When every day is Halloween

Image by Guy James Whitworth.

A diabolical year featuring a deadly plague and assorted other horrors means this year’s All Hallows’ Eve will be like no other, writes Guy James Whitworth. 

Halloween 2020 is going to prove very interesting. How do you parody a year’s horrors if that year has been nothing but horrors? 

Most Halloween costumes this year should be worn with a trigger warning, at least. Anyone who’s been struggling with anxiety for the past twelve months best go to bed on 30 October and not surface for several days. Whereas anybody who hasn’t struggled with anxiety this year, well, actually … who am I kidding?

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Tiger King, toilet rolls, Covid-19 virus cells, a decrepit Joe Biden and (a hopefully defeated) Donald Trump are all trending as costumes this year, for obvious reasons.  

‘Lockdown fat suits’ are also trending, but I shan’t be writing about that because, well, I feel personally attacked by that theme. 

For almost ten years I used to work at/run The Costume Shop in Surry Hills. Almost a decade after I left, people still occasionally shout “The costume man!” when they see me at parties. 

I also had quite a cruisy side-hustle of styling videos and making costumes for burlesque girls and drag queens. My speciality was a quick to remove corset that pulled in tight and pushed up high in all the right places. Lemme tell ya, them burlesque girls sure knew how to tip for quality costumes; nobody appreciates a hustler like a hustler! 

The gig worked well for me and, looking back, I suppose I was ‘the costume man’; ain’t no getting away from it. 

Amusingly, there are still drag queens working on Oxford Street who refuse to acknowledge me, because although I made their costumes for many years, they’d always pretended they made their own frocks without any help.   

I know, I’m sorry, as if 2020 wasn’t bad enough, I had to drop the bombshell that some drag queens tell lies! 

I’ve always found Halloween to be a weird event in Sydney. It’s massive in certain circles and age groups, totally nothing in others. 

Back in London, where I’m from, it was more established but also more half-arsed. People would make an effort, but specifically not much of an effort, summing up pretty much the whole of British life. It was cool to care, just not too much.

Traditionally, the trick of putting the word ‘sexy’ in front of your outfit works for every Halloween costume option. Sexy nurse, sexy doctor, sexy Covid-19 virus cell (although, what would that look like exactly?). Nobody is interested in your home-made hand-sanitiser bottle outfit unless it’s a sexy hand-sanitiser bottle outfit. Oh yeah, baby, pump that nozzle! 

Do prepare for a second global wave of PPE shortages this year, kicking in right about now.

Halloween costume ideas: Video: Quantastic/YouTube.

Sometimes, simple is best. A couple of years ago I was invited to a certain magazine editor’s Halloween party (you know who you are) at the very last minute (did someone shout ring in?) and I didn’t have an outfit ready – so I spent a couple of hours applying horrifically realistic gashes, scars, bruises and blood to my partner and I. 

We looked like we’d just stepped out of a plane crash with torn clothes and caked-on blood. As I have a shaven/bald head, I even put a huge gash down the middle of my head with fake brains (made of sticky, chewy lollies) spilling out. Grotesque and delicious! 

As we walked through Darlinghurst, people literally screamed and ran perilously into oncoming traffic to get away from us! We stopped at an ATM and a small, oldish Chinese woman ran up to us, highly concerned, to check we were okay. (It’s worth noting she was the only one who did.)

We tried to explain it was a costume, but that didn’t compute and, in the end, still very concerned for our wellbeing, she walked away shaking her brolly into the night air shouting, “I hope you get the bastards!” (who, I’m guessing, she believed attacked us). In summary, my make-up was possibly too convincing.  

I still have lots of friends who make costumes and three of them have been approached by different people to make ‘dumpster fire’ outfits. Ha, the entire feel of 2020 summarised in one easy to wear outfit! 

You know when somebody makes a tasteless joke about someone who’s passed away, and they follow it with ‘too soon?’ Well, I think to spare unnecessary anxiety and trauma this year, we might all have to stick to the classics and not rely too heavily on the events of the last few months in order to get our Halloween look happening.  

Some of my favourite all time Halloween costumes are:

– Jackie Onassis in pillbox hat with veggie-sausage brains stuck to the front of her channel dress. Only effective if the wearer casually picks at and chews the ‘brains’ as the evening progresses. 

– An Elvis costume with a fake poo sticking out the back (click here if that doesn’t make sense) and a fried peanut and banana sandwich in hand.  

–  Donald Trump. Although do expect to get punched and kicked a lot, and that’s probably even before you leave the house. 

– Kylie Minogue’s classic white hooded jumpsuit – but only to be worn by very hirsute men who are prepared to model the brave yet seductive ‘moose knuckle’ effect (try getting that look out of your head).

– Evil clowns. I never get bored of this one. Everybody hates spooky clowns and really, have you even lived unless your Uber driver pulls away at speed without you and you have to walk fourteen blocks to the party in huge flappy clown shoes? (Why, yes, I do speak from firsthand experience.)

Whatever costume you end up rocking this year, incorporate a mask, stay safe, stay distanced, stay in if you have any flu-like symptoms, and don’t put yourself or anyone else at any risk. 

There’s always another Halloween next year, and who the hell knows what fresh horrors and hitherto unseen outfits we could be dealing with then?

Guy James Whitworth is a Sydney artist and author. His website is located at www.guyjameswhitworth.com.