What Your Childhood Halloween Costumes Said About You

In celebration of Halloween, we’re pulling this one out of our archives. It’s all in good fun – your childhood costumes meant NOTHING – but it sure is fun to look back at the best afternoon party of the whole school year.


Your childhood never really leaves you. As we discussed in What Your School Portrait Backdrop Said About You, the choices that you – and your parents – made in your early years say a lot about who you were then, and who you were likely to become. This is never so true as with Halloween costumes. What you wore on October 31 really laid it all out there – your finances, interests, skills and beliefs.

The Super Deluxe Tier at Party City

This is either called Georgia Peach or Disgruntled Bridesmaid.

Remember when those Halloween costume mailers would start coming with the Sunday paper?  The company used vague category names so nobody’s feelings got hurt – but kids aren’t dumb. The “quality” costumes were for normals, and “super deluxe” costumes were for rich kids. Scarlett O’Hara, Southern Belle, Pretty Witch – these costumes were the best.

If you wore one of these, you probably came from a family with disposable income or were an only child. But there’s also a chance that your non-crafty parents felt bad they couldn’t make your costume, so they only bought you the best. Or maybe you were just really into Vivien Leigh. Either way, you probably knew that some of your friends were shopping in the Quality tier, but you didn’t let that stop you from going for what you really wanted. You had money, and you had ambition, and you were raised to believe that you deserve the good costume. None of those are bad things.

Elaborate Hand-Sewn Costumes

These costumes really meant you had it all — a high costume budget, a parent with advanced sewing skills, creativity somewhere in your family line, and a parent with enough time to devote to making it. In my day, big plush M & M costumes were in vogue. In fourth grade, one girl was a Queen of Hearts – she was not only dressed as a queen but her face was somehow embedded in a big playing card. One kid was Mini Me from Austin Powers, with a metallic jumpsuit and bald cap. If my awed tone 20 years later didn’t tip you off, these kids were pretty damn enviable. Money, imagination, and a quality family situation – these kids were on the road to success.

Low-Budget Costume You Made Yourself (usually with thrift store involvement)

Faces covered to protect the innocent. I’m the tiny apprehensive one.

As a person whose childhood costumes all came from Goodwill, household items and borrowed clothing, this is me. One thing that cobbled costume kids have in common is a sense of silliness and imagination. How about the year my whole family dressed as a six-pack of Diet Coke? Or in sixth grade, when I created an over-the-top Marge Simpson costume complete with a two-foot-tall hairpiece? My mom even got in on the action in a sort of Andy Kaufman-esque way. She was a teacher and would dress up as Mrs. O’Brien, an elderly ‘substitute’, every year. She had a voice, mannerisms, everything. A good subset of the kids could never figure out if it was really her. The kids who did know were sworn to secrecy for the next year.

It hasn’t stopped. A few years ago I dismembered a cheap baby doll to become Junice from SNL. The year before, I mined a Goodwill to become Clarissa Darling. A while ago, I took my nephew to Salvation Army, where we pieced together a curly-mustached villain from a 1920s silent film. We didn’t break character for hours. Cobbled costume kids: we may not have had the most money or skill in our corner, but we worked hard and weren’t afraid to look goofy.

Dollar Store Costumes

Not even Joanie loves Chachi enough to wear this mess.

Oh, you poor dears. You didn’t have a costume budget, you didn’t have time or inclination to make something, and nobody in your family could sew.  These were the costumes that had a cheap, hot mask was secured with one of those white elastic strings that you find on birthday hats, and it always broke. The worst part was the plastic smock that came with these. It was a tunic that was about the same consistency as a plastic grocery bag and – most offensive of all – it usually had the name of the character on it. Come ON. Spider-man doesn’t walk around wearing a shirt that says spider-man. Holly Hobby doesn’t wear a shirt that says Holly Hobby.  Dollar Store Costume Kids had some good qualities, though. They had to be content with what they had, and appreciate the joy that even a low-budget costume could bring.  I bet most of these kids are non-materialistic, well-adjusted adults now.

Half-Assed “Scary” Costumes

You all were playing lip service to the spooky part of Halloween. You know who you are – the boy with the cheap nylon vampire cape and a single streak of red lipstick as “blood.” The girl with the regular black dress and the witch’s hat. The zombie who was just wearing normal clothes with a latex mask. You don’t shun the crowd – you dressed up, after all – but you don’t get all swept up in it either. These days, you use your trusty Nokia and shake your head at the folks waiting for the new iPhone.  When your friends reminisce about stupid trends they followed, you laugh with them – but you are secure in your knowledge that nothing about you has been so over-the-top that you’re embarrassed later.

Legit Scary Costumes

Sometimes a kid would come in looking so creepy that even though you knew who it was, you were still skeeved out by them. These guys had the same creativity as the Goodwill costume kids, but with the budget of the Party City Deluxe Crowd or the skill of the Elaborate Hand-Sewn kids. But they had something else that set them apart — a sadistic joy in creeping out other people. These kids had to be innovative, but they also had to know how to read people in order to know what would sketch people out the most. They took an idea and really ran with it.

Superheroes Or Disney Princesses

You were maybe guilty of a little hero-worship, but you were drawn to charismatic characters and you emulated them. That’s not all bad, and can serve you well in your adult life.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Did you get your Batman costume from the Dollar Store? Did your parents buy the Super Deluxe Jasmine? Your childhood interest in popular characters is only part of the story – you have to look at what KIND of superhero or princess costume you had. It’s like when you’re born at the cusp of two Zodiac signs – you will have traits from both categories.

Occupation Costumes

well this is adorable.

These can be a tough sell with kids: it’s Halloween, not a Social Studies unit on community helpers, right? But kids who went in for these are probably the ones who had researched colleges by Sophomore year of high school, never changed their major, and update their five-year plan every six months. The closest I came to this was one (non-Halloween) day in fifth grade, when my friend and I decided to dress like teachers, with turtlenecks, thick tights, and embroidered vests. I get the appeal — when you’re not a grown-up yet, it’s fun to play at it. Plus, if you actually dressed up as something you became as an adult, that’s adorable.

