Published October 27, 2006
Maybe you're a Halloween humbug. Maybe you didn't feel like shelling out a ton of dough for a costume this year. Or maybe you're just plain lazy.
Now you have only a day or two to get something together before heading out for this weekend's Fright Night fiestas.
Never fear ... FOXNews.com is here to cover your lousy, cheapskate, procrastinating back.
• Other Costume Ideas: How to Dress Like a Celebrity
Instead of trotting out one of the tired-old All Hallows Eveningwear standbys, like the omnipresent nerd, hippy, hobo or pimp, here are eight costumes you can throw together from the odds and ends lying around your house, or by spending just a few dollars at the corner store.
But before you dive in, take a moment to read the five cardinal rules of picking a Halloween costume. Don't say we didn't warn you...
The Five Rules
1) Abstract Is for Paintings
Your costume should be easily identifiable. Your devastating rendition of "Global Warming," "Carter Administration Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams" or "Symptoms of America's Moral Decline" aren't half as clever as you think they are. Don't overthink it; nobody should have to ask you what your costume is.
2) Pockets, Zippers and Other Modern Conveniences
When you're throwing a costume together in 15 minutes, it's easy to forget the amenities built into our everyday clothing. Many a mummy has suited up only to realize there was a reason the Egyptians drained their bodily fluids into urns. Remember, ghosts can walk through walls, but people dressed as ghosts can end up holding their car keys all night. Plan ahead.
3) Sarcasm Is the Lowest Form of Wit
Hanging a horseshoe around your neck and telling everybody that you're a "Chick Magnet" wasn't funny in 1972 and it's not funny today. Don't get us wrong, funny costumes are great, but leave the corny punchlines to Carrot Top and let your costume speak for itself.
4) Duct Tape Has 4,748,901 Uses (and Counting)
If your costume breaks in the field, duct tape can fix it. Wrap a couple of feet around a small pencil and slip it into your pocket (see rule No. 2). You will be glad you did.
5) Day of the Dead Decorum
If you wouldn't want your mother or boss to see a picture of you in your costume, you probably shouldn't wear it at all. Even though Halloween is a time for make-believe, real feelings can still get hurt. Dressing as a Nazi, Klansman, terrorist or pedophile priest is ill-advised at best. At worst, you could wake up in the ER.
MATERIALS: iPod, black face paint, black clothing, black hat, black shoes, sunglasses
This one has been pretty popular for the last couple of years, but beggars can't be choosers. Besides, what this costume lacks in originality, it makes up for in expediency.
Dress yourself from head to toe in black. Use a cotton ball or makeup sponge to spread a thin layer of black face paint over all exposed areas of your head and neck. Don't use shoe polish or you will be very, very sorry — and possibly very, very sick.
A packet of comb-in, wash-out black hair dye, the kind used by depressed teenagers, will take care of your hair color. In a pinch, you can wear a black knit skullcap like the guy with the funny name from U2 who's not Bono.
Pure white accessories like a belt, a string of fake pearls, bracelets, buttons or wingtips can really make this costume pop. Don't forget to wear the most important accessory: your iPod.
For bonus points, you can tape a piece of fluorescent poster board to your back for the background.
Unfortunately, this costume does not make one a better dancer. Fortunately, most of the dancers in the actually iPod ads look like they're being electrocuted, so nobody will be able to tell the difference.
TIP: This costume is often mistaken for an "Invisible Pedestrian" outfit, so bring a flashing light or something reflective if you are going to be walking along dark streets.
MATERIALS: Duct tape, three wire coat hangers, three rolls of tinfoil, scissors, two feet of toilet paper, blue marker
Bend two wire coat hangers into a crude circle about 4 feet in diameter and fasten together with duct tape, making sure to cover the sharp points. Make a second coat hanger loop that fits neatly over your head but won't slip over your shoulders.
Carefully measure from the edge of the neckpiece to the edge of where the base would be if it were to hang slightly below your hips. Cut eight or so pieces of duct tape to twice this length and double them over themselves to form straps. Holding all the doubled tape pieces together, trim ends so all pieces are exactly the same length.
