Posted on October 25, 2010 by alanajoli
I remember thinking when the Harry Potter series was drawing to a conclusion that Halloween was changed forever. After all, who in their right mind would just be a generic witch anymore? With the wizarding world so well known via J. K. Rowling, being a regular ol’ witch would be so passé — get out those graduation robes and a scarf, and you’re officially a wizard or witch associated with his or her house from the old alma mater, Hogwarts. While working in a bookstore cafe, I wore my Gryffindor colors proudly — not because I would test out as a Gryffindor (nearly every Sorting Hat application on the Internet puts me in Hufflepuff), mind you, but because the colors were easier to find in my own wardrobe. I went with a necktie instead of a scarf, which I wore with a v-neck jumper and black pants. Close enough to a school uniform to pass, I’d say!
But to be perfectly honest, I’ve been dressing up as characters from books and movies for a long time. I very rarely choose someone readily identifiable to the general populace. The geek populace can nearly always recognize me, but they’re my people, so they get all my sub-cultural references. As a little kid, I went as Rainbow Brite; as a tween, I created a great Alanna the Lioness costume. In college, one of my favorite costumes was based around the Star Wars prequels (which, aside for some rocktastic costuming, didn’t end up having much to recommend them. With a dress I owned, some styrofoam eggs, some face paint, a pair of black nylons that I cut holes in to wear on my arms, and some gold spray paint, I put together an excellent mock up of what Queen Amidala’s bodyguard might have worn while disguised as the head of state. Being Queen Amidala herself, of course, would have been boring.
As a young professional, I teamed up with a friend to go to a party as Pauline, from the old silent movie serials The Perils of Pauline, and a melodrama villain, complete with twirled mustache. I wore a simple black and white outfit, hung a rope around my arms (as Pauline was always getting tied to railroad tracks or some such), and carried a sign that, in old silent movie font, read “Help! Help!” (He carried one that read, “I’ve got you now!”) The following year I landed on a costume that’s become one of my all time favorites, and has gone through a couple of incarnations: Death from The Sandman. All of the clothing articles are multipurpose, so I can wear Death clothes all year long! (Two years ago my husband and I went to a party as a pair of Death — he went as Death from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, complete with the Death of Rats in a little cage, and I reprised my role as Death of the Endless.)
I’ve also seen some fabulous costumes in recent years — the best ones fully embrace geek culture. I’ve seen a Jason and Medea pairing (she had a bag full of Barbie doll parts in fake blood to represent the slaughtered children; he wore a ratty golden fleece over his shoulders). A female friend of mine put together an awesome Iron-Man-in-progress costume, based on the movie, using Ikea click lights as the repulsors and the Arc Reactor. I’ve partied with Inigo Montoya, Mrs. Whatsit, and Pepper Potts all at the same party.
When mining movies, novels, and comics for geek references, the possibilities are endless! Just go through your wardrobe and look at it for pieces that you wouldn’t normally put together and you’ll be halfway to a sub culture costume. (If you’re really industrious, you’ll create something worthy of a cosplay parade, but if you’re more like me, you’ll figure out how to put together something fun on-the-cheap.) Do you have a duster? If it’s brown, you could be a Browncoat — pair it with some brown pants, a white shirt, and a gun. Extra credit for a leather vest or a parasol. If it’s black, why not consider posing as Simon Canderous from Dead to Me by Anton Strout (or, his fashion model, Angel from Angel). Have a white lab coat? Right there you’re ready to be Doc Brown, Dr. Horrible, or Doctor Impossible from Soon I Will Be Invincible. Low cut jeans, mid-riff tank top, silver cross, and a dagger? You could be any number of heroines from urban fantasy novels or TV, from Buffy to Kelly Meding’s Evy Stone. Switch out the cross and dagger for some nifty body paint for an arm tattoo and you’re Devon Monk’s Allie Beckstrom. (If it’s chilly, grab a knitted scarf — Allie would have one on hand.) You can also accessorize your urban fantasy characters — Kate Daniels might have a big sword, but for a party, it might be better to carry around a plush lion (to represent the heart-throb from Ilona Andrews’s series, Curran, the Beast Lord and were-lion). Kitty the Werewolf from Carrie Vaughn’s series needs some over-large headphones to represent the radio — a stuffed wolf here is a helpful hint about her identity. Otherwise, she could be Megan from Stacia Kane’s Personal Demons, an on-air psychologist, or Ciara, the marketing manager at WVMP (who would probably wear a t-shirt with those letters on it — a simple enough project with some iron on letters, or can be purchased from Jeri Smith-Ready’s Cafe Press store located at www.cafepress.com/wvmp.
If you were going as a specific character from your geek subculture, who would it be? This year my daughter is going as a sheep, so I’m trying to come up with a shepherd reference without going as a twisted Little Bo Peep. I’m sure I’ll come up with something.