I've never been big on wearing costumes, whether for Halloween or other purpose. I had trouble coming up with ideas, I had low self-esteem, and as I put it so often, "It's so much work being me, I can't imagine trying to be somebody else." I've done some half-hearted stuff with bits and bobs, like dressing as a pirate (mostly my normal clothes, a gold hoop earring and kid's dress-up hat).
I've also been troubled by the trend toward overtly sexy Halloween costumes for women--a trend that has driven most non-sexy women's costumes out of the marketplace. The most fun costumes I've ever enjoyed (on myself and others) were the costumes at Halloween party with a theme: geology. I went dressed all in blue, and told people I was a diamond (as I was the hostess's best friend, and a girl's best friend is a diamond). One group of four had on matching t-shirts, each with a couple of letters of the word Gonawonaland on it. When asked what they were, they'd stand together for a moment so you could read the word, then walk apart from each other. They were Continental Drift! Cleverness wins over sexy every time.
We have a terrific Halloween party at my office every year. Some of the adults dress in costume, and everybody who has kids brings them in for the party--cookies, punch, goody bags. And we each have a bowl of candy at our desk, so the kids trick-or-treat all around the office. This year one of my co-workers (who dresses up every year) strongly encouraged me to wear a costume she knows I already have, a Ren Faire Italian-ish outfit--so I said I would. As part of it I've spent a few evenings this week handsewing a pillbox hat out of red silk trimmed with black and silver braided cording, which was fun and challenging because I didn't have a pillbox hat form handy and had to come up with a frame on my own out of interfacing and jewelry wire.
Last night as I was trying to get to sleep for some reason the floodgates opened! I came up with a bunch of ideas for easy costumes, mostly with stuff I had around the house (e.g., a beret, a stuffed dragon). I've listed them below, feel free to use them. Most are good for either kids or grownups, men and women, and most can be as modest or sexy as you want, depending on how you carry them out.
- Tourist. Hawaiian shirt (get one from Goodwill if you don't already have one), shorts, knee-high black socks and black shoes, a big camera on a strap around your neck, sunglasses perched on a silly straw hat. For extra points dab some zinc oxide on your nose, and add a fabric flower lei if you've got one (we do). Edited to add: Obviously, this costume wouldn't work for Jay Lake.
- Spider or trapped in a spider web. Package of soft, spreadable spider webbing (easily available at this time of year for decorating), mini plastic spiders (toy store). Wear all black, spread the webbing around your body like a shawl or tunic, sprinkle with spiders. Alternatively cut an hourglass out of red paper and pin to your torso: you're a black widow spider.
- Art work. Take a small picture frame and pin to your clothes somewhere; add a big award ribbon if you can find it. Tell people you're a piece of art.
- Artist. A beret, the award ribbon above, and a kerchief around your neck. Draw on a pencil mustache.
- Missionary. Wear a suit, carry a bible or a Watchtower magazine. Works best if you rarely dress like this!
- Sir Isaac Newton. Dress as usual, carry an apple. Pin a small note written with "Gravity?" to the apple.
- Dragonslayer. Carry around a kid's toy sword and a stuffed dragon. Explain you've just killed this dragon and you're looking for the dragon's treasure.
- Mardi Gras party-er. Dress a little trashed (jeans and a ripped t-shirt? shiny disco clothes?) and add as many strings of Mardi Gras beads as you can find. Carry a plastic cup like the ones they use at keggers.