Spooky season

As soon as I was old enough to grasp the concept of Halloween I was hooked. Most likely initially by the sweets and fancy dress, but in a more substantial sense the mysterious temptations of the supernatural tickled my curious nature and lured me in.

Disney Channel would fuel my obsession with seasonal films like Halloween Town and Hocus Pocus and for the rest of the year I would scare myself silly occupying my TV slot with Goosebumps (the original series, obviously), and desperately rush to catch my daily dose of the ultimate show: Mystery Hunters.

It was from Christina and Araya’s adventures that I learned about the secrets of Death Valley, the prospect of the Loch Ness monster, crop circles and aliens and various other unexplained phenomenons. The possibility that these myths could be real was the drug that kept me demanding more. I soaked the stories up with a sense of determination to believe each one was real.

I patiently waited for Halloween to creep back around so I could binge Americanised kids movies and embrace the spiritual world with a trashy Tesco witch costume (sometimes even fashioning my own outfit with a black bin bag). Through the years I saved up and dished out pocket money to collect cheap decorations, which would remain stored safely ready for me to eagerly litter the house with as soon as October was on the doorstep.

Cotton wool cobwebs dotted with plastic spiders weaved up the bannister; a light up skull sat proudly on the mantelpiece; dusty fold-out cardboard skeletons hung from every available door. My brother and I would pour over the supermarket cardboard box of pumpkins, each selecting the chosen one and watching with glee as our dad scooped the insides out and tolerantly followed our instructions to draw jagged faces onto the skin with a permanent marker, before carving them out with a keen precision.

The minute I returned home from school on Halloween I would prepare for the evening’s trick-or-treating session: gathering up my stash of elaborate accessories (in particular the long, green rubber witch fingers with painted red nails from the corner shop that I wore religiously), slathering myself with fake blood and seeking out my fluffy bat handbag in which I would store the candy I’d be consuming over the following weeks.

Before my sister rounded my brother and I up to tackle the maze of the estate we lived on in search of other badly decorated houses, I would empty a packet of mini Mars Bars into a bowl for my parents to offer out to the children that came knocking at our door.

The bitter bite of those crisp, clear, full-mooned evening always marked the occasion as a signifier that winter was on its way; the chill snagging at my tights (which were ripped for scary effect) and chafing at the elastic band tucked under my chin that kept my towering witch hat secured.

When I moved to high school my mum reluctantly agreed to let me throw a Halloween sleepover with 3 new friends, which I think to this day is still the event I have ever been most excited for. Upon arrival guests received a plastic, skull-shaped goblet sloshing over with blood (cherry-ade) and a tour of the corridor plastered with ‘DO NOT CROSS’ warning signs that I had agonisingly positioned throughout the afternoon.

As Mean Girls demonstrates so accurately of our social climate, priorities started to shift as we eased into adolescence, leading me to care less about the calibre of my fancy dress and more about who else would be attending the parties or how I could get away with dressing up in a different kind of way. I succumbed to swathes of animal print teamed with cat ears or a gothic all-black look. Instead of committing funds to maximising the haunting element I would opt for a supply of Peach Schnapps (which had equally scary results).

Luckily, adulthood has brought yet another fresh perspective on the season, rekindling my nostalgic love for Halloween with a modern twist: one that highlights any excuse for a celebration, justifies a long-overdue catch up with friends and initiates the competitive challenge to nail your chosen costume.

For me, generic vampires don’t cut it anymore. I’d rather set my sights on a specific project, dedicating my time to independently sourcing pieces to recreate a badass film character than mindlessly order a pre-packaged, mass-produced ensemble from Amazon that I’ll only wear once. The reward? The instant recognition of who you are reinforces the meticulous effort made (and you own quality clothing that can actually be worn again).

Pop culture and shows with cult followings seem to have become the desired inspiration for Halloween party looks, while traditional zombies and last-minute Playboy bunnies take a backseat (thank fuck). After binging the first season of Stranger Things when it first came out I decided to try my hand at Eleven, and was overwhelmed by the satisfaction I felt as a result of searching sale racks and charity shops and indeed my own wardrobe for items that could be strewn together to intricately resemble the character.

Despite taking a lot more time and dedication to track down the specific, iconic symbols of Eleven’s outfit it elevated the experience and left me with a sense of pride for completing the task. I hunted down a pastel pink dress, my mum loaned me her platinum blonde wig, I dug out my oversized football socks, stuck on my white trainers and located my long lost Harrington jacket; topping it all off with the little 11 tattoo on my wrist and a smidge of fake blood to the nose.

The saga continued last year when I attended a party as Kill Bill, keen to maintain the precision by tracking down a cheaper (and more practical) alternative to the leather skintight suit available online. I managed to discover a bright yellow sweater with some black detailing from H&M and a few buildings down in Topshop I miraculously noticed a pair of tracksuit bottoms in the same shade – both of which are items I now relax around the house in (when I’m not fighting off the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad).

In another ode to Tarantino, this year I’ve prepped my best Mia Wallace, which may seem like a sloppy choice but don’t be fooled by the white shirt and black trousers – my attention to detail will be second to none.

The fact that I’m moving away from scary costumes may have something to do with the rapid decrease of my fright tolerance since that tough little girl used to pick up her fake broom and take on the night trick-or-treating. The innocence of childhood lets us believe that ghosts and ghouls are our biggest worries, but growing up we learn there are far more terrifying monsters lurking in the dark.

SHIRT Red Herring at Debenhams (old, similar here) | DRESS Zara (old, similar here) | BOOTS Pull & Bear (old, similar here) | BAG Boden (gifted)

I wasn’t planning on channelling a witchy vibe with this outfit, but when accidentally pulling the shirt and dress out of my wardrobe at the same time I clocked the magical combination. I’m obsessed with both pieces and am amazed at how well they slot together.

The velvet slip is ancient from Zara and as I feel too uncomfortable to brave wearing it without another layer underneath these days (its a little too low and a little too high in all the wrong places because the straps have stretched over time) I get a rush of relief when I come across a garment that matches!

The ruffles from this blouse snake down the neckline so beautifully, creating a mystical feel in conjunction with the rich astronomical pattern. I think the sleeves are a masterpiece: by waving my arms around when I’m trying to express a point I resemble a sorcerer whipping up some magic potions. Once again I have somehow subconsciously aligned my colour palette, with an impeccable fit between the navy dress and hints of the same tone scattered across the blank canvas of the white material.

Adding a wrecking-ball of colour is the confident job of my trusty red boots, which simultaneously clash and compliment the look as a whole and ultimately add to the punky, spiritual feel. I have recycled all these items year on year, which is solid proof that if you keep returning to key clothes you love in the end you’ll figure out a killer combo.

The navy bag contributes a splash of a different texture with the faux snakeskin, and demonstrates Boden’s versatility in terms of adapting accessories to suit various looks as this is the ‘Brecon’ which I have switched from its original bumbag form into a sleek shoulder bag.

The only scary thing about this outfit is that when shooting the photos it turned out the grass I was knee deep in was full of chunky black spiders – I couldn’t get out of there quick enough.

So all that’s left to say is Happy Halloween! I hope you enjoy it however you’re celebrating; whether that’s trick or treating, partying, or maybe you think it’s a bunch of nonsense and will be ignoring it as best you can!

Lil x

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