1001 Costumes- List

The first Halloween website I made in 1999 had this list of costumes.

It is still fun to view it, even if the examples are so 90s! It is meant to just

get you thinking and does not exhaust the possibilities!

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Count Chocula

dancing baby

Jolly Green Giant

Mr. Clean

Pillsbury Doughboy

Ring-around-the-collar

Ronald McDonald

Rice Krispies: Snap, Crackle and Pop

Tony the Tiger

Trix rabbit

Appliances/Electronics

ipod

boombox

camera

clock

computer

dishwasher

jukebox

oven

refrigerator

stereo speakers

tape recorder

telephone

television

wide screen tv

video camera

Art and Painting

Andy Warhol

art palette

art student

Salvador Dali

Impressionist
painting

Frida Kahlo

a landscape

Rene Magritte

Michelangelo

paint brush

Pablo Picasso

a Picasso portrait

Diego Rivera

Van Gogh

Venus de Milo

Athletes

baseball player

boxer

professional wrestler

basketball player

football player

field hockey player

golfer

Tiger Woods

ice hockey player

race car driver

runner

synchronized swimmers

tennis player

Biology

cell

germ

microscope

virus

swine flu

Books

almanac

atlas

best sellers

bible

braille book

comic book

cookbook

Julia Child

encyclopedia

etiquette book

mystery

Nancy Drew mystery

romance novel cover

sex manual

Cartoons/Comics

Disney cartoon characters

Betty Boop

Broom Hilda

Daffy Duck

Dick Tracy

Donald Duck

Flintstones

Fred

Wilma

Betty

Barney

Pebbles

Bam-Bam

Dino

Garfield

Goofy

Gumby and Pokey

Jessica from Roger Rabbit

Jetsons

Martin the Martian

Mickey and Minnie Mouse

Mighty Mouse

Mr. Bill

Mr. Magoo

Odey

Opus

Peanuts Characters

Charlie Brown

Linus

Lucy

Schroeder

Snoopy

Popeye & Olive Oyl & Brutus

Road Runner

Rocky and Bullwinkle

Boris

Bullwinkle

Dudley Do-right

Mr. Peabody

Natasha

Nell

Rocky

Snidely Whiplash

Roger Rabbit

Sylvester the Cat

Tasmanian Devil

Tweetie Bird

Wil E Coyote

Woody Woodpecker*

Circus Freaks

alligator boy/girl

bearded lady

electric man/woman

fire-eater

fortune teller

half-man/half-woman

hermaphrodite

knife thrower

Siamese twins

sword swallower

tatooed man or woman

two-headed man or woman

wild man from Borneo

Cross-Dressing

Cross-dressing involves taking on a persona from the opposite sex.

It always seems more dramatic when men do it, but for women it can

really widen your range of costume possibilities.

Current Events

Any characters or event in news especially scandals, crimes and disasters.

Disney Characters

101 Dalmations

Alladin

Bambi

Beauty & the Beast

Buzz Lightyear

Cinderella

Donald & Daisy Duck

Dumbo

Esmerelda

Gepetto

Goofy

Hercules

Hunchback

Jasmine

Jiminy Cricket

Lady & the Tramp

Little Mermaid

Mary Poppins

Mickey & Minnie Mouse

Peter Pan

Pinocchio

Pluto

Rocketeer

Lion King: Simba

Sleeping Beauty

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Bashful

Dopey

Doc

Grumpy

Happy

Sleepy

Sneezy

Tarzan & Jane

Woody

Fantasy/Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes

Alice in Wonderland

Alice

Cheshire Cat

Mad Hatter

March Hare

playing cards

Queen of Hearts

Tweedledee/dum

Alladin and genie

angel

Cinderella

clowns

Cupid

Davy Crockett

dragon

elf

Fairy Godmother/father

Hansel and Gretel

Jack and Jill

Little Bo Peep

Little Miss Muffet

Little Red Riding Hood

Mary had a little lamb

mermaid

Mother Goose

Old Mother Hubbard

Old Woman in Shoe

Paul Bunyan

Peter Pan

Captain Hook

Michael

Tinker Bell

Wendy

pirate

satyrs

wizard

Furniture

chair

coat rack

couch

hatrack

lamp

rug

sink

toilet

History

Marie Antoinette

Lizzie Borden

Julius Caesar

Winston Churchill

Cleopatra

Christopher Columbus

Leonardo Da Vinci

Thomas Edison

Ben Franklin

Sigmund Freud

Ghandi

Henry VIII

Adolph Hitler

Joan of Arc

Ghengis Khan

Lawrence of Arabia

Lee Harvey Oswald

Abe Lincoln

Karl Marx

medieval knight

Mussolini

Napoleon

Pilgrims

Roman gladiator

Betsy Ross
Teddy Roosevelt

Thomas Jefferson

troubador

Pancho Villa

George Washington

Zapata

Literature /Authors

Ahab (Moby Dick)

