Halloween has a theme each year, whether we admit it or not. Sometimes these themes repeat, sometimes they are pop-culture phenomena. The costume world is one of unpredictable trends that result from a confluence of history, current events, popular culture, art, technology, and fear/humor. As the winds change and the time moves ever forward toward autumn, we see reflections on the wind. Nostalgia will play a huge role, as the theme of Halloween will be one of peering back through time. For good or ill. Haunted, hateful, and hopeful, we’re fighting old battles again.
This time of reflecting on the past will yield many items of reference. Special eras in our lives – as the now mythic 90’s attest – will bear particular fondness. Past presidents, past mistakes, past relationships, evolution, and a general middle-aged malaise has the fashion world looking into the vintage, the retro, the antique, and the novel, reimagined. Go with what you already know you miss. Falling on black days of unease and unrest.
The deeper the reference, the more respect you’re going to garner. Think back to unknown or underrepresented figures from when you were a child. A fright wig and a onesie are all it takes to be Freakazoid. Got a modest dress and a pair of stockings, then you’re Whitney from The Wonder Years.
Keep It Kitsch
Anything campy is on play. Go as a Dukes of Hazzard lunch box, put on a bowling shirt and be any late 90’s or early aught sitcom male. Hell, be a hipster playing a hipster with a load of Pabst, a typewriter, a pencil thin beard, and a shirt with someone else’s name on it.
Origin of Species
Deep cuts on everything is the way to go. As we live in an era of reboots, replays, reimagining, and retreading the same old ground, it’s time to bring out some of the same old fears. Be Original Superman, Batman in tights, a 70’s Cylon, or Dr. Who with a huge scarf and Tom Baker ‘fro.
The Ad Campaign
There’s few things as frightening as the unholy monsters they throw at us to sell us stuff. Geico uses a lizard, a pair of eyes on money, and Progressive has the nightmarishly friendly “Flo.” If modern ones don’t appease, be The Noid, the Fry Guys, Mayor McCheese, or the eerie old “man” from the Six Flags commercial.
A lot has happened in the past year, from a messy election to a couple of destructive storms, to say nothing of the endless string of horrific Press Secretaries. Politics is a freak show with a human Cheeto acting as a puppet to a shirtless Russian despot. If you can’t find a costume in that, you’re not paying attention.
Be a Ouija board, the Death Star, the new Death Star…which we think is called the “Starkiller,” a doll, a robot of whatever stripe you wish – up to and including the new sex robots soon to be everywhere. Be a half full glass, a cobweb, or an Amazon Echo. Hell, be a book just to remind people what they look like.
The easiest path to walk is to zombify something. Sure, Raggedy Anne is a classic costume, but make her undead and now you’re cooking with gas. Be a pregnant zombie covered with entrails from where your zombaby escaped your zomwomb. Then carry an inanimate doll around. Hell, be zombie peanut butter.
Pick a color, any color, then find someone or something that uses that. If you fancy yellow, make a dress and be Belle, the most insufferable of all the Disney Princesses. Get a lot of white and be Elsa. Silver makes you a machine, blue makes you the ocean or the sky, and then you’re free to turn yourself into a tapestry. Get a green body stocking and you can be pre-CGI Andy Serkis.
Be A Filter
Snapchat filters are painfully everywhere. You can’t swipe through Tinder or Bumble without seeing a dozen of them. Ditch the digital and put on your own dog ears, fairy crown, or halo of flowers. Look, you’re relevant.
You As A Doll
There’s been an attempt to revive and re-brand all the toys of youth, which means you can make yourself a modern version. Be lazy Barbie, thousand-yard-stare G.I. Joe, fry cook Cobra Commander. Take yourself and what you love, mash it with an action figure, slap a brand on your ass an call it a day. Congratulations White Trash American Girl Doll!
Gender bending is a simple, quick way to make an easy costume. Find a skirt or a knockoff suit in your size and devise a backstory. A guy in a glitzy dress is always funny, which is why they beat it to death on lip sync shows, and a woman in a suit and tie has a weird, confusing sexuality that is never out of style.
Icons of Hope
It’s easy to get caught in cynicism as the world crumbles around us, our “leaders” steal our healthcare, and nature begins to whip us for generations of abuse. So, if you can find something hopeful in this bleak world, be that. A peaceful dove, a peaceful person of faith, or merely be the sweet, sweet embrace of death. It’s all we truly want.
Thrift Store Grab Bag
Throw on a random bunch of crap, like giant glasses that say 2007 and a t-shirt that declares you to be “Home of the Whopper” with a set of Daisy Duke shorts. Then be a meta jackass who either says “You don’t get it?” or “You pick what I am” to make your audience do the work.
Foil or Fabric Overload
Get a roll of foil or a bolt of fabric and just decide what it is. Look, you’re the Shroud of Turin! Look, you’re a moonless night! Look, you’re a satellite, or living garbage. Hell, wrap a sheet around you and it’s a toga. Over your head, and you’re a ghost.
Live The Meme
Be a dumb cat stuck in a box. Go as a creepy clown carrying a bunch of meat. If you can dream it, you can meme it, and if you can meme it, you can wear it as a costume.
Blocky cardboard clothes, a giant yellow cylinder for a head, and you’re ready to fit into anything. You can even add in swappable props made out of painted cardboard. There’s nothing simpler.
Cut Something Off
Tuck away your arm and leave a bloody stump. Tuck up a leg or sit on a skateboard all night. Be really dedicated and make it look like you’re carrying your head. Losing a body part is never a bad idea, and a little red paint is all you need. Do it around your groin and keep telling everyone “it needs CPR.” Man or woman, it probably couldn’t hurt.