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Last-Minute Halloween Costume Ideas

Time again for everyone's favorite corporately co-opted Judeo-Christian pagan demon holiday! A public service for procrastinating party-goers.

Big Halloween party coming up and nothing to wear? Nervous feeling, isn't it? There's nothing quite like the panic that sets in when you're scrambling for a last-minute costume idea. All sorts of terrible ideas pop into your head. So you decide to have a few drinks and get the creative juices flowing, and next thing you know you're waking up on a flight to New Orleans dressed as Janet Reno. Hey -- don't be embarrassed, it's happened to all of us. Here are a few ideas to keep you out of trouble:

Indiana Jones

As you probably know, the new Indiana Jones movie is finally coming next summer, with 65-year-old Harrison Ford reprising his iconic role. This costume is simple: Khaki shirt, fedora, revolver, bullwhip, AARP membership card, IV drip, and walker.

Hambone the Junkie Clown

I personally used this last-minute costume to great effect in 2001 for the world-famous Halloween parade in San Francisco's Castro district. (True.) Get a standard-issue clown outfit from the local Rite-Aid, paint circles under your eyes along with the typical clown make-up, tie some rubber tubing on your arm (draw track marks on your forearm if you're detail-oriented), and hang a sign around your neck: "Will Juggle For Smack".

The Remote Control

An old standby, but ideal for last-minute crises: Tape two couch cushions to your front and back. Explain nothing.

Global Warming

Another conceptual costume approach. Dress in your favorite beachwear -- bikini, speedos, nude, whatever. Don a giant sun hat and shades. Slather on lots of conspicuously scented tanning lotion. Then arrange for everyone at the party to totally ignore you until the very last minute.

Ideal NetFlix Queue/Actual Netflix Queue

Here's a fun costume idea for you and a friend, but you'll have to work the party as a team. Ideal NetFlix Queue: Tape or staple a few dozen NetFlix DVD envelopes to yourself, with the movies that really ought to be in your queue: Fellini, Bergman, Hitchcock, any of the recent spate of excellent Iraq war documentaries. Act slightly haughty at the party and sip expensive wine or high-class, mixed drinks. Actual NetFlix Queue: Tape or staple a few dozen NetFlix DVD envelopes to yourself, with the movies that actually are in your queue: Tom Clancy adaptations, TV/DVD compilations of shows from the '80s, Van Helsing. Act slightly ashamed at the party and indulge in your food-and-beverage guilty pleasures. (This is a personal choice; I don't want to speculate).

El Nino

We had an El Nino season this year, so this is relevant again. Also, this has been successfully field-tested -- I used it during the infamous El Nino year of 1997. You wear a raincoat, a big fisherman's hat, and an MP3 player (Sony Discman in my day), with small external speakers playing storm and rain sound effects. Then bring a spray bottle, like you use for plants, and give everyone you meet a fine misting. I also wore a big fake mustache, but now I can't remember why.

Al Gore circa 2007

Gain 40-50 pounds, dramatically ramp up your personal charisma somehow, and hang a Nobel Prize medal from your neck. A nice extra touch -- have two friends dress as Hillary and Obama, then have them cower in fear anytime you approach

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Isiah Thomas

What you want here is a costume that blends arrogance, incompetence, total lack of personal or professional ethics, and an air of fawning deceit and phoniness. You'll have to improvise this one.

Judd Apatow Comedy

Dress in slacker/stoner clothes (Knocked Up), a big-box retail chain uniform (40-Year-Old Virgin) or '80s retro gear (Freaks and Geeks). When you get to the party, act funny, awkward, and sentimental while simultaneously being ridiculously crude and graphically obscene. (Note: Alcohol helps with achieving this balance).

Your Second Life avatar

This one is ridiculously easy: Dress as yourself, only pixilated. (Again, drinking alcohol can help with this.)

Scottish Mafia Soldier

I know a bit about the Scottish mafia, having been born into the family business, as they say. The Scottish mafia soldier, in my experience, dresses just like my Uncle Davey. Polyester pants pulled up too high, thrift shop collared shirt, plaid slouch hat, brandy hi-ball in hand at all times. Most people will claim they've never heard of the Scottish mafia. Exactly. That's just the way we like it.

Chester Arthur

Generally acknowledged as having the most spectacular facial hair of any US president, Chester Arthur is a perennial favorite come Halloween time. Known as "The Father of Civil Service", Arthur, as we all know, famously oversaw passage of the Pendleton Reform Act of 1883 and even earned the grudging respect of no less a contrarian than Mark Twain. He was something of a fashion plate, as well, sometimes referred to as "The Gentleman Boss" or "Elegant Arthur". The typical Chester Arthur Halloween costume is fairly predictable: Sack coat with matching waistcoat and trousers (consider a frock coat for more formal occasions). Dress shirt and an ascot tie, of course. Perhaps a shawl collar with silk or satin facings. Tweed Norfolk jacket and woolen breeches for outdoor events, and if you're feeling particularly rakish, perhaps a flat straw boater for yachting.


This takes a little planning, but the effect is spectacular. Convince 299 of your friends to join you in dressing as Spartan warriors. Crash the party and refuse to leave.

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