Question of the Week: Costume

by Susan Henderson on October 29, 2007

Tell me a funny (and true) story about a Halloween costume. Also, are you dressing up this year?


mcsweeney's john warner visits litpark header

Because this month has five Wednesdays in it instead of four, we’re going to play Top 5 again – this time with my friend, John Warner, editor of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. (Here is McSweeney’s, according to Wikipedia.) I admire John so much for his work ethic, his generosity, and the way he never takes himself too seriously. I hope you’ll stop by on Wednesday to play.

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

lance reynald October 29, 2007 at 1:02 am


if I sent you a picture I really fear you’d post it…

then I’d have a lot of really silly questions to answer… foam, duct tape, glue, an eye for detail and determination.

get the picture?

go ask Aqua such questions.

and happy halloween!
(my fave holiday, not dressing up this year, not willing to shave anymore.)


Daryl October 29, 2007 at 5:38 am

uh-oh. the year was 1978. i dressed up as a punk rocker. now here is the funny part. i never took the costume off for the next 2 years. i was working in a record store during the age of The Ramones and Sex Pistols and took a real liking to the music. the costume was meant to only be worn one night, but i got so many compliments/kudos for it, i just kept on wearing it… and thus, my personality changed and i experienced the first obsession of my adulthood.

(not dressing up this year. have not dressed up in many, many, many years. i don’t know anyone that has Halloween parties to go to.)


Kimberly October 29, 2007 at 7:08 am

Saturday night I wore a black negligee and a necklace made of of five rhinestone letters:

F. R. E. U. D.

You have no idea how many dim people there are in this city.

For those of you celebrating El Dia De Los Muertos, I found this the other day: I’m so tempted to make them year-round!


Myfanwy Collins October 29, 2007 at 8:24 am

Do you remember Wayne’s World? I once dressed up as Garth. I frizzed my hair so that it looked like his and I was at a party when some guy dressed up as Andy Warhol came up to me and said, “Hey! We’re wearing the same wig.”

I said, “This is my real hair.”

The conversation ended there.


Robin Slick October 29, 2007 at 8:35 am

My favorite Halloween was when I was a baby hippie and got invited (via dark forces) to a party thrown by this guy. I dressed as Alex from A Clockwork Orange and thought I was just the coolest person ever. The first person who came up to me and complimented my costume was this guy and I basically attached myself to his hip for the rest of the evening even though I put him in serious jail bait territory.

Ah…the start of a beautiful “friendship”…heh…though I’m sure he doesn’t remember. Or maybe he does. I think I’ll fantasize about the latter.

And then Halloween became ten years of trying to dress my kids in the worlds’ most creative costumes only to have them reject every idea and go for those dreaded mass produced boxed costumes though my daughter once let me break the mold and I made her a Cat Woman costume from scratch, after which I received a telephone call from her elementary school principal questioning my sanity because part of her costume was a cat-o-nine tail/whip (but for god sakes, it was plastic and I bought it in the kiddie costume department at K-Mart). I thought it was hilarious but apparently I was the only one who felt that way and I would later learn I was the talk of the PTA for several weeks until I said “Screw You, You Stupid Yuppies” and ran for PTA President and won.

(Because no one else wanted the job and oh boy did I find out why.)

Sigh…now Halloween is me sitting on my front step alone wearing a black tattered witch hat giving out half the candy to total strangers and stuffing the other half in my face. Strangers get Twizzlers and plain M&Ms; the Almond Joys and Kit Kats are mine…all mine…and I have a secret stash upstairs right now as we speak.

Christ, I just wrote an essay here. Anything to keep me from working on my real book, huh. Okay, I’m going, I’m going.



David Niall Wilson October 29, 2007 at 8:44 am

Well, funny thing about this costume.

It made me want my hair back (sigh).



David Niall Wilson October 29, 2007 at 8:47 am

There should have been a link there (silly me)

Sorry…I’m a year OLDER now.