Emily Dickenson

Ernest Hemingway

Hamlet

Hester Prin (Scarlet Letter)

Huck Finn

Lady Macbeth

Lady of Chaillot

Macbeth

Mark Twain

Robinson Crusoe

Romeo & Juliet

William Shakespeare

Tess of the D’Urbevilles

Tom Sawyer

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Military

G.I. Joe

General Patton

marine

ninja

pirate

sailor

samurai

Monsters/Horror Figures

Abominable Snowman

autopsy

victim

Bride of Frankenstein

Chuckie

corpse

crawling eye

Creature from the Black Lagoon

Devil

Dorian Gray

Dracula

Elephant Man

Frankenstein’s Monster

Freddy Krueger

giant

Godzilla

gremlins

Grim Reaper

headless horseman

Hunchback of Notre Dame

Igor

Incredible Shrinking Man

Invisible Man

Jason (Friday the 13th movies)

King Kong

leper

Michael (Halloween movies)

Mummy

murder victim

Phantom of the Opera

Sasquatch

skeleton

Swamp Thing

two-headed person

voodoo doll

witch

Wolfman

zombie

Musicians/Entertainers

Andrew Sisters

Diana Ross & Supremes

Dolly Parton

Elvis Presely

girl groups

Janis Joplin

Jim Morison

Jimi Hendrix

John Phillip Sousa

Josephine Baker

Lennon Sisters

Liberace

Madonna

Michael Jackson

Sammy Davis Jr.

Wayne Newton

Will Rogers

Musical Instruments

drums

guitar

piano

tuba

xylophone

violin

Mythology

Achilles

Amazon

Bacchus

Cupid

Cyclops

gods

Greek/Roman

Zeus/Jupiter

Apollo/Apollo

Ares/Mars

Hermes/Mercury

Poseidon/Neptune

Hephasetus/Vulcan

Hera/Juno

Demeter/Ceres

Artemis/Diana

Athene/Minerva

Aphrodite/Venus

Hestia/Vesta

Hercules

Medusa

Pan

Priapus

satyrs

Thor

Objects

alarm clock

bar of soap

barbecue

billboard

bomb

book of matches

calendar

can of soup

candle

computer

condom

diamond

diamond ring

dirty laundry

door

envelope

faucet

gift box

ladder

laundry basket

legal document

birth certificate

divorce papers

marriage license

letter

lunchmeat

mailbox

map of USA

pacifier

pocketbook

postage stamp

postcard

ruler

signs

stop sign

no smoking sign

yield or other road signs

speed limit
sign

parking
sign

stained glass window

suntan lotion

teapot

teepee

Thermos

tombstone

toothbrush

trunk with travel stickers

vibrator

windmill

window

Other Cultures

Arab

Bavarian

Bedouin

cannibal

cave people

Eskimo

Geisha

Greeks

harem girl

Indian

Indian fakir

Maori

pharaoh

Romans

samurai

witch doctor

Outer Space

aliens

astronaut

chimp in outer space

comet

cosmonaut

flying saucer/UFO

moon

planets

Earth

Mercury

Uranus

Neptune

Pluto

Jupiter

Mars

Saturn

solar system

star

sun

satellite

Patriotic

Abe Lincoln

American flag

George Washington

Iwo Jima statue

Spirit of ’76

Statue of Liberty

Uncle Sam

Photography

camera

flash cube

photograph

photograph in frame

Plants

cactus

flower

daisy

rose

tree

maple tree

oak tree

palm tree

pine tree

sunflower

Religious Figures

angel

Buddha

Catholic school girl/boy

Jesus Christ

minister

missionary

monk

Moses

nun

pope

priest

rabbi

saint

King Solomon

Virgin Mary

Television (Classic characters)

