Playing Dress-Up: Halloween Edition

Halloween is less than a week away. It’s time to stock up on miniature candy, toss some fake spider-webs around your house, put on Double, Double, Toil and Trouble and get to work on that costume! Since I’m unhealthily obsessed with this particular holiday, I usually start planning my costume well in advance. Seriously, I have a list of costume ideas that will last me for the next ten years at least. In case you are lacking inspiration this year, I thought I’d share with you some of the all-time highlights of my Halloween history. Feel free to steal, as with the right DIY spirit, any of these can be pulled together in time for the big day.

Chester Cheetah

Not to brag, but the year I was Chester, I won a major costume party prize. This outfit is deceptively simple and a huge crowd-pleaser. You’ll need a cheetah print body-suit or pajama set of some kind. Insider hint: to the common man’s eye, cheetah = leopard. And leopard-print stuff is much, much, much easier to find. Top it off with black wayfarer sunglasses (an easy drugstore or street vendor buy), giant white sneakers (I bought mine in the men’s section of Target), and costume-store leopard ears and tail. Make a nose out of face paint. You’re almost done. The coup de grace will be your purse for the evening. Buy a giant-sized bag of Cheeto’s. Empty it out and clean it. Voila, there’s your purse, and the guarantee that everyone will know exactly what you are. I went all the way and put a miniature sized bag of Cheeto’s inside the larger bag, so if anyone asked me for a Cheeto throughout the night, I could provide.

Care Bear

Okay, I had some major help from my mom with this one, but anyone with even the slightest artistic inclination can definitely pull it off. Start with a pink sweatsuit or leggings-and-tee-shirt combo (it doesn’t have to be pink – just depends on which Care Bear you want to be). Buy some felt. You’ll need a big piece of white for the belly, and other colors for the design. I was Cheer Bear, so in my case, that meant making a rainbow. Cut the felt accordingly and glue it all together (or sew it, if you’re that kind of girl) and to the shirt. For ears, I used a pink headband from a costume store that was meant to be pig ears, but who would know the difference? You can also attach cardboard or felt to a drugstore headband and make them whatever color you want. Throw some pink fuzzy slippers on your feet, and a Care Bear is born!

Teddy Ruxpin

An alternative to the Care Bear route would be my costume of Halloween 2010, Teddy Ruxpin. This little guy can be prepped similarly to the Care Bear, although is outfit is less straightforward. I bought a red tee-shirt dress and a long, beige-colored tank from American Apparel (but again, Target or Walmart or any number of online vendors sell similar, equally cute options), as well as some brown tights. The fact that the original Teddy has a little badge with his name on it helps a lot – you can clearly state what your costume is to everyone who looks at you, without being inauthentic. As with Cheer Bear, felt and/or cardboard are your best friends here. For the badge, poster-board is also an option. The most important part of the badge is that it says TEDDY RUXPIN on it. The little picture of his head can be printed out from online or, if you have talent (I don’t), drawn from hand. Glue the badge to the vest, and your front is done. Now, for the back, I took some artistic license. Technically, Teddy’s control panel is hidden under his clothes. But I wanted it to be visible for everyone to see. Draw a control panel on some cardboard, glue a cassette tape to it, and attach the whole thing to the back of your vest. Add standard costume-store bear ears and some brown slippers. Comfy, nostalgic, and adorable!

American Gladiator

This is one of my all-time favorite costumes. There were a lot of people nay-saying when I had this idea, but once they saw the completed vision, they all ate their words. You can play around with this costume a lot, but the most important element is keeping everything red, white, and blue. That’s what guarantees that people will recognize you. Start with a shimmery leotard or bathing suit in one or several of those colors. American Apparel definitely sells these, but you can also get one online or at any dance or gymnastics-wear store. Add red, white, or blue jogging shorts, and corresponding fishnet tights (this also ups the sexy factor, if that’s something you’re concerned with). Regular knee-high gym socks and white Keds complete the ensemble. I added blue shoelaces and a red-white-and-blue headband, as well as red lace gloves. You cannot over-accessorize. I mean, look at those ladies! The absolute hardest part of the costume was that foam stick thing they use to joust each other. I’ve since learned it’s called a “pugil stick“. I ordered mine from a costume store in England (yes, I’m intense). You can also make one or check pool-toy websites and stores. They sell similar items that inflate and look just like the originals. Come up with a flashy Gladiator name, and you’re set.

