When it comes to Halloween dress-up, in Britain we still try to remain true to the original spirit of the pagan new year festival celebrated at the end of October: One last fling for the ghoulies and ghosties before the saints come marching in at the start of November.(The Latino Day of the Dead festivals reflect a similar ethos). That said, sticking to standard spooky/scary can be a little restrictive, and notwithstanding an upsurge in enthusiasm for zombies in recent years, working out variations on vampires, witches and skeletons can get a little repetitive. So let’s try to do something different from the normal stuff and come up with some other suggestions:
We can start with a familiar Halloween decoration, the pumpkin. The seasonal classic film The Nightmare Before Christmas features leading character Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King. Arguably, he is more skeleton than pumpkin (and there are off-the-peg masks and costumes for the character), but as we take our first steps off the beaten track, why not substitute a pumpkin mask for his rounded skeleton face? Because masks restrict visibility and speech? No problem – just create a pumpkin face make-up. It’s something that is not often done (despite all the pumpkin carving designing that goes on), but there are many tutorials available online.
From there we can jump to the scarecrow (the pumpkins’ day/night job if they do not make it as Halloween decorations or soup/pie) and here you are looking to create something which scares more than crows. Probably the best known ready-made scarecrow is the one from Oz, but whilst you could use the costume as a starting point, you might want to make the head and headgear more menacing. (If you do want a mask, but something different from a pumpkin, try making a simple mask from hessian or sacking).
Crows might have a part to play at Halloween (they certainly have a role in Celtic folklore, and are a sinister element in Game of Thrones) but unfortunately there aren’t many crow costumes on the market, so let’s work on other winged things:-
Bats – Of course, given that Bats are the given alter egos of Dracula and other vampire entities, which we are currently avoiding, these would probably not be your first choice for a novelty Halloween idea (which is why we mentioned them first, of course).
Fairies – Not all fairies are necessarily good. Cheerleader for the Wicked Fairy tribe is undoubtedly Maleficent (an ‘upgrade’ on Carabosse in the original Sleeping Beauty story). The original Disney version did not have wings (except when she turned into a dragon), but the more recent film has explained how she had her wings clipped. Meanwhile there is a wide range of other dark fairies on the market, using the trademark colours of red, black and purple and with wings ranging from curved gothic to designer- distressed. Match the outfit with a suitable wild wig and ‘evil’ make-up (slanting eyebrows are a good start) and you’re well wicked.
Fallen Angels – In another time and place, the main fallen angel was Satan, suggesting the Devil red be-horned route, which we have chosen to avoid. No matter – there are plenty of other interpretations of the fallen angel concept on the market, ranging from the Good Girl Gone Wrong to the divine being who has embraced the Darkside. It’s true that most fallen angel outfits aim at the female client, but the inventive male can probably come up with a concept if necessary.
Given the sheer number of different varieties of insect, and the fact that quite a few of them are associated with aspects of horror and death, it is surprising we do not see more of them at Halloween events. Perhaps it’s something to do with not letting them near the food.
- Cockroach. There is a very nice little Roach outfit available on the market, and you will certainly stand out (as others avoid you).
- Death’s Head Moth. There are a wide variety of colours and designs of butterfly wings available for adaptation to make up this costume. We recommend the ones not based on a wire frame. All you have to do is find a black outfit and create a skull-face make-up.
- Fly. There are actually a few ready-made fly outfits (with matching masks) on the market, but, as with all outfits, you probably do not want a full overhead mask, for reasons of practicality. If even the eyemask is a problem (some have you seeing multiple images in their quest for authenticity) then at least find/make some antennae and go for the Man-Fly mash-up from the Fly movies.(Help me! Help me!) British clients might want to work with a ‘bobby’ policeman’s helmet (with or without blue flashing light) for a Bluebottle.
- Spiders. The Perceptive Ones will note that a spider is not a Winged Thing, but it is an insect, and it involves itself with winged things (usually to eat – the Black Widow is an established Halloween favourite). With a few spider outfits of varying complexity on the market, it might make a suitable companion to a Fly outfit. ‘Come into my parlour…’
And whilst we are talking of non-flying insects, we might also drop another concept into the mash-up mix – use a 1960s grey Nehru suit or Sgt. Pepper outfit (should add some interesting Halloween colour) with a Grim Reaper outfit and do a Death Watch Beatle.
From the natural world (?) to the unnatural, and
There are those who feel that some toys are a bit creepy, full stop. The stare-y glass eyes, the permanent fixed expression, etc. can freak people out, and it is true that many a horror film has been based on terror toys – possibly the best known being Chucky from ‘Child’s Play’.
Trolls – Depending upon your ‘era’, some will remember these rather ugly rubber (usually) toys which featured shock hair in various colours. A new generation of these toys are apparently still made. More recently, thanks to Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and various other films, Trolls have been seen as large, ugly bad-tempered creatures (which rather takes them out of the toy cupboard). There is also a sub-species that infests the Internet with spiteful comments. For the purpose of a Halloween Idea, you could try and create any of these troll-types or, if there is a group of you, why not create a Halloween Cat/Pop Group mash-up with the Pussycat Trolls?
Dolls – Dolls come in all shapes and sizes and, with the exception of the previously mentioned Chucky (who was a ventriloquist doll anyway), usually tend to be female. (Those with a potential male market are usually called ‘action toys’). One of the most recently seen is Annabelle from ‘The Conjuring’ (a sequel and spin-off are in the offing), but there are many others. Annabelle is an example of a porcelain ‘pretty doll’ but others of the genre are more easily achieved and are available on the market.
Voodoo Doll – A crudely fashioned doll, incorporating some essence of an intended victim (eg. hair, fingernails) by which to cause harm to that victim. In theory an outfit anyone could throw together from old clothing. Make-up involves a crude sewn mouth and eyes. Just add some giant knitting needles as the pins.
Rag Doll - Raggedy Ann (and male counterpart Andy) are more a part of American culture than British, but the principle is much the same.
Clown – Male or female, there are those who find clowns scary at any time of the year, not just Halloween. The advantage here is that you can create your own look to look as subtle or scary as you wish.
Teddies – Actually the only terror teddies we have actually come across are the ones that look deceptively cute and then reveal a dark side – usually sharp teeth, That said, the recent enthusiasm for zombies has not left this area of the toybox untouched and it might be possible to create a more distressed and gory creature – the UnTed.
Needless to say, there are plenty of other horror variations on a standard theme available on the market – the Fractured Fairy-tale characters (Ghouldilocks, Creeping Beauty, Sinderella for instance); the Sinister Circus characters to accompany the clowns above, and the permutations on zombies, which have been done to death but, of course, carry on regardless.
With the increasing trend towards doing it yourself, if you are looking to do something different for this Halloween, chat with us and see how we can help with your project.