Some people go all out on Halloween to try to win contests or impress their friends. Others throw something—anything—together so that their regular look isn't confused for a "sweet zombie-office-worker costume." But even if you’re putting together a costume at the last minute, there’s no reason it needs to be boring. Below, find five tweaks to standard costume ideas that make them cuter, creepier, or just plain weirder.
Standard costume: black cat
Better costume: Felix the Cat
What you’ll need: black shirt, pants, gloves or mittens, and stocking cap; cat-ear headband; stiff wire; black cardboard
How to do it: Use scissors to cut out a couple of "HA"s, musical notes, or exclamation points from the cardboard, then use lengths of wire to attach them to the headband part of the cat ears at various angles. Slip the completed headpiece over the stocking cap.
At the party: Maintain silence. When someone makes a joke, tilt back your head, open your mouth wide, and shake with glee.
Standard costume: angel
Better costume: Saint Barbara, patron saint of thunderstorms and fireworks
What you’ll need: long robe, sheet, or tablecloth to drape over your shoulders; length of rope or belt; shoulder bag; silver or yellow poster board; box of sparklers and lighter; rainstick (optional)
How to do it: Cut a few large lightning-bolt shapes out of the poster board, long enough that their tops are visible when placed in the shoulder bag along with the various other loose accessories.
At the party: Periodically shake the rainstick and light the sparklers. Share your origin story: the Christian daughter of a murderous pagan, you summoned lightning to kill your father in retribution for beheading you, then embarked on a posthumous career protecting people who work with explosives.
Standard costume: nurse
Better costume: 19th-century bloodletter
What you’ll need: shirt with sleeves rolled up; vest; vampire cape or similar cloak; pack of leech-style fishing lures; top hat and doctor’s bag (optional)
How to do it: Stick the leeches all over your forearms and other exposed skin (they’re slightly tacky, so you shouldn’t need any adhesive).
At the party: Offer to adjust the humors of fellow guests. Occasionally swoon.
Standard costume: French maid
Better costume: Amelia Bedelia
What you’ll need: dark dress with sleeves; full white apron; mary janes; blue brimmed hat or kerchief; large flowers (real or fake); large bath sponge; tube of frosting
How to do it: Affix the flowers to the front of your headwear (this is Amelia Bedelia here—no need to be too careful about it). Squeeze the frosting in a design of your choosing onto the sponge. It’s a sponge cake!
At the party: Seize every opportunity for pun-based misunderstandings—with any luck, somebody will ask you to draw the curtains, make a toast, or take the lights down. If anyone gets annoyed, promise baked goods.
Standard costume: ghost
Better costume: ghost chili pepper
What you’ll need: cheap or old red sheet, green hat, rubber bands
How to do it: Cut eyeholes (and a mouth hole if you really love breathing) in the sheet as you would for a traditional ghost costume. Put it on, then gather the sheet at the bottom—leaving room for your legs on either side—and twist the sheet together in the center to create a chili-like shape. Secure with a rubber band or two, or simply tie a knot. Put on the hat to form a leaf or stem.
At the party: “Burn” people all night with your great one-liners.
Illustration: © Jen Jackson, Groupon