Halloween: Are You In Or Are You Out (Of Costume)?

Illustration for article titled Halloween: Are You In Or Are You Out (Of Costume)?

There are two kinds of people: those who love Halloween and those who loathe it with a New Year's Eve level of intensity. Even the lovers are divided between those who enjoy the holiday as a wholesome, cider-flavored, pumpkin-hued excuse to admire kids in cute costumes and those who have embraced the raucous Slutoween ethos. Like most things in life, it really just comes down to costumes. Like karaoke, Halloween can bring out the closet exhibitionist in the most demure. And the costume you choose says a lot about you.There's the Slutoween, um, slut. Take a word, add a "slutty" and you've got a costume, as we know from Mean Girls. This is obviously the lamest form of costume — although I should say I seriously considered going as a Slutty Montauk Creature this year. You've got couples in costumes; lame, conceptual, last-minute costumes; historical outfits; those who have weirdly good, costume-shop style costumes; the friend who wears the same thing every year (apparently Dodai is a perennial Dorothy Gayle); the group costume that makes no sense unless everyone is standing together; the silly costume; the cutesy costume; the scary costume; and the "topical": just a hunch, but we're thinking variations on Sarah Palin will be this year's Amy Winehouse. For my part, I'm a proponent of the obscure costume, which maybe one person identifies correctly all evening — even though to me it always seems completely obvious. To this end, I have gone as a circa-68 Gloria Steinem, Joan Didion and Linda Pugasch. Costumes that allow me to wear my glasses are a plus. Despite passionate appeals for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and the Fitzgeralds, I have never successfully lobbied a boyfriend into a cutesy twofer. Growing up, Halloween was a Big Deal in my house. In fact — maybe because my parents are of different faiths, rendering a lot of our observances literally half-assed — it was the one thing we really did up. Halloween meant an elaborately decorated house, hundreds of guests, two six-foot hero sandwiches whose dramatic delivery was a high point, marathon trick-or-treating, and, of course, elaborate costumes. My parents were not craftsy types who could whip things up the way some of my friends' moms did — but they were very supportive. (Luckily an artistic aunt did create one of the best World War I nurse's outfits ever.) My first Halloween was a humiliation. Being two, I was dressed as a round pumpkin, my suit stuffed with balloons. I still remember the chagrin of having to parade next to a glamorous four-year-old friend who was dressed as Faye Wray in King Kong. I vowed that never again would I submit to such indignity, and there followed a parade of fairies, cowgirls and, most memorably, Marie Antoinette (I was five.) My brother and I never lost the bug. Last year (I was a Son of Sam victim) I ran across my brother, dressed in adult-sized footie pajamas unzipped halfway down his chest, unshaven, with a cigarette dangling from his lips. "What?" he said laconically. "I'm a sexy baby." It seems like Halloween has reached a fever pitch, like not dressing up is completely out of the question — whether or not you have plans. Perhaps in a Slutoween backlash, I have noticed a lot of friends are doing kid-style costumes. One is going as an ice cream sandwich. Maria reports that, like toddler Sadie, she will be a pumpkin — "not a 'sexy' pumpkin but a big, round and stuffed pumpkin with a happy face" — and a third lady is dressing as a (male) minotaur. Natch a few will be Palins. One is going as the Recession. One as Lehman Brothers. Dodai, one assumes, will be Dorothy. People like to spout nonsense about costumes and masks and being someone different for a night, but it's less about pretending to be someone else than about you — obviously — choosing to pretend to be. That's how it is for kids, after all, even if the costumes have gotten crummier than I choose to believe they were 20 years ago. Last year I saw a little girl, four or five, dressed like a policewoman. She even had her name, Gomez, written on her little plastic badge. "Looking good, Officer!" called a mounted cop who was riding by. (Yeah, it was like four p.m.) The little girl's face lit up with pleasure; she was thrilled. Just then a Slutoween cop passed by in vinyl and fishnets (she was with a slutty nurse and a slutty angel.) The child's eyes widened; in confusion or admiration, I'm not sure. The whole vignette seemed like a pretty good illustration of modern all hollow's. As to me, I'm currently deciding between Bella Abzug and Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8. Aging liberal icon or be-furred sex symbol? On Halloween, after all, we get to decide. And yes, sometimes it's a letdown. Related: Sexy Halloween Costumes...For Little Girls? [LA Times] Earlier: Maybe The Best Way To Handle Slutoween Is To Just Go With It


Erin Gloria Ryan

I really like having the opportunity to dress like a complete slut once a year. But sometimes I enjoy taking my clothes off and running around in a bouncy French Maid outfit with frilly underwear underneath.