Friday, October 23, 2009

The fine art of Halloween costumes...

With All Hallows Eve right around the corner, the pressure is on to come up with that perfect costume...whether you are hitting the crowded streets with wandering masqueraders, going to a friend's apartment for a shindig, or just staying home watching old Universal monster movies with a bowl full of candy for tiny trick-or-treaters, the right outfit is essential. Looking back over my many years of dressing up for the holiday, there were a few times I nailed, and a few that to this day are a headscratcher. So here's a brief review of my personal dress-up experiences, followed by a guide to help you plan the best outfit for you!

The Good:

Amelie--When I first moved to Los Angeles, back in 2003, I decided to kick off my first Halloween here with my only cross-dressing costume to date. That of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's adorable pixie Amelie, played in the film by Audrey Tautou. Donning a short black skirt and wig, and lips and sweater a crimson red, I coyly grinned at everyone at the party, confusing most, but thriving on the "holy shit, you're Amelie!" responses that came every once in a while. Those are my favorite kinds of outfits--the ones where most people will just blink at you, but the ones who get it really get it. Here's a pic of it:
Jareth, the Goblin King--I've always been a big fan of David Bowie. I own everything he's ever recorded. An iconic musician, he's also a very underrated actor, excellent in films like Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and The Prestige. His magical teaming with Jim Henson to create Labyrinth made a family classic that I wore out on VHS growing up. So it seemed inevitable that I would eventually go as his Toby-snatching Goblin King, sporting a spiky blond wig, puffy pirate shirt and tight pants. Plus, this is the only time you'll ever be able to see Jareth play air hockey.

Andy Warhol--Black turtleneck, white hair. Easy. Fun.

J.D.--Yep, that's Christian Slater's slurpee-guzzlin', easy-goin' psycho from the cult classic Heathers. Trench coat, tall hair, dynamite strapped to my chest. To make it even better, my wife Jenny went as Veronica.

Spiderman Cowboy--Maybe my favorite ever, it was a take on kids who invent their own weird hybrid costumes. It consisted of Spiderman underoos, a holster, a cowboy hat and boots. Yippe kay yay, evil dooers!

The Bad:

A White Rapper-- Or, as we called them in junior high, a "milk chicken." What can I say, Vanilla Ice and Snow were on my mind at the time.

A Jukebox--Wha? We turned a giant fridge box into an old-fashioned juke, with two liter Sprite bottles on the sides. I have absolutely NO idea why we came up with that, or worse yet, actually made it and wore it out.

A Shark--In theory, this is good, except that it was tall and pointy with the mouth opening where my face is, and everyone thought I was a rocket. Which was...annoying.

There were many others: Rocky, a Werewolf, Pirates, Wolverine, Greg Brady, Tigers Relief pitcher Willie Hernandez, etc. Not sure what you want to be this year? Keep these pointers in mind:

Is it topical? Then you DON'T want to be it. Last year, every party was crawling with 15 Sarah Palins. This year, you are going to see Jon and Kate Gosselins, Kanye Wests and Octomoms everywhere you look. Oh, and Balloon Boys. It's not clever. It's not fun. And you have ZERO chance of winning any costume contests.

Slutty and/or Zombie is the easy way out. Yes, us fellas aren't going to mind seeing you gals as Slutty Librarians, Slutty Nurses, or Slutty Policewomen, but there isn't much creativity going on there. Ditto on zombie-fied versions of traditional costumes--especially when pretty much every other horror movie in the last couple of years has been zombie based.

Too soon? YES, IT PROBABLY IS. I expect to see it, but I just don't want to--expect tons of Michael Jacksons, Farrah Fawcetts, Patrick Swayzes, and even Soupy Saleses...done up in disgusting ways.

Don't worry about it not being immediately recognizable. The best costumes are a bit off the beaten path. You don't have to worry about seeing a bunch of Sam Waterston outfits out there, and although not that many people will recognize you, the ones that do will get a kick out of it. Just carry around a sound effect of the Law & Order CLANG CLANG with you, and you are good to go.

Dress weather appropriate. I made the mistake of going as Magnum, P.I. in the cold, wintry night of San Francisco one year. Shorts and a Hawaiian shirt do not equal happy partying in that circumstance. If you're going to be outside, think of something that you can be in that won't damper your spirits. Ditto on the Eskimo costume if you're attending a crowded house party.

Be safe, have fun, and Happy Halloween!


  1. Well, shit! I was totally planning on being Audrey Tautou as Sarah Palin as a zombie this year. Thanks a fucking lot, Mr. Stratton.

  2. Hmmm... "Jareth" is looking a bit more like "Melissa Etheridge" if you ask me... ;-)