Bubble World

Coming in July 2013 from Henry Holt

Find out more

Read first chapter


If you are searching for costume ideas on the Saturday before Halloween — a.k.a. The Biggest Party Night of the Year — you need to accept that your costume will be, if not lame, then . . . never mind. Your costume is going to be lame. But going to a costume party in street clothes would be like wearing a sweater to a nudist camp, so here are some ideas to keep your from embarrassing yourself.

The one way to turn a less-than-original idea into a “Wow!” costume is by thinking through ever detail, like these people did. But you don’t have time for that.

Cowboy and saloon girl

Cowboy is the default costume for men who don’t like to dress up. If you’ve got denim or white overalls, you can expand into farmer or painter territory — but then, if you’re an overall-owning guy, you’ve probably got the dressing-up thing under control. As for the saloon girl, isn’t it cool how my friend reconstructed a thrift shop dress?? You so don’t have time for that. But if you have a moderately skanky-yet-pouffy dress, fishnet stockings, and a feather for your hair, you can throw something together. If nothing else, your costume will be a conversation piece.

“What in god’s name are you supposed to be?”

“A saloon girl. I got the idea from the Internet.”


Biker and Naughty Schoolgirl

Leather vest or coat. Tattoo “sleeves” from a Halloween store (or real ones if you’re so inclined — but then this won’t look like much of a costume). Bandanna. Earring (real or fake).

For the schoolgirl (that’s me, by the way; I was younger then): Plaid skirt. White shirt (that you don’t mind having wine spilled on). Vest or tie (I should have had them). Knee socks. Black bra that shows through the white shirt. And — this is key — a tramp stamp, fake or real (see above) that you expose half way through the party when you tie up your little white shirt.


Pirate costumes were big, big, big the year “The Pirates of the Caribbean” came out. You’re not going to pull off Jack Sparrow; don’t even try. But with a bandanna on your head, a parrot on your shoulder, a vest, a plastic sword . . . that’ll do, pig. (If you didn’t get that movie reference — no offense intended; move on.)


I am not including this picture of the coolest vampire costume ever to make you feel bad about showing up at a party in a black cape and fangs. Okay, maybe I am.




I don’t do spooky. But these people did and they creeped me the hell out. One advantage of going spooky is that there are no rules: face paint, fake blood, weird masks, weird hair, weird clothes . . . you can wear anything as long as it’s creepy. The other advantage, if you want, is anonymity. I re-met the second of these spookies at a barbecue six months after this Halloween party, and I had no idea who they were.

More Last Minute Ideas:

Mime: Striped shirt. White face paint. Easy. Bonus: you don’t have to make small talk.

Flasher: Trench coat.

Columbo: Flasher with hat and cigarette.

John Belushi: Toga


More Costume Ideas:

The Best Halloween Costumes that You Never Thought Of

Halloween Costumes: Rockers and Pop Stars

Halloween Costumes: Television Shows

Halloween Costumes: Movies

Halloween Costumes: In the News