Costume Dramas

If the idea of dressing as a ghost this Halloween seems more ho-hum than horrifying, consider taking the high concept road to frightfulness.

October 30, 2005|By STEPHANIE SHAPIRO | STEPHANIE SHAPIRO,SUN REPORTER

Even as a child, Jaime Bogardy didn't want to fit in. On Halloween, that meant no garden variety goblins, witches or dinosaurs for her. Bogardy, now a Goucher College sophomore, had to be something extraordinary - extraordinarily ordinary, that is. When she was 12, Bogardy dressed up as a shower.

"I took a piece of metal piping and with the help of my construction worker dad, we bent it into a circle and connected the sides," the Perry Hall resident says.

"We bought a cheap shower curtain and rings ... so the `shower' was enclosed," Bogardy says. A real faucet was added, as were blue streamers to simulate shower spray. Then Bogardy donned a waterproof cap and took her shower on the road.

"It's more amusing and more unique when people dress up as ordinary things, because that's what's unordinary," says Bogardy, a French major. "You don't expect to see a shower walking down the street on Halloween."

Among the Batmans, ghosts and tarnished presidents stalking the streets and haunting parties every Halloween are those high-concept concoctions that demand ingenuity and chutzpah to pull off. Whether memorable for being ultra ordinary, clever or tasteless, these costumes thinly mask the inventive minds of those who create them.

Even a casual survey of memories of Halloweens past abounds with examples of uncommon disguises, including a Freudian slip, Mt. Rushmore, assault and battery (think salt shaker and the Energizer Bunny), static cling, sushi, "sexual harassment," the Red Scare, the classic video game Tetris, a coat hanger, a laundry basket, a commode, milk and cookies, three blind mice, a six-pack of beer and a tick.

Visual puns are a staple of this slightly more cerebral tier of Halloweening. Over the past 15 years, during the Halloween season, medical transcriptionist Frieda Harden of Eugene, Ore., has startled co-workers, university students at her old job and choir mates with her cinematic masterpiece, "Double Feature."

"I got the idea when I saw a `mutant' on an MTV video," Harden says. "The creature had double arms, double legs and four sets of breasts. I thought to myself that she should also have had double facial features."

With eyebrow pencils, eye shadow and other cosmetic implements, Harden, 54, gives herself an extra pair of eyes and eyebrows as well as a spare nose and mouth. The result is disconcertingly realistic. People "can't help from staring," she says. "They're trying to be polite. They think I'm some freak of nature and that they shouldn't be staring at me."

Once, when the two-faced Harden wandered into a Halloween bash at a local hotel, a reveler who had been at the bar for a while took one look and swore aloud, " `I'm never going to take another drink,' " Harden says.

On Halloween, "inanimate objects or ideas and abstractions are more interesting to do," says Lisa Simeone, host of NPR's World of Opera and a Baltimore resident. "For instance, a friend of mine [once] came as the Jersey Turnpike." Simeone's own disguises revel in word play. She has dressed more than once as "The proof in the pudding," a costume that involved wearing the words "Euclidean proof" and untold pudding boxes.

Other witty creations worn by Simeone include "The Body Politic," a multi-lingual intepretation of the social concept; and as "Amazon.com," an idea for which she credits a friend named Mark Mobley.

The phrases and images that recycle through popular culture often inspire costumes that go beyond the pale and the ghastly.

Catonsville resident Christine A. Rowett remembers a distant Halloween when she donned a long wool plaid blazer, short, striped summer skirt, high heels, knee socks and "probably some ill-fitting hat." When asked about the costume, Rowett, a public relations professional, took her cue from a magazine feature that protected the identities of unstylish women. She would place a black index card over her face and explain, "I'm a Glamour magazine fashion `don't.' "

Clever costumes can materialize in response to current events and crises. In 2001, "I had been working for my first dot.com and got laid off that year as did everybody in the company," says Janet Renze, who was living in Seattle at the time. That Halloween, she partied as a "pink slip," with resume and correspondence pinned to her shirt.

Friends "thought it was hilarious," says Renze, 36, who now lives in Mitchellville and is at home with her young son.

Last Halloween, Mike Wallace, a Gilman School middle school science teacher, came to work as "cloudy with a chance of showers." Puffy cotton ball clouds dotted his blue shirt and yellow lightning bolts streaked across his gray slacks. Wallace packed a squirt bottle to provide the requisite showers.

With Halloween costumes, the idea is more important than the execution, says Wallace, 33. "The energy I put into my costume is usually in the form of how creative the costume's concept is," he says. "I look to be something that is unique and overlooked as a costume possibility."

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