Halloween: a night of seeking out free candy at strangers’ doorsteps, celebrating at bustling parties, and donning a costume to impress or scare the living daylights out of friends. However, finding the perfect Halloween costume or costume idea that balances personality, popularity, and originality requires a lot of hard work and planning. Here are a few tips and tricks to make the struggle of dressing your best next Halloween as hassle-free as possible.

The Costume Contest Lineup
Credit: Nihonniboku at en.wikipedia

Three All-Encompassing Costume Styles

1. Storebought Costumes

Most, if not all store-bought Halloween costumes take glaring leads from what’s hip and new in the pop culture scene. Whether it’s dressing up as Walter White from Breaking Bad, cast members from Duck Dynasty, Miley Cyrus, or Robin Thicke, you’re bound to make waves at Halloween get-togethers and neighborhood stoops if you dress as these highly televised, cemented pop culture icons. Everybody knows their name and what they’ve done to propel themselves into fame. Dressing up as one of these celebrities should be more than sufficient... if you’re not interested in the more personable costumes available.

2. Do-It-Yourself Costumes

Ever heard of the instant cult classic Sharknado? One of the biggest underdog costumes this past Halloween was the Sharknado: interpreted as either a tornado hat with a shark topper or a full-body tornado suit with toy sharks scattered haphazardly in the midst. The costumes are surprisingly well-crafted for the movie’s eccentricity and outlandishness, and the more venerable aspect of the Sharknado-suits is that most of them are do-it-yourself projects. Yes, you read that right. Adults, who also took on the role of prospective Halloween celebrators, spent their time and money to create their costumes. If you don’t want to fit in with the regular store-bought crowd, DIY costumes are definitely a solid alternative.

3. Mix-and-Match Costumes

To another extent, there are many individuals who would rather mix-and-match existing costume parts to create their own scary monster, frightening ghoul, or glittery princess. Personally, this idea works slightly better from a feminine perspective because of the increased number of parts usually required to craft a female costume as opposed to a male one. There’s less room to work with when mixing and matching to create costumes, but this is one of the preferred methods to use when cosplaying (dressing up as a character or other entity from comic books, videogames, television series, etc.; usually unrelated to Halloween). The items that costume creators can choose to use are more limited to existing parts and items of costumes and clothing, rather than the more labor-intensive mix of existing and scratch materials for DIY costumes. Taking the cosplay aspect into account, this costume idea is much more personable but much less associable, so think about it before you dive in.

Tips & Tricks

1. Keep your audience in mind.

When dressing up for Halloween, it is always important to keep in mind who you will be encountering and interacting with for the night. As an unspoken guideline, you would not want to dress up for Halloween as you would for Comic-Con if you want to be easily recognized, depending on the character. There are gaping differences in how many people recognize Superman, Hawkeye, and a Homestuck troll. Not to mention, you also don’t want to be associated with a Rutgers student as opposed to a Team Rocket member... Trust me, it has happened before.

2. Budget wisely.

Unless you are an avid cosplayer (and even if you are), chances are you won’t be reusing your Halloween costume next year. There should be no reason to spend $200 on a custom hat just for the holiday, unless you plan to make a huge impression upon fellow celebrators or have the financial stability to do so. The best, most well-executed costumes can come with rather cheap price tags (i.e. Sharknado). Don’t forget the slew of holidays that follow Halloween as well: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, etc. You’re going to have to stash some serious cash for those holidays, especially for some extravagant dinners.

3. Don't get too extravagant.

Let’s face it: You’re going to be walking around the streets trick-or-treating late at night, or stepping things up at a spruced-up Halloween party in some apartment or venue. Long dresses, high heels, and giant wigs don’t really make sense if you’re going to be that mobile, that out-and-about. Take actions into account because nobody wants to trip or be blinded by their own costume, especially if they’ve taken the time to create it to the best of their ability. Unless you’re confident in your ability to take solid, unyielding steps with platformer shoes or blackglasses on, take some time to reconsider the magnitude of your costume.

4. Be Yourself.

You know exactly what you want to portray with your Halloween costume. If bad comes to worse when brainstorming costume ideas, just devote yourself to dressing up as some character or object that you really relate to or adore. At the end of the day, you shouldn’t be out to please anybody with your costume; your costume should represent you better than it caters to the preferences of other Halloween trick-or-treaters.

Although there’s no more Halloween to be had this year, there’s always next year to prepare for!