My 9-year-old son has one of those Darth Vader voice-changing helmets. It looks pretty cool sitting on a shelf, but doesn't have a lot of play value. He's much more inclined to build with LEGO or K'NEX sets than to run around brandishing a lightsaber. Even as a Halloween costume, it didn't seem much use, the helmet being just one small part of the Vader look. Then the light bulb went on: Pair the helmet with a Hawaiian print shirt, shorts, flip-flops, a sand pail as a candy bucket, and voila -- Darth Vader on vacation!
Cheap, easy and likely to stand out from the crowd. What more can you ask of a Halloween costume? An original idea might be hard to claim, between the thousands of costumes available on the Internet, in catalogs and in stores. But that doesn't mean you have to be the umpteenth person dressing this year as Lady Gaga, the Mad Hatter, Buzz Lightyear or Barbie.
Try thinking outside the costume box. From our newsroom, we've rounded up some ideas that hopefully will inspire you:
• Fried egg: Cut a head hole through a white sheet. Wear a yellow knit hat or beret and cover your face with yellow greasepaint. Then hope everyone gets the yolk.
• Cat burglar: Dress like a cat -- you know, pointy-ear headband, black leotard and stockings. Carry a black bag overflowing with fake jewelry.
• Lucha Libre Mexican wrestler: You could order a mask, or craft your own from a ski mask, or even by painting over a cheap Halloween mask. Wear colored briefs over colored tights or Under Armour leggings, then buy a cheap costume cape or just use a towel for one.
• KISS: The rock band's makeup actually is pretty easy (I know -- I did this costume as a teenager), but what about those elaborate costumes? Here's the thing -- you can be KISS without all that Spandex, leather, sequins and armor. One of the group's early albums was "Dressed to Kill," and on the cover, they wore business suits. So, grab three pals and go for it. Get cheap black wigs at just about any store with a Halloween section. If you don't have suits, borrow or hit the thrift stores.
• Refrigerator: Paint a large box white, green or tan. Cut the bottom out, then cut holes for your head and arms. Glue on some magnets, family photos and sticky notes with shopping lists and phone numbers.
• Clown: Copy any happy, sad or scary clown makeup, or create your own. Don a fuzzy orange wig, some oversize, mismatched clothing, maybe a bike horn to annoy folks. ... For this costume, pretty much anything goes.
• Bag of dog food: This one speaks for itself. Empty a 40-pound bag of dog food from the bottom, cut holes for head and arms. A girl could even wear a big doggie treat as a hair bow. Warning: Wipe the inside of the bag clean with a damp cloth and a bit of all-purpose cleaner, or you just might get unwanted attention from the neighborhood canines.
• Dream catcher: Wear white clothing, attach white balloons all over, to resemble a cloud, and wear a baseball glove.
• Grape cluster: Dress in purple, affix purple balloons to your clothing and wear a green knit cap.
• Team player: A child can wear his or her own soccer, baseball, basketball or football uniform, or borrow one from a friend. If you have an old, worn-out soccer ball or basketball, cut a hole in the top, attach a handle and use it as the trick-or-treat basket.
• Picnic: Cut a head hole in a cheap plaid tablecloth and wear it like a poncho. Attach things like paper plates, fake fruit, plastic forks and spoons, maybe a Frisbee (which alternatively could be worn as a hat). Sewing is probably your best method -- big, sloppy stitches are fine -- but a glue gun may work. If you can attach a row of little plastic ants or use ant stickers, that's even better. You could easily make fake sandwiches using sponges and construction paper or felt.
• Other food themes: Be a tossed salad. Wear a salad bowl on your head, upside down as though the salad was tossed on you. Maybe wear green face paint. Attach scraps of green fabric to an old green sweat shirt to create the lettuce. The more ragged the scraps, the better. Attach other salad items, like croutons (cut up an old sponge), plastic veggies from tomatoes to onions to olives. You could even attach a cheap salad fork and spoon.
If Lady Gaga can wear a meat dress, you can wear a spaghetti dinner. Again, put a bowl atop your head. Wear a red sweat shirt, or a white sweat shirt on which you've splattered red paint to look like sauce. Drape yourself with noodle-colored yarn pieces cut to the right length; you could stitch, staple or glue them in place. Use some brown puff balls as meatballs, and perhaps wear a string of fake garlic as a necklace.
• Biker: Wear boots and jeans, muscle shirt and a leather or faux leather vest, sunglasses and a studded belt and bracelet (optional). Tie a bandanna around your head, or even borrow a helmet. Temporary tattoos would be a must, or those fabric tattoo sleeves.