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Helpful Halloween Costume Tips From an Athens Queen

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from the Halloween chapter of Gloria Vanderbilt’s Complete Guide to Jeans and Etiquette, originally published in 1978. Ming Vase-Dynasty continues to be the editor-in-chief of the premier tome for protocol and panoply. 

So you waited until the last minute to plan your Halloween costume. Don’t fret. Why, Dick and I were so busy moving into our new house that we completely forgot to plan our Halloween costumes for the homeowners’ association’s annual costume party. Halloween is the perfect time to display your best assets: brilliance, beauty and craftiness (heretofore known as BBC). I’ve been called a triple threat before, and not just the time I was charged as an accessory to murder. 

Luckily, Gloria Vanderbilt jeans give me the perfect look for my costume. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but between us, my Eyes of Laura Mars Tommy Lee Jones costume will be a hit. Me dressed as a man? No one will expect that. Sadly, I find myself still trying to decide what to do with Dick. He’s just such a handful. After a long day at the office, I know he’s too exhausted to do costume construction, but we need to beat Brenda at the costume contest. Brenda thinks her yard is so perfect. It’s not a compliment when I tell you I’m amazed that your hydrangeas are different colors. It means your soil’s pH level isn’t balanced, Brenda. 

One day, Dick said to me, “Darling, you’re so talented. You’re a triple threat, and not just because one time that D.A. called you that. But I’m worried you’re going to exhaust yourself making our costumes. Why don’t we create a costume that looks great but can be made using simple items found in every home?” 

Dick loves local joke costumes. There’s a man in our neighborhood who loves Richard Nixon, because he thought he brought “law and order” to our streets. Even after his resignation, this man has a giant sign that reads “NIXON” in the hay bales in the back of his truck. Dick thought about being the hay and sign. But is this costume fun enough? After all, it’s the ’70s. We’re living in a post-racial America. Dick and I were the first interracial couple to move into our neighborhood. Women are liberated. 

Next we thought about the mayor, who was known for being a progressive champion in the ’40s. But in the modern, hip ’70s, he can’t get with it. After hosting a fundraiser for James Dobson and Anita Bryant, our mayor was ousted from the local Democratic Party. Dick thought to do a costume where half of him is the “liberal” mayor and the other half is the “conservative” mayor. But we didn’t want to incur the wrath of our right-wing HOA president. Finally, Dick settled on being the mini-horse that one of our neighbors owns. (Although, the owner is unsure if it is a mini-horse or just a horse that hasn’t grown up yet.)

What will you be this Halloween? Here are some helpful tips for putting together a last-minute costume:

HOT GLUE VS. E6000: Common logic has people reaching for their glue gun, but if you’re looking for a costume that will last the night and have a full 24 hours to wait before wear, grab a tube of that long-lasting hold. Note: With E6000, an effective hold needs at least one semi-porous surface. 

SPIRIT GUM: For those of you trying facial appliances for your costume, look no further. My dearly devoted old schoolmate Ben Nye developed a wonderful formula. Apply spirit gum on both your skin and the appliance, and allow the gum to get a little sticky before trying to fix the appliance to your face. If you don’t have access to spirit gum and you need to affix something lightweight, liquid latex (i.e. eyelash glue) will work in a pinch. 

GREASE AND CREAM MAKE-UP: Usually sold in a “werewolf/Frankenstein/witch” pack. Do a favor to yourself and anyone who might hug you: Set your make-up. Grease makeup is notoriously hard to set, but my old flatmate, Stella Adler, shared this tip with me. Put your setting powder—if on a budget, use talcum powder—in a clean sock, tie it up and beat your face. Don’t inhale. Talc is probably bad for you. Remove with baby oil. 

FAKE NAILS: Apply at least three coats of clear nail polish before applying your nails. Use super glue as the glue, maybe leave a little room between the acrylic and the base of your nail. Nail polish remover will breakdown the nail polish, leaving your nailbed less ruined than if you had applied the acrylics directly to your nails. 

FALSE LASHES: I am blessed with stereotypically Asian monolids, which means it doesn’t really matter where I place my lashes, so long as they’re on the lid. It is my understanding that other people do not have this luxury. If you only wear lashes once a year, just get the falsies near-ish to your lash line. If there is a gap between your natural lashes and your falsies, eyeliner will forgive a multitude of sins. 

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