Monday, October 19, 2009

Brainstormin' at Goodwill

My dad had a 60th birthday bash last Saturday. As always, he fretted and fussed over the preparations, meaning I was chained to the house running odd jobs for him. He's mellowed in his old age; this time around I did not find myself sweeping the sidewalk or hosing down the driveway as I was once forced to. By far the coolest errand I ran was driving his car (Alone! For the first time ever!) to Goodwill and dropping off some dusty old clothing and furniture. I felt so frigging cool getting out of that Volvo on St. Clair West and giving it a little "beep-boop" lock-up as I walked away. Once inside, well, I know a good opportunity to shirk work and scout out Halloween costumes when I see one. I took my sweet time getting back to the house.
What did I find!? Well, I must commend the Sally Ann and the Goodwill on St. Clair West for being the best second-hand shops in Toronto. The location puts it just off the radar of hipsters prowling through the Bloor-Lansdowne and Leslieville' Value Villages. Plus, there are some well-to-do neighbourhoods around this area, meaning it's not uncommon to find a Harry Rosen pencil skirt or Holt's blouse.
First, some classic Halloween pickings, such as this wonderful cap that looks straight out of DuckTales.
I'm happy I found this shield. It's comforting to know that in 10 or 15 years when (if?) I have kids, I can cheap out on their costumes by coming here.

Next, I stumbled upon this shirt. In an instant, I envisioned the most wonderful costume. This shirt paired with whiskered jeans (plenty of ass jewelery) along with snake skin cowboy boots and my hair styled into a David Beckham haircut. I would go as my worst nightmare.
There are always many, many kitschy ski hats to choose from. Buying a hat, a pair of snow pants and a parka would make a great standby costume. You could easily attach a branch to your front, spray yourself with some fake blood and go as an impaled skier.

Too many ideas! Not enough Halloweens!

Oh, and in other news, this article was sad, but also kind of perfect. How creepy if the body had still been out on All Hallow's Eve?!

Friday, October 16, 2009

How October 31 adds up

Even Statistics Canada is getting into the Halloween mood! (Albeit in a lame, numbers-based sort of way –see here.) Some of the more banal pickings include: "the amount of pumpkin and squash available for consumption as food per capita in Canada in 2008" or "the operating revenue for the video tape and disc rental industry in 2006, down 1.3% from 2005." I fail to see how this former stat applies to Halloween at all, but whatever. My favourite one is "between 1996 and 2006, the number of female funeral directors and embalmers in Canada nearly doubled." Work it, ladies!

Some Halloween stats I would be interested in seeing? How many razor blades are actually found in apples. Or popular Halloween costumes by year. Then we could pinpoint trends, such as the rise and fall of Mr.T, or when kids finally realized that Sponge Bob Square Pants is not cool, just creepy. Sigh. I suppose these statistics are pretty nigh impossible, although I would volunteer to dress up as a census taker and help out.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Anne and the perfect holiday

I'm not alone! My friend Anne shares my Halloween love. We decided it’s the perfect holiday. Think about it: what other holiday keeps giving back at any age? When you're a kid, you're rewarded for smearing red corn syrup on your face with a huge garbage bag full of candy. When you grow up, you can dress like a tramp and no one judges (well, not too much). And later on, when you have kids, it's still a gas. Below: Anne's reminiscences about Halloweens gone by.

“One year for Halloween, I was the ghost of Jim Belushi. I did it because all I had was this black blazer and fedora. So, I put on some pale face makeup and made it happen. Another good one was dressing up as the Happy Tree Friends with my sister. So I was this mortally wounded yellow bunny with little pipe cleaner ears that were attached to a headband, with yellow mittens and slippers. I pretty much was that bunny. My sister was the pink bear, also mortally wounded. In university, I dressed up as Thelma and Louise with a friend and we still went around for candy. A lot of the people at the door made fun of us: 'You’re just wearing a jean jacket, aviators and a name tag that says Louise. You could be anything.'

“We were serious about Halloween in my family with four kids. We had this huge big front entrance way with a veranda. Inside we used to build this castle of pop cans and give those away with chocolate bars and chips. One year my mom dressed up as a nurse with a huge syringe and my dad, who is white, dressed up as Ben Johnson. Oh man. I was impressed by that costume. I have other photos of him dressing up as a woman for Halloween and he took it serious: he got the biggest bra he could find and filled up these water balloons. He’s a fairly handsome guy, but he’s one ugly woman.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Halloween tweeting

Yay! Halloween has started to trend on Twitter. I'm brand new to Twitter so this is all fascinating and amazing. Tweets run the gamut from mommys talking about cutesy tooth fairy costumes for their kids to DJs promoting their dance nights and some people just outright slagging Halloween (my heart breaks).

