How to Make Your Own Fantabulous Halloween Costume!: Or A Cautionary Tale of Loneliness and Regret

Lissa 3

Me and my big sis, kicking it back in the day. This was when she was still actually taller than me! That didn’t last long…

Happy Halloween!!!

It’s one of the best times of the year, when the leaves are changing, the air is getting cooler, you don’t have to vacuum up spiderwebs ‘cause suddenly they’re “atmospheric,” and it’s perfectly legitimate to eat candy for dinner. Is it any wonder that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays?

But the older you get, the more depressing the holiday can become. Suddenly it’s no longer socially acceptable to demand candy from strangers. You’re supposed to want to opt out of fun holiday fare like Hocus Pocus in favor of scary slasher films like Blood and Guts 2: Lost in New York. And instead of dressing up like your favorite TV show character/comic book hero/historical figure, you’re supposed to start wearing more generic costumes that show off less of your personality and more of your… oh, what’s the word I’m looking for?… cleavage.


Look, if getting crazy and wild on Halloween is your thing, more power to you. I just wish there were more costume options for those of us who are repressed and completely comfortable with that fact. Instead, I either have to go with the wonderful options sold in the store such as a risque girl scout (unfortunately, I’m not making that one up) or create my own getup.

And therein lies the real problem of the holiday. For some reason, despite massive evidence to the contrary, every year I seem to believe that I’ll be able to handcraft that awesome costume I have in my mind, when in actuality it’s pretty painfully obvious that I put together everything from Goodwill (which, by the way, I totally rocked before the hipsters ever got a hold of it).

To be fair, I come by it honestly. My mom always made our costumes when we were little, and they always looked awesome. (Coincidentally, I’m pretty sure this is also the reason I ended up being a theater major). No wonder I naively continue to believe that this talent will somehow magically  be passed down through the generations! Just take a look at some of the sweet stuff she’s put together over the years:

Lissa 1

Sarah as Snow White, me as Minnie, and Steven as the devil. Pretty fitting, I’d say.


Hey, Matt, that costume’s looking familiar. There’s my mom as a ref, Sarah as a pizza delivery girl, Steven as a …Mickey Mouse fan with crazy eyes?… and me as Cousin It. Note the bowler hat. It’s all about the details, people.

Lissa 4

Best friend Laura as Madonna (isn’t she cute??), Sarah as a ’50s girl, and me rocking the clown wig. Classic.

Lissa 5

Sarah as the Little Mermaid and me as the kangaroo from Zoobaleezoo. Don’t feel bad if you aren’t familiar with the reference. No one knew what it was then, either. But probably still my favorite Halloween costume I’ve ever worn! (She was a pink, ballet-dancing kangaroo! How cool is that?)

Look how freakin’ adorable I am. Is it any wonder that I keep trying to re-create that effect, but with dramatically less successful results?

So I thought I’d go on a little walk down memory lane to highlight some of my weirdest homemade costume attempts. Not all of these actually took place on Halloween—because, yes, I will put on a costume for pretty much any reason—but each has a story to tell. You know what they say: a picture is worth 1,000 painful memories. Or something like that…


I’ll Huff, and I’ll Puff…


Me as the Big Bad Wolf, circa 2006.

Oh, good grief. The worst part of this costume is I actually felt really sexy in it? Somehow? This was in college and I was in a stage makeup class at the time. So instead of putting any effort into the clothes I was actually going to put on, I decided to just wear all brown and mat some fur to my head to look like ears. Then I took a series of really weirdly posed photographs that I’m pretty sure I also thought were sexy. I think the lesson to take from this is that whenever I think I’m being sexy, it’s actually just really awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved. No wonder my brothers always call me Jan…



Expecto patronum!!!


Yep. This was happening in the middle of a crowded movie theater.


Clearly not bunny ears, am I right?



This was actually not for Halloween but rather for the premier of Harry Potter 7. Or maybe 6? I can’t remember. What I DO remember is that my cousin and friend and I thought it would be funny to dress up in really ridiculous costumes to poke fun at the other people who would inevitably be dressed up… only we were pretty much the only ones there who actually wore costumes. Unfortunately for me, my cousin who was dressed like a broom didn’t look all that much like a broom when she took off her hat, and my friend who dressed like a dementor didn’t look all that much like a dementor when she took off her hood, so they could go pretty incognito and pretend that they hadn’t dressed up like a couple of nerds. I, however, never stopped looking like a … well, that was part of the problem, too, because nobody could really seem to tell what I was. Instead of the stag patronus that I so CLEARLY am, people seemed to think I’d dressed up like a white bunny rabbit for some inexplicable reason. I was even asked by the people at the theater to remove my “ears.” I did, however, end the evening by driving around and half-lurching out of a truck at crowds of confused teenagers, screaming “Expecto patronum!” So, yeah. It’s clear who won that round.

