Halloween advice for procrastinators
Halloween, like other major holidays, separates people into two categories.
As October 31 approaches, some are busy adding the final flourishes to painstakingly crafted costumes, anxiously waiting to début the pièce de résistance. They take their time, carefully stitching the final seams and relishing these last moments of creation, sure to dazzle friends with their sartorial finesse, creativity and wit.
But others, myself included, are left scrambling to find something, anything even remotely festive, before the ghosts come out to play.
Welcome to The Party Bazaar, your one-stop costume shop and a Vancouver institution since 1977.
Step across the threshold on 2nd Avenue and Columbia into a world of witches, warlocks, vampires and sexy (insert just about anything here). Feast your eyes on the wall of fangs, pick up a strand of Mardi Gras beads, or transform yourself into the pop icon du jour. You've arrived at the ultimate dress-up chest for adults and children of all ages.
Shirt and tie not required. Broomsticks, on the other hand, are essential.
I sat down with Michael Nathanson, marketing manager, to drum up some last minute costume ideas and discuss a trick-or-treating controversy.
Nafezia Mohamed, sales associate, shows off her poker face
If you're craving something slightly more risqué than you would usually wear, you're not alone, Nathanson said. Sexy costumes are always popular. "According to my colleague, the shorter the skirt the better," he said.
The sexy stewardess and nurse are always hot choices, and this year Lady Gaga is living for The Fame.
Pop culture is a rich source of inspiration at Halloween. "Avatar is huge this year...[and] vampires are very popular. We have a myriad of fangs."
Nathanson paused, opened his top desk drawer and pulled out a set of custom-made teeth, explaining how they work. "See! It doesn't even look like they are fake!"
Come All Hallows' Eve, many people will don a spangled vest and white glove in an homage to the king of pop. "We have a whole area dedicated to Michael Jackson."
Nathanson can't say whether MJ's popularity rose after his death. But, one thing's for sure, "Everybody loves you when you’re dead."
The Party Bazaar sells Stephen Harper masks, but with the mid-term elections coming up Barack and Michelle Obama masks have been flying off the shelves. Besides, Canadians might be too self-deprecating to celebrate with their own politicians, Nathanson told me. "I actually haven’t seen a St. Laurent mask or a Mackenzie King mask."
"Both American and Canadian politicians are popular, but because we are so inundated with American culture and American television, people always want to fun it up a little by picking up an Obama mask, a Michelle mask, a Nixon or Clinton," he said.
There seems to be more cult of personality about American politicians, so when people want to engage and embrace that side of themselves, perhaps they’ll lean towards the American politicians, Nathanson explained.
For those of us who want to avoid breaking the bank while still looking fabulous, Nathanson has one word: pirates.
"Women can wear high black boots and a black dress and get a nice pirate hat and you’re done. Same with guys. There’s the moustache, you can tuck your pants into high boots, a white bellowing shirt, an eye patch, a hat, bandana."
Dressing up doesn't have to mean shelling out big bucks for one night of fun. There are many ways to re-engineer a costume for extra mileage with the right accessories. "A lot of people think witches are overdone but that's not true at all. With make-up, moles, scars and wigs you can re-make your look every year," said Nathanson.
When it comes to dressing up as someone from a different culture, it's easy to wade into problematic territory.
It has to be done respectfully, Nathanson said. "If you’re doing something strictly to mock a different culture, of course that’s reprehensible and you’ll have to deal with those consequences." On the other hand, there are people who will want to dress up as someone from a different culture because they have a deep respect for that culture, he said.
"It’s up to you to be your own moral compass."
Nathanson sinks his fangs into the juiciest costume ideas
Nathanson, who plans to be Nosferatu this Sunday, has seen his fair share of daring Halloween attire but only one costume stands out in his mind as especially striking.
Last year, one of his bands played a show at the Undertaker's Ball. He spied a woman in the audience who had fashioned herself as murder of crows. "She was dressed as sort of a tree that you would find in a typical Halloween cemetery. She had all kinds of twigs and cobwebs and a whole bunch of crows nesting in her hair."
"It was truly remarkable. It was so unique and so much thought went into it."
When you've finally settled on your look, it's time to figure out the best way to show it off. Depending on your age, you might scour the neighbourhood, scouting out the houses with the best treat stashes.
This tradition has recently come under fire in the U.S., but not because of poison candy apples. Some cities have set age limits on trick-or-treating, threatening teenagers with fines or jail time.
Age limits might not be necessary in Vancouver, but Nathanson thinks that we should leave this Halloween tradition to the younger folks.
"While I would kind of love to go door-to-door trick-or-treating, it gives kids something that’s theirs and theirs alone. There’s so few opportunities for kids to have that individual pursuit. I think going trick-or-treating is a great way for kids to get together and have a lot of fun."
But wait, what if, like me, you still can't make up your mind on a costume? How can you decide on that one uniquely ghoulish, comical, witty or scandalous outfit that will set you apart from the crowd?
"Be creative," said Nathanson. "The reason why I think Halloween is so popular is it allows you to engage a side of your personality that you would not otherwise indulge. As long as you’re being creative, there are no hard and fast rules to Halloween. Don’t shy away from any ideas."
The Party Bazaar will soon be moving to a new location. Visit them at their new haunt, 1296 Station Street, next to Main and Terminal. They will be open on Halloween from 10-8 p.m. at their current address, 215 W 2nd Ave.