Unfortunately, Twitter has preempted my own plans. I'm still torn between a 1930's newspaperman (fedora with press ticket) or as one half of a Jack-Meg White combo costume. Side note: I love group costumes. I have always dreamed of being part of a successful group costume. Some all-time favourites include a gang of four dressed as Hungry Hungry Hippos at the Rocky Horror Picture Show event at the Bloor when I was in high school. The group brought along a ball and played catch the whole night. Another fav was in third year university where three friends (a blonde, brunette and ginger) dressed up as Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. They proceeded to cast made-up, latin-sounding spells on each other at a living room dance party. A minuscule twig broom wound up, inexplicably, at my house a few days later. A couple in Vancouver I know are currently planning a lunch box costume where someone will be the physical carrying box, while other friends will be a sandwich or an apple or something. A group activity is the real perk of dressing up with someone else. This Jack-Meg idea might require us pretending to be siblings or actually playing an instrument.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Halloween Nostalgia

Back in the days when I had favourite holidays, Halloween was it (Christmas second, Easter and all others a distant third.) No confusing religious overtones, just sweet, sweet candy and dress up. I remember planning and drawing out sketches weeks in advance. Then, in a fit of half-haphazard energy, I would disappear into the basement, throw together some cardboard, scotch tape and paint, and emerge, wearing something that never came out as planned, but that I still wore proudly. This picture, found in dusty Tupperware bins in the basement, is a testament to that creative process. (How nerdy is it that I, aspiring writer, chose to dress up as a newspaper?) My mother dutifully snapped these photos each year before we left the house. In my teenage years (I trick-or-treated til I was 17), I rolled my eyes. But I'm thankful now. The costumes are not exactly how I remember. In fact, most look like shoddy school projects, but still my nostalgia for a more innocent Halloween persists.

This second picture (me as sunglasses, circa Grade 7) attests to my love for sandwich boards and dressing as inanimate objects. Everyone mistook me for a bee. Eventually, I gave in and told every person that fine, sure, I was a bee, anything to avoid the perplexed looks I kept getting. My sister, dressed as a sunflower behind me, and I are puzzled over who the mystery kid in the doctor's mask is. In fact, we're not even sure it's a kid, since he/she seems to dwarf everyone else in the picture.

Somewhere along the way, Halloween changed. I can't pinpoint the exact moment I stopped caring, but I'm sad it happened. Now it's more an opportunity to dress in ways society wouldn't permit in everyday life. For instance, last year I draped myself in my grandmother's furs and went as 1930's film star Norma Shearer. Nobody got it, but the costume was more about wearing vintage anyway. That's not nearly as bad as dressing up mere minutes before leaving the house, usually while being too drunk or sloppy to care. This brings me to my next picture: "The Devolution of Halloween."

Here I am (shudder) as a hippie in first year at Dalhousie. After draping myself in beads and scarves, I got lazy and drew a peace sign on my face. I should have passed this off as a comment on the hippie movement. However, I'm fairly sure the girl on the left wasn't even dressed up.

To inject some much needed enthusiasm back into Halloween, this blog will feature stories about costumes, past, present and future. I want to hear from you! And I want to hear everything! About how your get-up fell apart over the course of a night and you were forced to improvise a totally different costume by the end. Or how your costume required a lengthy description that ultimately bored anyone you tried to explain it to. Here's my own story to kick-start the whole experiment:

During my brief stint in Glasgow, my ex and I were invited to a Halloween party. Only problem was that we had no money to spend on costumes and our wardrobes were limited to what we could stuff into a knapsack. So, stroke of genius, we decided to dress as each other. Me, looking like Conor Oberst, wore his jeans and hoodie and sleeked my short hair into a curtain across one eye. He, far braver than I, wore my purple strapless shirt and leather turquoise pencil skirt. These costumes might have been hilarious if we'd known a few more people at the party, but sadly we knew exactly one person. The costumes there were the typical fare: Superman, Jack Sparrow, Jasmine and more than a couple French maids. Despite the carte blanche that attends most Halloween get-ups, many of the partygoers assumed we were dressing normally and avoided us. Well, more my ex than me, but still there were a few awkward questions. In the end though, we survived our first Halloween abroad. Plus, I discovered that boys get to wear far more comfortable clothing and my ex discovered that girls get to wear the opposite.