About a decade ago, I had no costume the day of a Halloween party. I hate not being a Halloween team player. I almost always have a costume, but that year, I’d given up; I was out of time. I was online, reading the news, when I read a piece about corporate criminal du jour Bernie Madoff who was then breaking news and plastered all over the media. Impulsively, I decided to go as him. I printed out his headshot I found online onto card stock, quickly stepped into a suit, and made a cardboard panhandling sign that read: “Will Swindle for Food.” Surprisingly, this costume was a huge hit. Lots of people wanted to pose for pictures with me, and in the pictures, the mask looked convincingly real. I was amazed at the compliments and attention I got, for a costume I basically threw together on my way out the door. Who knew that last minute costumes could make you the life of the party?

To do this yourself: let’s say you want to go as Christopher Walken. All you need to do is find a suitable image of him, and size it to the width of your head. Print onto thin card stock. Cut out the eye holes and attach with elastic string. Find suitable clothing for your subject. If I were going as Walken, I’d probably wear a smoking jacket, carry a bottle of champagne, and go as his “The Continental” character from SNL. (You could also just skip the mask, wear the jacket, carry the champagne, slick back your hair, and pencil on a mustache.)

A good costume is frequently so much more about the cleverness of the idea, its humor, than its craft. Sure we all adore an elaborate, well-built costume, but how many times have you seen a very simple, funny costume get as much attention as one that took ages to fabricate? Here are ten costumes that you can put together in an evening (or less) that should generate a splash at your upcoming party or on Halloween night.

If you put together a last minute costume you’re happy with, we’d love to hear about it. Post up in the comments below.

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Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy person’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

  • http://twitter.com/mhebrank Martin Hebrank (@mhebrank)

    Could we please provide a non slideshow option for those of us who don’t want them? I mean, I’m incredibly interested in this one, but guess what, because it’s a slideshow I can’t bring myself to view it.

    • http://www.burningriverlabs.com Sharkcus

      This is my second time posting about a slideshow. Please do away with the slideshow. Even if you don’t want to display the images inline in the article, at least make a link to show the images inline. Or leave the slideshow but give the option to see the images inline. I won’t be looking at yet another interesting article because it is a slideshow.

    • nothanks

      What am I missing? Why the hate for the slideshow?

      • http://jakespurlock.com/ Jake Spurlock

        Yeah, why the lack of love friends?

        • Totokan

          I know for me I like everything to load in one go rather then have to load a new page for every image. I would like the old format to be available! Also, the RSS feed has unfortunately been hacked to bits, causing further annoyance with even more loading.

  • ameyring

    The slide show worked for me, but the page kept acting as if it was about to have a heart attack for every new image. A better slide show is at (from my hometown):
    Notice how the page doesn’t refresh, just a couple of the ads for each new picture. Nice and smooth. Even Yahoo! isn’t this good.

    • ameyring

      I should add that Chrome works better than IE for Makezine slide shows (haven’t tried Firefox), but it would be nice to not have the entire page refresh, as shown by the philly.com page I linked to.

  • Ben

    Whenever I go somewhere to read an article there are two things that make me immediately close the page and move on:

    1. “Start slideshow”
    2. “Page 1 of x”

    I only stayed here long enough to comment because I feel Make should be above this kind of annoyance given the more tech savvy audience.

  • bert

    The slideshow doesn’t seem to work on the nexus 7.

  • Alan Dove

    I agree that in-blog slideshows suck. Make, please stop doing that.

    Now for a new subject: more super-simple costume ideas. Here are a few I’ve used:

    1. Pee-Wee Herman, right after his lewd behavior arrest: slick back hair, borrow a little lipstick, wear a long trenchcoat.

    2. Priest: black pants, black shirt buttoned all the way up, white card stock under the collar.

    3. 1940s photojournalist: dark suit, gray fedora with a card saying “Press” stuck in the band, vintage Speed Graphic camera.

    And others I’ve seen:

    1. The Last Supper: get a dozen bearded friends to don long togas, each wearing a section of stained plywood sticking flat out in front; on cue, assemble into the classic table picture.

    2. The Devil: paint your face red, add horns if you like, and wear a good suit.

    3. Ernest Hemingway: khaki shirt and shorts, gray beard, potbelly.

    A lot of this has to do with using what you already have, so my advice is to start by looking around the house, then in the mirror.

