For adults like me, Oct. 31 is a great day. And, no, it's not because my youngest son will turn 26 that day and thankfully be too old for the draft Dubya assures us will not ever happen. (Talk about scary.) It's because Oct. 31 is Halloween, a chance for adults to create costumes, to frighten others and to get scared silly—all in fun.
By now you're thinking, "I've seen it all," what with the dollar stores and retail chains full of witch hats, capes, crowns, feather boas, devils' ears and tails, Bubba-teeth and all sorts of make-up kits since right after Labor Day. Not.
"The Halloween Handbook: Dress-Up for Grown-Ups" by Bridie Clark and Ashley Dodd (Workman Publishing, $12.95) and "The Original Duct Tape Halloween Book" by Jim and Tim, the Duct Tape Guys (Workman Publishing, $8.95) take a decidedly different tack.
Clark and Dodd happily provide you with 447 costume ideas as well as "The History of Halloween," and all sorts of topical stuff. They tell you what to use to stick things to your skin, how to make your very own wart from scratch, what to do with those hideous bridesmaid dresses, and Top 10 lists of Halloween books, family-friendly movies, terrifying flicks and classic camp Halloween movies. They explain "The Etymology of 'Bonfire.'" It started out as a bone-fire when the Celts sacrificially burned animals, and their bones, but eventually evolved—thanks to the French—into bon-(good)-fires which only conjure up memories of snuggling with your cutie on a crisp fall evening.
Fourteen chapters fill the book with loads of Halloween costume ideas. In the section entitled "Play With Your Words," you've got Bloomin' Idiot, Freudian Slip and White Trash. Being a flower-lover myself, I favor Bloomin' Idiot, especially the part about every village having one, except, according to a bumper sticker I've seen somewhere, there's this village in Texas that is missing its idiot. Anyway, the costume is sort of a nerd outfit covered in flowering vines and silk flowers. You're supposed to paint flowers on your face, too.
Then, in "Movie and TV Characters" my favorites are Edward Scissorhands and Kramer. Edward is easy, although it could be a challenge to find "two bundles of three dull pairs of scissors," but I'll just bet Kramer's outfit is waiting at your neighborhood thrift shop or your daddy's closet.
Many people go to parties with socializing in mind, but find it hard to break the ice. So, there's a chapter called "Crowd Participation" and one called "For the Group." It goes way out on a limb with costumes for an unlimited number—An Epidemic and Gangrene. Then there's A Six Pack for six people, duh. In the chapter called "A Movable Feast," I like the Tea Bag best, all except for the dried and crushed leaves, too much of a chance for creepy crawlees. I'd have to spray paint those styrofoam peanuts and use them.
All in all, I'd have to say this book should have a hallowed spot in those houses where grown-ups still like to play dress-up, any ole' time they please. Don't worry, though, it does have stuff for the kiddies, too.
I'm not so sure that Jim and Tim's book of duct-tape costumes should be given to the very young because they already get to have enough fun with that silvery gray sticky stuff while adults only get to use duct tape for repairs. Now it's the grown-ups' time to, as the guys say on the book's cover, make use of "over 101 clever costume ideas and the general stupidity you've come to expect from Jim & Tim." It's true, these brothers-in-laws have produced five other books about duct tape, and a video and a calendar!
From "Basic Training: Duct Tape Cloth," to "Duct Tape Online," the book is sprinkled with duct-tape-gray columns called "General Stupidity from the Duct Tape Guys" and several "30-Second Costume" ideas as well as "Big-Deal Costumes."
There's an Edward Scissorhands here, too, with the scissors taped all across the back of your hands instead of dangling in bundles. And the duct-tape guys introduce us to Edward's half-brother, Howard Officesupplyhands who has a stapler, paper punch, ruler and other office supplies taped to his hands. What else?
If that's not weird enough for you, how about a costume called Moral Fiber? You make your own "stone" Ten Commandments tablets—out of duct-tape covered cardboard—to carry around while wearing a box of bran flakes on your head. You'll have to be careful with attaching stuff to your person, making sure that first you make duct tape cloth—it's not sticky on either side once you're finished—then tape a strip of that around your box of bran and your head, or you'll pull out your hair. Tape a white duct tape Moses beard and tape it to your chin and you're ready to come off the mountain.
You're going to be the life of the party, no matter which version of Edward Scissorhands you've decided to be. And when it's time to accept your "most original" costume award, be sure to thank Workman Publishing for these two clever books.
You can find both books at Lemuria.