Use 1-inch bits of tape to fasten one end of a doubled tape strip to the neckpiece and another to attach it to the base ring. Repeat the process every eight inches or so around the base ring, being careful to keep the tape strips perpendicular to both rings to develop a cone shape.
Once the cone is complete, you can add some tape crosshatching to make the cone more substantial and less prone to twisting.
Drape cone over the back of a chair and roll vertical strips of tinfoil, shiny-side out, around the outside edges of the cone, overlapping each sheet about 4 inches on either side. Firmly tape foil to cone struts from inside.
Cut out arm holes near the top of the cone and reinforce openings with tape so your shoulders are completely out of the cone.
Finally, write "Hershey's Kiss" in bubble letters in marker on a two-foot piece of quality toilet paper and attach it to your head. A brown or black turtleneck adds a bit of panache to the whole costume.
TIP: Use pliers to make lots of small bends in the hangers to get a rigid, circular shape. The jagged edges will be hidden by the tinfoil.
If this seems like too much work for you or the project has gone horribly awry, just tape a pillow to your stomach and back, wrap yourself in tinfoil and go as a baked potato. While basking in your slackerdom, reread rule No. 2 above.
MATERIALS: Crisp white button-down shirt, mono-color tie, blazer (preferably tweed), blue T-shirt, hair gel, thick-framed black plastic glasses
Finding a cape, utility belt and giant red boots at the 11th hour is about as impossible as escaping from the Phantom Zone. Don't get us started on the availability of stylish blue tights. Luckily, Superman's alter ego, Clark Kent, is a bit easier to shop for.
Clark Kent has two non-negotiable distinguishing characteristics: the trademark curled forelock and prison-issue thick-framed glasses. The former is just a matter of clever hair gelling, and you can usually find cheapo reading glasses in pharmacies that will do the trick if you pop out the lenses.
If you have a color printer, do a Google image search for "Superman logo." Print one out, cut it out and tape that bad boy to your T-shirt.
The Superman logo is licensed everywhere; lots of megastores even sell blue T-shirts. As a last-ditch effort, stop by your local pharmacy and look in the party supplies section. Superman logos are often found on paper plates for children's birthday parties.
Wear your Superman duds under normal office attire — think comparative literature professor, not Wall Street shark. Just keep most of the buttons to your shirt undone so the logo is peeking out and your tie undone.
TIP: This costume works equally as well with women's clothing for a Supergirl outfit. If you are accosted by comic book nerds who try to tell you that Supergirl doesn't have an alter ego, tell them that your are going as the Silver Age Supergirl who moonlighted as high school student Linda Lee as seen in "Action Comics No. 252," published in May 1959. Brace for head implosion.
MATERIALS: One large clear plastic trash bag, scissors, duct tape, two packages of round multi-colored party balloons (about 30 balloons total), one long strip of colorful fabric or ribbon
This is an oldie but a goody.
Blow up the balloons to about twice the size of your fist — smaller is better.
Cut two holes in the bottom of the trash bag just wide enough for the thickest part of your legs to fit through. Reinforce the edges of holes with duct tape.
Step into the bag and hike it up. The bottom of the bag should ride near the top of your hips. If it's lower, a balloon will eventually make its way in between your legs and you will have to saunter around like John Wayne all night. Tape the bag to your thighs if you have to.
Now, cut armholes in side of bag large enough for your shoulders stick out. Keeping bag slack in the waist, gather extra material around neck and trim away until you have about eight inches left. Take off bag and reinforce armholes with duct tape.
When you're ready to get going, step into bag and fill it loosely with balloons until they the come up to slightly below your armpits. Tie fabric or ribbon into a bow around your neck and then roll the lip of the bag downward.
TIP: Keep a spare plastic bag with you. If you want to take off your costume, tack the second bag to a wall and transfer all the balloons into it before trying to step out of it.
MATERIALS: Neutral-colored thermal underwear, at least 14 yards of 2-inch wide gauze or bed sheets cut into strips, baby powder
Remember, no matter how many plys you have, toilet paper is always a disaster.
