Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. One of my earliest memories is of a huge Halloween display in my parents’ yard during my second Halloween. One of my favorite pictures of myself is one that was taken on Halloween. It may have been the same Halloween when I was a clown. What makes the photo so great, though, is that between the blush on my cheeks and my bewildered expression, I look drunk.
Even now, when I enter stores at the end of August and see black, orange and all manners of spooky things on the shelves, I get excited. I might even start singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” And my bedroom has more than a few Halloween decorations up year-round.
My love of Halloween went well with the fact that I was an only child. I could frequently lock myself in my bathroom with a big box of my mother’s old makeup. Instead of doing glamorous looks that would seem typical of little girls, I would make myself look ghoulish.
Black, deep-set eyes were made with purple and black eye shadow and I would put baby powder all over my face. And yes, if you were going to ask, this happened all year long. I was like a terrible version of Elle Fanning in “Super-8.”
It was my mother who first informed me that to get more realistic bruises, I had to use purple eye shadow, and it was my own healing bruises that led me to use gold in place of yellow. My skills were greatly improved when I took a theater makeup course at Temple.
I spent a semester of Monday mornings smearing real theater makeup on my face. I not only finally perfected my bruises, but I also learned how to do glamour makeup. If this course taught me anything, it was how I could make my Halloween costumes even better, and how to do it quickly and simply.
Learning the basic principles of highlight and shadow helped me to contour my face into a more skeletal shape. My bruises looked much better in cream makeup instead of stolen, shimmery eye shadow.
The simple technique of contouring my face, accompanied by creating fresh bruising around my eyes with ample fake blood is a good basis for pretty much any costume. If you want to be dead, you can just act dead. If you want to be the undead, you just have to act like a zombie.
The best part about this is that anything in your closet can become a costume. While in an ideal world I would have the time to create crazy and fantastic costumes each year, my college-student schedule and budget don’t quite allow for all of the elaborate schemes I come up with.
Like I said, if you’re doing a dead look you can pretty much use anything for the costume. Have footie pajamas? Be a dead baby. Have a lot of flannel and a nice beard? Be a dead lumberjack. Still have your Little Red Riding Hood costume from last year? Be a dead Little Red. The list is endless and you can be pretty much anything.
Despite enduring Halloween on a college student budget, I still like buying new things sometimes. However, like most of my wardrobe, I like to buy things that I’ll wear again. Last semester while studying in London, I found a ‘90s styled blue-lace dress for 5 euros. I knew that I would wear it again so I cheaply made myself into what I called Courtney Love dressed as Marie Antoinette.
While the fake blood was terrible and totally refused to coagulate how I wanted, I still managed to freak out more than a few people in the Underground as I stared them down, head cocked with a smirk on my face.
That said, an effective and fun Halloween costume is more than just a costume, just as Halloween is more than just getting drunk while being dressed up and eating candy. Halloween allows you to be someone you’re not for a night, which is probably one of the reasons it is still my favorite holiday. So no matter what you dress up as, go out and act the part. Have fun with it and don’t take things so seriously for a night.
Or at the very least, drench yourself in fake blood, because on Halloween there really is no excuse for not dressing up.
Meghan White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.