Addams Family

Cousin It

Gomez

Lurch

Morticia

Pugsly

Thing

Uncle Fester

Beverly Hillbillies

Ellie May

Granny

Jane Hathaway

Jed Clampett

Jethro

Brady Bunch

Gilligan’s

Island

Gilligan

Ginger

Maryann

Mr. and Mrs. Thurston Howell, III

The Professor

The Skipper

Munsters

Herman

Lily

Grandpa

Saturday

Night Live

Blue’s Brothers

Church Lady

Coneheads

It’s Pat

Land Shark

Mr. Bill

Samurai

Two Wild and Crazy Guys

Wayne and Garth

Star Trek (original)

Captain Kirk

Chekov

Dr. McCoy

Klingons

Mr. Spock

Scotty

Uhura

Tribble

Star Trek The Next Generation

The Prisoner

Car 54: Toody and Muldoon

Vincent and Catherine (Beauty and the Beast)

Weather/Nature/
Natural Disasters

earthquake

fall foliage

fires

flood

forest

hurricane

iceberg

Mother Earth

Global warming

mountain

Noah’s Ark

rain

snow

Titanic

tornado

volcano

weatherman/woman

Animals

alligator/crocodile

bat

bear

bee

birds

blue jay

chicken

duck

eagle

flamingo

owl

pelican

robin

rooster

toucan

camel

cat

chimpanzee

cow

dinosaur

dog

elephant

frog

giraffe

gorilla

horse

kangaroo

lion

lizard

lobster

mole

monkey

mouse

octopus

parrot

penguin

rabbit

rat

shark

skunk

slug

snail

snake

spider

turtle

worm

zebra

Archaeological

Easter Island Statue

Indiana Jones

Maya gods

Neanderthals

Pyramids of Egypt

rock art

Sphinx

Tutankamun

Venus of Willendorf

Body Parts

breast

ear

foot

hand

heart

nose

penis

skeleton

skull

thumb

Children’s Literature

Harry Potter

Arthur

Cat in the Hat

Chicken Little

Curious George

Franklin

Jane, Dick & Spot

Little Engine That Could

Make Way for Ducklings

Max (Where the Wild Things Are)

Oompa Loompa

Pippi Longstocking

Sam-I-Am

Spot

Three Billy Goats Gruff

Wild Things

Willie Wonka

Yertle the Turtle

Children’s Television

Barney

Bear in the Big Blue House

Bear

Luna

Ojo

Pip & Pop

Shadow

Treelo

Tutter

Bozo the Clown

Captain Kangaroo & Mr. Green Jeans

Howdy Doody & Buffalo Bob

Mouseketeers

Muppets

Kermit

Miss Piggy

Sesame Street

Bert & Ernie

Big Bird

Cookie Monster

The Count

Elmo

Oscar the Grouch

Prarie Dawn

Snufflupagus

Soupy Sales & White Fang

Clothing

bra

clothesline

diaper

girdle

glove

hat

laundry hamper

pants

shoe

sock

sweater

Underwear

Comic Books (Classics of 50s and 60s)

Archie

Jughead

Betty

Reggie

Veronica

Batman

Alfred

Batgirl

Catwoman

Commissioner Gordon

Joker

Mr. Freeze

Riddler

Robin

Fantastic Four

Green Hornet

Little Lulu

Richie Rich

Spiderman

Superman

Wonder Woman

Detectives

Charlie Chan

Mr. Moto

Nancy Drew

Nick and Nora Charles

Philip Marlowe

Sherlock Holmes

Explorers

Admiral Byrd

Christopher Columbus

Cortez

Ponce De Leon

Food

baby’s bottle

bag of beans

bag of rice

bag of potato chips

baked potato

birthday cake

bottle of honey

bottle of milk

bottle of syrup

box of candy (bonbons)