 

A Fall-Themed Outfit Instead Of A Costume

Your parents were the reason the school had to change it from a Halloween Party to a “Harvest Celebration.” Your very presence – and the letter your parents sent the school board – reminded us that not everyone celebrates Halloween.  If you were a kid whose parents didn’t believe in Halloween, but you wanted to dress up and trick-or-treat really badly, you probably learned how to do without and then asserted the heck out of your independence once you were 18. If you agreed with your parents, I have to commend a kid who sits out of something that all of your friends are excited about because you think it’s wrong. So, I kind of hate to be the one to tell you this, but Halloween is the coolest. I think you always suspected that, though.

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Pop Culture Blind Spot: Teen Witch

It’s October, and I am continuing to tackle my Halloween movie pop culture blind spots. As a person who loves Halloween but hates to be scared, it’s a chore. A neat trick I learned with Teen Wolf is that if a movie has the word “teen” in the title, it’s probably not that scary … and with that, I delve into Teen Witch.

What I Think It’s About: An ’80s teen learns that she’s a witch, like in Halloweentown or Twitches or Worst Witch or Harry Potter. She raps at a mean boy. That part, I HAVE seen.

Hulu short description: A high school student who is a descendant of bona fide Salem witches uses her magic to snag a football star as a boyfriend.

Okay, I’ve mentioned before how far down the Salem Witch documentary/podcast/google hole I’ve fallen, so this sounds pretty cool. Except for the second half, anyway – even a dopey teen has better uses for magic powers than “snagging a football star as a boyfriend.”

The movie opens with 80s sexy smooth jazz saxophone, which I hate. Two teens hang out in blue lighting on a rooftop. The first FOUR minutes look like any generic music video of 1989. It’s just a dream, we learn as Teen Witch wakes up in her Laura Ashley bedroom.

Also my bedroom style c. 1989 – 1999.

The family all sits around the breakfast table at the same time, being formal at each other.

Teen Witch’s best friend has dark hair and is 100% the person I thought was the Teen Witch based on the rap clip I’ve seen.

Anyway, Teen Witch (Louise) and Best Friend (Polly) wear those oversized, menswear, Annie Hall-type 80s clothes, which I find really underrepresented in the 80s-inspired fashion universe.

Cute look!

Teens just rap in the hallways. White boys. They’re dressed like the Uptown Funk video, or more accurately, the Uptown Funk video is dressed like them.

The cheerleaders sing and dance ‘I Like Boys’ in the locker room. THIS IS A MUSICAL?! This is a musical! I didn’t know.

I have so many things to say about the I Like Boys sequence, none of them probably search engine-friendly. You don’t strictly see anyone singing it, they just sort of prance in the locker room, having antics. As gals do, while telling you over and over that they like boys.

I probably don’t have to say this, but the ’80s teen hunk Louise is obsessed with is named Brad.

Louise goes to a creepy unpainted Victorian house to see someone named Madame Serena. The Victorian House trope is always interesting to me. By, say, the 1950s an 1890s Queen Ann Victorian was already known as a creepy witch/ ghost house. But in 2017, a house the same amount old (built in the 1950s) isn’t considered creepy. Our scary movies don’t involve a foreboding ranch house.

Madame Serena is a small psychic woman with a high voice, like in Poltergeist. She refers to Louise’s “cute little Punky Brewster face.” Ha.

Is Louise’s little brother going to turn into a rat ever? I feel like that happens in a lot of these kinds of movies.

Casting breakdown: Twerpy Younger Brother Who Gets Turned Into A Rat

An elderly health teacher has the kids chant ‘condom,’ which probably doesn’t happen in public schools? Or does it??

I think the only thing in the school’s soda machine is regular Coke.

Louise’s vest from her mom is “dorky” but with 28 years’ perspective, it doesn’t look any worse than anyone else’s outfits. Her dad has a big poinsettia sweater.

Wait but the nerd assuming Louise wears glasses, when she does not, is my whole life. Does this happen to everybody?

The nerd boy just looks like a hipster.

He’d be the hot friend on a CW series today.

“You think you’re hot stuff because you went to a dance. Nobody wants to date you because you’re a dog.. a dog… a dog!” That’s what kid brother says in that wavery scary voice before he TURNS INTO A DOG. I know I said rat before but I feel like I was close.

There’s a witch yearbook – “new faces of 1632” – and I choose to find it unrealistic that (1) they’re photographs and (2) not in 1600s-style clothing. The witch part is fine. Louise and Madame Serena are both in there. Does that mean all witches are reincarnated? Or they’re both 400 years old but went dormant and lost their memories for a while? I have questions.

Surely you all realized this already, but Madame Serena IS the actress from Poltergeist! I haven’t seen it since I was 7, but I was so certain it was her I had to IMDB it. What a very specific role to be typecast in.

It’s been almost an hour but I just realized that the character breakdown for Louise was absolutely “Molly Ringwald type.”

Louise has gone full witch, with love spells and a poppet.

Anyway, Louise voodoo poppets her awful English (?) teacher, a man whose classroom includes some weird stage with a desk and bookshelves on it, and who openly torments Louise every class. She makes him strip. ‘S funny.

Mean Teacher gets poppetted through a carwash on foot while the song “All Washed Up” plays, but the beginning of it sounds so much like Bad Romance. So much!

Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we’ve ALL been waiting for:

I thought there would be more context but, no. Also how I said it was a musical earlier? There was really just the locker room I Like Boys scene, then this. It’s like if I dreamed a kind-of musical about a Teen Witch, and an hour into the dream I realized I forgot to do songs.

Polly’s my favorite. It didn’t sound like the guy’s voice was coming from him?

Louise gets an ’80s perm, AKA she looks exactly like me if I air dry my hair, and a tapestry vest and a flouncy skirt. Hot stuff, indeed. She’s like Tiffany now. There’s a montage and all her outfits are super cute now.

