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Choosing the right Halloween costume can be downright torture. Who (or what) should I be, and where will I find it? For some, the question is easily resolved by looking in last year's Halloween storage bin, but other people strive for originality year after year. Below are some ideas to ease the agony.

Annie's Costumes

Best selection of costumes, masks, wigs, accessories and theatrical makeup.

HalloweenCostumes.com

Fantastic selection, expertly organized, clear directions for measurements. Make sure to follow their excellent blog.

Martha Stewart

The queen of Halloween has fantastic ideas for eerily sophisticated costumes.

Brielle's Notions

Brielle is a brilliant seamstress and costume designer whose site provides incredible inspiration in the fantasy and cosplay arena.

Trick or Treat Studios

One of our favorite mask purveyors offers classic movie masks as well as unique original creations.

Haunted Eyes

Amazing contacts will take any costume to the next level (but plan to get an Rx from your eye doctor).

WTF Costumes

This is a gallery of the weirdest costumes across the web and a fantastic starting point.

 

The Onion

 

 

Where to find a costume

Seasonal Halloween Shops
The obvious first choice is the temporary Halloween stores that pop up on every corner. They feature the most current selection of popular costumes-in-a-bag, accessories, wigs, and make-up, but they can be somewhat expensive, and let's face it, not the best quality. These costumes are meant for one-time use, usually not washable, and most people won't store them. If you do shop here, always look for special offers or coupons via their free email newsletters or social media.

National Retailers
The big box stores focus on the little trick 'r treaters, candy and home decor. The costumes selection for adults is usually very limited and suffer the same quality problems as the seasonal stores. Party supply stores offer better prices (and coupons!), and since most shoppers overlook these stores you'll find a wider selection late in the season. While you are there, you can even pick up some cups for the party or perhaps some decor for the lawn. Keep in mind that these stores carry a very limited size range, so don't expect to fit every body type.

Online Shops
The web offers unparalleled access to every imaginable costume AND size (especially plus sizes). There are two major drawbacks: you can't try them on and shipping times can be disappointing. Stick to the larger, reputable sites. Most offer lenient return/exchange polices before the season ends. So order very early and if in doubt, order a couple of costumes and immediately return the unused outfit. The golden rule of thumb for these kinds of inexpensive costumes is always to order the next larger size – don't let pride get in the way because these sizes do not adhere to any reality.

Closet & Attic Raid
For historical costumes, raid your grandparent's closet. You are bound to find a sequined disco blouse from the 70s, a shoulder-padded monstrosity from the 80s, or even a perfect flowery granny outfit. Make sure your family understands that you are paying tribute and not making fun of their bold choices of yesteryear.

Deluxe Costumes
There is a growing awareness among retailers people want better made costumes. Several retailers, like Grandin Road, now offer "deluxe costumes" made with somewhat higher quality fabrics, more intricate designs, and often include one or two accessories. Some of the matching deluxe accessories are still sold separately. The drawback of course is the deluxe price – $150 and up – and very limited availability in limited sizes. If you're a standard size, it may be worth the price if you want to invest in a long-term costume.

Rentals
For those of you who want to impress or have a better chance of winning costume contests, find a costume rental place. This is an affordable solution for a fancy costume that you don't have to store or wash. Many costume rentals work with theater companies, TV productions, and other entertainment industries. If the thought of wearing repeatedly "used clothing" sends shivers up your spine, relax – they are thoroughly dry-cleaned and treated with a super-Febreze type solution.

Thrift Stores
Large thrift stores, like Goodwill, are a great resource for antiquated clothes. If possible, try to find the distribution point for your local area – these stores get first picks before sending merchandise to the other area stores. Selection is hit or miss, but always a great place to find shoes, boots and gaudy accessories. Make sure to try on older clothes. A medium-size coat from the 70s may not fit a modern medium body.

Do-It-Yourself
The seasoned Halloween fan will likely create their own costume from scratch utilizing craft supplies, old bridesmaid dresses, and cardboard boxes. You are only limited by your creativity and resourcefulness. Thrift finds are usually a good starting point. With a few appliqués, papier-mâché, and paint, the results can be glorious. And remember that you don't need to know how to sew. Fabric glues (like Fabri-Tac) and hot glue guns work just as well. Make sure to consider all aspects of your costume including makeup and hair. You also should ensure your costume can pass a practicality checklist: Is it relatively comfortable for a long party night? Can you get in and out of vehicles and not obstruct driving or vision? Will fit through a standard 32" doorway? Will it not poke someone's eye out? Can you eat, drink, breath, and take bathroom breaks? Will assistance be needed to remove the costume? Can a wardrobe malfunction reveal a little too much? Will the costume leave stains or damage in its wake? How will you store it after the big night?

 

Costume Tips

1. Shop early in the season
Sure you might look like a freak buying a costume in late-August, but you'll find the best selection. Like all Halloween merchandise, costumes are not restocked after the initial shipment (regardless of what employees say).

2. Try it on before purchasing
Most places will let you try on costumes, since all sales are final. Marked sizes are rarely accurate – never every trust the tag! Check that the bag contains the actual size marked and make sure the costume itself was not mislabeled. They are made fast and cheap, and attention to detail is not a priority.

