The Pros and Cons
costumes we've made over the years
have had their good and bad points. The following are concrete
examples of what worked and didn't in what we've dressed up in/as since
we started Halloweening together.
2016: Star Wars: Han Solo, General
Leia, Kylo Ren, and Rey
- Timing. It was a Star
Wars year again, so we welcomed the new trilogy in just like how last
year was our way of saying goodbye to the previous generation's Star
Wars movies (not that they'll ever go away though, honestly). I
did get confused for Indy Jones once in Oak Lawn, but so did Kirk at
his own Halloween party where he was wearing nearly the same
costume. Not everyone's into Star Wars, but I wasn't going to
miss doing Star Wars when Star Wars just got big again.
- Good with or without kids.
I liked that we were still a couple whether the kids were there or
not. The kids worked on their own (including in a photo shoot at
Target months before we decided to put on the costumes for Halloween).
- Accuracy. These came
from either the Disney Store (in the case of the kids) or from Chinese
knock-offs that we customized (in the case of the grown-ups), but we
pretty well nailed everything. There weren't any details where I
went, "Well, if I just had a bit more time..."
- Simplicity. No
props. Other than my wig, these felt like clothes rather than a
costume. They were a little hot given the weather (see below),
but otherwise I couldn't complain! Not one of us had to deal with
any make-up or prosthetics, which is nearly unprecidented for us!
Stan could get by with or without the mask. Stella's hair was a
bit of a worry since three year-olds are pretty wild, but the ponytails
survived even a whole day on the playground at Liz's Spooktacular.
- Un-balanced. I was a
bit more recognizable as Han (the major returning character) than the
handful of scenes Leia gets, one of which is in a completely different
costume. You only get a glimpse of her in the trailer, so I got
recognized a lot more, and mainly by Star Wars fans in any case.
The kids always got recognized, especially Rey since there's no one
else she could be confused for.
- Hot! Well, it was
absurdly hot this year all the way up to and beyond Halloween.
(I'm talking highs in the mid-80s even at the end of October!) I
was wearing long sleeves under a faux-leather jacket and a plastic
wig. Dani was in a flight suit with a vest! Stan was in
black robes over his street clothes. Only Stella was partially
unwrapped in her capris. She went sans armbands at times too just
to avoid heatstroke.
2015: Star Wars: Darth Vader, Ben
Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, and R2D2
- Recognizability. It was
a Star Wars year (i.e., "The Force Awakens" was due out in less than
two months; there were already people in costume from that film!), so
everyone was already excited to see any character from the films.
- Novelty. My un-masked
Vader costume turned out to be a really big hit with everyone, which
surprised me. I guess no one expected to see a Vader sans
helmet. Unfortunately, Dani was hardly noticed. Everyone
sees Jedi costumes, even on girls, but there was novelty to mine that
distracted from the otherwise relatively cheap store-bought costume.
- Good with or without kids.
Sith are symmetrical like bookends, so it worked. Add
the kids, and then you have more pieces of the puzzle.
- Comfortable. I wasn't
crazy about the cheap synthetic feel of my costume, but it turned out
to be okay. Dani was freezing at Oak Lawn, but I was fine all
night, maybe because I was also wearing a t-shirt and leggings under my
costume. The only problem was the lack of a zipper in the
front! I had to take off the entire top of the costume just to
- Un-balanced. Because of
the novelty factor mentioned above, Dani was largely ignored.
- Facepaint. My makeup
was just grey greasepaint (plus a little red around my eyes), then Dani
applied zombie silicon transfers in a couple places. The scars
were great! Thankfully the greasepaint was a thin application for
this costume, so it wasn't bad, but it's still a negative.
- Props. We left the
lightsabers in the car at Oak Lawn and on the countertop at the first
Halloween party we went to the weekend before. They would have
been fun to have, but it was just too much to bring.
- Gloves. I have the same
problem with gloves as I do with masks. I just don't think hands
or faces should be covered. I was wearing gloves, so I worried
about trying to take pictures all night plus carrying a prop in the
other hand. Thankfully the gloves didn't affect anything except
using the small buttons on the camera to review pics or change to timer
mode. However, they helped a lot with the cold.
- Not enough lead time.
This was one of our busiest years due to moving my dad into his house,
getting him settled in, etc. (far too much to detail here), so my and
Dani's respective costumes were store-bought. She only made
costumes for the kids, and even those were relatively simplified.
Wizard of Oz: Wicked Witch,
Flying Monkey, Scarecrow, and Dorothy
- Recognizability. These
are among the most iconic characters in movie history, so it would be
hard to get this wrong. In fact, it's perfect for the gay
neighborhood anyway. We were literally walking down the street
past an apartment complex when a group of guys went nuts and started
singing to us. Dani smiled because she remembered the "Rocky
Horror" year when she said no one would recognize us, and essentially
the same thing happened. Tons of folks wanted their pictures
taken with us, especially if they were WoO characters too.
