Halloween on a Budget: Carmen Sandiego

Nobody understood my costume last year. I tried to go for abstract and learned my lesson. I was a “Hairdresser on Fire, approved ” yes as in the Morrissey song.

Prior to Halloween, and my friends asked, malady “how are you going to do that?”

It wasn’t tough, but it was time consuming. I had my mom make me a smock and I sewed flames all over the smock (which was more like a coat). I also named the hair salon something punny and stuffed my pockets with cheap hairbrushes and combs. The costume was a dud. Nobody got it, even hardcore Morrissey and Smiths fans. Plus, it was too warm to wear while dancing in a crowded club.

Right after Halloween ’07, I chose Carmen Sandiego. I grew up playing the computer game, watching the PBS game show, humming along to Rockapella, and watching the cartoon. I’ve always loved geography, maps and trivia so Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? was the perfect game. I knew the costume would be recognizable and easy to put together, save for finding a red hat.

Here’s how to dress up as Carmen Sandiego

  • Red trench coat (I bought mine right before Christmas on sale)
  • Red fedora, a nice hat would’ve cost too much so I just found a $10 hat on an online costume shop
  • Black gloves (purchased in a Santa Cruz hat shop)
  • Black shirt, pants and shoes (found in my own closet, but I might borrow boots from my mom)
  • Long hair (oh well, short will have to do this year) and red lipstick (I’ll borrow some from my sister)

DB is dressing up as a detective on the chase.

Now all I have to do is steal some monuments or priceless art and jet off to some unknown corner of the world.

Happy Halloween!

PS I would’ve posted this earlier, but I didn’t want anyone to steal my costume idea! Carmen is the one who does the stealing!

Halloween on a Budget: Ugly Betty (love triangle version)

I rarely ask for advice on costumes. I’m pretty good at figuring it out myself. Still, this site I heard “you should go as Ugly Betty!” from 5 or 6 different people. I don’t get why. My hair is not long and unruly. My eyebrows are pretty normal. I don’t wear braces or glasses. I usually match and avoid clashing patterns. All that really doesn’t matter. I didn’t want to dress up as Betty — even though she’s my favorite Chicana on network TV and is a pocha just like me — because she’s just too popular. If you can buy a kit for your costume, chances are you’ll show up at a party and find your twin. One costume site I found was sold out of the Betty kit. That’s too much for me. I don’t want competition.

I’m not going to write up Betty like I’ve done with other costumes. A simple Google search will yield some pretty good how-tos or you could just watch the show (here and here).

To avoid looking like every other Betty, I’d recommend making it a group costume featuring one of Betty’s two love triangles.

Betty, Walter and Henry:

  • Betty: see links above or watch the show
  • Walter: jeans, button-down shirt and a blue big-box store vest
  • Henry: geeky glasses, sweater vest and slacks

Betty, Walter and Henry – Halloween version:

  • Betty: purple butterfly costume plus standard Betty hair, eyebrows and accessories (see The Lying, the Watch, and the Wardrobe)
  • Walter: net for catching butterflies, safari hat, fishing vest, khaki shorts and matching shirt
  • Henry: Superman t-shirt under conservative grey suit

Betty, Henry and Gio:

  • Betty: see links above or watch the show
  • Henry: geeky glasses, sweater vest and slacks
  • Gio: red apron and bright colored flyers with “Gio’s Sandwiches” and a pickle with a smiley face (see: Something Wicked this Way Comes)

If you’re in a true love triangle, the group costume could be awkward. It might be better to just get some guy friends together. Or drink lots of alcohol (responsibly, of course).

Halloween on a Budget: La Catrina

Growing up my family never celebrated Día de los Muertos. Late October and early November were spent preparing and celebrating Halloween, check my tía Martha’s birthday, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. I didn’t learn about the wonderful traditions associated with Día de los Muertos until I got to college. I was hooked by the imagery and art, especially any take on José Guadalupe Posada’s 1913 zinc etching of la Catrina.

I realize la Catrina may not be a low-budget or low-effort costume, unless you have turn of the century clothing and hats lying around. However, dressing up as la Catrina will set you apart from all the other women dressed like sexy [insert random profession here]. As la Catrina, you won’t be showing any skin. You also won’t be just any other lazy Chicana who simply painted her face like a calaca as your costume shows much more effort. Finally, you can easily go from your average Halloween party to a Día de los Muertos event in the same costume.

