Halloween is one of the holidays we celebrate that has a very long history. It’s thousands of years older than Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or the Fourth of July. It’s a holiday that is based on big questions about the relationship of life to death, which is endlessly interesting and mysterious. So with a history and a theme like that, how about ditching the costume store and taking that Halloween costume into your own hands?
PICKING YOUR COSTUME
Here is where the rubber meets the road on the whole Halloween thing. What are you going to be? Do you want to be the best thing, the worst thing, or something in-between? Do you want to dress up as something to look up to, something you’ve always dreamed of being? Or, do you want to take on the appearance of something dark, something you’ve always been afraid of? Or instead, would you rather be something silly, mundane, or trendy?
This is where you make it yours and only yours. So, say, if you choose to dress up as a parking ticket using a cardboard box and some duct tape, are the names, locations, and fines written in the boxes funny? Are they serious? Are they based in real life? Are they based in fantasy? Is the parking ticket drenched in fake blood or covered in glitter? These are your categories, your nightmares, your wild fantasies. No one else’s.
MAKING YOUR COSTUME
Big chunky things: With a big cardboard box you can be a lot of objects. With the bottom cut out, and holes for your arms and legs, you are a big blank canvas for becoming a retro robot, a Lego brick, a skyscraper, Chinese takeout, a box holding absolutely anything, Minecraft anything, or any vehicle or creature or object with squarish volume. A big stuffed Hefty bag will do the same for spherical or squishy objects. Just throw on duct tape, paint, tubes, pantyhose, wires, Slinkys, headless dolls, hoses, teacups, and whatever else you have lying around your home that can add to whatever illusion you are building.
Flat things: That big cardboard box can give you a couple of big pieces of cardboard. With these you can make a sandwich board to wear and become literally anything flat. Coins, cards, famous documents, screens, photos, crackers, headstones, rejection letters, bills, report cards, Pop-Tarts, and just keep going. It’s just a big blank for all your great ideas. If you absolutely can’t think of anything, be a chalkboard or a whiteboard and let your costume evolve as others write on you.
Wispy things: Get out some sheets or fabrics and you’ve got a Roman toga, a sincere or ironic classic ghost, a tornado, or a cape. Toilet paper or crepe paper rolls gets you bandages, a wispy fringe, a roll for an adding machine, tongues of fire. Pin, tape, or sew your fabrics to each other or to supports like hula hoops or broom handles to create your shape.
People: What is the weirdest piece of clothing you own? If you’re lucky enough that your mom’s a priest, or your dad’s the Express mascot, then you’ve got a leg up. Sports uniforms, dance wear, formal wear, work uniforms, interesting coats, absolutely any hat you have, stuff from the thrift store; any of this can support your costume idea, or spark one that seems good. Who do you have dreams about? What kind of characters do you love in the movies? What historical person inspires you, or terrifies you?
And do you know what? Unless your costume-making team somehow involves a few master craftsfolk, you are not going to look like you just stepped out of a Hollywood CGI masterpiece. You might look pretty homemade, in fact, but the best part of it will be that you’re not dressed up to look on the outside like what someone else thinks you should look like. You’re dressed up to play at being something from your inside, and that is something that no one else could ever do for you.