It’s just Grease with witches, isn’t it?

The Sexy Sexy Saxophones are back, but this time Louise isn’t dreaming. She kisses Football Brad near a plaster-and-lathe wall.

Louise accidentally (?) magics the lead of the school play into breaking her leg, thus getting the lead role. I just thought witches had more control over their magic? Like with spells and wands. Louise is running this operation on poppets and hormones.

I’ve been checking how long there is left every 15 minutes or so.

Never have I ever seen a school dance scene that felt like it was the appropriate length. Like real school dances, it just goes on and on and on with very little happening.

In 1989, the bigger your hair was, the lovelier you were. Must have been nice to have such a clear formula.

I thought we’d get more clarification on the popularity-doesn’t-matter thing, but like Grease the messaging is not all that great.

To that end: the closing theme is “I’m gonna be the most popular girl. Gonna change my hair and makeup, soon you’re gonna see…”. There was nothing spooky in this whole movie – it was way too un-scary, actually – but this theme song would be PERFECT playing at the end of a dark, Black Mirror-y study of popularity at all costs.

Takeaway: I really like a lot of kiddie ‘scary’ movies, and I think witches are the coolest thing ever, but this didn’t 100% do it for me. Judging by my love for Hocus Pocus, I probably WOULD have liked this if I watched it first as a kid, though. It’s almost like it needed to be more witchy, or at least for the witch to have a more interesting objective than Football Brad.

 

EDIT: It’s been like 3/4 of a day since I watched Teen Witch and I find myself liking it more and more. Maybe it’s magic after all.

Pop Culture Blind Spot: Teen Wolf (1985)

Welcome back to the spookiest month of pop culture blind spots! (October. The spookiest month is October). I started us off with The Shining, one of the most iconic horror movies of all time, so I don’t feel bad for dialing it way, way back this time and watching Teen Wolf.

What I think Teen Wolf is about: Michael J. Fox plays a teenage basketball player who discovers that he is a werewolf; he has to hide it from his friends and from the requisite 80s movie cute blonde girl; in the end she’s fine with it or maybe is a werewolf herself.

Hulu short description: A teenage boy’s incredible werewolf powers improve the quality of his life in dramatic and hilarious ways.

Look, if the grossest thing we see this whole movie is the sweaty teen face close-up we open on, it will be gross enough.

Michael J. Fox (Scott) goes into his coach’s office, mentions that he is “changing,” coach apologizes for not noticing but says he hasn’t been in the locker room much. A few things:

  1. APOLOGIZES FOR NOT NOTICING BUT HASN’T BEEN IN THE LOCKER ROOM MUCH
  2. I think it’s fine and actually v good if adults don’t notice teens’ puberty stuff
  3. In locker room situations, didn’t you always assume that nobody was really looking at you? Well you were wrong.

Everything is exactly as it should be in ’80s teen movie land: Scott has a Brunette Platonic Friend(TM) and a Blonde Crush. He works at a folksy, cluttered hardware store. The school’s theater director wears a turtleneck and a tweed blazer. Blonde Crush Pamela has a tough-guy boyfriend in double denim.

Honestly this is the whole thing in one photo.

Scott demands a keg at the liquor store, his eyes glowing red which is an early werewolf thing.

The one thing most 2010s depictions of the 80s are lacking: the intensely feathered and permed bangs that are all over the place in this teen party scene.

Peep the young Andy Samberg lookalike.

Does Scott have a mom? Single-parent households were the thing in 80s movies.

Importantly, Scott grows fangs and nasty thick nails before morphing into a full fur-face; more importantly, the green tiled bathroom was out of style for so long that it’s in again. I’d love that bathroom.

Scott is the only person, other than me, who says “jeez Louise” in moments of stress and panic.

There was a D.P. who was REALLY feeling this downward ceiling-shot in the bathroom.

Post-werewolf Dad (Dad’s also a werewolf BTW) looks so much like Jim-Bob Duggar.

Not sure if it’s the sound mix on Hulu or the sound cues in general, but the background music is so jerky and loud, bad and jarring. No shade to the music supervisor: it was the style of the time.

There is some very extra-casual use of f*g and I thank my lucky stars that it is 2017, not 1985. I only hope that 32 years from now, people are horrified by the things we say in movies today, too.

Everyone in the school is very cool about wolf-Scott. (SCOTT WOLF! Would have been a relevant thing to say 15 years ago.) Scott’s dad understands. There is basically zero conflict at this point in the film, except for a vice principal. Come to think of it, Scott’s friend Stiles was significantly nastier when he thought Scott was maybe-gay than when he thought he was definitely-wolf.

Platonic Brunette gives Blonde Crush a t-shirt, which is “too big for me.” Shade.

Season 1 Joey Potter-level sass.

The theater director is now in a cowl-neck with seemingly no shirt underneath, which is itchy and sweaty.

Pam & Scooter hang out backstage, where she is just in a bra and underwear, but it’s 1985 so like, white granny panties and a plain white bra. They hook up. She seems to really, really want him to turn into a wolf, which I mean, if that’s what you’re into it’s fine.

Scott calls his teammate “chubby” and “chubaroo,” and you’d think a wolf-teen would be more cool about other people’s body situations.

Scott thinks he’s hot stuff because he goes to a school dance in wolf mode.

I don’t know if I’m more confused as to why vice principal and Blonde Crush’s boyfriend hate werewolves so much, or why literally everybody else is so nonchalant about werewolves.

The only time I like a sports montage is when the movie description includes the phrase “rag-tag misfits.”

The twinkly, inspirational song that ends the basketball game! Oh my goodness. It’s like the same song that plays at the end of every 1980s to early ’90s teen movie. The entire ending sequence is all b-ball, no wolves, BTW.

That’s the end of it – they win a ball game.