Boil a pot of extremely strong black tea and let it cool. Soak your gauze in tea for a minute and then hang over shower curtain rod to dry. Repeat if bandages don't come out grungy enough for you.
Wearing the long johns, start by loosely wrapping gauze around your torso. You should wrap each section of your body separately to prevent yourself from slowly unraveling all night. Every couple of feet, cut the gauze and tie knots to get that rumpled Lon Chaney look. Powder yourself liberally.
If you don't want to completely cover your face, you can make a pretty gruesome rotting flesh effect by mixing 8 tablespoons of all-purpose flour with 5 tablespoons of warm water. Mix the resulting dough with a small amount of Elmer's glue and apply unevenly to your face and let dry for 15 minutes.
TIP: Black fingernail polish and plastic beads or gaudy baubles are a must. After all, mummies can take it with them.
MATERIALS: One umbrella, clear boxing tape, shiny materials (paper party streamers, iridescent ribbon, Mardi Gras beads, metallic finish fabric or even scrim from draperies)
If it's a dark and stormy night, this is the way to go.
Essentially you are just going to tape strips of shimmery material to the inside of an umbrella. This will look best if you can find a clear or translucent dome-style umbrella.
To get the best effect, start by cutting a two-inch thick tentacle for each panel of the umbrella. Bubble wrap will really add a touch of "I didn't plan this at the last minute" to this outfit, but cheap streamers work just fine. If you have bubble wrap, cut the strips diagonally between the bubbles for a more natural texture.
Once the main tentacles are attached, decorate the rest of the rim with thinner tentacles. Go nuts. You can stick with an austere wispy look or end up with something that resembles Cousin It after a weekend in Amsterdam.
Investing in a handful of glow sticks that you can tape inside the dome's lip or suspend from the umbrella's spokes will add a dash of James Bond to your Jacques Cousteau. Try hot pink or mix green and blue.
If you aren't using a dome umbrella and don't want to have something in your hands all night, cut off the umbrella's top, mush it flat and attach it to a hat.
TIP: If you want to kick this costume up a notch, dress yourself as a snorkeler, fisherman or grizzled sea captain.
MATERIALS: Printer, scissors, paper, duct tape, hooded sweatshirt
All that unsolicited e-mail you get every day finally comes in handy.
Open the junk mail folder in your e-mail program and print out about 40 spam messages. Use scissors to trim messages so they don't all appear to be the same size. Crumple some of the messages and give others frayed edges to add texture to your character.
Tape the messages all over your body haphazardly until you are completely covered. Finally print out one page with the word "INBOX" in bold letters and tape it to your forehead.
TIP: Keeping in mind rule No. 5 above, you might want to filter out offers for "natural male enhancement" and other unseemly e-mails.
MATERIALS: Two pieces of 4-foot by 4-foot cardboard, laundry marker, ruler, duct tape, masking tape
The lowly number puzzle game Sudoku isn't just fun to say, it's fun to wear, too.
You're going to need two large square pieces of cardboard. Grocery stores will often give you free boxes if you ask nicely, but their quality and size may not be ideal. If you're in a rush, it might be easier to buy a shipping box at your local UPS store.
Using a ruler, make a mark every 5 1/3 inches — or whatever the length of a side is divided by nine — on all four sides of both boards.
You will need two colors of tape to create the Sudoku grids, one darker than the other. If you don't have two colors of masking tape, you can just use a marker to color it in after the fact.
Use the lighter colored masking tape and lay straight lines of tape between the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th marks on opposite sides. Use the darker colored tape between the 3rd and 6th marks and for edging along the outside edge of each board.
Search the Web for two Sudoku puzzles and copy the clues onto your grids with marker.
Fashion shoulder straps out of duct tape and wear like a sandwich board. Hang a marker on a string around your neck so people can fill out the board as the night goes on.
TIP: Print out a crib sheet with the answers to both puzzles so you don't end up as an unsolvable puzzle.
If none of these outfits are your cup of cocoa, hopefully we've at least gotten you into the Halloween spirit.
And remember, it's easy to mistake the guy dressed as a serial killer — "because they look just like everybody else" — for something else: a jerk.
• Other Costume Ideas: How to Dress Like a Celebrity