3. Find your own accessories
The vampire may come with fake teeth and plastic amulets but you can likely find other accessories to make your cheap costume sparkle. Visit a thrift store for shoes and a craft store’s clothing aisle for all kinds of paints and add-ons.

4. Take your costume on a "dry run"
Nothing is worse than buying a costume only to discover that the clown nose or hair or floppy shoes pictured on the front are not actually in

the bag. If you are painting your face or hair open the make-up and check that it is fresh and not dried out or foul-smelling. Make-up can spoil and some retailers may recycle their unsold merchandise from last year. Also, wear your costume to make sure you can see, sit, and eat while wearing it, and if not, make alterations. You can always add a sash, cape, or split seams and wear color-matching clothing underneath.

5. Winning contests
Two kinds of costumes usually win a contest. The first involves a sexy woman (or in some communities, a sexy man) in a micro outfit. If you've been skipping the gym, your next best bet is to go all out with a creative, homemade costume of something popular that isn't normally found in Halloween stores. My favorite costume I've ever seen was a screaming blond woman being rolled around in a phone booth which was covered in The Birds as a tribute to Hitchcock's classic. Consider recognizable characters mashups which is a hot trend right now, especially in the cosplay community.

6. Donate your costume after the big night. Costumes are rarely used twice, and unless you have many friends and family to swap with, it's a green idea to consider donating your used costume rather than throwing it away (or storing it for life in a dank basement). Places like Goodwill use proceeds to fund their programs as well as give a second (or third) life to your costume. School and community theaters can also use costumes in good condition. If that doesn't work, recycle it. If you are creative, you can pull the costume apart to use in future disguises. Think long-term and not disposable!

 

The Halloween Handbook:
447 Costumes

by B. Clark & A. Dodd
(Workman, 2004)
A good book for ideas rather than a how-to book.

Extreme Costume Makeup
by Brian & Nick Wolfe
(Impact, 2013)
25 step-by-step demos of monster makeups from the prolific brothers makes for very accessible lessons.

How to Win the Halloween Costume Contest!
by Per Kapper
(Dansk Biblioteks Center, 2011)
A step-by-step guide to easy fabrication and makeup tutorials.

Elegantly Frugal Costumes
by Shirley Dearing
(Meriwether, 1992)
Learn to create low-budget period costumes from existing materials and where to splurge on details.
How to Make Masks
by Jonni Good
(Wet Cat Books, 2012)
Learn step-by-step techniques for creating paper mache masks.
The Original Duct Tape Halloween Book
by Jim & Tim
(Workman, 2003)
Dumb fun with "clever" ideas for transforming duct tape into costumes!
Halloween: A Grown-up's Guide To Creative Costumes...
by Joanne O'Sullivan
(Lark, 2003)
Simple costumes, great pictures and few ideas for theme parties.
             

Walk into any Halloween store and you are presented with hundreds of costume choices. The obvious questions arise: What should I wear? Is there a theme for the party? Will I look like a dork at the gas station? The chart below will give you a better idea of factors to consider when choosing a costume depending on things like the type of costume, what kind of costume goes with a certain personality, the likelihood of winning a costume contest, or your extrovert level. For additional help, check out the WikiHow page How to Choose a Halloween Costume, or Visual.ly blog for The Infographic Guide to Choosing a Halloween Costume.

 

Type of
Costume
Sample
Costumes
Personality
Type
Description of Person Wearing
This Kind of Costumes
Chance of Winning
Sexy Sailor
Naughty Nurse
Sexy Vampire
Sexy Male Nurse
Slutty Lunch Lady
Wild
Unfriendly
Extrovert
Uninhibited girls or guys; the sexually active looking; gym fans who want to show off their hard work; sorority girls who must ALWAYS be pretty; exhibitionists A win is certain if at least 40% of voters are men
Movie Character
Celebrity
Superhero
Rock Star
Politician
Chatty
Extrovert
Those who like the spotlight and want to take lots of pictures with strangers; people who already resemble famous people; men who like to wear tights and capes in public; former or current actors who think they can pull off a decent foreign accent

Highly likely if there are no sexy costumes
vying for a prize

Deviled Egg
Old Maid
Hot Dog
Household Appliance
Drag Queen
Geeky
But Funny
Extrovert
Party animals, jocks or geeks; jokesters or people who enjoy sexual innuendo;former class clowns; hipsters who like to wear clothing ironically; last minute shoppers who find only these kinds of costumes on the shelves; great for couples costumes Neutral odds but popular couples can pull a rare victory
Renaissance
Sword & Sandal
Gangster
Hippie
Victorian Lady
Aging
Introvert
Older people reliving a bygone era; the educated or academically inclined; those who afraid to get too wild; subordinate at a company party where the boss is attending; borderline conservatives; History Channel fans; people who get cold easily and need many layers of fabric Not likely unless it's a very ornate dress or 50% of the voters are women
Zombie
Vampire
Ghost
Monster
Non-Sexy Witch
Taciturn
Recluse
Introvert
Those who believe that Halloween should be scary; loners or goth-inclined; those who want to hide behind a mask and avoid chatting; those who like complicated costumes; future movie makeup artists and special effects gurus Highly unlikely since many voters don't like scary or gory things