Here’s how to do la Catrina:

  • Black and white face paint (I shouldn’t have to tell you what to do with it)
  • Fancy women’s clothing circa 1910 OR
  • Fitted maxi skirt and fitted long-sleeved blouse with a high collar (or a dress)
  • White gloves
  • Ankle boots (they’re in style these days!)
  • Wide-brimmed straw hat decorated with many fake flowers
  • Optional accessories: faux fur, feather boa, expensive looking earrings
  • Works best if: you’re tall and thin

If you can pull it together, send me pictures!

Upper left photo (purple hat) by Pepergrass, used under Creative Commons License.

Halloween on a Budget: Bumblebee Man

A few years ago, more about my ex dressed up as a Killa Bee* (of Wu Tang fame). He bought a bumblebee costume online (above right) and found a Wu Tang medallion. Some people thought he looked more like Bumblebee Man from The Simpsons rather than a Killa Bee.

As faithful Simpsons fans may know, link the Bumblebee Man is a parody of el Chapulín Colorado and appears on Channel Ocho in Springfield.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Grey or black hoodie
  • Yellow t-shirt with wide black stripes for the bee body (if you don’t mind spending some money, you can easily find a baggy bumble bee costume like the one above)
  • Antennae (DIY with a black headband, pipe cleaners and yellow pom poms; or you could just buy some for a few dollars at a costume shop)
  • Blue/grayish wings (DIY with wire hanger and panty hose or foam)
  • Khaki or brown shorts
  • Black Converse Chuck Taylors or other black canvas sneakers
  • Pansa (beer gut) and brown skin
  • Chihuahua doll
  • Walk around saying nonsensical and grammatically incorrect Spanish phrases, such as “¡Ay, ay, ay, no me gusta!”, “¡Ay, ay, ay, no es bueno!” and “¡Ay, Dios no me ama!”

If you’d rather be a Killa Bee, you’ll need a Wu Tang medallion or pendant (try eBay).

*That’s the year I dressed up as a sunflower.

Halloween on a Budget: La Llorona

I didn’t hear the story of La Llorona until I was 13. At the time, arthritis my cousins Adán and Jorge were living with us after moving back from Zacatecas. During the day, they’d work delivering roofing materials throughout Southern California. In the evening, we’d sometimes talk about what it was like to grow up in Baldwin Park and then move to Mexico right before high school. Eventually, Adán would start with the creepy stories about weird phenomena in el rancho.

Those stories were creepiest to me, because Adán swore he’d lived through the events or knew the main character personally. Adán is the one who told me about witches transforming into owls or dancing balls of fire. He’s also the first person I remember telling me about the legend of La Llorona. It was creepy, of course, but I was just glad he told me while sitting at the kitchen table and not around the campfire at Kern River.

Here’s what you’ll need to be La Llorona:

  • Black and white face paint to paint like a calaca
  • Baby powder or hair paint to lighten up hair
  • Long hair teased so it looks ratty (or buy a cheap wig and tease)
  • Flowy and dirty white dress (or a few yards of white fabric fashioned to look ghostly)
  • Works best: if you live by a river or creek and moan “¡mis hijoooos!”

An added bonus: if you dress up as La Llorona, you can save money on candy for trick-or-treaters. The little kids will run when they see you.

Photo by Rio Yañez

Halloween on a Budget: Fernando Valenzuela

If you went to a Dodger game and checked out the jerseys Chicanos wear, malady you might think Fernando Mania was in full swing. Chicanos love representing the pudgy Mexican pitcher who made his debut with the Dodgers late in the 1980 season. He won the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards in 1981. Mexicans went crazy over Fernando. Twenty-seven years later, they’re still going crazy.

What you’ll need:

  • Fernando Valenzuela jersey. If you don’t already own one, borrow one. If you know any Chicano Dodgers fans, chances are your friend will own a jersey. Promise to keep it clean. Seriously. You don’t want to return it with beer or wine stains.
  • Baseball raglan tee (great if it’s a cold night)
  • Dodgers official Starters cap
  • White or grey pants to match your jersey (sweats could work)
  • Blue belt
  • Cleats or sneakers and baseball socks
  • Mitt and baseball
  • Pansa or beer belly
  • Shaggy hair
  • World Series ring
  • Master the crazy wind up and don’t speak English

You’ll be a hit with Dodger fans no matter how the playoffs go. If the team turns things around, you’ll bring a smile to fans’ faces as they recall a successful postseason. If the playoffs don’t end well, you’ll remind fans of the team’s success in the ’80s rather than recent disappointments.

