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Depending on your temperament, Halloween can be a deliciously spooky time, perfect for the dozens of intricate DIY ideas you have bubbling at the back of your mind throughout the rest of the year. Or it can be super stressful! To avoid the tiresome slog of imagining, buying, and/or making a new costume every year, a surprisingly high number of people just choose to repeat. For some, it’s pure laziness; for others, there’s something a little deeper at work — a sense of identification with the costume that only comes out one night a year.
Julia has dressed as Mario Batali for four years “because I'm a redhead and the Crocs are so damn comfortable. Honestly, I’d been planning on returning them after Halloween because they are not cheap, but they seriously feel like walking on a cloud, so I kept them. And once you own a pair of orange Crocs, it seems wrong not to dress up as Mario Batali for Halloween every year.
“I did also get to meet Mario Batali at my last job,” she added. “I’m pretty sure he thought I was stalking him.”
Carol has been dressing as a witch since the early 1970s. “I was homeroom mother and picked Halloween as the party to host for the children. My big orange cooler would have a punch made out of orange juice and orange sherbet with a piece of dry ice in it. My costume, then, was a put-together sort of thing: a long black skirt, a black blouse and shawl, fuzzed-out hair, and heavy makeup. Before the day of the party, I made construction paper ‘prizes’ for all of the children. One would get the Black Cat Award for the scariest costume, another the Halloween Moon Award for the most beautiful, a third, the Hoot Owl Prize for the funniest, etc. until every child had a paper prize pinned on his or her costume. At one such party, a little girl asked me to come back as the ‘Christmas Witch!’ How could I not get ‘hooked’ with an endorsement like that!
When the boys outgrew the school parties, I did the same kind of a party for the younger children in our neighborhoods. One time, a visiting grandmother heard her little granddaughters talking about the witch’s house as the family drove by our house. The horrified grandmother questioned the mother (who was a friend of mine) about ‘what kind of a neighborhood was she living in?’ An explanation was made that saved my reputation!
I bought my present costume from Party City in San Antonio. My husband used to dress up as Batman and was a hit with all the little boys in our neighborhood. The boys grew up and my husband’s costume wore out, so I am the only adult who still dresses up for the children. I have added a three-legged black iron pot full of candy and a very witchy broom to my presentation. I wear my mother’s clogging shoes that make a haunting tapping sound when I walk on the drive.”
Parker was a crustacean for about four years. “I had a hat that was a red lobster or crab. I think it was this one. My dad bought me the hat while visiting Connecticut because I like karaoke and he, for some reason, thought it would be funny for me to wear this hat and sing the song ‘Rock Lobster.’
Because I lived in SF, I had 3-5 occasions annually to dress in costume. I always just wore the crab hat and a red sweater. I was actively trying to make it ‘a thing,’ but it was important to me that I never comment on that fact; only a few friends noticed it on the third or fourth year I wore it into work.
Anyway, I can’t find the hat now that I’ve moved out to NYC, so I’ll probably have to get a real costume this year. Although sending you that link and seeing that a replacement would be $6 is... tempting.”
Joe has owned his pizza slice costume for over a decade. “I’ve had this pizza slice since 2005, when I got it for $10 at Walmart. I wear it to work every Halloween and any other time I need a great last-minute costume. I even got third place in a really high-stakes costume contest, because the boos from the crowd tipped the applause-o-meter, and won $50. So this costume is also the best investment I’ve ever made.
The only downside of wearing it is that people spend the day telling me they wish my toppings were different.”
Eva dresses like Shane from The L Word every year, and has for the past five or six Halloweens. “Being Shane is easy because I have the haircut and the boots already, plus I was going to hit on girls all night anyway. One of the parties I go to every year has the theme ‘gay,’ so that’s where it started, but I keep doing it because it’s easy. And seriously, Shane is why I have this personality in the first place, so it makes sense.”
David was Hunter S. Thompson for six years out of a seven-year period. “The appeal was that it was easy and I had all the stuff, especially after the first year I did it, which I think was my sophomore year of college. After that, I’d always have these grand designs on a new, complicated costume that I never actually pulled together, and so I’d just put on the Hawaiian shirt and the bad shorts and the jean jacket and the hat and the cigarette holder on again.
Also, like many literary young men, I thought I would be an heir to Hunter S. Thompson, which none of my college friends ever suggested was bad, dumb, or not really an ideal way to live! Still, I had the walk and mannerisms and the talk down pretty quickly, and people were entertained by it. It was a good excuse to be kind of a weirdo muttering to himself like he was on heavy drugs — definitely just like that, it was all acting.”
Anna was a witch for seven or eight years in a row because “I didn’t want to be a burden to my parents. It was really convenient because, even as a child, I owned an uncommon amount of black clothing.”
Madison has gone as an identity crisis for the last three years. “It’s the world’s laziest costume. You go to Duane Reade on the way to whatever event you’re headed to for the evening and buy a pack of name tags and a Sharpie. Preferably the kind that say ‘Hi, My Name Is,’ but plain ones will work, too. Then you write a different name on each tag and affix them to whatever outfit you’re already wearing. That’s it. It’s cheap and comes with the added bonus of getting to listen to every person you encounter groan loudly when you explain it. In the earliest versions I used to write personality traits, but I abandoned that and just started writing names because it was easier.
This year my friend, who is very into Halloween, told me I couldn’t come to her party if I went in the same costume yet again, though I’m still probably going to show up covered in name tags.”
Heather went as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle for her entire childhood, minus two years in between when she went as Princess Jasmine. “I’ve never really been anything else. My sister told me recently that because of this, when she was younger, she thought you had to pick one costume to be for your entire life. She picked a mouse.”
All images courtesy of the respondents; responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.