box of cereal

box of oatmeal

bread

bunch of grapes

cake

candy

bag of jelly beans

candy corn

Gummy Bears

Hershey’s Kiss

M&Ms

Milky way

Reese’s Pieces

cookies

chocolate chip

Fig Newton

gingerbread man

Oreo

cup of coffee

egg

French Fries

fruit

apple

banana

cherry

lemon

orange

hamburger

hot dog

ice cream sundae

ice cream cone

jar of peanut butter

jar of pickles

liquor bottle

lobster

McDonald’s hamburger

pizza

popcorn container

sandwich

six pack of beer or soda

spaghetti

stick of gum

tea bag

vegetable

carrot

corn on the cob

onion

peas

potato

pumpkin

tomato

wedding cake

wine bottle

Ghosts

Beetlejuice

Caspar the Friendly Ghost

Ghost of Christmas Past

Marley’s Ghost

Landmarks/Buildings/
Monuments

Big Ben

bronze statue

Chrysler Building

diner

Eiffel Tower

Empire State Building

gas station

Leaning Tower of Pisa

marble statue

Mt. Rushmore

Pyramids of Egypt

Statue of Liberty

Taj Majal

Washington Monument

Holidays

American flag

Christmas tree

Easter Bunny

Easter egg

elf

Father Time

firecracker

gift box

ground hog

Mrs. Claus

Pumpkin

reindeer

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer

Santa Claus

snowman

Statue of Liberty

Thanksgiving Turkey

valentine

Insects

ants

black widow spider

bumblebee

butterfly

fly

killer bees

ladybug

spider

tarantula

Maps

United States

individual states

foreign countries

mythical lands

weather map

Misc.

atomic bomb

mushroom cloud

baby

backwards person

big butt characters

cityscape

covered bridge

nuclear war victim

old man/woman

periodic table of elements

pregnant bride

pregnant nun

rabbit in a hat

scales of justice

scarecrow

sleazy nun

tourist

Movie Stars/Characters

Al Jolson as Jazz Singer

Alfred Hitchcock

Woody Allen

Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers

Barbarella

Batman

Batgirl

Batman

Catwoman

Joker

Penguin

Riddler

Robin

Ben Hur

Birdman of Alcatraz

Carmen Miranda

Cary Grant

Charlie Chaplin

James Dean

Marlene Dietrich

Divine (Pink Flamingos)

E.T.

Edward Scissorhands

Elephant Man

Gene Kelley (American in Paris)

Indiana Jones

Jungle Jim

Keystone Cops

Marx Brothers

Marilyn Monroe

Dolly Parton

Elvis Presley

Rambo

Rhett Butler & Scarlett O’Hara

Rocky

Shark in Jaws

Shirley Temple

Spartacus

Star Trek

Star Wars

3CPO

Anakin Skywalker

Battle droid

cantina band

Chewbacca

Darth Maul

Darth Vadar

Han Solo

Jabba the Hut

Jar Jar Binks

Jawa

Luke Skywalker

Obi-wan Kenobe

pod racer

Princess Leah

Queen Amidala

Qui-Gon Jinn

R2D2

Sebulba

Storm Trooper

Watto

Tarzan & Jane

Terminator

Cyborg T-1000

John Connor

Sarah Connor

Terminator cyborg

Titanic

John Wayne

Mae West

Orson Welles

Esther Williams

Wizard of Oz

Cowardly Lion

Dorothy

Glinda (good witch)

Scarecrow

Tin Man

Wicked Witch

Wizard

Dr. Zhivago

Zorro

Occupations

50s boy (greaser)

50s girl teen (poodle skirt)

airline pilot

airline stewardess

american gladiator

archaeologist

astronaut

bartender

beatnik

beauty queen

beekeeper

boxer

boy scout

bride

bullfighter

butcher

butterfly collector

Canadian Mountie

carpenters
chef

chimney sweep

cigarette girl

circus ringmaster

college graduate

construction worker

cop
 country singer

cowboy or cowgirl

dancer

ballerina

Can Can

40s Torch Singer

flapper

flamenco

Scottish Highland

Greek

Harem girl

Hawaiian

stripper

Chorus Girl

Follies Bergiere

Vegas Show Girl

dentist

doctor

dominatrix

drum major

engineer

executioner

film director

firefighter

fortune teller

French maid

gangster

garbage man

gardener

Girl Scout

granny

great white hunter

hippie

hobo

househusband

housewife

jester

judge

king

knight

lawyer

librarian

lounge lizard

maid

Miss America

missionary

mountaineer

movie star

musician

bagpiper

concert violinist

jazz musician

one-man band

orchestra conductor

nurse

Playboy Bunny

plumber

poet

police officer

prisoner

professional wrestler

professor

queen

real estate agent

referee

reporter

sailor

schoolgirl

scientist

southern belle

street sweeper

surfer

surgeon

tavern wench

test dummy

train engineer

used car salesman

waitress

WAVE/WAC (WW II)

