Halloween wear that spook no more

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HALLOWEEN is just around the corner. Traditionally known as All Hallows’ Eve, with origins in Celtic harvest celebrations, the festival that was mostly celebrated in the West before spreading further afield, has evolved from just mask-wearing to a legitimate excuse to wearing anything you like.

However, there are some costumes that should be skipped this year (forever for some). The Edge Financial Daily spoke to costume designer Dominique Devorsine, who has worked on some of Malaysia’s biggest musical productions, including Tunku: The Musical, The Producers, Cabaret, Sinbad The Musical and most recently, SuperMokh and Larger Than Life by Dama Orchestra.

Based on her experience with clients who flock to her each year as Oct 31 approaches, Devorsine said Malaysians often play it too safe and “pretty”. Here are some of the costumes that she deems a tad hackneyed.

Religion and politics
Okay, there hasn’t been any sightings of anyone wearing offensive costumes. But the designer warns that costumes should be fun, not inciting. Anything that borders on the sensitive, such as religion or politics, should be avoided, or at least treated with respect. Who can forget the gaffe committed by a certain British prince when he wore a Nazi soldier costume to a party? Nazism is a reminder of a terrible period in history that people want to forget, pointed out Devorsine.

Witches and Count Dracula
If there’s one traditional costume that is overdone, it would certainly be that of a witch, said Devorsine. The other would be Dracula or just a vampire with the faux fangs and cloak. Naming both as the most commonly chosen costumes, our expert believes it’s time to lay down the pointy hat and oversized teeth and explore new territory. Or creatively update the look with make-up.

The mask from Scream
Naming the white ghoulish mask from the 1996 Hollywood horror flick the most predictable Halloween getup, Devorsine said it is a sign of lazy effort. And who can disagree? One of the most parodied characters in film, the ghost-face mask modelled after a reaper has become a cartoonish caricature, so much so even a scythe can’t redeem its horror credentials.

Typical ghosts and pirates
Devorsine said the “laziest costume” she had ever seen was a piece of black cloth over the head to signify the “angel of death”.  She said one should think beyond the standard American ghost look. In fact, New Caledonia-born Devorsine said in the 20 years she’s been in Malaysia, she has yet to see a pontianak or orang minyak costume during Halloween. Maybe it hits too close to home, observed Devorsine. Her advice is to be more specific with one’s ideas, for example a dead bride or a creepy doll look. As for the popular pirate costume, why not dress it up to be scarier or creepier, rather than trying to mimic Johnny Depp in Pirates of The Caribbean.

Superheroes
Thanks to the explosion of superhero films such as Iron Man, Spider Man, Captain America and Thor, Batman’s costume is most popular costume for men and young men alike. Superman, however, has failed to make it to the list, no thanks to his red “underwear”. The other favourite from the movies is Sith Lord from Star Wars. Her advice: If you plan to play superhero for the night, make sure you are in good shape to pull it off. But it is Jack Sparrow who is every man’s dream Halloween character.

Disney and animation
No prizes for guessing that everybody will want to wear Frozen this year, including dressing their dogs as Olaf. Apart from the yearly “seasonal” Disney film and other popular animations that may pop up in cinemas, Devorsine said that Maleficent has been surprisingly popular with clients. As for which heroine takes the all-time popular rankings, it would be princess Snow White. Other in-demand characters include Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 27, 2014.