- Accuracy. Dani's
costume was store-bought this time (mostly because I was happy with the
look/quality of the high-end costume), but she made all the rest, and
they were dead on.
- Good with or without kids. We
intentionally divided the costumes into teams so that it was "parents =
bad guys; kids = good guys," so it worked when we went to Oak Lawn by
- Comfortable. Usually we
have to deal with the cold (at least in Oak Lawn), but this year was
probably the warmest since we started going more than a decade
ago. However, it did get really chilly late Halloween
night. However, my costume was only one lyer of flannel, so it
was in the "just right" range. Dani didn't complain about hers
being too hot, though she skipped the leggings. We put leggings
on Dorothy though on Halloween night, just in case.
- Simplicity. It was also
nice that we didn't use any accesories to speak of. Dani had a
broom but didn't really do much with it. Stella had a basket with
a plush Boston terrier standing in for Toto (he looked similar) that
served as her Trick or Treat basket. Stan and I were hands-free.
- Balanced. I thought
maybe Dani would take the lead here, but people were really drawn to
the flying monkey (both because of the brighter colors and the novelty;
I remember someone commenting that they'd never seen anyone do a flying
monkey costume before).
- Facepaint. I keep
saying I'm never going to do facepaint again, but then something turns
up on the "to do" list and I do it again! Prosthetics and paint
are both annoying, especially if you don't like stuff touching your
face. I keep wanting to scratch it, and it would all come off
almost immediately. You can use a fixative, but we're always in
such a rush to get ready and out the door that we never have
time. Still it wasn't bad. I had considered prosthetics,
but we kept putting off getting some for me until it was too late to
order any (and I couldn't find any locally, though we tried). I
also got Dani a prosthetic witch nose that we never bothered
with. The facepaint was enough.
Scooby Doo: Fred, Daphne,
Shaggy, and Velma (or Stelma)
right away. Additionally, we had a
big stuffed (almost life-sized) Scooby if all else failed.
difficult was matching the colors, but we nailed it
100%. I found the
perfect pair of blue pants at JC Penny's on a sale rack. Stan's
t-shirt was hard to track down, but I had it months before Halloween
through eBay. Most else was from the fabric store since Dani had
to make it from scratch.
- Good with or without baby.
even without Shaggy and Velma
(although we actually ran into a Shaggy and Velma at Oak Lawn which we
did without the kids, of course).
other than the ascot. Dani made
her and Stella's costumes from scratch, but Stan's was stock too,
except the shirt started out as long-sleeved before Dani modified it.
but my costume was warm without being too
hot. We never dealt with especially cold weather this year
(though it rained pretty hard in Oak Lawn for a while), but it would
have been fine for a chilly night.
show so timeless is that each character is so
distinct in design. You really don't need to have Fred standing
there to spot Daphne.
materials and techniques. We didn't get far with this, but
we did a partial head cast. The plan was to make my "hair" out of
silicon so that it would look like the "one-piece" cartoon
version. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any silicon mixes through
any retail store (e.g., craft and hardware), so I gave up and just
bought a wig rather than investing more time in the project. But,
hey, it's a start.
enough lead time. Really, it wasn't a matter or time so
much as just being caught up in other projects (both Halloween and
renovations on three different houses) that kept me from getting to the
"prosthetic" hair experiment.
wigs. We let Stan's hair grow out all the way from his
birthday three months earlier so it would be "Shaggy," but the other
three of us were wearing wigs. As I mentioned above, I wanted to
make my hair more cartoonish, but instead fell back to a "surfer" wig
when we didn't have time. I didn't like the look of it at all,
even after Dani trimmed it. Dani wasn't crazy about her wig
either. Stella (being only six months and change at the time)
pulled her wig off almost as soon as it was upon her. She did,
however, tolerate her sunglasses better than expected.
2012: The Munsters: Herman, Lily, and
This was the perfect year for this costume for our
family. We knew it was the last Halloween for which "Eddie" would
be an only child since Dani was 13 weeks pregnant with his sister when
we had the party last year. She was just barely showing at that
materials and techniques. We used alginate for the first
time, and made a prosthetic. It was a very involved project, but
good experience in the event I use this approach again.
Without "Eddie," most folks just
assumed we were Frankenstein and Bride. In fact, Stan still
thinks we were Frankenstein, a vampire, and he was "the wolf boy," as
he puts it. However, we took him with us pretty much everywhere.
