Besides meals, Halloween costumes are the only things I plan ahead. I usually start the brainstorming process in July, eager to jump on any potential trends so I can claim the idea before anyone else, before it becomes a bonafide phenomenon. To be the first is rare; I’ve only successfully done so three times in my life. (Let it be known that in 2015, my crew and I went as a pod of dad-bods. This year, they’ll be everywhere.) The satisfaction gleaned is enough to keep me going. It’s something to brag about here and there. The problem is that, as with anything you sell your soul to the devil for (don’t forget that Halloween is a Pagan holiday!), there’s usually a major price to pay…
In an effort to be scrappy, I like to concept my costumes around at least one item of clothing I already own, or want to own. The year of the dad bod, for example, I fell in love with a short sleeve Chubbies shirt in a yellow Hawaiian print. I needed it but had literally zero reason to spend 45 bucks on Tom Selleck’s aesthetic.
“Looks like something a dad would wear, Amelia.” My friend said this as some sort of deterrent. Instead, a costume was born.
Of course — and here’s the devil at work — I’ve never been able to wear it since without the dad-ly connotation. I forever ruined what could have a been a perfectly good party shirt, all because I worked it into a costume.
I have stained my perception of so many clothes this way. A satin Dior vintage-store score will now forever be “the skirt I wore as Samantha from Sex & the City.”
A black-and-white bouclé blazer, Oscar de la Renta, stolen from a friend who knows where I live, has never looked the same after I used it as a prop for my Blair Waldorf moment at a Gossip Girl party.
I recently loaned Haley Nahman a Tibi dress and a Three Graces London nightgown for a major costume opportunity. Now I can never wear either again.
They’re nice things. It’s a shame.
In 2014, before “Bae-watch” was packed for mass consumption at Spirit Halloween and iron-pressed onto the lycra chests of every bachelorette attendee, my friends and I were lifeguards. (Back in my day, we used stickers to DIY the puns ourselves.) Though I later bought a new one-piece in the same cherry color, sans words, I’ve since had a hard time shaking the water safety association.
That same year, a double-costume kind of Halloween weekend, I used the leftover sticky letters and went as a member of the Dead Poets Society…
Later, unwillingly, I became a member of the Dead Pet Society.
I didn’t wear a navy blazer until the following September, if you can believe it.
After a great night out as a proud Troop Beverly Hills scout, I can no longer wear khaki without feeling like I need to change.
That said, this is a risk you must be willing to take if you truly, honestly care about Halloween. Some people don’t. Some people prioritize the integrity of their clothes over a silly night of fantasy.
But maybe there’s a subconscious reason I do this to myself, to my closet. You know how some people cheat instead of having the breakup conversation as a way to make the other person do the breaking? Maybe I ruin Hawaiian shirts and khaki shorts for costumes so that I have an excuse to try something new. Maybe I do it because I care about my wardrobe on a deeper level than even I realize. Maybe it’s like that grammatically incorrect saying: “If you love someone, set them free.”
The fashion writer in me wants to believe that. It would make for a pretty ending.
But the child in me knows that in reality, it’s all in the name of winning the costume contest and a heaping pile of candy.
Feature image by Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images.