Costume Creativity: Basic Hallowe’en Ideas… But With Some Twists

It’s nearly Hallowe’en, and you haven’t decided on a costume yet. Every year you just lump with a classic costume like ‘generic witch’ or a more cosplay style pop culture reference like a recently deceased celebrity as a zombie. Yawn. But don’t panic! It’s easy to make more of an impact at your Hallowe’en parties with very little cerebral effort (that means thinking) and impress people with one of these twists on the costume classics:

Werewolf:

A monster less popular these days, possibly due to the effort it takes, the lack of realism in many portrayals, or the lesser place of wild animals in our lives. Either way, a werewolf costume is a retro-feeling costume that’s easy to make feel unique.

Were-What?

Not quite as silly as the Wallace and Gromit film “Curse of the Were-Rabbit”, taking the typical werewolf approach to another animal makes a funny twist. Ripped and muddy clothes go well with big, furry, carnivorous animals for an old school scare. A were-rabbit could be scary; give it the creepy full-head mask look for an uncanny creepy feel.

Big Bad

A fairy tale twist on horror, or a horror twist on fairy tales? The wolf in granny’s clothing is easy to be funny, but that was done with high viewership in Shrek. Keep this one dark with blood or even evidence of eating Little Red Riding Hood herself. The other Big Bad Wolf was in the Three Little Pigs, so another scary tale costume can swap red fabric for some bacon…

Ghosts

It feels like a staple, but the simplicity of ghost costumes makes them feel boring. Despite the fact that it’s unlikely anyone you know has every cut eye holes out of a sheet and put it over their head to be a ghost, it’s a stereotype. Put some effort in, or don’t because ghosts aren’t as overplayed as they feel.

Accuracy

Step one: dress up in as accurate a historical costume as you can, be it Victorian or the 80s. Step two: make sure all of the clothes are white, paint your exposed skin white and use temporary hair colour to make your hair white. Boom. You now look like an accurate [into time period here] ghost! It’s high effort, but highly spooky and impressive.

Deadspread

Far less effort and far less spooky is this jokey option. Riffing on the classic bedsheet costume, take a coloured or patterned sheet or even a blanket and cut eyes in it. The deliberate fail of a basic ghost costume that isn’t even plain white is well worth the giggle, and you won’t feel like you wasted time and money if the laughs don’t last all night.

Witches

This classic costume is mostly confined to the ladies. It’s also one of the most common costumes with most of the more basic twists just as common. Characters, including Harry Potter and plain clothes witches like those in Charmed and Sabrina, done. Gothic or punky, making it more of a regular fashion outfit with a pointy hat, done. Good or cute witch, done. Luckily there are some untapped ideas.

Wet-ch

From the Slavic kikimora to the English Jenny Greenteeth, watery witches are a global terror. With a wet-look costume and some culturally specific accessories, such as a kikimora’s bare feet or Jenny’s big pointy teeth, this witch might be hatless but is definitely horrifying. You’ll definitely make a splash at a party, at least.

The Three Graeae

A group costume, yes, but a group costume to rival all others. The Graeae were the trio of witches that Perseus meets in his quest to kill Medusa. They sometimes took the form of hideous old women for those who want to wear fake warts and cloaks, and sometimes the form of beautiful young women, for those who want to sexy it up. Oh, and they only had one eye between them, which they took in turns to use and passed to each other by hand.

Skeleton

Watch out, there’s a spooky, scary skeleton inside you right now! The ever present fear of death not only hangs over us and makes us terrified of our insides, but gives us great amusement in Hallowe’en costumes (and decoration). Maybe it’s that deep down we know that it’s something that exists non-scarily in our everyday lives, or maybe it’s the ridiculousness of unconnected bones managing to stay upright in a human shape.

Muscle Man

While skeleton costumes are easy to make at home, ready made skeleton costumes exist to save you time and artistic effort. Likewise, muscle costumes exist. No, not those padded strongman tops, but another insides horror. Unsettling in a way skeletons can’t be, this probably isn’t safe for children’s parties, or safe from anatomical criticism from any doctors or medical students you might know.

Beast Bones

What’s a little creepier than a human skeleton? An animal skeleton, of course. With some different bone structures to play with, including wings, tails and legs, there’s space for creativity. Most obvious of all, of course, is the skull. Birds have beaks, deer and goats have horns, big cats have big teeth. Swapping the two tone face paint for a strangely shaped mask is a definite costume win.

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A Culture is Not A Costume

(Or, Don’t be Racist Just Because It’s Hallowe’en)

After a summer full of festivals, where half dressed white people wear ‘Indian Headdresses’ and drink far too much in a field, it’s time for Hallowe’en, where half dressed white people wear ‘Indian Headdresses’ and drink far too much at a house party. Native Americans get quite the bad deal, their religious garments turned into fashion accessories and diverse cultures homogenised into the shallowest of caricatures.

The cultures as costume problem peaks at Hallowe’en, the annual fancy dress holiday. Not just for sale are traditional and sacred items of clothes turned into fashion accessories, but whole racial stereotype costume with racial slurs as names. It seems that instead of characters or monsters, and other costumes that require attention to detail, the costume world has decided that half hearted ‘cowboy and indian’ costumes are a good staple. It’s not just the shops and manufacturers to blame; they would not make and sell costumes if people weren’t buying and wearing them.

It’s not just Native Americans who are turned into a two dimensional characters by Hallowe’en costumes; Mexico, is individually stereotyped, and both East Asia and the Middle East are blurred into vague ‘Oriental’ and ‘Arab’ costumes. Tellingly, Russia, Germany, and other predominantly white countries fair slightly better when made the theme of a costume. A good example is that the Native American Headdress is specific to certain Native peoples, and each feather is awarded for community services, whereas the cheerleader outfit is a sports kit that is associated with the USA, where the sport is most common.

Two very sad aspects exist in this, and they both maintain racial hierarchy in society and further unnoticed racism in individuals. Cultures as costumes reduce the real people who are part of those cultures to the fictional status of things we dress up as, dehumanising and erasing them as people, and almost always focus on the negative aspects from an outside perspective, and the aspects that are the cause of much disadvantage.

The way cultures are reduced to fictional status, and the people who are part of them to characters, is obvious in the way the costumes are so alike, and have generic names. To declare one outfit a costume called “Mexican” is to erase the fact that various people live in Mexico, wearing all types of outfits, most probably similar to the outfits worn in any country. There is even more generalising when an outfit is called “Asian”, as this erases not only the various people, but the differences in culture between the many countries and areas in Asia.

The way that these costumes seem to focus on the negative views of other cultures, and the aspects that damage the communities cause these negative views to be more widespread, and the damaging aspects to be heightened, and taken less seriously.