How To Be A Dad has a helpful infographic (below) with five pitfalls to avoid in a costume. His tips are for kids’ costumes but, except maybe for the last one, they all apply equally well for adults:
- Popularity: it’s always nice to run into another Cobra Commander, but if by the end of the night you’ve seen five different people dressed in the same 30$ Halloween store pimp, nurse, or pilot costume as you, you’ll start wishing you had gone a different route. If it looks decent, doesn’t cost much and you found it at a big costume store in a mass-produced package, chances are it’ll be popular. Every year you also have a couple of pretty good pop culture costumes that become popular: in 2008, that was The Joker. Jack Sparrow is always popular when another Pirates movie comes out. Avoid ones like that.
- Cheap material: those mass-produced packages for 30$ are doable for their accessories, but even those, you can usually get cheaper and better on eBay. But don’t use them for the actual clothing — pants, shirts, dress — in your costume. They look bad, they feel bad, they fit worse and they’re likely to make you have some sort of wardrobe malfunction by the end of the party. The higher-end ones (80-100$) are better, but use them as a last resort, if you can’t find any alternatives on eBay.
- Obscurity: you have a really clever idea for a costume, like going as McKayla Is Not Impressed, or you’ve been watching a lot of anime lately and you go as Sailor Moon, only to have to explain who you are to every single person you meet. Granted, you might find your soul mate this way, because the one person who does recognize you is probably it. But overall, you’ve avoided the problem of popularity by getting tired of your costume in a completely different way.
- Comfort: think about what you’ll be doing while wearing this costume and make sure it will accommodate things like drinking, talking to people, not getting too hot, being able to hold things, to stand up and sit down, get in and out of a car, etc. Some really cool costumes, like Ironman, or some lame ones, like a Romney mask, will end up making you have a terrible time.
- Overkill: if you spend a lot of time and/or money and your costume turns out great and you look exactly like Mystique, get ready for a whole other level of attention. Everyone and their mother will want their picture with you, they’ll want to know where you got the costume from and probably your life story. Of course, this is probably exactly what you’re going for because you’re an attention whore, so carry on.
If you avoid the issues above, that will get rid of somewhere around 80% of your costume ideas. The ones left over should be ones that are recognizable yet somewhat unique, creative — maybe even clever — that feel and look good and that get you some attention and compliments, but don’t take over your entire evening.