One thing I forgot to mention is that Platonic Brunette’s name is Boof. I kept thinking it was a nickname for something that I missed (Lisa, per the internet), but the end credits confirm. Boof.

Pop Culture Blind Spot: Practical Magic

I have never seen Practical Magic. This, despite my love for Sandra Bullock (a love so deep I call her Sandy), comfy 90s movies where people wear sweaters, and witchy things. Most of my knowledge about Practical Magic comes from surfing past it on HBO during my childhood, and commercials for Charmed, a TV show about sister witches that is a different thing entirely from Practical Magic. Anyway, it feels like fall here in upstate New York, which means it feels like time for a fall movie… which I assume Practical Magic is, based on the witches.

The Netflix blurb:

Thanks to their powers, things come easy to these sisters… except keeping a man. Alive, that is.

First of all, this is some of the Netflix copy writers’ best work. Second, hard same.

We learn that the women in the Owens family have been witches since puritan New England. Oh, I love this already. If you haven’t gone down a Salem Witch Trials documentary spiral yet, I suggest it. Your YouTube suggestions will get a bit weird for a while but it will be worth it.

There’s a Victorian house, too! [Profiled here on my fav, Hooked on Houses]

The girls move there with their aunts after their dad falls victim to a centuries-old curse. Everyone wears draped, lacy dresses and florals with scarfs and floppy hats and statement earrings, exactly how you’d want witches in a Victorian house to dress. [I already feel a Practical Magic Is My Aesthetic post coming on.]

 

Work those April Cornell catalog vibes, ladies.

Child Sandy Bullock (Sally) looks like adult Sandy Bullock. Child Nicole Kidman (Gillian) does not really look like adult Nicole Kidman, but even casting directors are victims of All Redheads Look Alike Syndrome.

Child Sally, by the way? None other than little Camilla Belle, who actually DOES resemble adult Sandra Bullock these days, now that you mention it.

Adult Camilla

We’ve circled back to the late ’90s, fashion wise, and I like Sally’s straight-leg jeans. She also has one of those sweaters with the big stripe across the middle. REAL thing 90s kids remember: those sweaters with one big stripe across the middle.

IMPORTANT: There’s a scene where This Kiss by Faith Hill plays as Sally falls in love with a handsome man and, over time, marries him and has two kids. Practical Magic and This Kiss have definitely lived in the same mental file folder in my brain for these two decades. Meanwhile, Gillian leaves New England and dances whitely by a pool. Just watch it, it’s the best of comfy ‘normcore’ 90s romcom montages:

Like all of us, Gillian sings the soprano parts of Case Of You while driving and feeling some feelings.

On one hand, Gillian and Sally have a horrible curse wherein every man they love is doomed (RIP Gillian’s husband, Minute 5 – Minute 7, roughly). On the other, they have gorgeous, full blowouts and a bedroom fireplace.

If you didn’t get enough Practical Magic interiors from Hooked on Houses, click on this pic. I’m obsessed.

Whoopsie! The sisters killed a man by accident. He was Jimmy, Gillian’s garbage love interest who she drugged and brought cross country, but don’t feel too bad because he was secretly a killer as well . The gals take a real ad-hoc, non-Hogwarts-approved method of resurrecting him, doing the spell on their ample kitchen island. It doesn’t go great, so now they have to cover up his death. It’s a drag.

It’s not a movie about ‘strong female characters’ (TM Netflix) without a scene where they dance around the kitchen. Just ask Hidden Figures (a movie I loved, for the record).

A longer stretch of this movie than I expected is centered on covering up an accidental death. It’s fine but not what I was expecting. Aidan Quinn arrives to investigate Jimmy’s disappearance but also to fall in love with Sally. He is unusually handsome for someone named Gary. He’s ALSO the dream man Sally described as a child.

The reanimated corpse of Jimmy confronts Hot Gary  in the beautiful attic. I don’t know if witches need money, but they could rent that thing out for some serious bucks.

This is not an attack on anybody named Kylie or who named their daughter Kylie, but man, Kylie is NOT something a witch would name a child. [:Your Kris Jenner joke goes here:] I guess she was born during Sally’s trying-not-to-be-witchy phase.

The witch sisters need to expel Jimmy’s spirit and to do that they need a coven, which is basically like a quorum. Sally does what any small-town single mom would do: activates the school phone tree.

PS guess who Kylie is? A baby Evan Rachel Wood. I had no idea, this whole time. Along with All Redheads Look Alike Syndrome is the related Red Hair Renders You Instantly Unrecognizable Syndrome (hers is dyed, to perpetuate the one brown haired kid/one ginger kid thing her family has going).

She looks exactly like she does now, just with red hair.

In case you were worried, there’s a great witches-with-brooms scene. They just sweep with them, but still. They sweep OUT an evil spirit. The family curse is broken and now Gillian and Sally can fall in love without casualties.

The witches dress up as witches (but stereotypical ones) and fly from their roof on Halloween. The neighbors EAT IT UP. Just as I did this movie. It was cute.

 

P.S.: Not all of the music was by Bonnie Raitt and Mary Chapin Carpenter but it was all LIKE that.

 

The Witches Is Our Aesthetic

New month, new aesthetic… same author? Last month we explained why the 1996 film Matilda is our aesthetic. This month, I have another Roald Dahl adaptation on the brain: the 1990 classic The Witches. It has all the best of Halloween spookiness, Scandinavian middle class life and early ’90s British coziness.

The cobblestone-y Norwegian streets

The first part of The Witches was filmed on location in beautiful Bergen, Norway, with quaint winding streets and Scandinavian houses that look like something out of a Jan Brett book or Colonial Williamsburg.

Helga’s hygge-ified kitchen

Helga has the perfect cozy grandmother’s kitchen to hear a story about witches in.

Flashback Erica’s knit woolens

Very Kirsten Larson, if you know what I mean (and I’m sure you do).

Helga’s tiny bed

It seems so simple and old-school European to sleep on a minimalist, space saving bed but also I’m a greedy American and I need a queen bed so I can sleep diagonally across it.

