The leaves are falling, a nip is in the air, frost greets us in the mornings and the countdown to Hallowe’en has begun.
Whatever anyone’s personal view of Hallowe’en might be, it has become an excellent opportunity to express creativity. Whether through costumes, decorations or parties I love to see people’s creativity shine at this time of year.
When my kids were small, I liked to make them costumes for Hallowe’en. Of course in our region, it’s very cold on Hallowe’en. So their costumes needed to be inherently warm or fit over a winter coat. As a performer and costume designer, I love any excuse to dress up in a costume. In a world that can be heavy and demanding, I firmly believe that we should take every appropriate opportunity we can to have some silly and lighthearted fun.
You don’t have to be able to sew to come up with a costume. Sure, if you want something elaborate, it helps. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money. It does help to give yourself a bit of time to come up with something. What you really need is a sense of humour and some creativity.
The thrift shop is a fantastic place to start.
- It’s best to make a few trips. The cool thing about thrift shops is that the stuff there is constantly changing.
- Watch for anything unusual. Perhaps a hat, a coat in an out of the ordinary colour, something that you could use as a prop to imply a character…
- Don’t let it pass you by! Because thrift shops have a quick turnover, if you see something unusual or cool, buy it! Go with cash and be prepared to grab the items that make you stop in your tracks. You might not use them this year, but if you leave them and think they’ll be there when you go back, you will be disappointed. If you think it’s cool for a potential costume, someone else likely will too.
- Let the unusual get your creative juices flowing. You need to give yourself permission to get out of your normal head space in regard to the clothes you see at the thrift shop.
- Think outside the box. A giant coat that would fit more than one of you might be worn over a backpack to create the impression of a hunchback. A bright red child’s coat might need some small black pompoms hot glued on it. Pair it with black pants or leggings and a black toque (beanie for non-Canadians) and you have a Ladybug costume.
- Don’t be afraid to cut things up. Don’t be afraid to reimagine what you see. A coat with a wild looking lining? Turn it inside out and be a Wild Thing!
Sometimes it’s worth it to purchase an inspiration piece.
- An inspiration piece in this context is something that evokes a character or an era.
- Don’t underestimate the power of a hat. A hat can transform normal clothes into a costume. Put on a suit you already own and add a fedora, a pencil thin mustache and a cane… Presto, you are suddenly from a whole other era. A distressed bowler hat? Get some grubby old work clothes in shades of brown and suddenly you might be a railway labourer from the 1880’s. A cowboy hat, a hard hat, a helmet, a bee keeper’s veil, a welder’s cap, a newsboy cap… you get the idea.
- Props can also give the impression of a character. They can inspire a complete outfit. Of course if you have to carry that prop around in your hands it will make it difficult to do other things. Oh, and I don’t recommend using a real Katana as a prop. Most venues frown on patrons carrying edged weapons in their establishments. And children with weapons…. hmmm… not a good idea. Costume shops often carry plastic swords and other interesting items that can act as your inspiration for a costume.
- A wig can transform you. Enough said.
- If you have any consignment shops in your area, these are another great place to look for inspiration pieces. You may have to pay up a little for an inspiration piece. However, it may mean that you can pull the rest of the costume together with items you already own.
Recycle, Repurpose and all that Jazz…
- It’s amazing what you can do with some cardboard, tape and spray paint.
- Throughout the year, keep an eye out for unusual items that could be used to make a costume. Old bleach jugs with the ends cut out could become the arms of a space suit. They can even fit over the sleeves of a winter coat you picked up at the thrift shop. Spray paint the whole thing silver? Tadah!
- Check out You-Tube videos of Cosplayers for inspiration in this regard. Cosplayers are genius when it comes to transforming what most people consider garbage/recycling into brilliant costumes. Use the words “hacks” in your search. That will generally bring up cool work-arounds and creative (and inexpensive) suggestions. If you are not familiar with Cosplay, be prepared to see pictures of people dressed up as cartoon or video game characters. Many of the female costumes are based on Anime and can be rather revealing. So, your search will bring up these images. If you are looking for ideas for little kids, maybe do that search after they go to bed.
Make it up…
A little makeup goes a long way to imply your character. There are lots of costume make-up tutorials on You Tube.
Put it all together and you’ll be on your way in a great costume. And bottom line, it’s about giving yourself permission to be playful in a world that generally expects us to be anything but. Have fun!