Halloween Costume Quest: Doing Halloween Costumes Like a Champ


It’s one of the hardest things you’ll do every year…trying to find a good Halloween costume.

Costumes, candy and fun

Halloween has always been a little different for me because not only is it the best holiday of them all, it’s also my birthday. Growing up Halloween meant two things to me: presents and candy…not a bad combination. Of course, to get the latter you have to dress up and pander to your neighbors, and unfortunately finding a good costume gets harder the older you get.

Halloween isn’t much trouble when you’re young. You go to the store and you pick out the costume you want, and when you’re that age, sky’s the limit…unless of course you were me and had a very crafty mother. Shy of the one store-bought costume of which I have photographic proof (I was Bugs Bunny), every other costume I had growing up was made at home, for better or worse. A homemade Halloween costume was a double edge sword, really. On one had you knew that your costume was one-of-a-kind, but because it was, you usually didn’t have all the accessories you wanted that you would have otherwise got with a retail purchase. And just like GI Joe or Barbie, it’s all about the accessories.


If only you could see the happiness on my little face.

When you don’t pay retail

Rather than have a cool plastic sword or laser gun, I had accessories made out of cardboard. One year I was a train conductor (I was big into trains) and if you exclude the kick ass hat, the only accessory I had was a flashlight. Other costume highlights from Halloweens past include a hobo in which I wore a mop on my head and a dress, a vampire that wore sweats, and a Rambo outfit that was little more that a ripped t-shirt and a cardboard bazooka. However, just for the record, I thought my Rambo costume was pretty sweet and it coordinated with the Rambo lunchbox I had at the time.


What you get when you don't buy a costume...train conductor.

So watching many of my friends prance around town in their “high end” was sometimes hard to accept, a little piece of me always wondering why I didn’t get “cool” costumes like everyone else, but little did I know my mother was just preparing me for adulthood. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve dressed up every Halloween since I was probably four years old, and I didn’t stop trick-or-treating until I was probably 18…and before you start blasting me about that, let me grab my soapbox real quick.

Why is trick-or-treating a crime?

I don’t know where, why, or when trick-or-treating became a kid-only activity. Trick-or-treating is about dressing up and embarrassing yourself by going door-to-door asking for free candy. If you ask me, anyone that takes the time to dress up and has the stones to ask me for candy deserves some. I don’t care if you’re eight, 18 or 88. If you put in the effort, you’ll get a reward. One year, however, I found out that feeling is not shared by everyone when I was denied candy and told I was too old. I don’t know how they knew I was too old as I was wearing a mask, but nonetheless, it kind of upset me. I don’t go begging anymore, mostly because my wife forbids it, but if I could, absolutely I would and I’ll tell you that the costumes I make now are far better than some of the costumes these lazy kids wear today. They don’t appreciate the fine art that is the Halloween costume, a skill that requires creativity, cleverness, humor, and humility.

Do-it-yourself and have more fun

As I grew up, it didn’t take me long to realize why my mother never bought me Halloween costumes. They’re expensive and they’re cheap. Like any other holiday, Halloween comes but once a year and retailers know it, so they charge you an arm and a leg for everything from fake blood to complete costumes. Purchasing a costume every year, while easy, is just too expensive and honestly, I don’t think you enjoy it as much. The adult costumes you find in stores are somewhat limited, typically ranging between sexy witch and giant keg of beer, and they’re all boring. These costumes have no personality and don’t really show off who you are or what you can be. Halloween costumes should be an extension of yourself. It’s the one day out of the year that it is acceptable to dress up and be whatever you want to me, so take advantage of that…don’t wuss out. Don’t be a keg.


I, Macho Man - One of the most fun costumes ever.

However, I have to admit that coming up with creative costumes year after year is exhausting. If you put your heart into your costume, you have to start planning early and gathering together all your pieces and parts. I’ve been a pro wrestling fan since I was five and to pay homage to my favorite heroes of the squared circle, I crafted some homemade costumes for a couple of years. It was a lot of fun being my wrestling heroes, first Macho Man Randy Savage and then the year after Roddy Piper. And the one cool thing about making your own costumes now is that you can buy all the accessories you wanted as a kid. To go along with my custom-made muscle suit and kilt (thanks, mom) I bought my very own championship belt. You see, I’m not anti-retail, you just have to find the balance between what you can/should make on your own and what things you really need to buy to enhance it.

Going hardcore on Halloween

I consider myself a true middle-of-the-road costumer. I don’t half-ass it but I don’t go all out either. It keeps things affordable and doesn’t make the whole process a hassle. Of course, you always have the friend that does go all out and just makes your efforts look lazy. I have one friend that dresses up full tilt every year. One year he had a Freddy Kruger outfit, complete with burn makeup and glove, and then the next year he was ultra-scary killer clown, again, complete with makeup. His costumes are always impressive and there’s never any question as to what he’s trying to be. I admire his hard work but know at the same time I’d never be motivated enough to go through the whole process. It looks cool but I’ll stick with my relatively simple creations.


Are you afraid of clowns? You are now.

And speaking of simple, some of the better and most clever costumes are those that don’t require any makeup or require extra purchases. If you just put some heart into it, you can cobble together the right combination of clothes and accessories right in your own home. You can be Bob Vila and just wear your tool belt and a hammer. Wear your pajamas, rip your shirt, and use some red food coloring and you can be Teen Victim #3 from any horror movie. Or dig out your old varsity jacket, put on some eye shadow, and be a zombie football jock. Or just find some suspenders, a hat and shave, and you can be Amish.

Point being, you don’t have to go all out to have some fun, it just requires some creativity. It doesn’t matter what your costume is or what you did to create it, it matters that you do it at all!

The future of Halloween

For Halloween this year I plan on being a character from one of my new favorite video games. I’m not telling what it is right now, you’ll have to wait and see photos, but it’s safe to say the costume will require some craftiness yet won’t break the bank or need me to invest hours upon hours to dress up. It’s just fun and that’s all Halloween is supposed to be. Fun (and  birthday presents).

What are some of your favorite Halloween costumes of years past?


About Author

Brian is a staff writer at TMA. He races Hot Wheels at RedlineDerby.com while watching cartoons with his kid. You can follow @morningtoast on Twitter.

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