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Saturday, October 23, 2010

8 Tips for Choosing a Halloween Costume

Halloween is not normally my favorite holiday.  Thanksgiving is built around home cooked meals and passing out halfway through the Dallas game and as a devoted NFL fan I cannot claim any other holiday as my favorite.  But this year Halloween has had the decency to fall on a Sunday and will thus compete for my affection equally with Turkey day.

Halloween offers us candy, creepiness, costumes and women dressed in far less clothing than is seasonally appropriate.  There are only two things that fall in the negative column when it comes to Halloween: The flood of bad horror movies that crowds the box office and the whole process of choosing, acquiring and assembling a costume.

But hey, that’s why you hired me.  I’d like to offer a few tips that I’ve picked up over the years that should help guide you through the whole ordeal…

 #1) Be Original 

I wonder if anybody will go as one of those anorexic Smurfs from Avatar.  Wonder if we’ll see an Iron Man or two.  Okay, so this advice is strictly for the grown ups.  Kids only get one day a year to dress up like Iron Man and that borders on cruel and unusual punishment by itself.  So by all means, take full advantage of the one day you get to dress as whatever flavor-of-the-month superhero is being crammed down your throat at the moment.

But adults should know better.  If you’re going to bother dressing up, you might as well not look like 3 other people at the party.  I mean… that’s the point of dressing up.  If you want to look like 3 other people, don’t wear a costume and save yourself a few bucks.
 #2) Don’t Overspend 

You can’t make up for your lack of originality by spending more money than the other guy.  People may compliment you and tell you that you’re the most realistic looking of all the Batmen.  It really doesn’t matter.  Deep inside they’ll be thinking that you look more like a dingle-berry that spent $400 on a Halloween costume.  Or worse, they’ll think you rented it and are presently enveloped in latex still festooned with the last guys drunken beer sweat.

 #3) Be Realistic 

How many great costume ideas have gone unrealized because they would have required effort?  How many “aha” moments fizzle out in disappointment when the sheer complexity of the concept comes into focus?  How many half-finished Optimus Primes will be collecting dust while their would-be architects desperately scramble to find something other than an ill-fitting “Kick Ass” leotard on the 29th of October?

The thing is, if you’re one of those people that go all out for their Halloween costume, you already know that.  You’ve been thinking about it since last November, you’ve been working on it since March and by now, but for a little spray paint and glitter, you’re prepared to transform into the entire cast of Jersey Shore at a moments notice (yes, all of them).

But if you’re not that kind of person, keep it simple.  If you think of something that probably won’t be at the costume shop, it better be something that can be pulled off with cardboard and tinfoil.  And not too much tinfoil… we’ll need that to cover pies on Thanksgiving.

 #4) Minimize Make-Up 

Odds are overwhelming that you suck at applying make-up, and I’m not just talking to the guys here.  I mean… we can still see your neck too, ladies.  If it’s a different color than your face, that’s kind of a dead giveaway.  I’m just saying.  But for those guys out there who are not clowns, stage-actors, transvestites, emo or Rudolf Guliani, Halloween is the only time of the year when the whole make up thing comes up.

When it does, don’t overdo it.  The more your costume relies on make-up the more time you’ll spend touching it up.  Or more likely, if you don’t wear make up every day you’ll get it right in the mirror before you leave and never think to check it again.  With a bit of misfortune you might be all the way home from the party before you realize that you spent half the night looking more like a mime than a vampire.

 #5) Don’t Wear a Mask 

Of course, many costumes allow you to forego the makeup process altogether but a full-blown mask isn’t any better.  Minutes after donning it the interior of the foul rubber visage will be damp from the 83% of your breath that doesn’t make it through the infinitesimal mouth and nostril slits.  Trapped in an increasingly wet and smelly Yoda head with your peripheral vision retarded, you will be wishing you’d gone with green makeup in short order.

Now, this obviously doesn’t count for all masks.  Half masks, facemasks, Ninja-Turtle style eye bands and things of that sort are fine.  The full size $100+ head enveloping style masks are cool, but they’re also nearly impossible to wear for long periods of time.  You can’t see or hear anything, nobody can understand you and you’re slowing dying of asphyxiation.  You’ll have to take the mask on and off throughout the festivities, ripping chunks of hair out each time, and each time put it back on its horrific odor will grow more uninviting.

Note: This one is especially important if you’re going to be drinking or doing anything else that increases your risk of vomiting without warning.

 #6) Wear a Cape 

I’m serious about this one.  It doesn’t even matter if the thing you’re dressing as doesn’t traditionally have a cape.  Who cares that Iron Man didn’t wear a cape?  That was his gross oversight and doesn’t need to be yours as well.  So what if it doesn’t make sense to put a cape on a zombie costume?  You could be going as a zombie that was zombified on Halloween while dressed as Iron Man in a cape.

This is the only time of the year that we get to wear capes and we should take full advantage.  Even the costumeless should wear capes on All Hallows Eve.  It is our best opportunity to rebel against the cape-hating oligarchs of international fashion.

 #7) Consider Warmth 

I don’t know whose cruel idea it was to stick Halloween at the end of October.  If we were voting on a masquerade themed holiday I think we’d have had the sense to put it on a pre-jacket weather point in the calendar.  For many in the southern regions (or northern regions, I know I have a few Australian readers, too) this doesn’t come into play much, but for those of us on the other side of the snow line the coming winter (or receding winter) is a major factor in costume choice.

It is a delicate balance, of course.  Something too cold and you’re covered in a costume thwarting coat much of the night.  Something too warm and you’re too warm.

 #8) Consider Practicality 

Have you ever seen somebody at a Halloween party who is in a semi-embarrassing half-costume?  He stands there in his green and yellow unitard constantly pointing to the turtle shell that completes it.  Of course, he isn’t wearing the turtle shell because at some point in the night he calculated that he would rather finish out the party with his beer belly actively challenging the might of his spandex one-piece than suffer through another minute of wearing his whole costume.

Comfort and mobility are the key issues here.  The third time your headdress pokes somebody in the eye you’re going to have to think about losing it.  Turning sideways to get through a doorway is funny the first few times and irritating as hell afterwards.  If there’s a component too big to take off in the bathroom that could be a problem you only discover after it’s too late.  If there are a half dozen spots on your body you can’t reach you can rest assured that they will itch throughout the night.

Before committing to a particular costume, get an idea what you’re going to be doing.  If all you’re doing is sitting around the house and handing out candy when kids show up (guilty), an uncomfortable, unseasonal, unoriginal, make-up heavy, immobile costume is okay (it should still have a cape).  If you’re taking the kids Trick-or-Treating don’t wear anything you can’t outrun them in.  And whatever you’re doing, the most important thing to remember this Halloween is that you have to get done kind of early because the Steelers are playing the Saints at 8:20 est.

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