Lori Oliva October 29, 2007 at 9:21 am

OMG, Robin, I was Alex De Large this year! I must say, it’s my favorite Halloween costume so far. I made my codpiece and collected various accessories such as his cain, hat and suspenders, and even made the mask Alex wears during the home invasion.

I went to a couple of parties this weekend and most people loved it! Some didn’t get it, which was fine…but those who did get it LOVED it!


Aurelio O'Brien October 29, 2007 at 9:35 am

I went to a movie biz party as Buster Keaton once:

The best part was being a silent film star I didn’t have to talk to anyone.


Aurelio O'Brien October 29, 2007 at 9:36 am

Oops. It didn’t let me post the pic. Try this:

Aurelio as Buster


Betsy October 29, 2007 at 9:43 am

When I was about ten, I went as Charo.


Susan Henderson October 29, 2007 at 11:25 am

I have always been unbearably uncomfortable wearing costumes, or really anything that is just not me. I remember going to a Halloween party at George Romero‘s house, and I just wore a sweater and, because I was pregnant, some kind of pregnancy pants. And my big costume was that I’d swept my hair into a loose bun. But all night I felt stupid and self-conscious about my hair.

I love your stories, guys. I’ll comment tonight after I finish editing the number of pages I set as my goal today.


Greg October 29, 2007 at 11:33 am

When I was in the fifth grade my mom made me into a package of McDonald’s French fries.

She cut up a foam bed into long strips, stapled two big pieces of cardboard together, and drew the right amount of Ms on the front. Basically I was a walking sandwich board for a company who makes board-like tasting sandwiches.

But I did come in 2nd place, and that came with $50.

Sidenote: An older kid who I despised – Ricky Canterberry – thought it would be funny to stuff one of my large foam strips (a “fry”) into his mouth when I paraded by. And you know what was funny? Him getting kicked out of the social hall for doing so.


Noria October 29, 2007 at 12:42 pm

Last year I went to a costume party dressed as Ed Wood in pink angora sweater drag. Later that night I was involved in a freak parking accident. As I was getting out of my friend’s jeep, which was parked on a hill, it popped out of gear, the emergency brake failed, and the jeep rolled down the hill, dragging me along with it. The jeep crashed through two fences and a Mercedes.

The police didn’t believe that the jeep had been parked and no one was driving. To prove what happened, I pulled down my pants to show them my road rash. It’s not every day that one has an opportunity to moon the police.

When I told all of this to a friend the next day, she said, “Oh, you writers. Always looking for a good story.”

This past weekend I went to a 007 themed party (because it’s 2007). I was Oddjob, the Bond villain with the slicy hat.


Carolyn Burns Bass October 29, 2007 at 1:15 pm

I was poor growing up and our Halloween costumes always consisted of anything we could pull out of my mom’s closet and jewelry box. My favorite costume as a child was my yearly variation of gypsy.

I was dressed as a black cat one year when I got pulled over by a cop for following my friend’s car too closely. The cop was a jerk, even after I explained that I was following her because I didn’t want to spend the night alone in my apartment because there was a rapist/murderer on the loose in the OC beach communities and he was expected to hit on Halloween, which he didn’t. He gave me a ticket that I fought in court and got the fee dropped.

This year I’m dressing up my dog. I’m going to spike my Jack Russell’s hair into a ridge along his back and call him ‘Jack the Ridger.’


Robin Grantham October 29, 2007 at 2:24 pm

These were great. Like Carolyn, we pulled our own costumes together when we were kids. I was more of a gypsy/hobo every year, which is either a gypsy without the jewelry, or a hobo without the obligatory five o’clock shadow makeup. There was candy, so I was happy.

When I grew up I swore that if I ever had money I would give chocolate to every kid. No stale jawbreakers! I don’t care if they are good for emergency bags (see today’s Making Light post). Too bad they get chocolate at every house around here so the kids don’t really care.

Hubby and I went as Morticia and Fester one year. Sadly (happily!) it wasn’t a stretch. Since it was a black light party, the only comment I got was, “Wow, your teeth are big.” And me without Cleopatra (Morticia’s man-eating plant).

