Clara Bow Halloween Photo

The Ghosts of Halloween Costumes Past

October 27, 2012 - 2 Comments

Clockwork Orange Scene at the Korova Milk Bar

Halloween is yet again right around the corner, and *shock*gasp*horror* we’re nowhere near prepared costume wise this year. We tend to skip years for costume awesomeness it seems, and it’s looking like this Halloween is going to be a last-minute effort. The past several years have wielded mixed results…


Franklinstein Threadless Graphic Tee

I completely overstretched myself in 2009. Usually I’ll tailor my costume to a specific Halloween event I’m going to, and that year I was headed to the Silver Snail Halloween Party. For those not based in Toronto, Silver Snail is a beloved comic shop in the city, and they always throw a pretty awesome Halloween party.

So, I thought I had to really pull out the big geek guns for my costume, meaning something clever and kinda nerdy, but able to raise a smile at the same time.

LESSON #1: Don’t over think your costume!

I had several suitable ideas but dismissed them all for being “too obvious”. I ended up agonizing for weeks over what the perfect ubergeek costume would be, and then I had my lightning strike idea…


Bride of Franklinstein Halloween Costume


Yeah. That’s pretty much the reaction my costume received at the party as well.

I based my costume off of a t-shirt on Threadless, the Franklinstein Graphic Tee by Mikey Hester, which is a mashup of Benjamin Franklin, and well, Frankenstein.

And given my surname is Franklin, I thought this costume would be especially clever.

Awesome Zoidberg & Dr.Who Costumes & I

The idea works brilliantly on a graphic t-shirt and if I had actually gone as Franklinstein that probably would have worked. As it was though, with so many different elements and too many things going on, the costume was unclear, without focus and too inside jokey.

Who would even know or for that matter care what my last name was aside from my friends?

The resulting effect was people assumed I was doing an Elsa Lancaster style ‘Bride’ gone wrong.

Lesson #2: Costume for yourself!

This may sound like it goes against everything I’ve just said about my obscure costume – however in making it, I was too focused on creating something others would appreciate and find clever vs. what I really wanted to do and would have enjoyed.

The result – I was pretty let down that the costume was a flop and I’d invested so much time in making the piece (complete with a handmade burnt out kite!)


Lesson #3: Don’t Stress! Halloween is meant to be fun!

After 2009 and feeling a lot of self-imposed performance anxiety, I completely bailed on Halloween altogether. Instead I disappeared down south to Washington, DC with the Eye Weekly (now re-branded the Grid) for the Rally to Restore Sanity and March to Keep Fear Alive.

Rally to Restore Sanity in DCMarch To Keep Fear Alive in DC

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have stressed so much, but given I was, the alternative to avoid and do something else was a great decision. The rally was an incredible and a unique experience (man alive do I love Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart!), and I can now tick off the “10 hours on a bus, 8 hours in DC, and 10 hours back on a bus” off my bucket list. Plus I got to spend said 8 hours with one of my most favourite people in the whole world, Diana. So not a bad year at all.


Success. We decided on a costume, set a budget and did our research which involved copious amounts of coffee and watching A Clockwork Orange repeatedly, including at the stunning TIFF Lightbox. We studied film stills as well to decide the key pieces of the costume we wanted to recreate. The costume was a total DIY effort and a lot of fun to build.

Given I’m a woman, I wanted to throw in a slight addition which played up being female while still utilizing the heightened male signifier of the codpiece. I went with a white medical corset that complimented the costume, and emphasized my curves and bust – I didn’t want to go anywhere near creating a “Sexy Droog” costume (the whole ‘Sexy whatever’ costume phenomena is something else altogether). I feel that the medical corset worked well with the piece without being all about T&A.

Altering the traditional Droog costume got me thinking about a recontextualized staging of A Clockwork Orange, where the Droogs would be played by women and what meaning this would and could take on in a new performance – anyway, I digress with my theatre geeking here!