This hotel

Look. If I drove by this hotel in real life and I needed a place to stay, I wouldn’t even stop. I’d just assume that it was already fully booked for a witch convention and keep going.

This witch’s super conspicuously witchy outfit

Very motorcycle meets Audrey Hepburn meets mean rich lady.

Convalescing by the sea

Just in general, it is 100% my aesthetic to be sent to convalesce at the sea-side when you’re sick. I don’t want to be sick ever, it’s just that WHEN I am I wish the treatment plan involved “sea air” and not, you know, amoxicillin. I imagine I’d have a lap blanket and go on strolls that weren’t too strenuous. What I think I’m saying is that I’d only do a sitting-down type vacation if I had a disease.

This Married With Children-looking witch

On the right. Imagine her trying to act like a normal human at either a New Jersey deli or a Steel Magnolias-style southern beauty parlor.

This whole Mary Kay General Meeting-style convention

Don’t even try to tell me somebody isn’t about to get awarded a pink Cadillac.

PS, my favorite witch is mustard yellow, front left.

This nice pram

This scene is seared into my memory from childhood and that’s not great, but goodness, what a beautiful baby carriage.

Cute rat children

Riddle me this: I don’t find rats cute, but somehow I find children even cuter when they’re morphing into them.

Luke as a rat muppet

An actual rat would have lost me, but this Jim Henson’s Workshop version of a rat is my aesthetic.

The topsy turvy dinner scene

…because it fixed what otherwise was an incredibly boring dinner. It gets better after this but you’ll just have to watch the move.

Also my aesthetic: cress soup.

This grand high witch outfit

Feat. the BEST hat.

Luke’s room when he’s a rat

It’s probably rough being a rat-boy, but a Rube Goldberg-y setup with THIS FREAKING TRAIN and conveyer belt and toy Ghostbusters firehouse softens the blow and sort of makes a human want to get turned into a rodent by a witch.

Keeping the grand high witches’ names in a black filofax

Both for how early ’90s it is, and how ordinary and practical.

 

 

It’s 1988: Let’s All Decorate For Halloween!

Welcome to another edition of Let’s All Decorate! This month, we’re taking a look back at a creepy, garish, zany time, a time when people decorate their homes in the loudest, wackiest fashion imaginable … oh, and also Halloween.

It’s true- the 80s were a rough era, design-wise. So you’d think that incorporating the second-tackiest holiday of the year (after Valentine’s Day) would make things even crazier. However, that discounts one major development of the 2000s: the Halloween-industrial complex.

When we were growing up, the slate of Halloween activities was fairly limited. There were pumpkin patches, which were seriously just places where pumpkins were grown and sold. I thought I remembered a witch at the one we frequented in my childhood, but no: it was just a cauldron. Haunted houses and haunted hayrides existed. You’d have your classroom party, and you’d trick or treat. That sounds like a full month of fun to me, but as someone who’s recently taken kids to a “pumpkin patch” that features pumpkin catapults, a zip line, and go-carts, I can vouch that times have changed.

The simpler Halloween celebrations extended to home decor. My mom was notably Halloween-obsessed, and we had Halloween candles throughout the house, molded to look like ghosts and Frankensteins. We had a windsock that wailed whenever there was a loud noise, which meant that every family argument in October was punctuated by plaintive moans of  “ooo-OOOO-ooo.” There were stretchy cobwebs, plastic graves, and probably some fuzzy spiders. We hung a string of pumpkin-shaped lights in the window.

And that’s it. That was extreme in the late 80s and early 90s. It was before every family had a bin of fall decor that came out after Labor Day. Trick-or-treaters weren’t greeted by animatronic witches, and googley, glowing eyes didn’t peak out from the attic windows of half the houses on the block.

Wall hangings were pretty popular at the time. My mom was a teacher, and those bulletin-board shapes from Teacher’s World were tacked up around our downstairs. I think some non-teacher-kid friends had them too, though. By the way, Teacher’s World smelled like cold coffee breath, exactly like you’d expect.

Just like this. In fact, I’m positive we had the cat one – I was a 6-year-old cat lady, and I loved it the best.

Then there were the candles. In one of my earliest Halloween memories, my brothers were bickering over candy. As things escalated, my mother erupted at them – and just as she started yelling, all of the candles in the room flared spectacularly.

We lost our best vampire candle that day.

The survivors are in my house now, nestled among succulents which I imagine are the spookiest members of the plant kingdom, fly traps notwithstanding.

The survivors are in my house now, nestled among succulents – which I imagine are the spookiest members of the plant kingdom, fly traps notwithstanding.

If you were the kind of family who had an elaborate Christmas village with glittery cotton snow and tiny Victorian people, then you probably had a Halloween village, too:

In a lot of houses, Halloween treat buckets were sort of decor unto themselves. As I said, the options were more limited. Before so many parents proudly declared that their kids NEVER have McDonald’s, the Happy Meal bucket was the gold standard:

In another instance of combining form and function, we gathered our leaves in plastic bags that looked like pumpkins. Now more and more municipalities have moved to collecting loose leaves – which makes sense, because they can decompose a lot better when they’re not in bags – and these are becoming a thing of the past:

I’m sure they existed long before the late 80s, but crafty moms were especially into tissue ghosts:

The tissue-paper honeycomb industry was red-hot in the 80s, and there were standup decorations for every holiday, Halloween included:

The suction cup market was doing okay, too, as evidenced by these spider webs that were in my home and classrooms every October:

All of the coolest characters got into the Halloween spirit, and in a time when people weren’t as into integrating holiday decorations with their grown-up decor themes, these seemed like a legit thing to hang in your kitchen:But clearest in my memory – nay, in the memory of everyone growing up in a pack of argumentative siblings – was the dancing, wailing ghost windsock, which I’m now realizing my parents probably hung in our living room to mock us during our October fights.

