Halloween on the fly: Making last minute costumes

Aaron Stein-Chester

Typically, I start thinking about my Halloween costume about a half an hour before attending holiday functions. This year, I decided to get a little more organized. My first party was at 9 p.m., so I started calling costume shops at 6:50 the same evening.

“Hi, how late are you open?” I asked, politely desperate. “7 p.m., sir.” No deal. Since I happened to be driving to Los Angeles, I made the same call to a few shops in West L.A. “8 p.m., more or less,” said one. And so, I decided to do what I normally do: rummage around the house.

What I’ve learned when faced with a last minute costume quandary is not to panic. Not showing up in some ornate, expensive outfit won’t make you a target of ridicule. Sure, you can go out and spend $50 on a hot dog outfit and get some cheap laughs at a party. That’s easy.

“Woah-ho, look at that wild guy in the hot dog costume,” they’ll say. “I bet he’s funny.” Then, they’ll forget about it in five minutes because they’ve seen 20 other poor saps in the same, store-bought outfit. But a costume that’s totally original: unforgettable.

Making a costume, you can decide your level of involvement. Costume shops all place varying dollar amounts on the same ten-minute drive to the store. When you’re pulling a costume out of nowhere, it accurately shows how much time and effort you put into it. This can work in your favor, though it’s a gamble.

If your costume falls flat, you break even because time is equal to investment. But just think: if you spend no time at all putting a costume together that’s a hit, it’s that much more impressive. Looking good without trying: fashion rule number one. Fifteen minutes and next to nothing spent on your costume, and Mr. Hot Dog Suit is $50 in the hole and put to shame.

There are the tried and true household items that can always make a simple costume: flour, sheets, and pillows, but try to expand on them. They can always be used in a pinch, but incorporate them into more original creations.

Closets are a good place to start. First try your own, and then move onto roommates. Switching genders: striking and easy. If you’ve got access to home, Dad’s clothes are a good resource as well. His collection of Hawaiian shirts can be thrown together for anything: a tourist, Jimmy Buffet, or you could even pay homage to Dad himself. The same goes for Mom, of course, save for Mr. Buffett.

Plaid works just the same. Pop on a hat, tuck in your shirt, and you’re a cowboy. Add a tool belt and a hardhat and you’re a construction worker. Take it all away and you’re a lumberjack. Add a pillow to any of these and you’re fat.

Another trick is to use “found objects.” Make yourself a walking work of avant-garde art a la Marcel Duchamp. Rummage through the trash if you must. The combinations are endless. Tape cereal boxes and kitchen knives to yourself. Cereal killer. Do the same with empty milk cartons, toilet paper, and Kleenex. White trash. Tape a whole bunch of junk to yourself. Trash can.

Tape cottage cheese containers to your legs: cottage cheese thighs. Add Starbucks and a cabbage patch doll: Britney Spears. Za-zing! You’re well-dressed and topical. And so on. It gets funnier the more candy corn you put down.

Tape things to your head and become that object. For instance: a coke can: coke head. A pot: pothead. Bubbles: bubblehead. And so on with blocks, chowder, and meat.

For fear of misrepresenting myself: spend money if you’ve got to. Clearly, tape is key. Make-up and wigs might help too. Yet, there’s nothing quite like a look through your household refuse to strike Halloween gold.

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