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Wrapped in Plastic


We just got back from a trip to upstate New York, where leaves of yellow, orange, and red dappled the rolling hillsides. The timing was perfect for leaf-peeping; if we’d gone any later, many of the local trees would have dropped. Back here in Oakland, there’s a bit of color, but nothing like what I recall from childhood.

Unfortunately, our travel plans meant missing the Halloween parties, despite having an idea for a killer costume this year. What was this fabulous idea, you ask? Sorry, but my lips are sealed. I’m saving that one for next year. Meanwhile, I thought I’d dig up some old favorites instead.

Most of my Halloween costumes have been made on a tight budget. One of the best and cheapest was Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks—Laura’s body, that is. Let’s say it all together now, “Deaaaaaad, wrapped in plaaastic.”

Laura Palmer

This costume, made in 1997, was practically free. All it required was a roll of heavy-duty plastic, cloth tape, some flesh-colored spray paint to coat the inside in strategic places, a zipper, and makeup. I had everything on hand except the paint and a bit of blue Halloween makeup to add that special deathly pallor. This costume was also very warm, a real benefit on a cold New England night. I did need help with making it, though. JC rolled me up in the plastic, then strapped tape in precisely the right places to match the pattern on the TV corpse. Then he cut a slit up the back, and I sewed a zipper along that line. A couple of extra tricks to allow mobility, and voila!

Laura, Too

Another inexpensive one was Regan, from The Exorcist. I bought a cheap flannel nightgown and a horrible wig, then I chopped the wig up and added makeup. (Note that the nightgown is on backwards.) JC’s crazy smiley clown was even cheaper: a plastic table cloth and a terrible yellow wig. Looks frighteningly like the Joker, only ten years earlier, made in 1998.

Exorcist & Creepy Smile Clown

JC and I spent nearly a decade working at Boston’s Videosmith chain, a fun, spunky, progressive little company that really knew how to throw a party. Every Halloween, we held a costume contest with upwards of 20 stores in the mix. Somewhere in my vast storage closet must be photos of my early costumes: Sid and Nancy (yes, both at once), Wilma Flintstone, and the Blob (another really cheap one utilizing plastic and paint).

In later years, we were both part of the Halloween-costume judging committee, which raised the bar for our own personal efforts. After all, if you’re one of the judges, you’ve gotta look good. The best of these were theme costumes. One year, we judges went as The Nightmare Before Christmas, dressed as Jack, Zero, the Mayor, and Sally, the last of those being me. Sally is one costume I couldn’t find a photo of and really wish I had.

My all-time favorite costume, though, was “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” I went as Jesus, complete with a crown of thorns and cross. The “hole-y” ghost costume was my creation, and it makes me laugh to this day. The great thing about this group effort was how well-received it was. At one point, we walked into a bar, and the whole place started laughing and yelling, “The Trinity! The Trinity!” But then, that’s Boston for you. Out here, someone would probably be offended—or claim offense on the part of others. Back there, even the cross didn’t cause a stir.

Father, Son, and Hole-y Ghost

On a similar note of tastelessness, one year I went as both Jackie Kennedy and Jackie O. For the Videosmith costume judging, I was a post-Dallas Jackie Kennedy, and then later in the evening, I swapped into the all-black Jackie O mode. Again, no one in Boston flinched. I love living in the Bay Area, but sometimes I do miss the black-comic undercurrent if the northeast.


Of all the costumes I’ve made, this one was possibly the most labor-intensive and uncomfortable. The puffy hair took forever to style, and I couldn’t find a pink suit to save my life. I finally had to buy a gray one, spray-paint it pink, and then toddle around, stiff, all of Halloween night.

We’ve lived in Oakland now for twelve years, but aside from the Exorcist costume shown above, the only other one I’ve made here was for a pirate party a few years ago. I was a “crow’s nest,” which was a great costume for avoiding things like dancing, sitting, and going to the bathroom—not practical in any way, but who cares when you win the first-place prize?

This year’s inspiration was loosely related to that idea. Not pirates (I think their fifteen minutes are over), but similarly nautical. I’ll just have to hold off and hope that it’s still perfect a year from now.

Happy Halloween to all!

  1. Hi! LOVE the way you did your Laura Palmer costume! When I was searching for the best way to wrap myself in plastic your photos came up and are the best version of this costume I’ve seen. What modifications did you make for movement? Where did you place the zipper? Do you have armholes? I need some technical advice. Thanks!

  2. mkc permalink

    Thanks. The zipper was up the back, from about the ankles to as high as the cut needed to go for me to slip into it. For movement I did these things:
    – Do the body wrap first, with tape wrapped in the appropriate places and angles. Your “helper” will do all of this. so make sure it is someone who cares.
    – The full body wrap stopped just below the knees. I made separate wrapped “leg booties” that blended like the main wrap, with matching tape to the Palmer pattern, but the separate calves allowed me to walk. I made the plastic-wrap leg tubes with blood coloring in advance and then used tape on the night of the costume to wrap the seams and bind it down.
    – The hood was fastened. We did the body wrap, taped it, and I pulled the wrap into a hooded form. Then we placed small blobs of hot glue in key bunching spots, between layers, to hold it in place. Feel free to use a stapler or other methods too, and be careful of the hot glue and plastic.
    – Have your “helper” cut the slit up the back*. Use supplemental binding tape wrapped over/around the cuts where the tape has been severed to help bind the edge before dealing with the zipper. Duct tape is a miraculous thing.
    – Sewing the zipper: You need to know how to sew a zipper, generally speaking, but this is not that hard. Be sure to get a color that you think will blend in.
    – * The length of the zipper has to be figured out before you cut. Kind of a guess, based on your body length etc. If you end up getting one that is too short, align the zipper at the top of your cut. The bottom can be flappy.
    – The side arm holes were, if I remember correctly, vertical slits cut at about the waist, one on each side, so I could slip my arms out from the elbow down. Only as big as needed to get the arm through. I recommend waiting till you have the zipper done to cut these holes.
    – Make your legging/bootie things to match the body wrap. Tape accordingly.
    – For paint, do your blood stains on the inside and first. Don’t go too far. Mine got a little bit bloodier than they should have been.
    – Then, if you want to, paint the plastic to hide any personal bits you don’t want people to see. I designated a wide strip around the pelvic area to cover my underwear and wore a skin-tone camisole thing under the top. Or just undies/boyshorts that match your skin are enough. I think I overdid it with the “naked” paint. You can also strategically spray spots more or less heavily.

    I hope that helps. Send a pic if you do it.

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