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Costume dos and don’ts

by Jennifer Ortakales / Beacon Correspondent • October 25, 2012

The only thing scarier than ghosts and vampires on Halloween is a costume gone terribly wrong. From horrible wigs and too much cleavage to ubiquitous superheroes and impossible-to-walk-in platforms, the holiday has the potential to bring out the worst in people. Remember to keep your costume just as practical as it is fun. Here are some guidelines for successful Halloween dressing.

Don’t spend your whole paycheck on an assembly line costume. Not only are packaged costumes the most expensive way to dress up, but they also guarantee that there will be someone else at the party wearing the same exact thing. Instead, work with clothes you already have or pieces you can buy inexpensively at stores such as H&M and Forever 21. Then only get essentials like animal ears, wigs, and masks at the costume shop.

Do check out thrift stores for unique costumes. Places like Davis Square and Allston are home to many great thrift stores like Goodwill and Buffalo Exchange that are overflowing with costumes. Even if you take a trip without a single idea in mind, you’re bound to leave with lots of fun ideas. Whether it’s retro, comical, or pinup, thrift stores ensure your costume will be one of a kind. Also along the Red Line is The Garment District, a shop that always gets rave reviews this time of year. Aside from its wide range of costumes, the upstairs portion of the store has everything you need for a vintage look, so they’ve got you covered if you’re going as Sandy from Grease  or Al Pacino in Scarface.

Don’t feel like you have to dress skanky to look hot. Many people think that more skin is better for Halloween, but this isn’t true. Sure, you’ll get catcalls at the T station in  but is that really the kind of attention you want? Plus there’s nothing worse than the walk of shame in last night’s “sexy kitten” costume. Find a balance between overexposed and completely covered. If you wear a skimpy top, wear pants. Or if you wear a mini skirt, wear a top that’s a little more conservative. This will also prevent you from freezing in the chilly October air.

Do wear comfortable shoes. As much as heels top off a great costume, think about how far you’ll be traveling in them. You could get away with platforms for a party right down the street, but if you’ll be walking any more than a few blocks, you’ll want to reconsider. There are still plenty of flat options available. Even wedges are a more comfortable alternative if you don’t want to give up height.

Don’t forget outerwear. Unfortunately, Halloween in New England doesn’t fall on the warmest of days. Think of costumes that require a coat, or find a jacket that will at least fit your character until you take it off to dance. Even if you opt for that skin-baring nurse costume, tights or leggings will save you from freezing on your walk down Massachusetts Avenue.

Do complete your costume with the right hair and makeup. Even if you don’t look much like the person or character you’re dressing up as, adding face paint or makeup can make you much more convincing. Instead of conventional lipstick, lip tattoos are a new way to add funky prints to your pout. They’re simple to apply and stay on for up to eight hours. If your costume is on the gory side, find someone who’s good at fake blood and zombie makeup to help you out. Take your costume one extra step by painting your nails to match. Get creative with nail art, decals, and acrylics. 

Keeping these tips in mind will help you create a unique costume while staying sensible. If you’re still having trouble coming up with costume ideas, think of your favorite musicians or characters from a movie or play. If you could be someone else for one night who would you be? Let your costume say something about you, and emulate a side of your personality that you don’t normally show people. That’s the best part about Halloween, isn’t it?