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Published:October 20th, 2005 18:19 EST
Dressed for Distress

Dressed for Distress

By S Renee Greene

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.


Once upon a time, there was a fairy princess, a ghost, a goblin, a pumpkin, a caterpillar, a Toto, and a witch-- be she good or be she evil, who knew? For she would sparkle brilliant during day, and glow green moon at night; and all the world her shimmering stage, she lived to give such fright.


As you can tell, it’s that time of year again. The weather is cooling and there are pumpkins everywhere. What will the children be for Halloween this year? What’s hot for adults who plan to attend masquerade or costume parties?


Most of the less expensive costumes can be found online (the infamous E-Bay is good for shopping). If you’re looking for that one-of-a-kind, nobody-will-do-this-but-me outfit, the costumers do not play favorites for the budget-sensitive, but c’mon and pony up: You only live once... or do you?


If ever-a-whever-a-wiz-there was … the little guys are going for Harry Potter’s cape and wand; the “Scream” thing is back, as if it will ever go away; and shades of Bill Bixby, the ever-popular Incredible Hulk is still in. The girls appear to be pulling genies off the shelves moreso than out of bottles; then, there’s the Barbie Fairytopia…and who better for Harry Potter than Hermione Granger?


And for us grown-ups this scary season, it looks like the guys are back in touch with Austin Powers, Dr. Evil, and Gomez Addams; and the gals, yes, it’s all been done before -- coming in first are Catwoman, Vampirella, and Tinkerbell. For the couples this year, priests and nuns; wenches and swashbucklers, and the ever-lasting Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein are still the favorites; however, for an unusual twist, try going out unusual as something like a Margarita and lime wedge (available at


Pets count! -- or, at least, they look kind of adorable in those little doggie pumpkin get-ups, or dressed up as “hot dogs.” How about a new millennium spin for your pooch--“Hairy Petter”--complete with wizard coat and hat? Take our advice, don’t try any of this fun stuff with your cat or hamster unless it’s just a plain old decorative collar. When searching online, use target-specific keywords, like “dog costumes,” or “cat collars,” or “Halloween for pets.”


On the other hand, there is the possibility of making your own costume out of items you may have hanging around the house, like wire hangers, look out Mommie Dearest! Try putting a new shade on an old costume that is collecting cobwebs in the attic. One of the easiest things on which to base a do-it-yourself costume is an old sweat suit. A navy blue shirt with red pants and white stars cut from contact paper let you be the American flag this year. A light blue sweatsuit, a dogear headband, and some dark blue felt circles and the kids get to be “Blue’s Clues,” a brown or black hooded sweat suit with leaves from the yard pinned or glued all over it, a small rake, and a lawn and leaf bag-- and voila! You are autumn leaves for the scariest evening of the year!


Don’t want to be the pirate or Elvira from last year, but no money in the budget for another costume? Try mixing and matching pieces from old costumes and inventing something no one will ever be able to guess (and probably wouldn’t want to); and if pushing up daisies comes to shoveling sludge, trade off with a friend who’s tired of their old costume. Or, you can try “freezing” the old Hulk costume in icicles or snow. Beware! The fake blood, oozing cuts, and vampire teeth aren’t that funny or scary any more.


There are costumes available for both saints and sinners, so if you fear to tread where demons and witches beckon … try the ever-popular Bible character costumes, like angels, King David, Roman gladiators, even Moses. Butt (misspelling intended), whatever you do, don’t try fitting into those two-person costumes, like pantomime cows, caterpillars, Siamese twins, or even a donkey suit unless the person you’re spending the evening with is someone you adore the heck out of and whom you know brushes their teeth and bathes on a regular basis. If you insist on being attached for the evening, don’t forget your Total Cool ™ at


Have a fun Halloween, do anything and everything everybody else wouldn’t do, and most of all “stay safe” out there. You never know what’s lurking in the shadows…