the-top awesomeness. Kudos. Photo credit: my dear friend Erin Geary.

    So remember, Halloween is the night to let your inner demons run around and wreck havoc (figuratively of course). Indulge yourself in the simple pleasures of life and enjoy your surroundings and the freedom of expression that is Halloween.

    Happy Halloween!

    Comments

    Hank
    More specifically, I was Leia (post-Jedi training). Thus the need for a Jedi cloak and a light saber.

    Oh my.   I missed this bit in all the v2 madness.  

    This is some sort of higher order of Star Wars fan geekness, right?   A future mythology that you and 10 other people know about and a costume to go with it?

    P.S.  But the Ghostbusters thing is cool.    I can't remember the last time I packed up and drove, got a grip, came equipped, strapped a proton pack on my back and then split - but I bet it was recently.

    I'm all about the homemade costumes because they're almost always more creative and thought provoking than store-bought costumes. People who go all out and create something recognizable with their own 2 hands are the folks that make dressing up for holidays a worthwhile thing to do.

    Ashwani Kumar
    Halloween in USA , Holy in India, Fashing in Europe is all about people trying to look different . How does it relate to human nature ? One day in a year on Holy festival a festival of colours people are allowed to throw colurs on people . In Fashing in Europe people wear strange dresses and behave different. Halloween is more polished of both as neither colour nor wierd behavrior , its a nice occasion for all to enjoy and look different.