This year I’m going as George Romero.




Ric Marion October 29, 2007 at 6:09 pm

Ah, where to start?
As Dracula one year, driving to the party in an industrial warehouse in Detroit, pulled up to a red light and bared my fangs to the guy sitting in the next car – he drove through three red lights trying to get away.

In drag one year, in a borrowed dress from the gal next door, I won second place. When I went to return the dress, she said, “Keep it, you look better in it than I ever did!”

The year I shaved my mustache and went as Hitler – in complete military uniform. Was okay in the far suburbs, but I got some very strange looks when I went to a party in Oak Park, Michigan. Never wore that again….



Heather Fowler October 29, 2007 at 6:23 pm

Okay, a funny story: So my daughter dresses up in a white princess dress and tiara the other morning(the same one she says she wants to wear for Halloween)–glorious double blooms of pink blush and hotpink lipstick adding to her beauty. “Do I look pretty, mommy?” she asks. “Yes, you are beautiful, babe,” I say. “A special princess…” etc. Ten minutes later, wearing the outfit, she has a sword and is brandishing it in a deadly way at some sort of air kill. “What are you doing, Lexie?” I ask. “I’m a princess slaying invisible dragons,” she says. “Oh wow,” I say, “that’s so cool. But if they are invisible, how can you see them?” Cold disdain flies from her four year old eyes–“I have a necklace that lets me see them,” she replies. “Oh, very cool,” I say. “Can mommy have one of those necklaces, too?” Again, long suffering look. “No,” she says. And that is all. (Suffice it to say, my daughter is on her way to either taking over the world, or at the very least controlling a small group of rattled subjects… Second part of this story is that my husband then says: Yes, and I asked if she needed a knight to help her and she said: No, I can do it myself. Gotta love her… LOL!) Well, anyway, yesterday, we buy a costume for my two year old. It was supposed to be a pirate, but we now settle on a dragon. He loves it and is wearing it around the house putting his hands up with curled, claw fingers and roaring at everyone like he’s a monster… Come bath time, it occurs to me, this could be a precarious arrangement. “Okay, now Lexie,” I find myself saying, mortified, “I know you are going to be a princess and probably a princess with a sword, but remember: You can’t slay Aiden. He’s just a little dragon, so no poking him, okay?” Who would have thought I would find myself saying such things? I did feel ridiculous… Haha! But the idea was quite funny…

Am I dressing up? Duh! But of course. Halloween is my fave! I’ll be a dead CanCan girl with a red and black costume with fishnets, heels, and and a cleavage dagger.


xo, as always,


Aurelio O'Brien October 29, 2007 at 6:49 pm

If you’re gonna be a dead Can-Can Girl, Heather, won’t you actually be a Can’t-Can’t Girl??? 🙂


James Spring October 29, 2007 at 7:10 pm

Aurelio makes a good point, Heather.

I, too, am a huge Halloween fan. Last November 1st, I went to the Spirit Halloween store, when everything was half off. I spent $1500. My wife tried to divorce me. But at that point I was nearly broke, and all she would have received was seven severed arms, eighteen skeletons, a fog machine, and a light-sensitive ghoul that cringes and drools when you walk past him.

This year, to reflect my improved status on NPR, I’m refining up my Halloween image. I’m going as DOG, Bounty Hunter. There aren’t words to express the love I have for my mullet wig…


Aurelio O'Brien October 29, 2007 at 7:38 pm

Don’t get me started on wigs, James. I bought a dozen this year. My current favorite is the “Don King” although I also bought a dusty blond afro that is literally three feet across – its amazing.

I’ll be dressing in drag for the very first time on Halloween, if it’s in the cards. How I turn out will all depend on how I well I drag play poker.

The drag stuff ranges from glitz to bathrobe and curlers, a sort of inverted “Mystery Date” board game approach to couture. :O


Heather Fowler October 29, 2007 at 9:04 pm

Well, that depends, Aurelio–Can’t-Can’t What? Not a whole heck of a lot.