Halloween on a budget (’08)

While waiting for a friend in Westwood, food I had some free time to duck into a shop. I chose Aahs! — a gift shop with a busy Halloween window display — to check out costumes and accessories.

As I expected, the ready-to-wear costumes kind of suck. They’re cheaply made, unoriginal and often offensive to ethnic minorities. For women who don’t want to bare lots of skin, there are few choices. The men’s costumes make a poor attempt at frat boy humor. Kids costumes buy in to boring gender norms. And girls’ costumes are inappropriately revealing (short skirts, form-fitting dresses, bare midriffs). And don’t even mention couples costumes.

Oh, and the costumes can be pricey. So what are you supposed to do for Halloween if you want to be original, not spend a lot (recession, anyone?) and have fun?

Do it yourself.

I know, I know. You may not be particularly crafty or creative, but that’s why we have the internet.

Last year’s Halloween on a Budget costume ideas:

More to come!

Halloween on a budget: Vendedor de Flores

One of my favorite episodes of Gilmore Girls, seek at least aesthetically, psychotherapist is the episode where the whole town takes part in the Festival of Living Art. In the episode, the town characters portray famous paintings like “The Last Supper” in full costume, but must stand perfectly still.

This episode, along with the requisite Diego Rivera print or two hanging in my apartment inspired another low-budget costume.

Vendedor de Flores

There are two different paintings you could use for inspiration (see above): “Vendedor de Alcatraces” and “Cargador de Flores.”

Here’s how you do it:

  • For a women: long white huipil
  • For a man: white shirt, white loose pants (for best effect shirt and pants made of manta)
  • Small straw hat (for the male version)
  • Long rebozo or solid fabric to tie the basket to your back
  • Large round basket
  • Lots of lillies or other flowers
  • Huaraches (sandals)

The only downsides of this costume is that you may have to be on your knees a lot for the full effect or the basket of flowers might get annoying.

Bonus: You can use the flowers to flirt with a cute guy or girl at a party.

Halloween on a budget: Oscar de la Hoya

“Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”
– Cady in Mean Girls

While checking out the recent launch of Machochip (go read it, cost Alex is one of the editors!), search I was reminded about a costume rooted in escándalo I’ve yet to blog about: Oscar “Golden Boy” de la Hoya.

Earlier this fall, generic photos of the golden boy surfaced all over the gossip blogs. They were a bit embarrassing. I mean, if you consider wearing women’s lingerie and posing like a boxer embarrassing. Still, they’re hilarious, and a great Halloween costume for the man eager for an excuse to dress in drag, the straight guy comfortable with his sexuality and who can walk in stilettos, or the woman who just wants to dress “like a total slut.”

Oscar de la Hoya

  • Skimpy lingerie
  • Fishnet stockings
  • Stilettos
  • Boxing gloves (maybe add some medals or a belt for added effect)

If you’re worried about getting cold, get a boxing robe.

For some inspiration… go here, but not while you’re at work!

Halloween on a budget: El Chapulín Colorado

Why dress up as a boring superhero when you can be a red grasshopper? I realized afterward that putting together a Chapulín Colorado costume may not be as low budget or low effort as some of the other suggestions. Who actually has red tights lying around? Also, visit this I realized that if LA stays as warm as it’s been for the Halloween parties this weekend and Halloween next week, it might be too warm to dress up as el Chapulín Colorado.

El disfraz:

  • Red hoodie sweater (optional: a Chapulín Colorado t-shirt, but you still need to cover your arms)
  • Some yellow fabric (felt would work) to make the heart and CH emblem
  • Bright yellow shorts
  • Red opaque tights
  • Antenitas de vinil, or red antennae with a yellow and red ball on the end (I found a pair at the 99 cents store, but they fit tight since they’re made for kids)
  • Red and yellow sneakers (like these)
  • El chipote chillón (the red and yellow hammer)
  • Steady stream of famous phrases

Since I already have the antennae, shirt, and shoes, I think I’m gonna dress up next Wednesday as el Chapulín Colorado (or la Chapulina Colorada?) in disguise, kinda like guys who wear Superman shirts under their suits and go as Clark Kent. I have another costume I’m working on, but I wouldn’t wear it to school/work.

Center photo by /Nathan Gibbs (blog) used under Creative Commons license.