(Un)sexy Halloween Costumes That Need To Stop

Every Halloween since 2004, I always imagine this scene in my head when judging other people’s costumes:

So listen, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what I think about your revealing costume, ladies. You do you. But also, like, respect yourself. Respect others. And by respect others, I mean don’t be dumb and wear a barely there costume even if you insult a group of people in the process. I don’t actually know if this trend came to the forefront in recent years or what, but when did women start wearing less and less and less for Halloween instead of costumes like Kady Herron’s? I don’t get the appeal of these “sexy” versions of “unsexy” costumes, so, men, is it primarily just to get into women’s pants/skirts? Because, ugh. Come on. There are plenty of outfits ladies can wear that doesn’t make them just objects of sexual desire, and still get the point across of what they are. Here are just some of the costumes I’ve come across that are extremely questionable and completely unnecessary to be “sexed” up.

“Sexy” Donald Trump

I feel like for a lot of these will just be me going, “WHY. WHY?” So, WHY. WHY? Also that wig is 10 million times better than Trump’s hair ever will be.

“Sexy” Cecil the Lion

It’s also worth noting that most of these costumes are from this trash website Yandy.com, so at least they have a demographic, I guess. Re: this particular costume, it’s obviously a controversial news item (and maybe not as timely?), but among the many problems with this is that technically TECHNICALLY Cecil has passed away, therefore rendering this costume invalid. Although I guess people dress up like dead people all the time, so nvm. It’s still poor form.

“Sexy” Pizza Rat

The only pro to this is the pockets that can probably fit a perfect piece of pizza for you to nibble on later, or drop on stairs in a NYC subway station.

“Sexy” Firewoman

It’s just not practical to have a crop top shirt and shorts in a fire. Also, unbutton shorts at that.

“Sexy” Referee

Because OF COURSE this referee’s jersey number is 69.

“Sexy” Golfer

Like the firewoman before her, golfing in a crop top is not conducive to getting birdies.

“Sexy” Soldier

And wearing a bikini top with bullets attached to it will be problematic after all of them are used.

“Sexy” Nun

This should be self-explanatory, but all I want to yell is, “I SAW GOODY SISTER CATHERINE WITH THE DEVIL!”

“Sexy” Native American

Not only is this not sexy, but it’s obviously offensive to an entire culture too. This is also a PSA encouraging everyone who’s thinking of dressing up that stereotyping any race is not a good idea. It’s never a good idea.

“Sexy” Mr. Peanut

Ok, one last WHY. WHY? I wasn’t aware Mr. Peanut needed to be “sexy” at all!

::endfeministrant::

 

Semi-Homemade Halloween Costumes – From Cory Matthews to Doonice

I think everyone grew up with certain things that just Were Not Done in their house. In my family, store-bought costumes fell in that category. It was a waste of money, and besides, Halloween was an opportunity to think hard, dream big, and get creative. Every Halloween involved a blowout trip to Goodwill or Salvation Army.

Don’t get me wrong. When I look at those elaborate handmade costumes floating around the internet this week, that age-old refrain pops into my head: ain’t nobody got time for that. I will not bedazzle a sweatshirt to turn myself into a human disco ball. I am not going to painstakingly dye and mold foam pieces to be a human hot dog. I’m not going to buy a glitzy minidress, craft an elaborate headpiece and become a sexy snowball.

No, I take my cues from Sandra Lee. Have you all seen Semi-Homemade With Sandra Lee? She takes storebought cakes and gussies them up, basically. That’s where I’m at with Halloween. I don’t want to walk into a Halloween party in a costume straight from Target, but I will buy something from a big-box store or Salvation Army, tweak a few elements, and come out with something more creative than what’s on the bag. But less creative than becoming a human carrot with a friend dressed as a giant cabbage. Come on. Who ARE these people? Let’s think simpler:

The Schuyler Sisters

See this generic Colonial woman? You can buy this costume at any of those pop-up Halloween stores, and there are versions at Target, too.

Grab two friends. Put one in the same, or almost the same costume.

Now, do you have that one friend who always insists on being a Sexy This or a Slutty That?

Cool. Get her this Little Bo Peep get up:

Now she’s Slutty Peggy Schuyler, AKA Maria Reynolds.

 

Anne(ie Hall) Of Green Gables. Or Pilgrim Felicity Merriman. Whatever.

annie hall of green gables

Let me tell you something about kids. They’re basically idiots. Even the smart ones. It’s not their fault, they just haven’t been alive long. If you have a daughter in that 6-12 year old range where they’re really into books and movies set a long time ago, you have it made. All you have to do is buy a long dress, or pair a maxi skirt with a blouse. It does NOT have to be a style that people actually wore at the time. You may know that shirtwaists didn’t come into vogue until the late 19th century, but if your nerdy kid wants to be Jo March, just give her a button-up and a long skirt and she’ll be none the wiser.

I’m not sure why I was wearing these weird old glasses and dorky hat for my Anne Of Green Gables costume when I was about 11, but I like to call the look Annie Hall Of Green Gables.

When I was Felicity Merriman in second grade, I wore a frilly blouse under a long, brown floral jumper dress that my mom wore in the ’70s. It was like Revolutionary War-era girl meets pilgrim meets hippie. Loved it. Anyway, that is my half-assed costume advice: put your daughter in a long dress or skirt and she’ll feel fancy.

Cory Matthews, Season 1

cory matthews

This was semi-homemade at its finest. I bought a $3 afro wig and trimmed it down a bit. I wore early 90s stonewash jeans, but any straight leg will do. I layered a flannel shirt over a $2 Phillies shirt. Bam. Cory Matthews from Boy Meets World, circa 1994.

Clarissa Darling

This works especially well if you’re a smaller adult. Just go to the children’s section of a thrift store and buy some cheap, bright leggings. Layer under overall shorts or a skirt. Put on a loud button up. Can you find a sunflower hat? Great. That’s great. Blonde wig if necessary. May I present Clarissa Darling of Clarissa Explains It All?

