Halloween is less than two months away, and I don’t have a costume. This is a costuming blog, so, obviously, there are a few clarifying statements that need to be made, but the dilemma is the same for many people: “What am I going to wear for Halloween?” Parties, school, work, candy distribution, candy collection, parades, charity appearances, scary movie marathons–all of these events get our wheels turning to come up with the perfect ensemble for “the one” (HA!) day of the year when dressing in costume is deemed acceptable. As a hobby costumer, Halloween is my nightmare scenario.
First, my Halloween costume will be worn solely for a contest at work. Important to some people, there are “cash” prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. There are rules to be followed with regard to the level of appropriateness, the ability to physically work, and the inability to harm coworkers (unintentionally or otherwise). The winners are decided by popular vote, which equates to a costume contest at a bar where a cosplayer shows up in Warhammer 40K gear, then promptly loses to a mundane in a Naughty Wizard costume-in-a-bag based upon crowd noise. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s fucking devastating.
Second, I do not like competing, but I do enjoy office participation…within reason. In a business casual setting, wearing a costume is a good way to show your team members something about yourself, and to learn something about them in return. When I wore my Clockwork Droid in 2011, I quickly found the Doctor Who fans in the building. However, my company has grown to multiple offices across the country, and the Halloween costume contest has gotten ugly in the 10+ years that I’ve been around–rallying for votes, trash-talking, using kids as props–it’s all absurd and only touches a handful of participating folks company-wide. The fun of the holiday has been tarnished because some people just want to win.
Third, I’ve been told to “let someone else win.” As it happens, I’ve won the contest a few times…and placed every year that I’ve entered. Even years when people feel inclined to ask me, “What are you supposed to be?” [Cue costumer rage], I end up with a little extra coffee money. The first, second, and third years that I won first place, I took the following year off–still dressing up, but not entering the contest, only to be berated, “Why didn’t you dress up? I wanted to beat you this year!” I’ve stopped taking years off. I only dress up because costuming is fun for me, but I wouldn’t turn down a bonus in my paycheck just because someone’s feelings could potentially be damaged. I never go in to win, I just make and wear what appeals to me and hope for the best. A wise t-shirt designer once wrote, “Those who hate, shall hate henceforth.”
Fourth, regardless of how I feel about entering the competition, Halloween at work is a great opportunity for me to make a costume that I wouldn’t wear to comic con or to the ren faire. I always make something new, but I do appreciate a receptive audience–be it one person or many persons. I want to bring joy (or abject terror) to at least a few fun lovers. I’m a giver. Which also means that I fret over what I’m going to wear up until the day of, in the same way that I would fret over baking a pie for a potluck–is my contribution going to fall flat?
Costumes that I would choose for a comic convention include characters that are often too specific for a group of three hundred people to connect with–Hawkgirl, Twi’Link, anything anime. Garb that I would wear to a renaissance faire or pseudo-historical event are obviously beautiful and well-made, but do not give off a Halloween vibe (excluding the headless Anne Boleyn idea that I’ve been toying with). When it comes to Halloween at work, my costumes have been popular characters, company themed characters, and clearly time-intensive pieces of art.
For pop culture, I try to stick with fandoms that I’m into–sci-fi, fantasy, video games–that other people may also enjoy. The company themed characters got me labeled a suck-up, but they were both badass and I’m still proud of what I did. The harder pieces that I’ve created tend to be mash-ups and I often ended up wearing those costumes more than once (something I don’t do with con costumes for some reason). My ideas have come months before and hours before, but there’s always something. This year, I am completely stumped.
I’ve considered upgrading an old work costume, wearing one of my cosplays, not wearing a costume at all, polling my friends and making whichever character they choose, and leaving it to the week before Halloween to see what comes out of my studio. As an added bonus, I have a number of other costumed events that will require my attention before I can even start on a Halloween outfit.
All that to say, “I’m taking suggestions.” Thanks for reading!