In an extraordinarily insightful piece of narration from the film Mean Girls, Lindsay Lohan ponders why so many girls see Halloween as little more than an excuse to dress in exceedingly revealing clothing.
“Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like total sluts and no other girls can say anything about it,” goes the voiceover, as shots of three main characters getting ready in scanty, unoriginal costumes roll across the screen.
While this narration is slightly less than riveting – and I am a big proponent of tasteful dressing – I must admit I can almost see where the characters in the film are coming from when they choose their Halloween costumes. Halloween offers us a unique opportunity to dress practically however we choose, but since most of us are celebrating the holiday at parties, clubs and bars, we still want to look good.
My favorite costumes are creative but not totally over-the-top-and-in-your-face. I think we all want to look more refined and appearance-conscious than Lohan’s character, but more imaginative and hopefully more tasteful than her three friends.
This goes for both guys and girls: A young man in a Speedo is just as unpleasant to look at as a young lady in a skanky bunny costume, and a guy in a Superman T-shirt is just as lame as a girl wearing a devil horn headband.
So how does one strike the best balance between a one-of-a-kind, eye-catching costume and a well-matched, together look?
Great Halloween costumes are built piece by piece. I would not recommend wearing a costume which its pieces all came in one bag. Not only are these costumes uncreative, but they’re made of polyester (and God knows what other synthetic fibers) and say “one size fits most” on the label. Eek! Now that’s frightful. Exercise a little resourcefulness and originality and be the designer of your own costume.
In doing this, many people use Halloween as a chance to experiment with looks that fall outside of their ordinary fashion choices.
My best friend Katie, who generally favors a very laid-back, bohemian look, incorporated some sleek, high heeled lace-up boots into her costume this year. On an individual with a more urban-chic style, these boots would have made perfect sense – in fact a well-dressed shopper in the shoe section complimented Katie on her selection, not knowing they were for a Halloween outfit.
Still, Katie’s friends recognized her outfit as a fabulous departure from her everyday look. By including choice unexpected pieces like lace-up boots, she looked great while projecting an image very unlike her own.
Another thing to consider is how you can work with what you’ve got going on naturally. For example, are you a guy who can grow facial hair easily? Are you very tall or very short? Do you have freckles? Think about incorporating your distinct features into your Halloween persona.
Another friend of mine, Shannon, has wavy red hair. Last year, when six of us decided to be the cast of The Wizard of Oz, we knew she had to be the Cowardly Lion. The best part of her costume was done in 30 seconds with just a rat tooth comb and a little teasing action.
Working what your mama gave you in a new and different way forces people to notice and appreciate your natural assets.
Lastly, be sure to infuse your personality into your costume. Two guys could dress up as cowboys and no one would probably look at them twice. Another couple of guys could wear the same outfits, but walk around holding hands and reciting lines from Brokeback Mountain and be the hit of a party.
In the same way, Captain Jack Sparrow is a better Halloween persona than a pirate. You can emulate a specific person or just add your own special flavor to a generic outfit to inject some life and personality into your attire.
These are just a few of the marks of a successful Halloween costume. While you can’t just throw on an eye patch or a tiara one minute before you walk out the door, you also probably don’t want to be outrageous to the point that you completely disregard social norms. If you put a little inventiveness and care into the look you create, while taking advantage of your own physical features and personality, you are sure have a fabulous Halloween costume.
Mary C. Schell can be reached at email@example.com.