Please don't be alarmed when I tell you this... but,
Halloween is only 54 days away.
Five years ago this statement would have meant nothing to me. I'd have thought, “Hm, 55 days till giant bags of mini Snickers are on sale” and gone on my way.
But since then my friend MKA has come into my life, and through our friendship Halloween has assumed a certain, one might say, prominence.
(Stick with me through the following long explanations – there's a giveaway at the end.)
MKA throws killer Halloween parties. She starts planning them on November 1st and I am not exaggerating even the tiniest bit when I say that. She and I have had earnest and even lengthy conversations on such topics as Halloween invitations, Halloween finger food, Halloween decorations, and of course, Halloween costumes, at all sorts of weird times, like say, in April, or in Fenway watching the Red Sox play or even while in the middle of the Mardi Gras party she threw this past February.
One of the reasons MKA throws this party is that it is a convenient umbrella-like excuse for her to obsess all year long about certain subjects dear to her heart, such as the type of paper, ink, sparkles, decorative elements and printing methods she can use on this year's invitations. Or experimenting with recipes and silicone bake-ware for her famous mini cupcakes. Or finding the perfect stamps to go on her invitation envelopes. Or what newfangled notions Martha Stewart might come up with for this year's October issue of her magazine. Or reasons to use certain household-y server-y type things that are only appropriate on special occasions such as MKA's full set of Pat O'Brien hurricane glasses, or those cute little saucers you put the colored sugar in so you can dip your drink glass and get a pretty rim of sparkly sweetness around your fruity alcoholic beverage.
MKA's invitations deserve a special mention. The girl is obsessed with paper. I don't know anything about paper or printing methods, but MKA is an expert. And she enjoys making her own invitations every year. She prints them on paper with names like 'Star Dream' (which sounds to me like a racehorse, or at least My Little Pony) and uses fancy methods such as gaucko. I have NO IDEA how to explain what gaucko is, even though last year I sat at her dining room table with her in September and HELPED HER DO IT. I still can't explain. You smear ink, there's a screen, you squish and voila!, beautiful hand-printed invitations. They truly are beautiful though, and of the hundreds of people who have received them over the years, I am sure that MKA and I and maybe 4 other people actually look at them to appreciate their details. But it makes her happy.
All of this is a long-winded way of explaining that due to my friend's detailed obsessions and annual celebration of this holiday, Halloween has lately become important in my life, in a way it hadn't been since I was a trick-or-treating child back in Fort Worth.
(Aside: One year when I was living in Melbourne a group of little kids knocked on my door in the late afternoon one day in mid-October. I answered and they said hopefully, “Trick or treat?” They weren't sure when it was or what it was all about, but they'd heard that Americans gave out candy when they heard that phrase. I laughed and laughed. I can't remember now if I had any candy to give them or not. I'm pretty sure I told them to come back on the 31st. You know, the ACTUAL holiday.)
Now, as MKA's friend, there are 2 main ways that Halloween affects my life. First, I am her party lieutenant, so I assist with many things. The mysteries of gaucko, hanging bat-shaped decorations, addressing envelopes,
eating icing mini cupcakes – you name it, I'm into it. And second, every year I now have to come up with a costume. This is a double-edged sword for me. Exciting because at heart I'm all histrionics and the chance to dress up is irresistible, but challenging because I've self-imposed a set of costume rules that are simply not that easy to satisfy.
Here they are, my Halloween costume rules:
Costume should be created, not bought. I can buy the pieces and fashion them into something, but I don't want to buy a complete and commercially produced costume. That was cool in the 3rd grade, but not now.
Cheap. I will not spend a fortune on costume pieces.
Vintage or retro. I love vintage stuff, especially the 40s, so if I can make my costume look vintage then that's always a bonus.
Attractive but not slutty. Halloween has become a big-time Slut's Holiday in recent years and I deplore that. But as a single girl attending a costume party, there's no way I'm going to get myself up as a big yellow M&M or purple Grimace.* It's a party, as well as Halloween, and while I'll almost certainly be wearing something I wouldn't ever wear to any other kind of party, I still want to look and feel good.
If at all possible, include as many sequins, rhinestones and other sparkles as are available. Hey, I'm a magpie. I can't sparkle all that much as a museum curator. This is a fabulous annual opportunity to wear more cut glass than my grandmother's sideboard. I take shameless advantage of that.
Usually I take myself to Filene's Basement, rummage through their hideous and cheap dress racks for something that is simultaneously horrifying/flattering/cheap and start with that. (Note: it is amazing what will sort of flatter you if you allow yourself to try on things that would normally be waaaay outside your comfort zone.) But Filene's Basement just closed for a 2 year renovation, so my usual source of inspiration is not available.
So. Here's where I need your help. My mind is a blank for this year's costume. In previous years I have dressed up as :
Lady Luck (black 40s style dress with a print of many pairs of dice, homemade sparkly dice bracelet and helpful sparkly choker I made myself with rhinestone letters saying 'Lady Luck' on it – that was the year I learned drunk people don't read)
Tinkerbell (green lurex Marilyn Monroe style halter dress with a billion rhinestone brooches all over it, pink shoes with green bows and a homemade green and pink wand – oh, and an actual tinkling bell on my wrist. Most successful costume to date.)
The Bermuda Triangle. (I found a 60s style halter dress in something approximating an ocean print and then made and carried around all night a triangle fashioned out of a coat hanger wrapped in sequins with a little paper boat stuck in it. No one got it but I really enjoyed myself.)
Please make costume suggestions! I am open to suggestion and inspiration. And to the person whose suggestion materializes into this year's Halloween costume...
I'll send you the Bermuda Triangle dress!!!
Ding, ding, ding, ding!!! Wohoo! Talk about lucky!! Scratch that - talk about a meaningful reward for creativity!!!
Prize specifications: Dress has been modified because I bought it too large (it is a US size 14) and took it in at the back, but my alterations would be easily undone or redone. Halter, knee-length, backless style, dark aqua and teal silk with a sort of ocean-surface or leopard-print pattern to it. Label says 'Spenser Jeremy.' It's 100% silk with an acetate lining. It has been dry-cleaned. You'll have to make your own Bermuda Triangle. (I'll try to post a picture next week. Feeling the loss of my camera very much these days.)
So put those thinking caps on, people, and help me top that Tinkerbell costume.
* If you ever need a laugh, please pick up Louise Rennison's book “Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging.” It's about a snarky teenage girl in England. Her name is Georgia. The back of the book sums up its appeal, and also reveals why I was reminded of it while talking about unflattering costumes:
“There are six things wrong with my life:
I have one of those under-the-skin spots that will never come to a head but lurk in a red way for the next two years.
It is on my nose.
I have a three-year-old sister who may have peed somewhere in my room.
In fourteen days the summer hols will be over and then it will be back to Stalag 14 and Oberfuhrer Frau Simpson and her bunch of sadistic 'teachers.'
I am very ugly and I need to go to an ugly home.
I went to a party dressed as a stuffed olive.”