Man-eating sharks in the wind, bearded duck hunters in the bushes, grizzled chemistry teachers with fat stacks of bills and Miley Cyrus twerking her way through the neighborhood - it must be Halloween.
Costume stores and pop culture experts alike have been announcing their lists of popular and trendy attire consumers are hungry for, while the craftier folks are putting together unique and handmade creations of adorable proportions for the big night.
Superheroes, princesses and zombies seem to be perennial favorites at national retailers, with a few new trends thrown in every year. However, the most talked about costumes usually come from events or productions that hit a chord with popular culture, particularly close to Halloween.
This year's hot new costumes trend toward the gritty and downright villainous. Popsugar.com's Paige Hansen recently laid out her picks for the most clever pop culture costumes of the year. Among them are several fictional criminals: Piper Chapman and other women's prison inmates from Netflix's "Orange is the New Black," Alien (a gangster played by James Franco with a gold grill and cornrows) in the "Spring Breakers" movie and meth kingpin Walter White from AMC's "Breaking Bad."
Hansen notes the recent science fiction B-movie "Sharknado" has inspired a variety of creative costumes involving sharks and tornadoes. And speaking of wind, singer Beyonce also had an incident with a motorized fan that has people walking around with fierce wigs and handheld wind machines.
Hansen's lighter picks include the lovable Robertson family from "Duck Dynasty" and Kate Middleton in her iconic blue polka dot dress and holding baby George.
Last, and certainly not to be overlooked, is Miley Cyrus. Her bawdy antics at MTV's Video Music Awards in a teddy bear leotard and holding a foam finger provided visuals that many people find hard to forget. It is an image sure to be seen again and again until the start of November as her popularity inspires those who want to imitate, as well as those who want to mock, the singer.
On the shelves
Due to the popularity of AMC's "The Walking Dead" and other recent appearances of the undead in entertainment, zombies are as big as they ever were. Retailers and amateur costumers alike seem to be giving their zombies more of a back story than in previous years by layering one costume over another. Zombies might have professions, like zombie doctor, zombie police officer or zombie football player.
At the Spirit Halloween store at the TownMall of Westminster, some of the most popular costumes are of zombies and Monster High attendees, both of which are on Spirit's top 10 list. Associates said Star Wars character costumes also seem to be going fast, perhaps because of the popularity of "The Clone Wars" animated series.
One-year-old Brayden Schaffer will be going with a classic costume - the cowboy. Parents Kristen and Tyler Schaffer said the costume choice was between a cow and a cowboy, but the cowboy won out.
Kailey Hieatzman, age 4, will be going as Snow White, though in her mind the princess part of the character is all that matters. Deanna Hieatzman said Kailey went as a cowgirl last year, but this year nothing except a princess will do.
"That's the difference between 3 and 4," she said.
Nicole and Steve Wiley said they will also probably stick with some classic costumes. They were looking at the ancient Greek and Roman costumes on Wednesday at Spirit.
"I would like to make a homemade costume," said Nicole, "but I'm afraid my sewing skills just aren't there."
Made by Mom
Many people who do have the creative touch are making costumes for themselves or their children.
Costume-works.com is a popular online photo gallery of some of the most original costumes. On it you might find children and adults dressed as anything. Spaghetti and meatballs, washers and dryers, pinatas, unicorns and octopi are just a few examples.
Robin Kuchinski said the costumes she has planned for her kids, 10 and 11 years old, were inspired by what was around her. Daughter Brooklyn will be a Froot Loops cereal box and son Jacob will be a Tootsie Pop - if Mom can convince him.
"The cereal box idea I have had for years and finally this year convinced one of my children," Kuchinski said. "I tried to get Jacob to agree to be a bowl or spoon but he wouldn't go for it. Apparently, it's not cool to have somewhat matching costumes with your little sister."
Debra von Lunz said she found costume ideas for her son, 23-month-old Owen von Lunz, on pinterest.com while searching for birthday party ideas. She said the entire family has gotten involved in designing a tractor made from boxes so that the child can appear to drive it.
"My daughter has been helping me paint the cardboard and suggested that Owen dress up like a farmer," said Debra von Lunz. "We have all really had fun getting creative with Halloween this year."