All Hail All Hallow's Eve: Getting Back into the Swing of Halloween

It's been a while since I've been into Halloween. As an adult you either go with the flow of the masses, try the tiniest bit, or don't even bother. Being in New York City and working in Manhattan (particularly downtown Manhattan) you're at risk of running into the crowd of overzealous costumed men, women, and children for the Halloween Parade if it lands on a weekday. My husband and I happened upon the Halloweeen Parade when we first started dating and I had a celebrity sighting (Patrick Renna from The Sandlot). That year we saw a man dressed as then President Bush carrying a cage with someone (a living someone) dressed as Osama Bin Laden inside. Now that was a costume that got a lot of attention, not just because of the timing being after 9/11 but because it was really cool and inventive. Also, one man carrying another during a parade would be killer on one’s back. Just this past weekend New York Comic Con happened and many were decked out as their favorite superheros/heroines, supervillains, comic book and manga characters. If you see some of the photos people went all out to properly present a realistic image of a character they put a lot of thought into.

So, after a pretty tumultuous year with my husband being unemployed, becoming the sole breadwinner for our home and helping him with school costs as well as taking on our entire standard of living, after moving twice in 33 days (once unnecessarily thanks to a certain mother-in-law), and dealing with finding a new apartment and shelling out boku bucks in two weeks time, working full-time and freelance to make extra cash, and trying to get my own writing and writing residency applications in I decided I deserved a bit of an escape. This escape came in the form of a Facebook invite from a co-worker for a Halloween party where costumes are a must. I considered dressing up as a character from True Blood or doing an angel costume or just reusing the Spartan cheerleader costume I purchased the year before for a murder mystery game at a friend’s home, but then realized I was still reeling from an awesome YA series I just completed and wanted to be the heroine for this series. This character had been through the gamut and still survived and if after a hellish year for me I could portray the strength of her than my bad year couldn’t be so bad in retrospect. And what better time than Halloween to put myself full force into being this character and leaving my troubles behind while I contemplated the transformation. So, I decided I would be Katniss Everdeen for my friend's Halloween party and thus also prompted another friend to have her own Halloween party where I could wear my costume more than once. Sweet!

Side note: If you don't know who Katniss Everdeen is (and I have a feeling I'll be doing a lot of explaining at these parties) she is the narrator and protagonist of the wonderful YA dystopian series The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. All I can say is Ms. Collins is a talented and kind and lovely woman and the books are awesome so read them...ASAP!

In planning this costume and going on eBay,, the Scholastic store, and searching clothing site after clothing site I realized I was going all in for this. Something I hadn’t done in years. I’ve been an onlooker come Halloween, admiring the costumes of others, ohing and awing at the adorable children’s costumes (and yes even some animals, who doesn’t like to see a Dachshund dressed as Superman?). I haven’t invested time or money in Halloween since I was a kid and even then it was mainly my family doing the work to make me what I wanted. It always seemed so fruitless, you’d be something one year and something else the next. What’s the fun in that? What if someone doesn’t get the costume or I just don't do the best job of getting all the elements together?

My earliest memory of Halloween was being Snoopy. I was probably five or six years old and went out with my cousins around the block in Uniondale, NY on a family friendly block. I remember being quite hot in the damn mask and a lot of condensation happening when I breathed into the plastic. I also remember people constantly saying how cute my costume was and inviting me into their homes to display to others. This was the 1980s in Long Island in a relatively safe community so my chaperon gladly let me parade around some strangers homes so they could see my "oh so cute" costume. When looking back on that night I remember seeing the world through two small eyeholes, much like the beginning of Halloween (the original one that is).

Skip to a few years later when my arts and crafty aunt made me a Crayola crayon box complete with crayons sticking out of either side of me and a hat (made from one of our cereal bowls and construction paper) that made my head a red (if memory serves) crayon. This costume was ingenious and looked amazing! I only wish someone had pictures. My aunt made the box incredibly vibrant yellow and it was an exact replica of the Crayola box. Of course, this box did not fare well when being taken to an elementary school where everyone wanted to know what the heck I was carrying. I needed a teacher to help me put it on and by the end of the day the crayons sticking out of my box became casualties of child curiosity. I was a big hit in our school's parade though. Years later I was a baker (makes sense huh?) swathed in white with an apron, professional looking baker's hat, and a decorated cake my aunt lent me. This is the same aunt who did the Crayola box and was prone to decorating cakes in her spare time, so she lent me one of her lovely creations a white cake with pastel coloring trim and roses. (She was really good at making roses.)

From then on costumes became a rarity. Since my mom and I no longer lived in Long Island, and my aunt lived elsewhere, Mom being a single working parent meant costumes were purchased, not made. I remember getting a ballerina costume later than I expected for Halloween and by the time the holiday rolled around the following year I had ballooned and was unable to fit the outfit, plus it's sequins around the edges chaffed. And those dear readers are the few times I participated in said “holiday.” As one gets older it becomes more like a day for kids, much like Christmas (and Chanukah as I've been told). You lose the energy to invest time and money into a costume and frankly after a full work day you just don't feel like being creative! Hence many costumes where someone is in street clothes with simply plastic fangs and some blood in their mouth claiming to be a vampire or someone decked out in solely cat ears portraying any array of animals in the cat family. Or women purchasing all this thin and barely there “sexy” clothes from Ricky’s chains around the world (just this past week I saw a sexy skeleton costume which was just a black tube dress with some white bones painted across the front). Since when were skeletons sexy? Since when did we lose our creativity? I’ll tell you when, once we hit the threshold of adulthood that’s when. Once we started being all responsible and whatnot. Once we forgot how fun it could be to dress up and play pretend because we had to focus so much on what was in front of us that’s when. Well, I decided that this year I would put that stuff aside for a bit. I decided that since I was inspired and highly entertained by Ms. Collins’ books that I’d go all the way, or at least as far as my wallet would allow, and get decked out as an adolescent lady made a symbol of rebellion and thrust into a war!

I have to say that finding elements to make my costume whole was pretty fun and daunting at the same time. After Googling images I see that I may not have been as precise as I wanted to be and as some fans did (one lady bought a jacket from Korea to match the one from the first book), but all in all I think I got the majority of it. I mean, I bought a wig for crying out loud! It was fun searching for bow & arrows, a top, the mockingjay pin, and such for a decent price. It was cool trying to pin down the right hue and style of pants that would convey a young woman in an arena to fight for her life. And the wig was the coolest thing to buy. I was quite picky on St. Marks when I spoke with a guy in a wig/tattoo/piercing store trying to find the exact color and style that would fit and make a nice braid in the back. "No, not the golden brown, the dark brown," I insisted. Once I had that everything else came into play pretty easily. And I'm excited to see how it'll come out and am even more amped when I tell people who I plan to be and then quickly direct them to the book's website and character's Wikipedia page for more information. The thrill I see some of my friends have as they plan their costumes or that I used to have when preparing for Halloween has re-emerged to give me a break from the craziness of life and just enjoy not being me and personifying someone else for a day (or days) when people can just enjoy being wacky and let loose and not be judged for how they look or what they represent but can just be.

Halloween is a pretty cool "holiday" after all and I think everyone should remember that child-like feeling of playing make believe. So, let the Games begin....