What do you want to be for Halloween? If the answer is either "not broke" or "not racist" or "not sexy cop/firefighter/nurse/Donald Trump (YES SUCH A HORRIBLE THING EXISTS)," we've got some ideas for you in the pages that follow. We tasked our editors to come up with something cheap. Like, less than 30-or-so bucks cheap. Two of us went with cardboard boxes, two more went with chemical suits and one went with straight-up makeup. The results are actually pretty dang funny. Happy haunting.
MAKE YOUR OWN:
Emily's pop art obsession
Total cost: $27
I still remember the first time I went to the Art Institute of Chicago and saw "Mao" by Andy Warhol. I quickly fell down a rabbit hole of pop art infatuation; which is why turning myself into a pop art character for Halloween as one of Roy Lichtenstein's characters was just too good to pass up.
If you are a pop art fan this costume actually kills two birds with one stone. In addition to looking cool, the getup lets you immediately find the person who will be your new Halloween best friend if they can pinpoint your reference. (Bonus points if they can throw out a famous quote.)
1. Choose your character. I went with the women from "Drowning Girl" and "Oh, Jeff" as inspiration. If you have shorter hair, I recommend using "In the Car" as a reference. A white shirt and solid black tie is needed to complete that look.
2. Go buy your costume makeup. I went to Margie's on Illinois and 38th Street and chose red, black and white grease pencils that ran me $8 and change per color. The good thing is they can be used about a million times before they are reduced to messy nubs. I also opted for fake eyelashes. These run about $3, and the bigger the better.
3. Pick your outfit based on bright colors. It doesn't matter too much what you wear as long as it's a solid color. Choose something that you already have in your closet to keep the price tag at zero. I added a leather jacket to mine because, well, it's fall and it makes the black makeup pop.
4. Map out your lines by printing out an image of your character and drawing solid lines in place of the highlights you want. It will let you map out your plan of attack ahead of time. I recommend making sure you accentuate the jawline, eyebrows, collarbone and inner edge of one nostril. Once you start layering on all of the dots, contours can get lost.
5. Wait until after styling your hair to apply the makeup — the grease paint smudges easily. Start with the white dots, then move to red lips and finish with the black accents. You can go back and reapply the white dots to fix any mistakes you made the first time around. Give yourself at least 45 for this process if you are doing it alone.
6. Finish it off with a coat of white powder makeup over your entire face to hold everything in place.
7. The crowning touch to this piece is a prop comic word bubble. The only thing you need for this is printer paper and a Sharpie (read: things you already have around the house or office). Another rolled up piece of printer paper works well for a support stick. Secure it with staples.
NOTE: Scrubbing this mess off at the end of the night can take a few rounds. Use olive oil, warm water and a rag for quick removal.
Kat's classic iPod
Total cost: $3
I was so jealous when my brother got an iPod. All the burned CDs and ill-gotten mp3s and records we snagged from our parents were suddenly on this magical little rectangle. I loved it.
I got one eventually myself, (bought with tips from my Steak 'n' Shake waitressing job) at IU's Apple Store in the basement of the student union. It was silver, and it was magical.
Now I have an iPhone, and for some reason it holds basically no songs. (Maybe I have too many pictures of my cat? Inconceivable.) I guess I could get one of Apple's ever-diversifying line of iPods and iPhones, something rose gold and fabulous. But I'll never forget that first classic white iPod that I borrowed from my much-cooler little bro whenever he let me. Like Ron Swanson says: That is an excellent rectangle.
So, I made a me-sized one.
Make your own:
1. Steal a big box from a friend who's recently moved and throw it in your trunk.
2. Make a ton of noise in your office cutting arm and head holes into your box.
3. Wrap it in whatever old Christmas wrapping paper you have lying around your closet – as long as the reverse side is white. Alternatively, you can spray paint it.
4. Convince your lovely designer co-worker to print up a display. CAREFUL on your song choice, boys and girls, for you will be forced to explain why you picked it all night long. I picked my favorite song from the spookiest album I know: Sir Deja Doog's Love Coffin. It's about being raised from the dead and shot back into hell – ultra Halloween-y. (NOTE: Doog is currently crowd-sourcing dollars for a new monster party EP. Donate!)
5. Tape that sucker on (or draw on a display).
6. Use some of the cardboard you've got left over from your arm and head hole cuts to make a scroll wheel (technically, you need three concentric circles, but nobody will care if you scrap the tiny one in the middle).
Cover those in a white paper (or white spray paint), smack on some tape, and draw some controls. Isn't the click wheel so satisfying?
7. Pop that sucker over your head.
You're an iPod now.
WARNING: Because Halloween is an excuse for jerks to be jerks in new and special ways, someone annoying will try to "change your song" at some point at a party. People of Earth: is it appropriate to change the song on someone else's iPod? I think not, my friends. Hands off.
