Confronting the ghosts of Halloweens past
If you watched the Halloween episode of ‘Modern Family’ and thought Lily was adorable as Tattoo from ‘Fantasy Island,’ I’m here to tell you that’s what the world needs more of – people who put together their own creative costumes! As a longtime fan of pop culture-inspired Halloween costumes, I decided to confront some of the ghosts of my Halloweens past in preparation for the main event next week.
Every morning as I peruse the contents of my walk-in closet to pick out a suitable outfit for my day, I find myself face-to-face with many of my ghosts of Halloween pasts. Not actual ghosts — although that would make for an interesting topic. I’m talking about remnants of creative pop culture-inspired Halloween costumes I’ve worn in years past.
One pop of your head into the closet and you can’t help but miss my giant California Raisins costume from last year, along with the pair of white Mickey Mouse gloves and the saxophone I carried around with it. There’s the suit jacket, bloody airplane propeller (constructed out of styrofoam and a headband) and blood-soaked guitar from when I thought it would be clever to be Bloody Holly, Buddy Holly’s post-plane crash zombie.
Oh look, there’s the familiar orange turtleneck sweater I found at a thrift store in order to be my personal style icon Velma from Scooby-Doo, intermixed with the plaid schoolgirl’s skirt I wore as Mary Katherine Gallagher from Saturday Night Live. (“Super star!”) Adorning the shelves are the pea coat I wore as Mary Poppins, the trench coat I donned as Agent 99 from Get Smart and the pair of drumsticks I carried around as Garth from Wayne’s World. Among the myriad skeletons in my closet, there is also a haunting reminder that I have much progress to make in my current weight loss journey. Hanging forlornly off to itself and never worn by me is a vintage Robin (Batman’s sidekick) costume, beckoning to me that I need to lose more weight to fit it. Maybe next year.…
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed Halloween and the thrill of putting together an original ensemble that is usually based upon a popular element of pop culture. The older I get, the more I just don’t understand the throngs of people who are content to go out to a Halloween costume shop and buy a “ready-made, store-bought” costume. Where’s the fun in that, and why do so many do it? Is it pure laziness or a matter of convenience? Is it due to the fact that we lose some of our childlike wonder for Halloween once we cross the threshold of which trick-or-treating is no longer considered cool?
I thoroughly enjoy the excitement of coming up with an idea and then hitting all the local antique shops and thrift stores to find the right clothing items to make it happen. And while I may not always look the most convincing, I think I often come close enough. The main point is I’m having fun, and I think the world needs more adults like me out there reliving what it was like to be a kid and getting excited for Halloween again. We may no longer be able to go out and beg for candy, but we can still pretend to be somebody else and just forget about our troubles for an evening.
This year I’m going to be Willy Wonka, channeling Gene Wilder’s classic look from the beloved movie from my youth and not that of the horrid Johnny Depp remake. I couldn’t be more excited. Last year I attended a huge vintage Halloween costume auction where I snagged the purple jacket from Batman’s arch-nemesis The Joker. I’m pairing the Joker’s jacket with a purple ruffly shirt (from a pimp’s costume judging by the look of it), a theatrical walking cane, a pair of khaki pants, brown shoes, some sparkly golden fabric I’m making his bow tie out of and a black top hat that I’ve round-the-clock been spray-painting a golden-brownish color all week. Finding a brown top hat at a cheap price proved too difficult, so I did what I so often do best: I improvised.
The piece d’resistance of my ensemble will be the giant Wonka bar I’ll be carrying around with me. I purchased said item from a convention a few years back during which I met Paris Themmen and Denise Nickerson, who played the original Mike Teevee and Violet Beauregarde. It was made to look just like the bars in the original movie and I’ve never opened it. I bet the chocolate would taste terrible anyway. I just like the look of it in my kitchen. I’ll also be passing out Wonka candy around the office during our annual Halloween costume contest and during my Halloween party with friends.
But what about you? Have you ever pieced together a costume for Halloween or even for a comic convention? I’d love to hear your stories, so I know I’m not alone in my philosophy! To quote the wise Willy Wonka, “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” I dream of a world in which everyone went out of their way to outdo their ghosts of Halloweens past.