October is a breeding ground for divisive stuff. It ushers in such things as fall weather, licorice, scary movies, funny-scary movies, candy corn and Halloween. For me, that’s: love, hate, love, hate, love, hate, respectively. (If you like funny-scary movies I demand you see me in the comments after class.) Halloween in particular seems to bring out the most committed and apathetic of us, and basically nothing in between.
BUT! We aren’t born this way (copyright Lady Gaga). Before we arrive at such an emotional fork in the road, we must first pass through the 10 stages of costumes, which I’ve outlined below. Maybe you’ve hit all of them, maybe you’ve hit some of them, but if you’re 25+ you’ve probably come out the other end either counting down the hours and not giving a flying F about October 31st.
Step 1: The thematic, rotund baby costume.
It was important that this costume didn’t stray too far from your typical Halloween fare: pumpkin, spider, ghost, monster. It was ridiculously freaking cute and made all involved parties cry (joy for the adults, utter despair for you). Bonus points if the costume was re-worn by all siblings, inciting low-level PTSD for the first baby wearer.
Step 2: The ambitious, homemade elementary school parade winner.
This costume was the year your hard-working mother momentarily bent to sexist societal pressure to be good at everything, including sewing. She worked long into the night so you could look like a bespoke treasure. Downside: The costume got trashed immediately. Upside: Your mom became an even more staunch feminist.
Step 3: The last-minute store-bought tragedy.
This was the year the end of October reared its ugly head faster than your first period would a few years later. You had nothing, your parents had nothing, this costume was snatched out of a bargain bin on October 30th on someone’s way home from work. It wasn’t quite your size and the sheen of its material suggested a high flammability factor. The photos are sad.
Step 4: The predictable witch fallback.
The witch fallback is less of an era and more of a background constant that’s sure to punctuate your long life on Earth. It’s particularly compelling because you only need buy the necessary elements (hat + wig) once, after which point you can apply them to any boring black outfit and boom: you’re a witch. Kind of a shitty, noncommittal witch, but a witch nonetheless.
Step 5: The high school costume that makes no sense without your group.
High school saw your insecurity and raised you a very awkward situation: going to class and having to explain your costume that either made no sense or was incredibly stupid when removed from its intended group context (which, by the way, you chose as a direct result of said insecurity).
Step 6: The college foray into wholly unnecessary sexiness.
College probably opened your mind but, for whatever reason, you had to pit stop somewhere tragic on the way there. Dorms were the landscape, thematic frat parties were the catalyst. You lived by one rule and it was Everything Must Be Sexy. Animal? Sexy. Historical figure? Sexy. Nerd? Sexy. Tragic? All of it.
Step 7: The hungover last ditch effort.
You had a really good idea for a costume in July that you forgot and then suddenly Halloween was a week out and you were like “I’ll think of something super clever” and then you woke up on Halloween and were like, “Fuck.” So you wore whatever you were already wearing and stuck a piece of paper somewhere on your person and called yourself an egg, or something like that. It was a trash costume and everyone knew it.
Step 8: The crafty post-college travesty.
You were in a bit of a crafty phase this year, reading too many blogs that make insanely complex crafts look super easy, unearthing an ambitious home ec version of yourself past. You worked on this costume for months and were surprised when no one asked you that much about it. You spent the first half of the evening in a static position that showed off the costume and the second half getting drunk and trashing it.
Step 9: The obscure pop culture reference no one gets.
Your craft phased died in a fire years ago, and now you were all about irony and memes. The problem is, the meme you just knew would make a great costume was trending six months before Halloween, which is about three years in internet time. You therefore spent the majority of the evening explaining your costume, which killed the joke a hundred times over.
Step 10: The adult spiral into apathy.
This year you were so disenfranchised by the failures of years past that you decided not to dress up at all. But then, five minutes before you left for work, you remembered the costume-required happy hour your old friend invited you to, so you grab some random animal ears from the back of your closet, draw some haphazard whiskers on your face and call yourself a mouse/cat/bear/dog. You left the happy hour after 20 minutes.
Illustrations by Kelsey Monken.