Sarah's Chinese takeout carton
Total cost: $0
The biggest misconception about chefs is that they eat high-end cuisine all the time. In reality, most chefs barely have enough time to stuff their pie holes with some takeout or takeout leftovers just before, after or hastily in the middle of service. That's why the most beloved food industry character you can dress as this Halloween is the life-giving Chinese takeout.
Not only are you going to be comfortable in this getup, but you are guaranteed to be irresistible to fellow party-goers. If you play your cards right, that special Halloween someone will drunkenly mingle their desire for a human-size bucket of fried rice and their desire to get drunkenly laid. Need to make it sexy? Wear a skimpy dress or shorts underneath and some sexy footwear, and you'll be able to get your sexy on for the price of exactly zero dollars.
1. Find a box that fits you around your house. I used a medium-size moving box. Cost: Zero dollars/time spent feeling guilty about all that shit you still haven't unpacked.
2. Paint it white. I used some leftover white house paint that I found next to the box in my basement. It is these kinds of miraculous synchronicities that act as the supports in the delicate house of cards of good fortune that has created my life. Cost: Zero dollars.
3. Once the white paint has dried, find some red paint of some kind and paint "Enjoy!" on one side and "Thank you" on the reverse. Take a ham-fisted swing at painting pagodas on the sides, and frequently remind yourself that perfection is the enemy of good. Cost: Zero dollars.
4. Get a dry cleaners hanger (the kind with the paper tube at the bottom) and pop out the tube. Bend it into a wire handle sort of shape with pliers/brute force and leave the hooked ends intact. Use those hooks to secure the wire handle piece to the box as close to the sides as you can get it.
5. Tape the bottom of the box open or cut some tabs to fit the bottom box pieces together.
6. Using scissors, punch holes for attaching the shoulder straps a couple of inches below the top opening of the box. Feed two even lengths of string or leftover ribbon into the holes, tie knots to secure, and you're done.
7. DO NOT DRESS LIKE A GEISHA, IN YELLOW FACE, OR ADD ANY RACIST ELEMENTS TO THIS COSTUME, NON-ASIANS. Thank you.
Amber as "the Donald"
Total cost: $20.98
Dressing up as high profile political figures is a trend that began during the Bill Clinton administration. But it hit full stride during the McCain-Obama presidential race. Even now you can find Sarah Palin kits in a Halloween costume shop near you. This year there is one man that is all the rage when it comes to political costumes. Whether you love him or hate him, there can be no denying the influential power of the Donald. As far as political figures go, Donald Trump is on track to be the most celebrated in costume this Halloween season.
How to look like a billion-dollar presidental candidate:
1. The key to any good costume is character development. Spend some time in front of your computer looking up pictures and videos of the Donald. Make note of the notable "scowl" and other signature facial expressions and practice them in a mirror.
2. Raid a male's closet for shirt, tie and coat. Fathers, sons, husbands, boyfriends, and significant others are all fair game for closet-raiding. If a man's closet isn't available or you don't see the right combinations to perfect your look, thrift stores are also a great choice.
3. Head out to your local Halloween costume shop or Sally's Beauty Supply for a medium length blond wig and a can of hair spray.
4. Place wig on your head, grab a comb and style. Once the optimum comb-over has been achieved, use the hair spray to keep it in place. (WARNING: Perfecting the Trump comb-over on an untrained wig may take a while. Take frequent breaks to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and/or tennis elbow. Also keep water handy to stay hydrated.)
Instead of the traditional greeting of "trick-or-treat!" try, "I need you to give me candy so that we can make America great again!" And of course if you don't like what you get, you can always scream, "You're fired!"
Ed and Brian are Breaking Bad
Total cost: $15.75 ea.
This is a very cheap but time-consuming costume, based on that beloved television series Cheers Breaking Bad.
Your humble managing editor was apprised of the fact that he resembled a popular fictional drug kingpin when a random dude yelled at him — in the middle of the Philadelphia International Airport, mind you — "Hey, Walt! Got any meth?" Such a lovely gesture from a complete stranger in a building crawling with federal TSA agents! Thanks, fella! I was wondering when I was going to break my streak of five decades without a cavity search!
Here's how to pull it off:
1. The older gent must begin losing his hair several decades before the target date so that he's compelled to shave his head. COST: Only your male ego.
2. The aforementioned subject must decide to grow some facial hair right before Bryan Cranston turns up on basic cable in the role of Walter White. COST: Nada.
3. After realizing that you're now a dead ringer for the 21st century's most popular anti-hero, have your company hire a kid who kinda looks like Pinkman. COST: Negligible. No one in this photo session is signing the checks.
4. Buy two DuPont QC127S Tychem Fabric Protective Coveralls (with Hood, Disposable, Elastic Cuff, X-Large, Yellow) from Amazon. COST: $12.25 ea.
5. Borrow two respirators from your pals in the painting biz. COST: Those guys drink cheap beer. Seven bucks worth of Bud Light should cover it as a thank-you.
On Halloween night, wear the outfit and hand out blue rock candy. It's the last time you'll ever be pestered by trick-or-treaters.