I considered going with the giant lift shoes, but I knew
we'd be taking these costumes out to Oak Lawn, and so I just went with
a pair of my own shoes. Also, the costumes were long-sleeved, so
they were warm without being bulky or too hot.
enough lead time. You would think a month would be
enough, but I spent a lot of time on one attempt at the prosthetic for
Herman's head (no relation to the failed tv series) and didn't have any
margin for error. The head didn't work out, so I had to go with a
accurate enough. We got close with the costumes, but they
weren't dead-on accurate to the characters that we were immediately
recognizable. It was just a hard look to capture exactly because
the make-up and prosthetics were at the center of it, and the clothes
were only a small part of the look.
Where the Wild Things Are: Moishe, Tzippy, and Max
film adaptation of the
book had just come out the year before, but mainly it was the book that
everyone remembered, and that's what the costumes were based on more
than the movie versions.
a balanced pair. Either
of us would have been great on our own, but it's Wild Things.
required. We didn't have Stan with us for Oak Lawn or
Liz's party, and yet we were able to go out and be recognized
everywhere. When we brought him Trick or Treating with us, it was
materials and techniques. We attempted a much more
extensive (and successful) approach with fiberglass than our dabblings
the previous year with the Coneheads.
I honestly didn't think we would be able to get as close to the
looks of the characters as we ultimately did. Had the heads been
a little different, the whole look would have fallen apart.
Instead we got the details correct right down to the number of
these giant heads on
which made it difficult to do almost anything, especially taking
pictures. They weren't heavy, but we had limited peripheral
for Halloween, which made
these perfectly comfortable most of the time, but all the walking
involved in Trick or Treating and Oak Lawn meant that we were a bit
sweaty at times.
2010: The Coneheads: Belzar, Prymaat,
other character, assuming
you know who the characters were... and, honestly, who doesn't?
were supposed to
look like a family, and we did. There were no stand-out
baby. Here, too, we could get away with
leaving Stan at home without ruining the look of the costume.
materials and techniques. We worked with clay, latex, Mod
Podge, and fiberglass for the first time. The fiberglass in
particular turned out to be the foot-in-the-door we needed in order to
attempt the Wild Things in 2011.
This worked out really well other than the heads.
enough lead time. It took a lot of work to get the heads
made. We went though three different attempts, and the final
products weren't really all that polished (e.g., still didn't fit
especially well and were definitely off-color).
2009: Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Swee'Pea!
were, they went fucking
apeshit. Seriously, I have never had a year where people were
more excited over my costume, and it wasn't even an especially
elaborate or detailed costume. It was insane! I never would
have predicted the effect Popeye had on people in a million years.
themselves were merely cartoonish versions of everyday clothes.
It was so easy doing everything in these costumes throughout the
nights, and they were relatively warm besides.
stood out as more
remarkable than the other. You would have recognized either of us
without the other nearby.
required. Stan was
only three months old at the time, so most people assumed he was a prop
anyway when we took him to Liz's party. We didn't take him to Oak
Everything worked. We were able to match the color of
every fabric and every stitch of the characters' classic looks.
best Halloween I've had, right
across the board, and the costume was a big factor in that.
2008: GI Joe: Destro and the Baroness
paint. I took a different approach than the grease paint
from the year before (i.e., silver powder mixed with an applicator),
and that made a world of difference in terms of comfort and durability
over the course of the night. I could definitely do this again if
a costume called for it.
had the attention-grabbing
silver face, Dani was very sexy in the black polyester and vinyl.
weren't overwhelmingly hot
in spite of appearances.
Dani got all the details just right on these. Granted, we
had some play in the looks since there are variations among the
different versions of the character in the cartoon, comic book, and
action figures, but we achieved everything we set out to do.
needed to be a 30-something
male to get who we were. We did this costume the year before the
live-action movie came out, so there wasn't much awareness of the
characters unless you grew up watching the cartoon. The costumes
were based on the cartoon/comic book/ figure, so seeing the movie
wouldn't have even helped with Destro in particular.
2007: Nightmare Before Xmas: Jack
Skellington and Sally
character now as Santa
props. It was nice not having to haul anything around to
get in the way of collecting candy or taking pictures.
as Jack, but
Dani's take on Sally fell short. We should have experimented more
with the hair, makeup, and also used brighter colors for Sally to have
her image just jump right at you. Instead, the whole look was too
subdued to get an equal share of attention.
face most of the night. The type
of makeup we used was inexpensive, but brushing against anything could
have smeared it, meaning I had to take care even with using my camera
so I didn't wear it away.