A Six Pack Of Diet Cokec65b266c-c687-4fd9-b2c9-6284f755b8f9_zps81e03060

Yes, my family really did this. Corrugated cardboard, spray paint, and apparently zero sense of shame went into this one. I’m the tiny one whose face isn’t obscured.

Doonice – Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Livedoonice

You’re going to need the following:

  • a wig cap – to move your hairline back
  • a wig, placed about 4 inches back from your natural hairline
  • a lounge singer-y dress with long sleeves and cuffs
  • a doll to dismember

Then watch the magic happen. People LOVED this one. Be sure to act extra creepy:

doonice 2

Joan Holloway Harris

In case you hadn’t caught on, I usually go with TV-based costumes. Joan’s an easy one: just pair a shift-dress with a pen on a chain around your neck, a broach, a bouffant hairdo, tan hose, and possibly some fake boobs.

 

Playlist of the Month: Songs By People Who Scare Me: The Second Coming

Halloween is in a few days, and it’s a good reminder of what will scare you and what won’t. More importantly, who are the people that will test your patience with their “pranks” with the excuse of “Halloween”? Then there are the people, namely musicians, that scare us year round, no matter October 31st or not.

In our second installment of Songs By People Who Scare Me, we pick another group of frightening artists who you won’t find on our Recently Played anytime soon. I mean, we’ve basically turned into a Hamilton blog, so these picks shouldn’t be too surprising.

<< Listen to the whole playlist on Spotify! >>

Molly’s Picks

Joanna Newsom – Sprout And The Bean

Joanna Newsom is adorable and talented, even if her voice isn’t for anyone. She’s one half of one of my favorite celebrity couples. She seems like she’d be a really cool girl in real life. That’s why I wish her music didn’t give me the willies. Maybe Joanna Newsom herself isn’t scary, but her music is what they’d play in my personal version of an exceptionally spooky haunted house. There would also be creepy dolls, a haunted dollhouse, and decrepit Miss Havisham and Baby Jane-type ladies. Shiver, shiver, shiver.

The Young Cons – The Problem

Cons as in Conservatives. They’re young, they’re white, they’re male, they’re rapping, good Lord, and they’re just the bros to get alll up in your personal health care choices and all out of government oversight of corporate activity. Word.

Insane Clown Posse – Night Of The Chainsaw

On one hand, I know that you cannot judge a person based on what music, television, or movies they enjoy.

On the other hand, I saw a young man in full ICP face makeup earlier this month, and my knee-jerk reaction was “yeah… there is definitely an above-average chance that he has tortured a cat in a basement.”

Yes, ICP was on the list last time, too, but last year it was Traci’s pick and this year it was mine. They terrify both of us.

Bobby Vee – Come Back When You Grow Up

Now, you might be thinking “Molls, this song is sketchy, but it’s just some random one-hit-wonder from the days when songs about old men wooing teens was de rigeur.” Right. Okay. But consider Bobby Vee’s other songs: Please Don’t Ask About Barbara, which sounds like a 1960s horror movie about a dead body who lives under his bed, and The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, which is a terrifying concept and a disturbing visual. One, two, three strikes, I’m out.

Justin Bieber – What Do You Mean?

This isn’t a lame We Hate Justin Bieber joke. There’s something about the kid that I find genuinely unsavory. He’s just the combination of smug, entitled, and twerpy that makes me feel like he’s capable of anything. He’s no Tiny Tim – my personal scariest musician ever – but it’s more that I feel like he’s the kind of adult who would pick on a nerdy child until it cried.

Traci’s Picks

Die Antwoord – I Fink You Freeky

This rap-rave group from South Africa has had a bunch of controversies follow them throughout the years. Namely, they’ve been called out for being homophobic and racist; using blackface in music videos and repeatedly using the N-word (they’re white). How one concert reviewer criticized one of Die Antwood’s concerts:

It doesn’t really make a difference how Die Antwoord explain themselves, or whether their fans read their imagery as satirical. Cuz it’s not just the KKK outfits but their overall source material, the way they blend skinhead white supremacy (disciplined, tough, angular) and trailer park white supremacy (incestuous, washed-out, sweatpants) with art school chic and punk rock apathy to produce a pastel shade of fascism that they just can’t cleanse themselves of, progressive provocateurs that they are. We can’t stop (cue the Miley, no innocent herself) because that’s the nature of trauma, of painful, disgusting, horrible, and incomprehensibly awful things like apartheid and institutionalized racism and guilt and blame and privilege. It produces word vomit; it escapes categorization; it demands to be brought to light. It drags us down with it. {x}

Also, “Fink” and “Freeky” are not words. Bye.

Drowning Pool – Bodies

Literally the lyrics to this song are “Let the bodies hit the floor” over and over and over again. TBH I can’t even watch these videos, but the still shot of a rando in a medical chair is enough for me to by scared.

Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell

Thanks to The Osbournes’ reality show, Ozzy was made more “human” if you will, as he’s long had this persona of a hardcore metal rocker who bit the head off an unconscious bat during a concert once. But still, his alter ego, his “Sasha Fierce” is frightening and continues to be despite him yelling “SHAROONNN” will never leave my head.

KISS – Rock & Roll All Nite

This song in particular doesn’t seem like it would come from a group of grown ass men decked out in black and white face paint and huge platform shoes. But it does, and come on let’s be real – if you ran into Gene Simmons in costume in a dark alley and he sticks out his tongue, you’d be scared too.

Rob Zombie – Dragula

This is the man who came up with House of 1000 Corpses in his MIND. WTF is going on up there.

Low-Fright Movie Night: Halloween Movies That Won’t Scare Your Pants Off

I love almost everything about Halloween. Candy? Awesome. Costumes? Fun! Falling leaves, cider, donuts, tacky decorations? Sure! But there’s one big part of the holiday I can’t get behind: being scared. Slasher movies gross me out. I love ghost stories and spooky stuff, but as night falls and I’m alone in my 105-year-old house, I really, really wish I had skipped it. Besides, there’s plenty of real-life stuff to be afraid of, like repaying my student loans, or the prospect that the dead mouse I found this morning has left a widow and children somewhere in my house. Scaring myself silly over things that probably don’t exist doesn’t help matters.

