Halloween is coming!

I love planning theme parties and Halloween is coming, so I thought I’d post some costume party ideas! I tend to take theme parties pretty seriously, so the first rule is:

NO ONE is “too cool” for dressing up. Geez, don’t disrespect the whole idea of a costume party by half-assing your getup! Your host is counting on YOU, the partygoers, to be the entertainment. And it’s fun. Go to the Salvation Army or get some face paint from the dollar store, or, if you’re a penny pincher like me, sift through the rejects of your own closet. Remember that heinous sweater from Grandma? Pop the lenses out of some cheap sunglasses and voila, you’re a nerd. Underwear outside your pants automatically makes a superhero- the rest is pretty flexible depending on how creative you are. Pretty much anything with shoulder pads is so ugly it’s funny. There’s no excuse- costumes aren’t about time or money, they’re about being clever.

Costume tip number two: if your costume is a “sexy something”, try again! Some people treat Halloween as an excuse to dress like a Playboy bunny, but that’s not really dressing up, that’s just looking like a vamp. We all already know that you’re CAPABLE of looking sexy, you don’t have to smother us with it. Direct your efforts towards looking attractive for sure, but don’t show all of your goodies at once!

You can up the ante by giving a prize for the best costume. Sometimes it’s fun to give specific instructions to force the creativity out of people, like turning it into an Anything But Clothes party. Or a Nursing Home party where everyone has to dress like an old person (knee socks, comb-overs, windbreaker suits, suspenders, bathrobes…)  Nick had the idea of a Where’s Waldo party where everyone dresses like Waldo. Hobo party, Lumberjack party, Steve Urkell Party… I could churn this stuff out for hours but you get the idea.

Halloween parties are the most fun to decorate because you just make everything look creepier.  Throw white sheets over furniture to make the place look deserted (preferably from a thrift store because you don’t want people spilling on your real sheets) and clap baby powder over tables and piles of old books as dust. Tea candles and mismatched candlesticks make a good atmosphere as long as they’re out of harm’s way. Arranging some twigs in a glass near flickering candlelight casts some cool shadows and you can tape heavy construction paper cutouts in front of flashlights to project images in places that people wouldn’t expect. Cobwebs are easy to replicate by taking a bag of cotton balls and draping the stretched material over furniture. Shred up old stockings with runs or cheesecloth and wrap it around stuffed gloves as bandaged mummy hands sticking out of creepy places. My mother dyes a lot of her own wool for her textile art, so I know from years of watching her experiment that you can take different shades of onion skins or tea to make natural dyes and stain material to make it look blood-stained or ancient. Most grocery stores don’t mind if you ask to collect some of the onion skins that fall off of the produce for free. The more skins you have, the richer the dye will be so stop by a few supermarkets until you have about 4 cups. Stick the skins into a stocking (for easier cleanup), tie it off, drop it in a big pot of boiling water with a cup of salt and simmer for half an hour, then add the material and simmer for another half an hour before letting it steep off of the heat overnight. The salt should set the colors on the fabric, but remember you are dealing with dye here so don’t go spilling on yourself and wear gloves unless you want purple hands.

It’s easy to make ordinary things look scary in a Halloween context like hanging up mirrors and drawing on them with soap or lipstick. Redrum, anyone? Decorate in places that people wouldn’t expect, like the bathroom. One time someone at school decorated a bathroom stall to look like a big green monster was coming out from behind the toilet! I get scared pretty easily so needless to say I almost peed myself then and there when I opened the door. But a simpler version of sprucing up the bathroom would be to make a person shaped cardboard cutout and hide it behind the shower curtain with some eerie silhouette lighting. Classic horror movies are great inspiration and people like identifying the movie motifs. Really, you could do anything, but whatever you choose, don’t try to do everything. Either go for unnatural and creepy (haunted house), or cheesy and funny (glow in the dark, witches, bats, tombstones) but don’t try to do serious scary things AND silly tacky things. And don’t spend a lot of money- you can find or make most decorations with a little bit of planning.

You COULD play haunted house sound effects and watch horror movies, but things that interrupt the party mood can be real conversation killers. I wouldn’t want to be shouting smalltalk over the Wihelm scream or actually sit down and get sucked into watching Psycho. When I see a real movie on, I want to watch it, and all of the good thrillers require your attention for suspense. That’s why they’re good, you can’t just watch some of it out of the corner of your eye and get the full effect. Instead, if you’re going to put on a movie, I’d have a stack of cult classic sci-fi and old-school horror movies that you can put on in the background and poke fun at. I’m talking about ones that are so-bad-they’re-good. Zombies, aliens, vampires… luckily, there’s no shortage of these suckers. Make sure you rent them ahead of time though because you don’t want the video store to be out. Again, if you’re cheap like me get your entertainment from the library where it’s free! (And you can usually request movies from nearby libraries if they don’t have it there.) As for music, I don’t care how cute you are, it’s going to be difficult picking up girls while dressed as a Troll doll and swinging your hips to the Monster Mash. Yes, have Thriller and Ghostbusters on hand, but I’d keep the majority of the playlist to actual party music.

Last but not least, every party needs snacks and drinks! If you’re sending out a formal invitation via Facebook or whatever, I’d tack a polite BYOB to the bottom but it is a good host’s job to make sure that the food and drinks are plentiful. Unless you’re having a small intimate cocktail party (which is also a great opportunity for a mystery party), that sometimes means choosing quantity over quality on a budget. The best (and tastiest) option is to make a punch. I can’t even begin to list some of the recipes that are out there for potent party punch, but let me tell you there are some good ones in awesome colors for Halloween. I CAN however, mention a few ways to dress up your concoction. There is the always classic floating ice hand that you can make the day before by filling a glove (non-latex if you’re worried about latex allergies) with water or juice and peeling it off when solid. Not that anyone is dumb, but accidents do happen so if you’re going to stick things in the drinks I’d either stick with objects that are too big to possibly miss or raisins instead of fake spiders and things. For extra gore-factor, drizzle some red juice concentrate on the sides of glasses like blood. Halloween is a good time to make slimy, jiggly, Jell-O shots. It’s also probably the only time of year that people buy green Jell-O. You can buy glowsticks in bulk pretty cheaply to either wear or use as cocktail stirrers. Food possibilities are endless, but you don’t need me to tell you how to go to the store and buy some chips. I’m leaving a link to one website I found though that had some pretty cute and healthy snack ideas. Sometimes people get sick of all of the sugary stuff and healthy things are refreshing.

Well that’s it for Halloween, now you can start plotting pranks!

http://www.craftjr.com/halloween-treats-party-food/ Party food

http://www.extremepumpkins.com/trascancos.html Cool prank to scare trick or treaters

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1 Comment

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One response to “Halloween is coming!

  1. Miranda

    Great post.

    Hallowe’en is by far my favourite holiday. My brother is 20 and has not missed a single year of trick-or-treating so far, so you’re never too old, just like you’re never too cool to dress up.

    What will you be for Hallowe’en?

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