Brittany Allen
October 19, 2014 9:00 am

Halloween is already lurking on the horizon and, if you’re anything like me, you’re unprepared. It feels like an entire year’s worth of sporadically generated, totally unique costume ideas have disappeared into the margins of your many notebooks, and now you can’t think of anything. It’s inevitable: due to lack of foresight, you’re going to be one of those schmoes standing in line at the Halloween store on October 29th, shelling out big bucks for mainstream nylon sleeves.

Or. . .not! The treat’s on you, errbody: get ready to rock your Halloween fete this year with one of these unusual and up-for-grabs Halloween costumes. Down with witches and zombies and tacky news items, up with the newfangled, the pun-y, and the utterly obtuse! From the group scheme to the solo endeavor, we’ve got you covered on the idea-front this Hallow’s Eve. Try going as:

1. Punctuation Marks(@#!?;)

DIFFICULTY RATING: EASY

Perhaps of especial interest to English departments. If you’re feeling laissez-faire but still want to gesture towards party participation, get a bunch of pals to represent the gamut of English-language punctuation marks! Cut dots and lines from multi-colored pieces of felt and attach these to a base of black clothes. Easy, cheeky, fresh.

2. Your favorite cult-comedy cast (For instance, the cast of Wet Hot American Summer!)

DIFFICULTY RATING: MEDIUM

A big, fun ensemble cast is always a good bet for a group costume–especially in a comedy like WHAS, which includes so many hilarious bit parts. And the best thing about dressing up as a group of ’70s camp counselors? Everyone gets to dispense with the frills and fuss and wear shorts and v-necks. The big trick to a convincing cast costume like this one is in the hair and make-up, so spend most of your prep time feathering the requisite flip-dos.

Other ideas up for grabs: the cartoon cast of FX’s Archer.* The witches of Hocus Pocus. The “band” Spinal Tap. Get together with your group of friends, decide on your favorite comedy group, and BAM! Costume.

3. The board game figurines from CLUE

DIFFICULTY RATING: MEDIUM

This costume is easy to enact and is color-codable, for who doesn’t know and love Ms. Scarlet or Colonel Mustard? Get a crew of friends to don their favorite rainbow formal wear, and you’ve got Clue instantly dialed in. For brownie points, have everyone bring along a cardboard cut-out of their weapon of choice. Lead pipe, anyone?

4. Literal Idiom Parade

DIFFICULTY RATING: MEDIUM

This one’s for the outside-the-box thinkers. For a literal idiom parade, you could make a Blue Moon, a Dark Horse, a Cloud with a Silver Lining, and — taking a page from Winston’s girlfriend on New Girl — someone Reigning Cats and Dogs. These costumes are great because they’re zesty, as easy to make as you want them to be, and they all work individually as well as in a group.

5. The Dead Paintings Society

DIFFICULTY RATING: SUPER HARD

Famous paintings are a veritable costume treasure box —though the make-up skills required are not for the faint of heart. If you’re willing to spend the day slathering pastels onto your face, see if you can get a group of friends to dress as the subjects of iconic paintings —from the Mona Lisa up through Lichtenstein’s purple Marilyn Monroe. On the flip side? You’ll be instantly recognizable, and easily the prettiest people in the room. That is, unless you go scary, with some cubic figures from Picasso or infernal Bruegel characters.

6. The Children’s Books of Days Bygone

DIFFICULTY RATING: MEDIUM

These run the gamut of both your imagination and your book-case. For solo explorers? Harriet the Spy. Groovy trios? Nancy Drew, plus Bess and George. An especially literary couple’s costume? Milo and Tock from The Phantom Tollbooth. Each of these well-loved crews are super cute, and great for those who plan to trick or treat with the young’uns.

7. The Highbrow/Lowbrow Portmanteau

DIFFICULTY RATING: VARIES

IMHO, the key to a funny Halloween costume is in its Dad Joke factor —and there’s no surer route to a goofy pun than a portmanteau. To build your own goofy costume, start with a serious personality or historical figure who you think is interesting —e.g., Zachary Taylor. Then see if you can tack something goofy onto the end of this person’s name. For instance:

Zachary Taylor Swift (our 12th President plus Taylor Swift)

Wear a gown approximating Taylor at the Grammy’s, but jazz this up with a Presidential cravat and some term-specific documents. Boom! You’ve made a funny.

The possibilities are literally endless on this front, but here are some other suggestions:

NAS-Feratu (the famous rapper plus the famous creepy vampire: wear sunglasses and a bandana, but ghoulish make-up)

Lara the Explorer (Lara Croft plus Dora The Explorer: dress as the butt-kicking tomb raider, but have her wear Dora’s beloved backpack)

Abraham LinkedIN (. . .you’re starting to get it, right?)

The Marilyn Monroe Doctrine (Carry a long scroll of the Monroe doctrine while wearing the white dress. . .yeah, you get it, girl.)

8. Invent your own super-hero!

DIFFICULTY RATING: VARIES

Halloween is basically the only day of the year when you can run around as your dream-based counterpart —so why not have SUPER fun with your costume? Be Super Sleepy, who retains the amazing power of being able to stop time and sleep for however long she wants. You can waddle around in a quilt cape and slippers. Or be Grad Woman —a pleather-bound crime-fighter who’s never without her stack of knowledge-filled school books. The world’s your oyster!

9. Famous Duos Throughout Fiction (A.K.A. Josie Geller’s prom theme from the movie Never Been Kissed).

DIFFICULTY RATING: HARD

For the romantically-inclined, it’s easy to go for the obvious couple costume choices: Barack and Michelle, Snooki and the Shore, etc. But this Halloween, I challenge all the lovers out there to get a bit more creative with their couture. Try to recreate a beloved duo from American fiction. If you’re a fan of old movies, try an off-the-beaten path team, like Mary Poppins and Bert the Chimney Sweep. Or, Bart and Jim from Blazing Saddles.

If you’re literary minded, go roaring twenties with a jazz-age rendition of fiction-writers like Truman Capote and Harper Lee. Or Zelda and F. Scott:

And if you are an explicit student of the current, go balls-to-the-wall. Imagine a “we really woke up like this” day for Bey and Jay and Blue Ivy, or a super-“Fancy” (like, black-tie fancy) Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX. Remember: putting a specific spin on any set of familiar faces will make your costume unique.

Note: a good rule of thumb with real-people Halloween costumes is the very basic (yet oft-misunderstood!) ‘Don’t be a jerk.’ If you’re worried your costume’s tone could offend someone, ask for a few second opinions before you leave the house. And, as ya do, be wary of appropriating other cultural identities, or lampooning the recently dead. 

*Dibs.

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