And James, oh, James… Can I touch your mullet wig? I mean, if there’s a line or something, I’ll wait. Also, speaking of prurient desires, when you dress in drag, Aurelio, can I touch your false breasts? You better make them good. Nice and soft with added squish. I am a bit of a drag-breast snob, must confess…

Or can I photograph mullet James bounty hunter touching your drag breasts? You see, I’m not really picky about whether I participate in a documentary-related or active role–haha!

xxoo to both,


Jody Reale October 29, 2007 at 10:08 pm

Like most of you, Halloween has always been my favorite too. I’ve been everything from a vagina, to the girl in the bathtub full of rose petals in American Beauty, to Laura Croft: Tomb Raider. But this year I’m older than usual, and more tired. I really can’t be bothered this year, and demonstrated this by getting my underpants all bunched up about having to go to a party at all, much less a costume one. Don’t I sound like a lot of fun?

So with the help of an artist friend, my husband and I went to our first Halloween function on Saturday carrying a sign mounted to a free-standing pole with what turned out to be a balls-on accurate replica of the Denver/Boulder bus system logo painted on it. We dressed normally and carried our sign around with us and put it down where we wanted and stood under or around it, sometimes looking at our watches and looking at the schedules or the newspapers we took with us.

We were people waiting for the bus.

“Oh, that’s clever,” people told us as they walked by, and, “That’s the best costume here,” none the wiser that we had totally opted out of the Halloween spirit at about 8:00 AM that day. An hour later, I was hollering, “This is awesome!” into my husband’s ear, just a few bars into the band’s equally balls-on rendition of Journey’s “Lights.” “I can’t believe you were such a sour puss about this party!” I said, tossing my Wall Street Journal over my shoulder and joining in with the crowd’s deafening participation in “Angel is a Centerfold.”


Shelley Marlow October 30, 2007 at 3:02 am

Visual, Lance!

“part of her costume was a cat-o-nine tail/whip” Lol, that’s great, Robin. Visuals, too, of you with witch hat and candies, please.

I have dressed in male drag often on Halloween since I was a teen dating my still good friend “Harry” who has since become “Harriet”. I remember one of my first times, I wore a satin dandy vest, fattened socks in my pants and was told by a number of people how much I resembled Oscar Wilde.
In 1992, I wore leopard print pants, with men’s undies bulging, and a handsome moustache. I went out with my friends, who were dressed and painted up like skeletons, to the Halloween Parade in Manhattan. Gay men turned their heads and flirted with me. After the parade, we went to a party for Ulrike Ottinger. Her editor and I greeted each other and she said, “Are you a gurl or a boy?”
I smiled and stalled, saying,”I’m a boy. Ahuh. Yep.”
She kept asking me and I teased, until she got frustrated and yelled,”Just tell me! Are you a gurl or a boy!”
I just walked away.
Not really. Later that night, my friend Cushman and I asked a group of a police why there were so many of them out. They joked with us and one police flirted with me, still in my male drag. I asked if he wanted to see my pen*s.He did. Cushman thought he might arrest us for indecent exposure. But no, the policeman said, “That is a very pretty pen*s,” and offered me his phone number for a date. After we walked away, my friend Cushman, who was not my date, snagged the phone number and said, “You are not dating a policeman.”


Shelley Marlow October 30, 2007 at 3:13 am

I love that your daughter, a now a days princess slays the dragon, Heather.

Robin Grantham, where is that incredible tree on your website from?

Noria, you are a woman playing a man playing a woman in drag!


Shelley Marlow October 30, 2007 at 3:15 am

Noria, i’m glad you were alright…


Nathalie October 30, 2007 at 4:19 am

I only one Halloween celbration in my life – back in the 80s when I was an exchange student in NC – and spent the halloween night working in a Haunted House with my drama class. No real costume: just black jeans and sweater.

I have a nice ribbon with skulls which I shall wear as a tie at the office on Wednesday. It always has a great success.


