Choosing a Costume
This is a re-tooled, condensed version of
what used to be three other articles on this site. Enjoy.
Knowing who or what you are going to be is the starting point.
history. Who have you gone as in past years?
Knowing what you've done in the past will give you clues as to what
you're most comfortable with. That said, you shouldn't be a slave
to a pattern you've established.
interests. What are your favorite movies? What
characters do you find you identify with? My interests tend to be
things like comic books and sci-fi movies, so the characters are
usually colorful or at least outlandish enough that they leave few
guessing who we're supposed to be.
a character. I like to literally be a character for a
night. I don't do any sort of method acting; I just like to be
able to revert to another identity, quote lines from a movie, do a
voice, strike a pose, whatever. I don't like "joke"
costumes like the plug and the socket. Yeah, I get it. But
then what? Say I'm the plug, what do I do? "Look, I'm
a plug! Bzzzzz!"
recognizable. While you might enjoy dressing up as your
favorite character, you need to choose something mainstream enough be
be recognized immediately. That is, if you want other people to
enjoy it as well. Otherwise you could just as easily dress up and
look at yourself in the mirror. If you're going as a "joke" based
around a one-liner (e.g., a guy on Oak Lawn went as a $3 bill as in
"queer as..."), it needs to tell itself visually. Don't leave
timely. This is a corollary to being recognizable, but
costumes fall in and out of fashion. If you do a movie character
a couple years after it has peaked, you look like you were at a loss
for an idea. (On the other hand, you also don't want to go with
the most popular costume and be one of a hundred Heath Ledger Jokers on
the street in 2008.)
The look will fall apart if you don't pay attention to the
You will compromise the validity of the costume if you start
the "close enough" game.
look. Think about it like this: You're casting
yourself in a role. You have to look the part, and certain
costumes just won't work with your body and/or hair without serious
alterations to it or you. Which characters do you resemble?
There are limitations in time, money, and/expertise in many of the most
ambitious costume ideas. These can be overcome if you are
industrious enough to get an early start.
lead time. Some costumes are going to require
experimentation, and you have to budget failed attempts into your
timeline if you expect to be ready in time for Halloween
festivities. If a costume requires some engineering, you're going
to have to dedicate some time to finding solutions.
conscious of your budget. Again, this gets at whether or
not you are willing to invest in exotic new materials and can afford to
experiment. Additionally, you may not be able to find that print
you're after without having to order it or fabricate it by customizing
afraid to try something new. You may find yourself
delving into new techniques (e.g., makeup, prosthetics, metallurgy,
leather-working, electronics, etc.) in order to achieve a desired
look. For example, we didn't know how to use fiberglass before we
tried it on a costume. I had never done anything with el-wire
before we built lightsabers. But we had an end in mind and sought
out the means to realize it.
Knowing how to a look work with more than one person requires
understanding the dynamics of the costumes.
or couple options. Making
a costume be part of something
larger is a good way to create an even bigger impression.
pair/group. It isn't cool if you do a couple's
costume and only one of you shines. Both costumes should
compliment the other, thus reinforcing the look you're going for.
If you're going as a group, no one should be the "star" and leave the
others in their shadow.
without others. Conversely, if your group might not
have a member for an occasion, the costumes should still hold
together. For example, once our baby Stan arrived, we brought him
with us to most Halloween things, but sometimes (e.g., Oak Lawn) we
leave him with a sitter. We could still be the Wild Things without Max or Popeye and Olive Oyl without
Swee'Pea. If the costume didn't work without him, it wouldn't be
much good to us at an adult event.
A costume is worthless for any Halloween celebration if you can't stand
wearing it. Consider the following...
irritating. I don't like anything on my face.
Experience has shown me that I can't stand certain kinds of face-paint
or masks (more about that below), and so we avoid costumes that require
without masks. Masks are hot, and they don't allow facial
expressions. No one knows who you are with one on, only who
you're dressed up as, and those are two separate things. I have
nothing against make-up and/or wigs, however, so long as anything I put
on is durable enough to last through the night without me having to
sacrifice my activity level.
props home. A sword (or lightsaber) is cool, but
you need to have at least one hand free. You know, for holding
the camera or your bag of candy. If you have to have something to
complete your costume, don't let it tie up your hands. Have a
hilt or a holster or some alternative to shift it to.
the accessories. Props are bad enough, but take care
when choosing/designing a costume that you aren't stuck with something
requiring, say, elaborate headgear or giant wings. Anything that
obscures your view or is constantly getting bumped into simply won't
survive the night, and you won't enjoy yourself.
the right shoes. In most cases, you can still create a
good look without wearing uncomfortable shoes. If you're going to
be out on the town all night, you don't want to wear anything that
results in blisters.
weather-appropriate. You want something versatile enough
that you can avoid being too hot or too cold, depending on the
conditions on whatever day(s)/evening(s) you're going out.