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Home Arts and Culture  Be sly, not sleazy
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Wednesday, October 26,2011

Be sly, not sleazy

by Jon James

Halloween is just around the corner, and if you haven’t gotten your costume together yet, it’s crunch time. For women, your costume options may seem to range from Sexy Cop to Sexy Yodeler to Sexy Pirate to Sexy Mafia Hitwoman. What if you don’t want a costume that is designed only to objectify your body for men? Here are 10 costume ideas that don’t require you to dress like a stripper.


Famous work of art


Go as a famous painting or statue. Most statues can be relatively simple: Lady Liberty requires only a green sheet, some body paint and a flashlight, for example. Paintings can be a little more complicated, but also rely more heavily on makeup, meaning less to buy from the Meijer sale rack Friday night when the frat boys are buying beer. A Picasso just means drawing eyes on your cheek, and a Frida could be as simple as scribbling in a unibrow and poking your head through an afghan. 


Literary character


This becomes much less constricting if you pick a book that doesn’t yet have a movie adaptation. Find a few key pieces of attire for the character, and the rest is up to your imagination. Props are also handy for this. “The Picture of Dorian Grey” is a relatively easy one. Get a portrait of an older person that looks somewhat like you, and dress similarly to it. A sufferer from “The Divine Comedy” leaves plenty of room for artistic interpretation. With this, you’ll have to be prepared for nobody to recognize what you are. But look at this as an opportunity to start a conversation about your favorite book.


A pun


They may be groan-inducing to hear, but puns can make a great visual joke, and are pretty accessible to everyone, so you won’t feel like a total hipster with a costume too obscure for the crowd you’re with. They can be simple, like beer goggles by cutting the ends off some beer cans and taping them to a pair of shades. Or they can be pretty elaborate: I heard of someone going as a Freudian slip by donning a slip as a skirt and the spectacles and beard of the famous psychologist. The wittier it is, the better a laugh it’ll get when people finally figure it out. The important part when thinking of puns is finding a phrase with a fairly abstract word in it that has a visual homonym.


An iconic game piece


If you have lots of cardboard and paint lying around, this can be cheap, though potentially time-consuming. A ball hat and hoop skirt in a primary color could make an easy “Sorry” pawn. Pretty much any structured dress in black or white paired with a cardboard crown of matching color could be adapted into a chess queen. Or you could apply some foil to recreate the candlestick from “Clue.” Picking an older game is sure to induce some nostalgia.


A mascot


Mascots tend to have a few simple elements that make them unique and iconic, so if you can capture that, you will be easily recognized. Using long hair and a coat hanger, redheads can replicate the flying pigtails of the face of Wendy’s fast-food chain. A bonnet and sundress makes a simple Sunmaid raisins girl. A bouffant hairdo and white shirt with name tag, and poof! You’re Progressive’s Flo. And if you want to make a different sort of statement, just throw in a little gore or a knife-in-the-head prop and show off your distaste for the corporation.


A deceased celebrity


Going as Gaga or Ke$ha may require you to show more skin than you are comfortable with, but you need look no farther than the past to find a more conservative (and warmer) alternative. Prowl the thrift stores for this one: A pink pencil skirt and blazer make an easy Jackie Onassis, when combined with a cookie-tin-painted-pink hat. Use a draping white gown, plus a blond wig and faux mole for an instant Marilyn Monroe. Audrey Hepburn can be mimicked with a black dress, some gloves and a pair of knock off Ray-Ban sunglasses. 


A drowned woman


Dead people are a Halloween staple, but not all have to include buckets of fake blood and prosthetic wounds. A wardrobe of washed-out gowns and some blue lipstick make for a quick reanimated asphyxiant. Seaweed can be added on the cheap with a roll of green crepe paper. This can also be combined with period attire to make you a victim of the Titanic or the Edmund Fitzgerald. If you really want to make it look like you’ve been down there a while, barnacles and coral can be made out of clay and adhered to the dress.


 A cartoon character


If you have a colorful wardrobe, this can be a cinch. Blue dress plus pink tights plus chartreuse scarf equals Daphne from “Scooby Doo.” A red trenchcoat and matching hat is all that is needed to match Carmen Sandiego. To recreate Popeye’s “goyl” Olive Oyl, a red sweater, a black skirt, and hiking boots are all you’ll need. And if it’s crimefighters you like, any number of colored tights and bodysuits can mimic your choice of superheroine.


Go greek


The whole toga thing may have been a bit overdone since John Belushi’s chant in “Animal House,” but that only means you have to throw a few props on it to get respect. With a couple minutes of homework, you can find a Greek goddess that speaks to you. Then it’s a simple matter to fashion a bedsheet into a toga, and all that remains is to find a few props and symbols to give the hint as to which deity you are donning. Some bubble wrap and a stuffed dolphin make you Aphrodite, or add an art-related trinket to go as one of the Muses.


A drag queen


Dressing in drag for Halloween might be a little risque for you, or it might be passe. But dressing in double drag is neither of these. This is another costume where the makeup is key: Go heavy on the cheeks, dark lip-liner, and bold, high eyeshadow. Lay on the glitter, whip out the old costume boas and wear your tallest heels. Sequins are a must on your dress. Then, for an extra gag, stuff a pair of socks in your bra and adjust them so one is visible. Make sure to do your hair big — or else wear a wig, like the queens themselves.

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