Halloween Costume Etiquette
By: Witney Seibold
Halloween is creeping up on us, and it’s been making me think of a list of rules I’ve been meaning to compile for a long time.
Every Halloween, no matter where I go – to a party, to West Hollywood, to a movie – I spot too many people sporting what I consider to be “cheats:” Lame costumes that smack of panic, excuses, and a general lack of Halloween Spirit. Costumes ought to be about the joy of the masquerade and the wicked fun of a holiday centered on fear, make-believe, monsters, candy, and bacchanalia. For me, Halloween has always been a fearfully joyous walpurgisnacht of horror movies, parties, and a celebration of autumnal exhilaration. It shouldn’t be an excuse to try on a stripper outfit and parade your crappy-beer-chugging, slutty sorority-house ass all over creation.
Here then, is my list of rules for proper Halloween costume etiquette.
1) “Sexy” costumes. Sexy nurses. Sexy cops, sexy shepherdesses, sexy Alices, sexy Dorothys, sexy “kitties,” etc.
It’s fine if your costume is sexy. Heck, I encourage it. If you’re a smoldering witch in fishnet stockings, a half-naked Tank Girl, or Cheetara from “Thundercats,” then by all means, own it. But what I object to are the young ladies who find the tutu-style skirts, stockings, low-cut, cleavage-revealing blouses, and platform-high heels, and try to pass them off as Halloween costumes. You may think you are dressed as a kitty or as Alice, but don’t be fooled. You are really just dressed as a stripper. Stripper ware is fine for a strip club, but on Halloween, it’s out.
What’s worse, is when people decide to dress as something that would be legit otherwise, and tack the “sexy” prefix onto it. Too often have I overheard “I’m going as Dorothy from ‘The Wizard of Oz,’… but SEXY Dorothy.” Groan. You took a perfectly fine costume and robbed it of all its character. Good job. You are not in disguise. You are using my sacred Halloween traditions as a mere excuse to be slutty, and shake your moneymaker for fratboy douchebags. You can do that at Homecoming. Try to come up with something more creative.
Addendum: If, however, you have a “sexy” costume that has a modicum of creativity involved, then you’re o.k. I have seen people dressed as sexy Freddy Kreuger before. That’s fun. Sexy Dorothys are a dime a dozen, but if you find three friends and have sexy Scarecrows, Tin Women, and Cowardly Lions, then you’re starting to pass into acceptable. I saw a sexy Spider-Man once. A friend of mine once proposed a sexy Skeksi. Oh, man, if anyone had the gall to do that, they would earn my undying praise.
2) “Wacky” clothes. This is one for the aforementioned fratboy douchebags.
Fellas, if it’s Halloween night, and you still haven’t come up with a costume (and shame on you for not thinking about it until now), throwing your shorts over your head and wearing a brassiere over your shirt does not count as a costume. “I’m crazy underwear guy!” No you’re not. You’re an annoying, uncreative fratboy douchebag.
Pulling on your wackiest shirt, wearing your clothes inside-out, and stuffing a roll of socks into your fly do not make you funny. It just makes it look like you don’t care. If you just want to go to a wild party and get drunk, throw one of those sacrilegious costume-free parties at your own pad. Don’t subject us true believers to your five-year-old-playing-dress-up attempts at being clever.
Addendum: Also not allowed is wearing your girlfriend’s clothes. Unless you are a specific female character, or really go all out like those glorious WeHo drag queens, going in women’s clothing is just plain lazy. However out-of-character it may be for you, merely dressing in drag is way less daring and fun than you think.
3) T-shirts that say “This IS my costume.” You may not be enthused about the holiday, but these t-shirts smack of too much cynicism. Trust me, it’s more dignified just to not have a costume at all.
4) Puns. I’ve seen people who dress up as nightstands, and claim to be “one-night stands.” Or girls who put on a pink slip, and claim they are a “pink slip.” Puns make you groan when spoken aloud. When they’re cute visual plays on words in your Halloween costume, they’re nearly unbearable.
If you’re dressed as a piece of furniture, that’s enough. “What are you?” “I’m a dresser.” That’s a perfectly acceptable answer.
Unless it’s really, really clever pun, try to stay away.
