In the early days of horror cinema, actors — in the theatrical tradition — were responsible for providing their own makeup. Lon Chaney, "The Man of a Thousand Faces," was the king of ghoulish creations with his indelible designs for "The Phantom of the Opera" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
Following the end of the silent era, pioneers like Jack Pierce defined the role of the makeup artist as a unique profession, with often-imitated designs for "Frankenstein," "The Mummy" and "The Wolf Man" forever changing the way monster make-up was developed and inspiring a legion of followers, including make-up artists Rick Baker, Chris Walas, Rob Bottin and more.
With Halloween coming up and DIY culture growing in popularity, more people are turning to homemade costumes in the vein of Chaney to celebrate this haunted holiday.
Thursday, Aisha Ghodbane and T.J. Lindsay browsed through the Westminster Goodwill's offerings in search of items for their Halloween costumes. Lindsay said he was on the lookout for items to make a homemade Luigi costume based on Super Mario's less-famous twin brother. Lindsay said this is the first year he's put together a Halloween costume since he was a child. In contrast, Ghodbane said she enjoys planning a homemade Halloween costume every year.
"I mean, one, it's cheaper, and two, it's more unique. You get to wear something no one else has," Ghodbane said. "I like to make group costumes, and thrift shops are an easy way to get something for everyone."
This year, she's dressing up as Spinelli from the 1997 Disney animated series "Recess." For the costume, she's seeking a red dress, army jacket, knit orange cap, striped tights and boots, while Lindsay was on the lookout for green clothes to match the Mario brother's palette-swapped plumbing uniform.
For those buying pre-bought costumes from local costume shops, Jayne Lee, of Halloween City, said the biggest draw for kids is the frosty sister pair of Anna and Elsa.
"Everybody and his brother wants to be 'Frozen' this year," Lee said. "We sold out both here and Party City."
Halloween City assistant manager Jason Paff said the costumes that seem to span the widest age range are superhero costumes, with children, teenagers and adults all lining up to don the capes and tights.
In the 1970s, store-bought superhero costumes often consisted of low-rent plastic bag shirts which, oddly enough, often featured a full-bodied picture of the character children were dressed as. Trick-or-treaters would have to come up with their own justification for why Aquaman was wearing a shirt with his own face on it.
As costume technology advanced, or at least costumer-purchasing power increased, costumes became more elaborate. First were comic-accurate bodysuits, then costume companies began to incorporate foam muscles to better imitate the ever expanding muscles comic artists like Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld began giving their heroes in the '90s. Today, superheroes occupy an entire station at the costume shop to themselves, with superhero hoodies, hats, masks, muscle T-shirts and even costuming adult underwear for sale. Today the superheroes with the most shelf space include Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man and Captain America.
While costume shops are more easily able to take note of the pop culture characters attracting the most attention, more folks are planning to put together generic costumes of Halloween favorites including zombies, pirates, vampires and more.
According to the National Retail Federation, only 16 percent of Halloween celebrants will dress as a character from pop culture, with the most popular adult costumes narrowing down to a witch or an animal, and the most popular children's costumes being a princess or animal.
According to the National Retail Federation, a record high of 67.4 percent of people will purchase a Halloween costume or assemble one from purchased items this year, an increase from 43.6 percent in 2013.