  • Gareth Branwyn

    Thanks for you feedback on the slideshows, folks. Sorry that some people don’t like them. They’ve been part of our plans, part of our redesign, for awhile. We like them, our advertisers like them (critical to keeping Makezine.com online), and frankly, we like the traffic. We know that everything we do interface- and content -wise is not going to be popular with everybody. We have to make trade-offs and juggle priorities. We have mouths to feed, both organizationally and literally. We hope you’ll understand and that the value of what MAKE offers you is worth any inconvenience you might experience in one interface/content issue or another.

    • Alan Dove

      If your redesign choices drive away unique visitors (as slideshows do), then milking a few additional page views out of those who stay isn’t worth it.

      • Anony Mous

        Life’s full of tradeoffs isn’t it?

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  • Reggie

    It’s preferable to put everything on one page and just shamelessly say “please click on some of our sidebar ads” rather than puff something out into a slideshow. Also if you ever post any video, it’s preferable to include a transcript.

    Some of us – okay, a great many of us – assimilate information much faster than any video can present its content. We tend to neither watch videos nor drill into slideshows. Normally I’d be long gone, but I respect Make enough to offer this feedback.

    Occasionally a slideshow does make artistic sense, and we recognize this. So use the slideshow tool when it’s actually appropriate rather than as a traffic multiplying gimmick, and I for one will visit more often.

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    How are any of these “Last Minute?”

  • http://www.facebook.com/jen.wilson.31945 Jen Wilson

    Two is not ten. The article only lists two costumes while the headline promises ten. This magazine isn’t run by the smart of people.

  • bill

    will not read slideshow articles. period.

  • mike

    Your redesign money making elements are alienating users because of their poor coding. The slideshows do not work on the Nexus 7 and the facebook Like popups overlap content (the post comment button below). Don’t get me started on the float over bars that messed with scrolling. The make blog was one of my favorite web sites. Don’t become MySpace.

  • dan

    Agreed. The slideshow is more than annoying and doesn’t work in the device I’m using. Click bait only works when there are viewers to click it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jen.wilson.31945 Jen Wilson

    There are other pages? How do you get to them?

  • http://www.twitter.com/mfusion Michael Fusion

    old t-shirt, found every paint sample at Lowe’s that either was grey or i thought would look grey at a bar, roll of double stick foam tape.

    fifty shades of grey. http://t.co/eQo16njG http://t.co/mOleciFN

    survived an entire shift of bartending and cleaning without losing a single one. and i was busy.

  • asteocles

    Bounty Paper towel Lumberjack: Plaid shirt, roll of paper towels. Always gets a chuckle and paper towels suprisingly handy during parties.

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  • http://www.theorchidboutique.com/blog Marisa_R

    One of my favorite last minute costume ideas is the Lite Bright, where you glue colored solo cups to a black cardboard box. SO CLEVER. Or always the DIY skull t-shirt over a bikini top: http://bit.ly/1i29b9n

  • https://www.facebook.com/kathryn.hedges Kathryn Hedges

    I made this robot costume in a day during GISHWHES 2013. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPhFxtr8k_k

  • https://www.facebook.com/kathryn.hedges Kathryn Hedges

    And although I don’t have pics, one of my last-minute Halloween-at-work costumes was Our Company’s Website. I had a green corduroy dress similar to the corporate Pantone green, so I printed logos and photos from the website and pinned them to the dress.

    A few years later, I used the same dress as a last-minute Agatha Heterodyne costume. At that time, Agatha’s outfit in the comic (http://www.girlgeniusonline.com) was a green vest, green skirt, white blouse, red/white striped stockings, and boots. The dress (actually a jumper) looked like a vest and skirt, so I just wore a white blouse under it, stripey socks, and short boots.

    For her trilobite brooch, I printed a picture of it (from the website) onto cardstock and pinned it to the collar of my blouse. I already had a wavy unruly wig, and at that time it wasn’t clear she was a redhead, so blonde was good enough. My previous glasses were fairly round and the prescription was OK to get around campus.

    I was a chemistry TA at the time, and a lab coat and goggles actually went with the costume!

    Unfortunately, someone stole my big wrench at the party that night. But I got to hear Incendio live, so that was worth a Craftsman wrench.

    This was good enough that I wore it as a hall costume at the first Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition in Sunnyvale a few years later. I did upgrade a bit: I made a hand-sculpted Fimo trilobite brooch and the goggles in my userpic (modded from dollar store swim goggles).

    Agatha’s current outfit with the utility corset would be a bit trickier to cosplay.

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