zoo keeper

Presidents/Politicians

Barack Obama

George Bush

Jimmy Carter

Bill Clinton

Thomas Jefferson

Lyndon Baines Johnson

John F. Kennedy

Abraham Lincoln

Richard Nixon

Ronald Reagan

Theodore Roosevelt

Franklin Roosevelt

George Washington

Robots

Gort (Day the Earth Stood Still)

Robbie (Forbidden Planet)

Maria (Metropolis)

Robot (Lost in Space)

Sports Equipment

balls

baseball

basketball

bowling

football

pingpong

tennis

racquets

pingpong

tennis

Stereotypes

absent minded professor

always a bridesmaid

Aunt Jemima

baby doll

Juan Valdez

mad scientist

prom queen

southern belle

tourist

Uncle Tom

Valley Girl

washer woman

Toys/Games

Barbie

Cabbage Patch

Doll

chess set

chia pet

cooties

crayons

dice

dominoes

jack-in-the-box

Legos

Lincoln Logs

Monopoly board

Ninja Turtles

Pet Rock

pick-up sticks

plastic army guys

playing card

Potatoheads

rag doll

roulette wheel

Rubiks Cube

Scrabble Board

Smurfs

stuffed animal

Teletubbies

tic-tac-toe game

Transformer

trolls

wooden soldier

Vehicles

airplane

person in boat

person in jeep

person in tank

train

Zodiac Signs

Aries the ram

Taurus the bull

Gemini the twins

Cancer the crab

Leo the lion

Virgo the virgin

Libra the scales

Scorpio the scorpion

Sagittarius the archer

Capricorn the goat

Aquarius the water carrier

Pisces the fish


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Why Halloween?

This is a post 9/11 essay that seems to have renewed relevance today:

Rituals and the Restoration of the Social Order

When unexpected and unprecedented events destroy a society’s sense of security and identity, it often turns to routines and rituals to help restore the social order. Individual routines that step us through the mundane preparations for school or work provide a comforting structure when we are unfocused. Group rituals involving public ceremonies provide a sense of shared experience that can make the restoration of the social order seem more certain.

Since the terrorists attacks on the United States, both private routines and special public rituals have helped guide us through the confusion and pain of these events. While private routines are necessarily hidden, the power of shared public rituals was evident across the country, with public gatherings crosscutting religion, ethnicity and age and providing a sense of continuity and renewal.

At the time of these attacks, the Unites States was beginning to gear up for its annual cycle of fall and winter rituals that starts with Halloween and culminates in New Year’s Day. Stores were already stocking Halloween and harvest decorations and along with media outlets were providing movies, books, advertisements, costumes, greeting cards, games, toys, food, candy, videos and television programs about Halloween.

No ritual may seem more inappropriate that Halloween at this moment. As a celebration of the frightening, weird, and wild, Halloween must appear at best to be in bad taste and at worst to be replicating the horrors of September 11th. Yet it can be argued that more than ever, the American community needs to keep its ritual cycle intact by embracing Halloween this year as it does every year.

On Halloween, the boundaries we work so hard to maintain between good and bad, living and dead, fantasy and reality, and humans and non-humans all come tumbling down. On Halloween, the most basic categories by which we usually order our world collapse and for one night monsters walk, beasts talk, inanimate objects come to life, and males and females are interchangeable.

At any other time, such bizarre reversals or confused identities would be understandably terrifying and unbearable. At Halloween they are briefly embraced and then, most importantly, they are banished, controlled by our desire to restore the social order that we know keeps us human and real.

Halloween is the one and only day of the year across the United States where it should be appropriate to turn the world on its head and do the outrageous, ridiculous and horrifying things that are not acceptable the rest of the year. We not only enjoy such days, we actually need them. It is during such rituals of role reversal and simulated lawlessness that we see just what will tear our world apart and more importantly how we can safely put it back together again.