Robin Grantham October 30, 2007 at 8:09 am

Shelley, the tree is from Perth, Australia. I wish I could say I took the picture, but it’s from a picture program. Thanks for the visit.

Heather, your story made me smile. “No slaying your brother!”


Aimee October 30, 2007 at 9:10 am

I probably won’t dress up this year. However, one Halloween I went to a party dressed as a cowgirl. Not really funny or exciting. But, there was a guy there named Bob. And Bob had recently had a serious bout with depression. He’d taken a few weeks off of work and stayed in a hospital to get everything straight.
He came to the party dressed as himself. And when everyone asked where his costume was he said, “I’m in my costume…I’m What About Bob.”


Aimee October 30, 2007 at 9:12 am

My 10 year-old is dressing as President Bush. He is wearing hand cuffs and has a mug shot sign that reads
Prisoner # 19784
Violations of the Constitution
Crimes against humanity
He thought of it himself. I think I listen to too much AM radio around him.


Heather Fowler October 30, 2007 at 11:03 am

Wow, Jody–American Beauty girl. Now that is my sort of costume. Rose petals and … the sort of nothing else I find too fun. But the bathtub, did you do the bathtub around you? If so, how?

I love the bus-stop idea. That is great. 🙂

Myfanwy, I’d love to be Wayne if you ever want to be Garth again… LOL!

Hi, Shelley, my household is one where women are the power. The boys are outnumbered and out-argued. LOL! I think my girl is a chip off the old block–children’s book written in seventh grade–The Frog Princess. It’s been a long time, but I believe I wrote it such that the prince kissed the princess frog, he became a frog and they hopped off together into the woods. Ha!

Hi, Robin–yes, and I shall have to repeat that on Halloween… *grins* My daughter is something else–red curls and big blue eyes, added dose of pure drama! I felt the same about chocolate and was a very cute gypsy at around age six from a pulled together costume. But my mom sewed, too, so we had pretty fantastic orginal stuff, made from rags and dreams, as they say. LOL!

Aimee–love your son. 🙂

xxoo to all,


Aurelio O'Brien October 30, 2007 at 12:11 pm

Sorry to disappoint, Heather, but simple party balloons will have to stand in, or perhaps up, for breast at our party. (Too many people coming to get all fancy-schmancy with the breastage.)

I may carry a concealed pin so that if anyone gets too uppity I can deflate them in a hurry. 🙂

Anyway, your dead Can’t-Can’t girl made me flash on that movie “Death Becomes Her” and I pictured your fish-net clad legs cracking off if you dared try to do high kicks.


Jonathan Evison October 30, 2007 at 3:28 pm

…i plan to be sober for halloween…nobody will recognize me…(i stole that from andy capp) . . .


Aurelio O'Brien October 30, 2007 at 5:09 pm

Okay LitPark gang, Susan just asked me to make excuses for her absence here today. Now… I could say she’s under a deadline for her manuscript and her pages are due tomorrow, and you’d probably believe me, but here’s what really happened…

Early this morning, Susan knew if she were going to finish all those damned edits by tomorrow she had to start the day with clean hair.

“After all, clean follicles, clear thinking,” she stated matter-of-factly, as is her wont.

Unfortunately, when she jumped in the shower, she went to grab the bottle of her favorite Pert shampoo while she had soft soap in her eyes and she accidentally grabbed Mr. H’s bottle of Nair instead (don’t ask, but I think it has something to do with Susan’s recent fascination with a certain writer’s now sexily hairless calf.)

“Gee, my hair smells terrific… ly strong!” she marveled, as clumps of her fabulous mane came off in her hands.

She left the clogged shower in a panic, and has since had Mr. H searching high and low all day today for a “Susan Henderson” wig.

Alas, with Halloween upon us (and Aurelio in CA buying up the lot of them,) Susan is at home, still bald as a billiard ball.

At least her head is clear though, the writing progresses, and she assures us that she will return to us shortly.


