Halloween is almost here, and it’s got me thinking about costumes. Fancy dress may be a disguise but is it not also a form of expression? From the scary to the sexy, there’s surely as much reason behind a novelty outfit as a ‘normal’ one, if not more. After all, you only get a few times a year to dress up as someone or something else so you have to make your choice carefully. So this Halloween, do you choose to be Mean Girls’ Cady “so scary” Heron or Karin “A Mouse, Duh” Smith?
I’ve always identified as a Cady, turning up in an elaborate spooky homemade costumes even in a room full of people vaguely resembling animals thanks to eye-liner drawn whiskers and ears glued to a headband. However, readers of my previous posts will know my views are subject to change and I no longer consider the tail-wearing so alien. In the spirit of the spooky season, I wanted to look back at my costume phases throughout the years, and how I’ve dressed up as anything from stationary to celebrities – and why.
The Child With The Crafty Mother
I can’t sew, and neither can my Mum but that never stopped the inventive outfits of my childhood.
As anyone schooled in the UK will know, the big fancy dress day of each year is not necessarily Halloween – it’s World Book Day, and book-related characters are less commercialised than your ghosts and monsters which means that making outfits was a requirement unless you wanted to be a fairy tale princess (which I definitely didn’t!).
Lots of children would dress up as “a witch from some book” and others would turn up in their casual clothes and say they were Tracy Beaker. I, however, was one of the few who took it seriously. This was not a time for costume-recycling or an excuse for a mufti day in my eyes. This was a competition, and one that I wanted to win.
Despite my Mum’s struggles with stitches and my inability to tie a knot (I still flounder!), we were very successful. What my Mum lacked in needlework skills, she made up for in creativity. The “Best Dressed” rosettes were often mine, thanks to my Mum’s unique ideas. One year I went as a Borrower with a home-made pencil towering over me, and another time I won for my version of Dennis The Menace (the small detail that I was actually Minnie The Minx didn’t seem to matter).
As a child, dressing up was mainly about having fun but it was also about impressing, and wanting to be original. I always worried about clashing with others so I couldn’t just be a ghost – I had to be a ghoul, and that ghoul look was achieved by my Mum showering me in Poundland cobwebs and fake spiders. As I got older, the competitions became social and less literal but I have to admit that I still relied on my Mum’s styling and ideas (and often still do).
The Teenager With The Eccentric Friendship Group
At ‘big school’, my love of fancy dress was kept alive thanks to a costume-loving friendship group. The first time I visited my best friend’s house, she greeted me with rainbow coloured clothes and neon deely-boppers (she was an alien), and I spent most of her parties in silly get-ups too.
There was the Rock Star Zombie where my everyday extremely long nails were probably the creepiest part of the outfit. There was the Lady Gaga, complete with boob-bows, and the wig-reliant Amy Winehouse that had people nagging me to dye my hair for months. And, of course, there was the unforgettable Pritt Stick. Yes, you read that right – I dressed up as a Pritt Stick.
The infamous glue costume was a handmade delight, although it wasn’t handmade by myself or even my Mum. Instead, it was purchased from a car boot sale for just a couple of quid. How somebody could ever part with such a wonderful item I’m not sure.
Of all of my wacky outfits, the Pritt Stick was certainly the most memorable. My friend was hosting a novelty dinner party and I had kept my costume a secret. When I arrived at the door, she shrieked and called every guest to gawp at me. The laughs continued throughout the evening as the awkward shape of the cut left me eating my dinner like I was T-Rex and shouting for assistance every time I needed the bathroom.
The costume was the kind I could only wear around friends who shared my sense of humour and understood my weird side (and still do). Considering, it was only a few months after we’d played Quidditch in a public park on Halloween (we were pelted with eggs by some older youths as a consequence), I knew my friends would welcome my odd dress. The sense of eccentricity has definitely stuck with me (see what I did there?), but I have to admit that some vanity has crept into my choices.
The Adult With The Vanity
As much as I love my Pritt Stick costume, I wonder whether it’s what I would pick today. Having said that, Katy Perry does make a fine looking Cheeto so perhaps there is still some mileage in the ridiculous for adults…
The first time I realised dressing up didn’t have to be a joke was for a friend’s 1920s themed 18th birthday party. I loved being a flapper girl, and having an excuse to get my legs out (which in those shy days was a novelty). The following Halloween, I dolled myself up (quite literally) in a dress, pink tights and creepy broken toy make-up.
Since then, however, I haven’t had much opportunity to play dress-up. I recycled my old gothic prom dress for a Black Swan inspired masquerade ball look but I’ve paid more attention to my everyday fashion than fancy dress, and perhaps that’s why I have to admit I’ve become a little bit vain.
If I was to wear my Pritt Stick costume this Halloween, I’d probably want it hinged in at the waist, shortened so I didn’t have to waddle like a Penguin and the promise that my face did not resemble a giant egg.
As Cady says in Mean Girls, “In the real world, Halloween is when kids dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.” Now, I’m not interested in dressing like “a total slut” (not that you can say anything about it if I did) but I’ll admit that my Halloween costume this year will probably be planned in the same way an outfit for a night out is.
So what am I dressing up as this year? I don’t know. All I know is that I’ll surely ask my Mum for advice, seek to impress my friends and ensure that I don’t dress up so well that I look ‘bad’. After all, if I wanted to look scary, I wouldn’t make any effort at all – I’d just go as me in the morning without my make-up.