It can be argued that this year we don’t need to be reminded about what can tear our world apart. We have seen it in the countless photographs and videos of mass destruction in New York and Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. But the power of a familiar and popular ritual like Halloween is that it provides a structure to act out, in one day, what may take our society a long time to actually accomplish: a restoration and renewal of the society we want to live in.

Throughout history and around the world, human cultures have created ritual events during which people face those things that could make their society come apart at the seams. The most familiar examples are Carnival in Brazil and Mardi Gras in New Orleans. By highlighting the taboo and antisocial in an acceptable setting and designated time, ritual revelers affirm the values of society’s normal life in a vivid, powerful and convincing way that is a testimony to the power of the social order.

copyright 2001 Louise Krasniewicz
May be reprinted if above credit is included.

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Help for the Costume Impaired!

When you join the Halloween masquerade, you contribute your own particular vision to creating a topsy-turvy world. Men can be Supermen or have exaggerated female features. Bold women become nuns, and shy women, Amazons. Movie and book characters come to life, animals sing and dance, and inanimate objects talk back.
In the workaday world we spend considerable time and effort striving to dress in a way that’s appropriate. At Halloween, “appropriate” is a meaningless term. Anything goes, and the only fashion problem is how to find a costume that suits your mood or interests. It might be amusing, surprising, clever, provocative, or shocking. There is no political correctness on Halloween.

Whatever costume you choose, it will set the tone for your Halloween revel. Donning Fred Astaire’s dashing top hat and tails will feel quite different than assuming the sinister cape of Count Dracula, even though both share a certain elegance. A transformation occurs. This is why we ask, “What shall I be for Halloween?” not, “What shall I wear?” Underneath, you are always yourself, but exploring other roles is a big part of the fun.

Planning your Halloween costume can be as much fun as wearing it. The key is to allow enough time. That way you’ll be able to consider lots of different possibilities and then figure out how best to produce your favorite. This doesn’t mean blocking out an entire day, or even a few hours of your schedule for costume planning. But you might want to start daydreaming about it on the first of October rather than the 30th. You could even organize a potluck supper with friends for costume brainstorming, or a get-together to actually create them.

Of course, if you just don’t get around to a decision until the last minute, you can do it all at once, fast, by visiting a nearby costume store, sorting through the racks, and paying for your choice. Or you can try a costume rental agency if you live in a large enough community. Even if you don’t want to buy your entire costume, these stores can be useful resources for getting ideas or for buying one or two critical pieces of a costume that you otherwise make yourself.

But plenty of good costumes have been produced at the last minute, and more cheaply, by combining odds and ends from around the house. Maybe you have some clothes or jewelry that you never wear because they’re too dated, or too outrageous, or too ugly. At Halloween, they’re the perfect base around which to build a costume. Or consider some more obvious examples: an apron and chef’s hat, painter’s overalls, maybe your old Eagle Scout uniform (if you haven’t put on too much weight), or the luau shirt you bought in Hawaii with the ukulele you brought back for the kids.

A still more creative, and rewarding, approach is to begin well in advance with a little soul searching. Costumes can be based on what you want to project about yourself, what you want to hide, what you wish you were, or what you fear you are.

If you want a costume based on your dreams and fantasies, ask yourself to complete the sentence “I have always wanted to be….” Then allow yourself to try it. Dreams of a change in occupation can have you appearing as an artist, a firefighter, a chef, a circus performer, a ballerina, and on and on. A freckled blonde can experiment with being a sultry brunette. A short person can build some stilts and try being tall. A starving student can pretend to be a movie star.

You can imitate a person you admire—an actor, a politician, or a movie, TV, or book character—or, through caricature, poke fun at one you hate. Topical costumes offer the chance to make a social statement as you entertain your friends. Bill Clinton (gray hair and hat with presidential seal, a big zipper?) and Monica Lewinsky (blue dress, white stain, dark hair, beret, knee pads) were the choice of many last year. Images of the millennium will undoubtedly inspire many this year.

Try having fun with your fears and neuroses and appear as someone or something that no one could have predicted. Fears about becoming fat or old or ugly can be played out in hilarious, and possibly therapeutic, ways. Are you a pacifist who wants to appear as General Patton? A neat person who wants to experience being a slob? A logical person who wonders about gypsy fortune tellers? A feminist who wants to act out her cheerleading fantasy?