And All That Jazz




What do you wear to a roarin’ ‘20s murder mystery party? Your dad’s bathrobe, of course. Somehow in the course of writing out the intricate plot of an entire murder mystery for a small group of friends, it never struck me that nothing in my closet actually resembled the fab 1920s look I was going for. So I cinched in my dad’s robe with a belt in the hopes that it would look like a fancy paisley dress, put on a head band, and called it good. Tres chic, no? (Actually, no, as it turns out. Not at all).


Down the Amish Rabbit Hole



This was also not for Halloween, but rather for a charity event in which we dressed up like Disney characters so people would shell out a couple bucks to take a picture with us that would all go toward cancer research. Great idea, right? Alice in Wonderland! I got the long blond hair. It seemed like a no brainer. Except my once again homemade costume looked less Disney, more Amish. Or maybe a Swiss maid? People were really confused, I got a lot of weird looks, and no one wanted to take their picture with me (just like my senior prom all over again…). But on the plus side, I ate a really good burrito that night. So I’d call that one even.


The Guys Your Girlfriends Wish You Were


My friends call me Eli, ’cause that’s my name.


This was once again not Halloween (actually, I’m beginning to wonder if I ever even dress up on Halloween, based on these pictures) but rather for a karaoke night in which my friends and I decided it would be funny to form a fake boy band called The Guys Your Girlfriends Wish You Were and be the boy versions of ourselves. In my defense, I think this is probably one of my better homemade costumes. I’m just so, so sad for the person wearing it. His name was Eli, by the way, and he was the pretty boy who liked to read. Naturally.



I’m A Love Pirate and I’m Here for Your Booty!


Yaarrr! I’m hanging out with the Doctor!


Ooh, here’s an actual Halloween costume! A pirate! Very original, I know. Actually, I’ve been a pirate for several Halloweens (and one very memorable Pirates vs. Ninja Turtles birthday party). And actually, I’ve worn almost this exact same outfit out of the house on just a normal, everyday Tuesday. Like most Halloween costumes, it came from materials I already had readily on hand in my closet. ‘Cause who doesn’t have a pair of weathered boots and a huge black belt, just in case? I had a friend tell me once that I don’t wear outfits in my day-to-day life so much as costumes, and I’ve found that to be very true. Nothing particularly embarrassing happened to me this evening, but… come on. Look at the lady bug. How adorable is she? There’s no way I was leaving with the best costume prize that night, no matter how expertly I wrapped that scarf around my head. At least I added another quirky outfit to my ensemble…


Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree…


Tinsel belt. Classy.


This was for an Ugly Christmas sweater party, the kind of party which is pretty self-explanatory, at least in theory. Only instead of wearing an ugly sweater as the title of the event so clearly instructs one to do, I decided to dress up like a human Christmas tree. Why not string ornaments and tinsel through a green tunic instead of just wearing a Cosby sweater like everybody else? Why not, I ask?

Well. The train ride home was a little uncomfortable, to say the least. Although one very drunk man did profess his undying love, so…there’s that.


I’m Too Sexy for this Shirt





In keeping with the apparent theme of this blog post, neither of the above costume choices occurred on Halloween. I’m blaming these ones on the two roommates in the pictures with me. Somehow when I’m around them it suddenly seems like a really good idea to dress up like a Russian model and parade through our neighbors’ apartments uninvited (the day that I was recovering from a terrible case of food poisoning, no less). Or to put on as much makeup as I could possibly fit on my face and pose for a series of very strange pictures, then eat out at Denny’s—where, true to form, we were not even close to being the weirdest customers present.

It was good times though, I’m not gonna lie.


I’m Dancing With My-Se-elf


Note to self: in attempting to mock the duck face, you actually took it to a strange and terrifying new level of awfulness.


And to round it all off, an actual Halloween costume. This was the year that I was living in New York City and decided to go out on the town with my super beautiful roommates and super beautiful sister (instead of staying in to watch the Landler scene from the Sound of Music for the thousandth time, as what normally constituted for my weekend plans). Instead of going with a hot costume like said roommates and sister (a Greek goddess, a police officer, and a lounge singer, respectively), I decided I was going to be a “warrior version of Marian from Robin Hood.” (Seriously. You can’t make these things up, people). Long story short, we ended up at a club, guys were swarming around the other girls, and I was dancing by myself in my homemade costume. Classic Elizabeth.


And yet… even knowing this, I am still making my own costume this year for Halloween. Because for me, it’s not about being the girl who’s the hottest (which, frankly, will never happen no matter how good my costume is). Or the person who wins the prize for best costume. Or the girl who leaves the night with all the guys’ phone numbers. I may end up dancing by myself at the end of the night, but dancing with yourself can be fun, and honestly, it’s probably safer for everyone involved (if you’ve ever seen me dance, this will need no explanation).


And dang it, someday I will make a costume that is actually as awesome in real life as it is in my head, and how those boys at the club will rue the day! Rue it, I say!




(In hindsight, I’m beginning to think this dancing by myself incident may have actually had nothing to do with my costume. Hmm…)



About lissag7

Elizabeth Gilliland is an aspiring writer/dreamer/pirate who loves a good story more than just about anything else... except maybe chocolate. This is her place to create and dream and share just a little nugget of what's going on in her little corner of the 'verse.

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