Overall, the costume was recognizable and turned out well. The main thing though, was that we enjoyed ourselves immensely in the construction of it.

Pieces Needed for a Clockwork Orange Costume


If going as a group of Droogs, decide on if you’re all going to be Alex or the other Droogs, as each costume does have subtle but noticeable differences. We decided for this instance to both be Alex with slight amendments for my female version of the costume.

  1. Bloody Eye Cufflinks
  2. Black Bowler Hat
  3. Codpiece
  4. Thick Black Eyelashes applied to right eye only
  5. White Suspenders
  6. White Shirt
  7. Milk (after all it does a body good)
  8. Black Combat Boots
  9. Sword Cane – a black cane is best if you’re going out as you don’t want a weapon on you
  10. ‘Maskie’ – Alex DeLarge Mask
  11. White Trousers

We bought inexpensive but decent Bowler Hats from Malabar, in addition to black wooden walking sticks and our fake eyelashes. We opted for better theatrical quality pieces as opposed to cheap dollar store finds, but also did not invest in beautiful vintage Bowler Hats (though man, if we could afford it we would have!).

DIY Clockwork Orange Halloween Costume

Our white shirts were bought from a vintage store for $5 each. We picked up plastic googly eye kids glasses for $4 and cut the plastic eyes off for the cufflinks. Glued these with strong fabric/craft glue and painted red bloody patches around the eyes on the shirt. The white trousers were Dickies ones we found in Kensington Market in a uniform store, the black combat boots also from Kensington Market in an Army Surplus Store.

The Masks I made out of paper mache using a basic costume eye mask for a base, and building the nose from cut up toilet paper rolls stuck together with added paper mache. Once they dried, painted with acrylic paints.

The codpiece was the most difficult and frustrating bit of all. After several failed attempts to make from scratch, I decided to de-construct a jockstrap and hand sew over it with beige fabric, which ended up working in the end, but to be honest could have been a lot better and I plan on having a go at remaking them.

Clockwork Orange Droog Costume

Lesson #4: Costume with friends or your significant other.

Of course you can go it solo, but a team effort is usually always a blast to put together and impactful when you’re out in a group.

Lesson #5: DIY ~ Do-It-Yourself!

You don’t have to shell out loads on a theatrical quality rental or buy a pre-assembled kit to have a great costume. Some of the best ones I’ve seen have been super hand-made, but they evoke and incite such childlike joy when executed well.

Lisa Simpson Florida Costume & Hellboy

Missing elements? A friend of mine was missing a few key pieces for her costume and asked friends on Facebook if they had certain things. Within an hour she was good to go and didn’t have to shell out money on additional things she wouldn’t necessarily use again.

If you do this though, always remember to return borrowed items in a timely fashion!

Lesson #6: Look To Your Interests for Ideas.

If you feel like you’re at a loss for your costume, look to your interests! To help brainstorm write out a list of what films, music, literature, video games etc that you like.

Also see if the event you’re going to is themed. A theme can help narrow it down if you feel overwhelmed by unlimited options.

For example, this year we’re going to my friend Jamie’s 50′s night – costume wise there’s not limit and we can be anything, but have decided to go with something inspired from that era, which has helped immensely in figuring out our last-minute costumes.

Lesson #7: Have Fun, and if you’re still at a loss revisit a Previous Costume.

Pirate Costume

We all want to be innovative and original with our Halloween costumes, but sometimes any number of reasons can get in the way of leaving enough time to plan.

Don’t be that person lined up at the costume store 30 minutes before it shuts on October 31st.

You’re most likely not going to find the “perfect” costume, and it’s going to be crazy busy and really energy sucking. You’re better off  revisiting a costume you’ve worn before that you like if you still want to go out.

I dig Pirates for example, a pirate costume is my go to. And as a friend commented to me “Oh just go as a Pirate Zombie or something”. BAM. Costume done.

So, the big question, what has been your favourite Halloween costume and was it a rental, store bought or DIY effort?