Sarah Bain October 30, 2007 at 6:16 pm

Um, I hate Halloween because as kids we had to come up with our own costumes–ghosts, gypsies, bag ladies, etc. And then we had the ‘Stockinged man’ going around neighborhoods in the van trying to abduct children.

Carolyn – Having grown up in SoCal in the 70’s and early 80s, I think I was watching out for that same guy…

Best costume was when Terry and I went out and he was a politician and I was his side-kick. That produced lots of comments.

In the meantime, I just talked to a friend who told me she had to get rum shots ready for tomorrow night and then continued by telling me that a guy in their neighborhood hands out Tequila shots to the parents and she’s doing rum shots and they neighborhood is going to expand that whole idea. What a GREAT IDEA! I’m headed there tomorrow night with my own kiddies.


Shelley Marlow October 30, 2007 at 6:39 pm

Aurelio, Is that true? What a mercury retrograde crossed with a halloween prank gone wrong thing to happen.


Sarah Bain October 30, 2007 at 6:44 pm

Oh, I had my comments page up for an hour and posted without having read of Susan’s plight. Can this really be true? It can’t, can it? No, is this a section out of her novel?


Aurelio O'Brien October 30, 2007 at 7:40 pm

Seeing is believing, no???

Poor Susan

As you can tell from the photo, she’s kept a positive attitude about the whole mishap.


Jody Reale October 30, 2007 at 7:43 pm

Sarah Bain: addresses, please.


Jody Reale October 30, 2007 at 7:43 pm

Oh, and PS, it’s OK for me to drink, since I’m not driving. Obviously. I’m taking the bus, see?


Sarah Bain October 30, 2007 at 8:33 pm

Jody, first you have to get from Vail to Spokane. It might be quicker to just head to the liquor store!

And why do I feel a holiday ‘spoof’ coming on here in the Henderson home?


Oronte Churm October 30, 2007 at 10:04 pm

Click over and I’ll show you my costume.


Susan Henderson October 30, 2007 at 10:39 pm


(The second, THE SECOND I’m done with my edits, ….)


Kimberly October 30, 2007 at 11:35 pm

I’m laughing so hard, I’m crying…

Aurelio – YOU RULE!


Erika Rae October 31, 2007 at 12:46 am

My parents always made me dress up with an educational theme. I’ve gone as a Rubik’s cube, a solar system and an OPEC member – all before the age of 7. I’m still in therapy.

And Susan – take heart. You could totally pull off Britney Spears this year!


Carolyn Burns Bass October 31, 2007 at 1:25 am

Poor, poor Susan.


Oronte Churm October 31, 2007 at 8:50 am

Dirty rotten stinking technology. NOW try clicking over. (Good technology, nice technology.)


Antoine Wilson October 31, 2007 at 5:07 pm

My second year of grad school I lived in a farmhouse just outside Iowa City, known to workshoppers at the time as The Farmhouse. Typically whoever was living in The Farmhouse was responsible for throwing a few parties every year, including a Halloween party. I dressed in my last-minute costume, a spraypainted carboard box (from the basement), some tinfoil, a tie and sportcoat. Plus a rubber rat.

He was connected to my lapel by a piece of string. The cardboard box/TV had battery-powered Christmas lights in it. I was basically going for the anchorman / talking-head look. Plus a rat.

Without exception, the response of the fiction writers fell along the lines of “Nice costume, why is there a rat on your TV?” or “I don’t get the rat.” or “Is that like a rat race thing?” or even “I’d cut the rat.”

Poets, on the other hand, without exception, responded with “I dig the rat” or “The rat makes the costume” or “Great rat.” Frankly, I worried as the night went on that someone would break the trend. No one did.

That, as far as I can tell, is the difference between Poets and Fiction Writers.

There’s a picture of the costume here:


Susan Henderson November 1, 2007 at 10:19 am

Very nice costume, Antoine. Cute legs!

I just read every comment here and I’m very amused by all of you. Also, I’m done commenting on this thread or I won’t get any work done today.



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