Alternatively, if you want to reflect something about what you already are or do, you may want to take your occupation and exaggerate aspects of it in your costume. A nurse, for example, can come as a bedpan, a hypodermic needle, a bottle of pills, or a sleazy Florence Nightingale. A lawyer might dress as a shark, a bank manager as a convict, an at-home mother as an animal trainer.

You might begin with a hobby or interest and express that in a costume. Sports fanatics can come as their favorite players or as sports equipment—a tennis ball, a football, a fish on a fishing pole, a miniature golf course. If you play board games like Monopoly or Scrabble, or play cards, you can make a costume out of them. If you are a couch potato, you can come as one.

You can emphasize some physical characteristic that readily identifies you. If you have a prominent nose, come as one, perhaps carrying a box of Kleenex.

Some people’s favorite costuming tactic is to cross-dress, or reverse roles. Dressing in the costume of the opposite sex has a long and venerable history. Cross-dressing is about gender confusion, power plays, anxiety about the other and about the self. More generally, it is about the confusion of meaning, the impossibility of knowing anything for sure.

Cross-dressing shakes up the most basic premise of our world order, gender identification. It is a practice both fascinating and unsettling, which makes it perfect for Halloween. The approach can be obvious, using exaggerated sexual organs and/or flashy clothes, or very subtle, so that people are confused about whether you are reversing roles or are merely someone who came without a costume.

Of course, you need not come as a person, animal, or thing at all. Consider being an idea or event. A couple we know attended a recent Halloween party as “the parting of the Red Sea.” They had painted a map on their matching tee shirts, and when they stood side by side the outline of the Red Sea was complete. When they separated, it split in two. A new dimension was added at the party when they happened to meet another guest dressed as Moses.

Whatever your costume choice, success lies in the details. Glinda the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz is that much more fun when she has some fairy dust to throw around. A Shirley Temple costume will become unmistakable if you carry a tape recorder playing “The Good Ship Lollipop” on a loop tape.

To get a costume just right, nothing is more helpful than a little research. If you want to be Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, rent the videotape and study the film. If this sounds too time-consuming, consider the benefits: you don’t have to think of everything yourself. Instead of imagining your costume, you can simply recreate the telling details—the distinctive eye makeup, black pageboy hairdo, and Egyptian-style jewelry, in this case.

For every person or thing (or event or idea), there are certain crucial identifying features, or trademark details, that make the costume. For example, a cow can be any number of different colors, but only an udder, a tail, and horns make it unmistakably a cow. A vampire can wear all sorts of different clothes from elegant to sexy; it’s the fangs, the deathly pallor, and perhaps some dripping “blood” that make you unmistakably a vampire. Add some characteristic behavior—a good “moo” and perhaps the offer of a glass of milk for the cow, “I want to suck your blood” for the vampire—and the masquerade is complete.

In case the perfect costume fails to spring instantly to mind, the pages here contain more than 1,000 suggestions. To help make sense of them, they are organized into categories, accompanied by a list of eight questions to help you if you get stuck.

In future versions, many of the costumes will be illustrated and explained in some detail according to the approach discussed above. The explanations include trademark details and clothing and makeup suggestions, then describe accessories and behaviors to bring the costumes to life. The explanations cover the range of costume making challenges, so that even if the idea you like best isn’t explained, you should be able to figure it out by reading instructions for a similar costume.

In truth, the possibilities for masquerade are endless, and as various as every person’s individual history. New ideas crop up as fast as tomorrow’s headlines, TV schedules, new books and movie listings. Yet for each of us, every year, there seems to be one right choice.

As you approach it, do keep in mind this practical advice. Measure the amount of time you have, consider in advance how much money you want to spend, and judge how adept you are at costume construction and makeup application. Think about where you will wear the costume. Don’t choose a black costume with limited vision—Darth Vader, for instance—if you’ll be escorting a group of young trick or treaters at night. And shy away from the delicate, hot, or constricting if you expect to be dancing in a crowd or moving in a crowded bar. Large elaborate constructions are better suited to parades and outdoor festivals than to an apartment party, and makeup is more easily negotiated than a mask when it comes time to eat and drink. Costumes that rely on subtle sounds or gestures won’t work at a noisy party or a raucous parade. Thinking ahead will make your investment of time, money, materials, and imagination pay off.

Thanks to Rachel Cox for contributions to this essay.

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