Inspiration: I've searched the latest popular movies for costume ideas. I also look around at every day objects to become a sandwich, toilet, BBQ or Statue. I've found it's been items resembling something else that get me started and are usually the headpiece. A take out foil dish was shaped into a beer bottle cap, a discarded star burst wall clock transformed me into the statue of Liberty, lamp shades became toothpaste caps and so on. Let your imagination take hold and go with the flow!
Quick one piece outfits: the disposable zip up painters garb are the best for complicated suits to create creatures such as a fire breathing dragon, and several dinosaurs I once designed. Take them outside on an old hanger and spray paint your skin patterns and stitch or staple on the little extras with cardboard, cut up recycled plastic bottles, garbage bags and anything that is lightweight, inexpensive that can be molded into pouches, wattles, scales, horns etc.
Heads and props: Paper maché is my friend! As a kid I learned how to recycle old newspapers mixed with flour and water into masks and puppet heads using balloons or plasticine as your mould. Once dry they are cut in half and separated from solid moulds or the balloon is popped. A cardboard box that has already been sized to your head can be adapted quite well too! I made the dragon head this way as well as helped with a cow head once. Don't forget the glue gun for easy assembly and adding texture!
Resources: Large pieces of fabric can be picked up for a song at second hand shops. Think curtains and bedsheets. Existing flowing fabric outfits such as housecoats, gowns, and over sized clothing can be adapted for your particular purpose. Even regular clothes can be used for things such as stuffing them to make spare limbs. On garbage day my eyes tend to rove along the curb looking for who knows what. There are vacuum cleaner hoses for robotic arms, cardboard boxes, sofa sponges (for really big feet!). Again think outside the box and take a second look at that lampshade, picture frame (become a work of art!) and don't be shy to flip things upside down for a new perspective to unleash that creativity!
Make up: With all the great special effect prosthetic parts and fake skin available today it's easy to overlook another relative of paper maché, tissue paper and tea tinted sugar water. It's sticky and messy but once dry can be coloured with foundation, fake blood etc., for a truly ghoulish home made effect. Recipes abound online!
Styling those cheap wigs: Hot curling irons are a no go. You're working with plastic and things tend to melt or worse burn! The best method is to use boiling water. Use a wig brush instead of a regular one and set hair with rollers, or by braiding for that wavy look. Then either dip the entire wig or just the styled parts into a large pot of boiling water that has been removed from the stove. Use tongs and a thick towel to squeeze out the excess water after it has set a few minutes. Hang to dry outside if you can and allow yourself plenty of drying and styling time. This is not a last minute job.
An important construction tip to keep in mind when creating your masterpiece is you have to fit through doorways and inside vehicles, you need to see to drive and get around. You eventually may dance and then need to sit down, eat, drink and go to the bathroom! Make parts removable, leave openings for access and measure before completion of the finished product. At the event I always carry along an emergency repair kit with spirit gum to reattach mustaches, safety pins to hold things back in place, needles and thread, touch up make-up and even duct tape. It all depends on how you put it together in the first place. Plan to dress lightly because it can get quite hot! Bring along a change of clothes as a back up for total disasters on the way home.
Halloween is the perfect opportunity for us to wear a mask and be someone we aspire to be if only for one day. It is also a way to release your inhibitions and allow your amateur acting talents to run wild. Steer clear of perfection after all, the ultimate goal is to have fun!