5) Santa Claus. Dude, you’re two months early. Easter Bunnies are also out.
6) Your work clothes. If you go as a nurse for Halloween, but you are actually a nurse, then you are not in costume. You are on the clock. The same goes for UPS delivery guys, fast-food-joint employees, the clergy, doctors, Boy Scouts and even cops. I know that you may feel that you are in “costume” when you are serving the people, earning your salary, but it is, in actuality, just a uniform. Uniforms are out. “I’m a Burger King employee!” Yes you are. Now where’s your costume?
Addendum: If, however, you go dressed as a UPS man, and you have never worked for UPS, then you are wearing a perfectly acceptable costume. Especially seeing as UPS men are the object of many fetishes. Girls in Boy Scout costumes, and boys in Girl Scout costumes are also o.k. Provided you’re not just pilfering your sibling’s closet.
7) Swimsuits, pajamas and robes. Bikinis and Speedos are out. You may have a really nice body, and you may have spent a good deal of money on body glitter, but, nonetheless, a swimsuit is not a costume. See my complaints in the “sexy” section.
Your pajamas may be really cute or really hot, but Halloween is not the time to show them off. Unless it’s at the sleepover after the party.
Your robe is what you wear after a shower. It’s just more clothes. Time-inappropriate clothing does not make them a costume. Era inappropriate clothing is another matter.
8) Un-augmented Pre-fab costumes. Every costume shop in the country makes a good deal of money from pre-fab costumes in bags. If you want to go as Superman, it will be all the more impressive if you try to assemble it yourself. If you buy a pre-fab costume, and then supplement it with other items, then you’re o.k. But just buying a costume in a wrapper and throwing it on offends my creative spirit.
If you’re under four years of age, pre-fab costumes are fine.
9) Characters from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” This is actually just a rule for L.A. natives, or natives of any town with an active “Rocky Horror” shadowcast. If you want to go as Dr. Frank-N.-Furter, just join Sins o’ the Flesh, and audition. You could conceivably go as Frankie every Saturday.
If you are from a small town that has no Rocky cast, then these costumes are fine.
10) Repeats. This is not so hard and fast a rule, but more of an encouragement. If you’ve already gone as something, try not to ever go as that thing again. If you’re improving it each time you go as that thing, that’s fine. If you’re thin Elvis one year, and fat Elvis the next, that’s fine. You can go as the living and dead versions of the same person, that’s cool. If you’ve been the same thing for more than four years, though, try to move on.
Addendum: If you were, like me, the type of kid who occasionally wore costumes to school just for fun, then your Halloween costume should not be any of the things you have already dressed as. However, if you were the kind of kid who came to school in costumes just for fun, then you were probably, like me, a dorky theater kid, and you would already know the niggling fine points of Halloween costume etiquette.
Do: Wear your costume to school, on the bus, to work, to every party.
Don’t: Take your costume off halfway through the party. Unless you’re getting some action. Then be sure to put it back on when the afterglow sets in.
Do: Act in character.
Don’t: Act embarrassed over your choice. Own in.
Do: Give good treats.
Don’t: Give sucky treats.
Do: Be polite to the person giving you candy. Say “thank you.”
Don’t: Spray shaving cream, egg, or otherwise “trick” the houses who have already locked up. TPing is a little better.
Do: Carve a pumpkin.
Don’t: Not carve a pumpkin.
Do: Compliment people’s jack-o-lanterns.
Don’t: Smash a pumpkin. Ever. No matter what Billy Corgan says.
Do: Agree to take your little niece or nephew trick-or-treating.
Don’t: Take candy before they do.
Do: Trick-or-treat for as long and as late as you can get away with it.
Don’t: Act pissy if you’re turned down for being too old. Be graceful. If a house is closed down at 8:30, then it was you who was too late.
Do: Watch scary movies on Halloween nights.
Don’t: Watch romantic comedies on Halloween night.
Do: Try to frighten little children when answering the door (“Boo!” will do nicely. Or a slow creaky door-opening, with a creepy boogieman hiding behind it).
Don’t: Try to emotionally scar little children when answering the door (Pouring blood on yourself or them is not o.k.).
Do: Give extra candy to the kids in costumes you especially like.
Don’t: Give any candy to cynical teens without costumes.