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Costume Foolery

Career Barbie
Career Barbie: No use slaving away on your Halloween costume. Slap on a wig and you're good to go.

By Heidi Pollock

Halloween is about two things: sugar and costumes. The form of Halloween sugar is largely a matter of age and preference--candy and alcohol being the two most common sources. The forms and sources for costumes are unlimited. There are no norms or leading standards. No rules or restrictions. Particularly not in this town.

So why is it that some people refuse to wear costumes? There is no excuse for this behavior. None. I can almost guarantee that you are partway into a costume right now because at any given moment at least half of this city looks ready for a Gap photo shoot. And the rest of the people will happily admit that they already are in costume.

My point is that with a few meager props, whatever you're already wearing is likely to make a fine Halloween costume. Face it, given a pizza box and a baseball hat we would all look like delivery boys.

pizza delivery person

Case in point: Last year the well-known multinational corporation for which I was temping encouraged the staff to come to work in costumes on Halloween. So on Oct. 31 I went to work in my usual dull corporate drag with the simple addition of a long, cheap blond wig. I was Career Barbie. My supervisor, having a surprisingly fine-tuned sense of irony, fixed me with a level look and politely asked that I not say this to people. One blond wig and my "normal" look had become a potentially volatile cultural critique. God may or may not be in the details, but certainly that's where the power is.

Along these lines, one of the best costumes I ever encountered involved little more than an apron, an egg and an attitude. A few Halloweens back, my brother Tom found himself unable to fall asleep. In a fit of irritation he hopped out of bed, donned his bartending apron and fired up the stove. Five minutes later he was on his way to my costume party carrying a skillet containing one sunny-side-up egg stabbed with a cigarette butt, having miraculously transformed himself from Grumpy Insomniac Guy into the Short-Order Cook from Hell.

short order cook

I recognize that not everyone is creatively inclined. This is probably why one of the city's greatest costume stores is conveniently located right next to the Financial District. The Costume Shop at Capezio on Post Street is a veritable mecca of pret-a-porter costumery, so you can forget using the "I came straight from work" excuse. Alternatively, Costumes on Haight is my personal favorite. It is both more affordable and more relaxed and features an overwhelming supply of feather boas along with the more standard thrift store offerings.

While I believe that the quintessential costumes are subtle and vaguely humanoid, many people delight in slaving away for hours, transforming a dull brown box into a small-scale model of a Le Corbu building or some similar abstract project. You people know who you are and you have no need of my advice, but for those of you just beginning to branch out into the DIY costume world, might I suggest being something spherical instead of boxy? With a bunch of giant round rice-paper lanterns and the right paints, you and your closest 14 friends could be a full rack of pool balls, for instance.

And if all this strikes you as too, too much, then just grab a camera, fake an Italian accent and say you're with the paparazzi, because if you don't run into hundreds of Princess Dianas this Halloween, you won't be in San Francisco.


Escape from New York Pizza, 1727 Haight Large pizza box: price "negotiable"

Costume Shop at Capezio, 126 Post Blond wig: $27

Safeway, 2020 Market Frying pan: $11

Costumes on Haight, 735 Haight Santa costume: $30

The U-Haul Box Store, 100 Valencia 24-inch-by-18-inch-by-24-inch box: $3

Cliff's Variety, 479 Castro 3-inch round paper lanterns: $20

Pearl Arts & Craft Supplies, 969 Market Bottle of poster paint: $2

For a detailed list of costume rental shops and other resources, see the Greater Bay Area Costumer's Guild web site.

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From the October 1997 issue of the Metropolitan.

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