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A Beloved Costume

Once I was old enough to choose, my favorite Halloween costumes were always those I felt I could hide in as much as possible. It became a struggle the older I got. Costumes for teenage and adult women never really suited what I wanted. For someone who never wanted to feel exposed, I didn’t have a lot of options.

There were a few, store-bought, that I remember with fondness. A medieval princess dress, a Jedi knight’s robes, a Starfleet uniform. The thing all these had in common were long sleeves, high necks, and, probably most importantly, an attachment to something I was a huge nerd about. History, sci-fi, and fantasy, my three major areas of interest.

To this day, though, my favorite costume was one I wore Sophomore year of high school. It didn’t come as a complete set but was something I collected together for the occasion. The costume’s centerpiece, which the ensemble built around, was a black cloak.

Cloak is the best descriptor I can come up with for this piece of clothing. Think Victorian Era outerwear. It fulfilled my criteria perfectly, meaning it rendered the silhouette of my body a largely shapeless mass. Beneath, I wore a black shirt and black pants, and black leather gloves on my hands. I lived in Southern California, and even in October, I was still rather hot, but it was very much worth it to me. While I can’t remember the shoes, I’m confident I owned some sort of black dress shoe and wore that.

There were two finishing touches to this costume. A black bowler hat, because it felt incomplete without some sort of hat, and it felt right with the ensemble. And, lastly, bright red lipstick.

The lipstick part interests me in hindsight. It was fully my idea, as the costume wasn’t based on anything but what I’d assembled. I only ever wore makeup as a part of stage costuming for plays, dance recitals, or other special occasions. It wasn’t a part of my daily routine then, and it still isn’t now. And yet, when my goal for costumes was to always pursue my own comfort above any aesthetic, this eye-catching piece of makeup seems an interesting choice.

I just felt, at the time, the costume needed something. Something more. There was something striking, at least in my mind, about the combination of all-black with a hint of bright red. Maybe it’s the unsettling twist of something unexpected, or maybe it’s just that red evokes blood. Either way, red is a friend of black when trying to get into a spooky spirit.

It is the one costume from my teenage life I still have a photo of personally. I’m lucky to have it because I’m not the one who took it, but I’m grateful that if any costumed photo of mine is going to be out there, it’s that one. If there’s any representation I could return to again, it would be that.

I don’t wear costumes anymore as an adult, not due to a lack of desire but because my current social circle doesn’t particularly invite it. It would be nice, I think, to make a return to celebration, a return to wearing a costume. I would like to experience the feeling of transformation once again.

Maybe this year will be the one.

By: Sarah Horn, @sdavida on twitter

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