2006: Rocky Horror Picture Show: Riff
Raff and Magenta
together, Dani proclaimed, "If nobody recognizes us in these outfits,
I'm going to feel really stupid." Well, we didn't feel
stupid. Hell, we were famous. Starting from the time we got
out the car to head to the block party and all night long people were
like, "Riff Raff! Magenta!" Everywhere we went there were
people singing "The Time Warp" to us. This happened at least once
every ten minutes for the entire night. It isn't often that I'm
right, but it was nice to have the point driven home over and over and
over, even if it was in the form of strangers singing to us.
maid, brother and sister,
lovers. We looked great together.
materials and techniques. This was the first time we used
spirit gum (to attach Riff's hair), so it was good practice if we want
to go that route again. In fact, I did some makeup on Leiann in
2011 that called for it.
We got the looks just about as close as any cast member at a
midnight showing. There were a few details here and there that
weren't precisely like our celluloid counterparts, but they were all
too small to notice.
hair. The irony was that this when I started shaving my
head (which I love and should have done years ago), but then we glued
on hair. It looked great but was very difficult to deal with all
night. Held on by only a thin layer of spirit gum, strands were
constantly coming off, and I had to be careful not to get any caught
lest a big chunk come off of me.
2005: Revenge of the Sith: The
Emperor vs. Yoda
the year the final prequel
film, Revenge of the Sith,
came out, so Star Wars was pretty much on everyone's mind.
Everyone recognized Yoda immediately.
required. We could have done more, and I even
experimented a bit with trying to give the Emperor more of a deformed
look, but we simply used a light dusting of face paint. It was
enough to convey the look without being so much that it required a lot
of time to apply or to be annoying to wear.
materials and techniques. We used el-wire for the
lightsabers and force lightning. The hilts of the sabers were
made from plumbing parts and I ordered polycarbonate tubing from
McMasters, so it was very much a hardware store adventure.
as Yoda, but I chose the costume the Emperor only wears toward the end
of the film, not what we remember from Return of the Jedi. I
remember several people thinking I was a wizard or a monk and not
really getting that Dani and I were doing a couple's costume at all.
of a pain to carry
around most of the night. Admittedly, they did serve as beacons
when we wanted to locate one another when we were separated at Oak Lawn.
2004: The Ninja and the Geisha
weren't tv/movie/(comic book)
characters, but everyone knows what a ninja and geisha are.
mask. I found out really quickly that I hated wearing a
mask. You breathe your hot breath right back into your
face. No one knows who you are unless you pull your mask down and
tell them, etc. It's just not worth the trouble if you aren't
making a movie.
as a geisha, and
everyone wanted their picture taken with her. But as a ninja, I
a fan. It was kind of
annoying, but they added to the costumes at least.
2003: Matrix Reloaded: Neo and Trinity
and Revolutions, which was
prefect since the 2nd movie was pretty cool (I liked it better than the
original. Sue me) and the awful close to the trilogy that
followed a few months later. My favorite moment that year was
when we walked into a party and everyone was like, "Whoa." It was
no "hero and sidekick" dynamic going on where your attention is drawn
to one more than the other. Well, except for the fact that she
We nailed it in terms of getting the look exactly right for both of us, and
that set the bar for every one of our costumes that followed. All
the details were covered. To this day, the only thing I didn't
like about my costume was that the buttons weren't exactly like those
in the film (Dani bought them; I didn't). That's my biggest
complaint, and that's pretty small.
the cusp of fall, so you can't tell whether you're going to be dealing
with Texas heat or Arctic cold fronts and icy rain.
recognizable. While you might enjoy dressing up as a
favorite character, you need to choose something more mainstream if you
want other people to enjoy it as well, otherwise you might just as
easily dress up and look at yourself in the mirror.
timely. This is a corollary to being recognizable, but
costumes fall in and out of fashion. If you do a 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.)
accurate. The look will fall apart if you don't pay
attention to the details. You will compromise the validity of the
costume if you start playing the "close enough" game.
pair. 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.
baby. Once Stan came along, we brought him
with us to most events, but sometimes (e.g., Oak Lawn) we leave him
with a sitter. If the costume didn't work without him, it
wouldn't be much good to us.
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.
comfortable. Don't chose a costume that absolutely
requires props or elaborate headgear or other accessories. If you
have to have something, don't let it tie up your hands. Have a
hilt or a holster or some alternative to shift it to.
irritating. Again, this ties in with item above,
but it's specific to you. For example, I don't like anything on
I know from experience that can't stand facepaint or masks, and so we
avoid costumes that
require those elements.
new. We didn't know how to use
fiberglass before we tried it on a costume. I had never worked
with el-wire before we built lightsabers (which I later used in our
wedding ceremony). But we had specific ends in
mind and sought out the means to achieve them. Figure out what
need in order to realize a goal, and then hit up YouTube or
Instructables.com or any number of other useful sites to learn the
materials and techniques you're going to apply.
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.