So what to do if you want to get into the Halloween spirit, but don’t want the Halloween spirit to keep you up in the middle of the night? Here are some of my favorite Halloween movies – either gently supernatural, or set during the season – that don’t leave me feeling all goosebumpy.

Harry Potter

Pick a Harry Potter, any Harry Potter! But for the gentle, slightly witchy fun I’m looking for – before things get quite so heavy and house elves start dying – I like to stick to the first three movies. The Halloween scene in Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s (/Philosopher’s) Stone is especially festive. Note: I have also convinced myself that some of the Harry Potter movies are Christmas-appropriate due to the occasional picturesque snowfall or Yuletide celebration in the Great Hall.

The Crucible

You know what’s REALLY scary? McCarthyism. While the only demon here was the mob mentality bred by religious fundamentalism (Halloween fun!!!), the talk of witches and rustic New England setting make this a great one to enjoy in October.

When the two of us were in high school, we covered this play in English (of course), and entertained ourselves for weeks by saying things like “I saw Goody Traci with the devil, she ‘ad ‘is poppet! She signed ‘is book!” in an inexplicably Cockney accent. Yes, we have always been exactly the people we are right now.

This is coming to Broadway with Saoirse Ronan and Tavi Gevinson as Puritan teens and I couldn’t be more excited.

E.T.

There’s an awesome trick-or-treating scene, plus aliens always feel like at least a Halloween-adjacent topic. Halloween always makes me feel a little nostalgic and this movie takes me right back to my childhood in the late 80s and early 90s.

Hocus Pocus

Speaking of nostalgia, nothing could bring me back to my youth in a better way than the Halloween classic Hocus Pocus. It has an all-star cast – Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker! – gorgeous visuals, a fun plot, and even takes it back to Colonial times like the Crucible did. This movie is from 1993, but I swear it’s timeless. You can read our live blog here.

The Witches

Based on the Roald Dahl book, this movie has all the offbeat, macabre fun you’d expect, but it’s silly enough that – for an adult, anyway – it isn’t going to haunt your dreams.

Edward Scissorhands

This list is leaning heavily to movies that were shown on cable a lot when I was a child, but whatever, the 80s and early 90s were apparently a great era for non-scary, dark paranormal movies. Tim Burton movies, on the whole, are great Halloween viewing if you’re easily spooked, because everything is sort of dark and rickety, but it’s also absurd enough that it won’t scare you. There will be more where this came from!

Beetlejuice

Aha! Here we are again. Even as a little kid, I thought Beetlejuice was more fun than scary. What could be more Halloween-appropriate than an old-school “scary” movie night with Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and a few more from this list? While Tim Burton is an easy match for a list like this I’m also noticing that this is the third Winona Ryder movie so far.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Rounding out our Tim Burton trilogy, The Nightmare Before Christmas has an awesome aesthetic, great songs, and is part of a true golden era of Halloween entertainment (it came out the same year as Hocus Pocus! I was one lucky second grader).

The Addams Family

And Addams Family values: part of the weird 90s trend of making feature films out of long-dead tv shows (see also: The Brady Bunch, Leave It To Beaver, The Beverly Hillbillies). But while the show never particularly tickled my funny bone, this movie – particularly deadpan Wednesday Addams, played by a too-talented-for-her-age Christina Ricci – still holds up pretty well.

Rocky Horror Picture Show

None of the goblins and ghouls in Rocky Horror are scary  – in fact, the only “scary” thing is maybe what a weird place we were at in the 70s. It’s a cult classic for a reason, with a farcical plot and catchy songs that are just as outlandish in 2015 as they were 40 years ago (while we’re at it: 40 years?! Round of applause for Susan Sarandon!).

Mean Girls

It’s not a Halloween movie, but the Halloween sequence is truly classic – and, for us nostalgia-heads, a great peak back in the Paris Hilton-y early 2000s. I still get a kick out of Cady in her “ex wife” costume. Much like Harry Potter, I also convince myself that this is a Christmas movie because there’s a Christmas scene in it.

Halloweentown

I saw (and live blogged) Halloweentown for the first time a few years ago because I didn’t have Disney as a kid, and was hit over the head by how deliciously late 90s it was. You can also follow up with Halloweentown II, Halloweentown High and Return To Halloweentown (but I didn’t).

The Village

Fun(?) fact: I worked at a movie theater at the time and multiple customers told me I looked like “that girl in The Village” and I’m not sure that was meant to be a compliment, pretty as Bryce Dallas Howard is in other movies.

This isn’t M. Night Shyamalan’s most acclaimed movie, but it IS his least scary! By the end, when the Shyamalan-required twist is revealed, you will probably not be shaking in your boots – but it does have just the right amount of atmospheric spookiness and autumn scenery to make you feel like you tried. It’s like the movie version of going on the tilt-a-whirl, but not the upside down roller coaster.

Tower Of Terror

Look. It’s a TV movie based on a  Disney theme park ride. Enough said? But it’s sort of fun in a 1930s-meets-1990s way.

Kiki’s Delivery Service

I’m not into cartoons – well, except for Disney, Pixar, and Bob’s Burgers – but Hayao Miyazaki knows how to make cartoons that appeal to anyone who likes a well-made film. Kiki is a young witch flying around on a broomstick, but … I don’t know. It’s just a really nicely made movie. If you’re keeping count of the 90s child starlets, this is the second consecutive Kirsten Dunst movie. She’s gaining on Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci!

Honorable Mentions

If you like classics, To Kill A Mockingbird and Meet Me In St. Louis both have fantastic trick or treating scenes. And Goonies – which for me personally just doesn’t feel like Halloween – definitely wouldn’t be out of place either.