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I love October. It’s the time of year for parties, boots, hot chocolate, and my ever-favorite costumes. While those things can and should happen throughout the year, there’s something about October that makes them better.
So let’s spend a few columns leading up to Halloween, perhaps the geekiest holiday of all, talking about geeky, holiday-related stuff! And where better to start than costumes?
I know we recently ran a column chatting about costumes, but this part of the holiday deserves more spotlight and maybe a couple of pointers from someone who does this all year (that’s me, if you haven’t been keeping track).
Now, I know Halloween superstores are popping up on every block and the Walmarts and Shopkos are inundated with aisles and piles of picked-over costumes. I know we’re college students, employees and family members who often have little time to sleep, let alone worry about Oct. 31.
But please don’t buy a ready-made costume from Walmart.
I don’t remember the last time I saw a good one. The fabric’s always this tacky, cheap material. The props are wimpy plastic. The sizes are awkward. By now, the best are probably gone. And they’re usually more expensive.
This doesn’t mean you have to sew from scratch, though. In fact, unless you know how to sew or have time to learn, please don’t. You’ll probably want to kill something. While I think sewing is a skill everyone should learn the basics of, it’s not a requirement for a great costume.
If you have friends who know how to sew, you could ask them for help. But don’t expect them to do the work without reimbursement. Fabric is expensive, and so is time. Be like my friend who asked for sewing help with her costume and offered to pay. Don’t take advantage of people. Halloween usually gives you enough free stuff as is.
So if sewing is out, what else can you do? Well, as many cosplayers will tell you, some of the greatest stuff can be found at the local thrift store. You never know what you can find. A few runs through the washing machine is all it usually takes to get something blah up to snuff.
I’ve put together some fabulous costumes made from thrift-store junk. For example, want to be a pirate? Find a poofy-sleeved, cream-colored shirt, a red vest, belts, and some strips of fabric and you’ll probably look more authentic than you would in the shiny, crinkly stuff at Walmart. Or maybe you could find a yellow jumpsuit and a gas mask for a “Breaking Bad” look. It’s also really easy to make some, um, complimentary props out of blue-dyed, smashed-up sugar candy. Yes, I did just suggest what you think I suggested.
Another great place to look is in your house (or your parents’ house). There’s always something, like maybe an old dress, your sister’s makeup from her crazy phase, your little brother’s high school baseball uniform. There’s got to be something stuffed in a closet or a box.
Barring that, there’s the Internet. While that can be as bad as the Walmart costume aisle in terms of quality, if you know where to look, you can pick up decent stuff. Many cosplayers buy wigs from eBay for $15 or $20. They’re quality wigs, too. Not those super-shiny, tangled messes of plastic strings. You just have to know what to look for, and the Internet has the resources to help you.
And, lastly, there are those Halloween aisles and superstores. I know I said don’t buy from there, but one second! If you’re smart and careful about it, you can pick up some stuff that you can then alter for quality (just not whole costumes, unless you really want to go down that road). For example, I glued some PVC pipe and random stuff from the garage to a cheap dart gun and spray-painted it black (if you do it right, it’ll look real, and then the cops will come for you . . . and your blue sugar candy). Spray paint (in a well-ventilated area on a protected surface) is your friend for this. As is glue.
The biggest part, as with anything, is to have some creativity. Maybe a bit of daring. Halloween comes once a year. You may as well look fabulous.
And since this has already come up, yes, you can wear costumes on Halloween to your classes. You’re never too old to enjoy a holiday.