A Note on Store-Bought Costumes

I admit, as much as I love making my own costume, there have been years when I have fallen prey to the store-bought kind. My senior year of college, I dressed as Wonder Woman. Yes, technically, you could make your own Wonder Woman costume. It probably would contain many components similar to the American Gladiator costume. But I’m not ashamed to say, I bought it instead. And here’s why: while most store-bought costumes are that unfair combination of way-overpriced-but-totally-cheap-looking, Wonder Woman (and pretty much any other superhero costume) is usually the exception. These costumes are meant to be shiny. Inexpensive material thrives when it’s sparkly and designed to cling to your body. With the right homemade details (cool boots, themed nail art, an awesome makeup job), almost any store-bought costume can be butchered back into awesomeness again.

Above all, your costume should be comfortable, reasonably weather-appropriate, and something you’re excited about. Take lots of pictures and lose yourself in pretending to be somebody else for a night. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now it’s your turn to tell me about your favorite costumes. What’s everyone being this year?

Images via,,,,,

  • Astrid Lund

    The state of Halloween in France is just tragic. None of my friends want to celebrate this totally awesome holiday with me! It’s so sad, I really wanted to try Chester Cheetah. Happy Halloween to those of you fortunate enough to celebrate it!

  • Christy Orcutt Pacha

    Making our own costumes this year…I’m going as a crazy bingo lady. Complete with oxygen tank, walker, bingo paraphrenalia….and my pack of smokes. :) Making an octopus costume for my youngest that’s amazingly cute. I love halloween!

  • Lauren Ashley Pogue

    I plan to be Batgirl. And while this falls under the storebought superhero category, none of the batgirl costumes are…well they didn’t appease my sense of style. Instead, I purchased a black catsuit, a batman utility belt, a corset with the batman logo on it and a catwoman/batgirl mask. Even better, my best friend is going as Catwoman…totally didn’t plan that one.

  • Ashley Patriarca

    My husband and I are going as Ron and Tammy (2) Swanson from Parks and Rec. This is super easy and lazy, because we both resemble the characters (and my husband works in local government!). Ignore the pic at right – that’s a photo from when we were much younger! He just needs a fake mustache and some Dapper Dan to create the patented Swanson pompadour, and I just need to work on my crazy eyes :)

  • Meghan Champeau

    My easiest costume to date was making my Flo Progressive Insurance lady. This year I’m making an owl costume. Hopefully this will be just as simple (and adorable).

  • Bob Beecher

    To celebrate the 30th anniversary of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” I’m dressing as Indiana Jones, complete with authentic 1930s clothing, satchel, and gun belt with bullwhip and holster. As long as I don’t run into any snakes, I’ll be okay!

  • Amanda Chick

    A few years ago I was Jessica Rabbit–cut up an old bridesmaid’s dress, threw on a red wig and purple gloves, and I was good to go! Definitely my favorite one I’ve done since I was jasmine as a kid.

    Home-made is the way to go!

  • Stephanie Arafiles Bridgman

    My boyfriend and I will be Finn and Princess bubblegum from the cartoon “Adventure Time.” We spent a lot of time sewing, and crafting, and they turned out awesome! Last year we were droogs from a clockwork orange. I love halloween!

  • Kathryne Harper

    This year I made an Aquaman costume! It turned out super cute.

  • Gabrielle Alves

    Well i living on Brazil and we don’t celebrate but i wish, it’s like a dream for me participate Hallowen

  • MJ Rojas

    I’m going to be a homeless zombie this halloween! It’s super easy DIY and cheap :)

  • Laura Stuart

    Last year at the last minute I decided to dress as a hippie, and my fiance decided to wear his old Army uniform. We told people we were War and Peace.

  • Lisa Michele Kranz

    I’m being Wednesday Addams…complete with a crossbow. :)

  • Sharon Alcera

    i’m going to be hello kitty this year! a red and white striped shirt, a denim romper (instead of overalls), white tights, white cat ears with a red bow!

  • Zoë Goodall

    We don’t really do Halloween in Australia, but my friend’s having a small party at her place for it. I’m going as a vampire slayer (complete with long black coat and stake), and my friend’s thinking of being a vampire. Then we’re totally going to have a hugely overdramatic battle in the middle of the living room.

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