Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween 2009 costume trends: Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga

Sorry, Sarah Palin. Nothing personal, President Obama. If politics was all the rage for costumes last Halloween, this year it's out and pop culture is in, you betcha. Palin's beehive has been replaced by "Twilight" vamps, Lady Gaga wigs, and, of course, sequin-heavy tributes to the late, great King of Pop.

It's time to go back to the future with totally awesome '80s costumes in general and homages to pop icon Michael Jackson in particular. When darkness falls across the land Oct. 31 and the midnight hour is close at hand, it's going to be "Thriller" time. Good luck finding one of Jackson's trademark glitter gloves.

"It's all about the glove and the socks," says Jackie Littlejohn, manager of the Spirit Halloween store in Milpitas. "And all of the popular stuff is gone, or almost gone."

Jackson is one of the biggest trends in costumes this year, alongside other celebs, from Madonna and Lady Gaga (go bottomless with a blond wig?) to Kate Gosselin (of "Jon & Kate Plus 8" fame) whose hairstyle has been described as a reverse mullet. The spiky-blond Kate wig is cheekily dubbed "Eight Is Too Much."

"Michael Jackson is huge for kids. Every time we get those little red Thriller jackets in the store, boom, they're gone!" says Kellie Hudson, owner of the Halloween Bootique at Oakridge Mall in San Jose, where many little boys also seemed to favor the classics — you know, "Toy Story," "Transformers" and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

"It's a nostalgia thing for parents who are children of the '80s."

Jen Norcia, for one, is in the mood for a little moonwalk down memory lane.

"I'm going '80s for Halloween, with the big hair and everything. I just had my 20th high school reunion and I want to reminisce a little," says the San Jose mom as she chased her 3-year-old son from one monster mask to another. "I tried to get my son Nick to be a mini-Michael Jackson this year but it was a no go. He insists on Sonic the Hedgehog."

The recession may be one reason retro is back this year. The National Retail Federation estimates that Halloween spending will tumble 18 percent to $4.75 billion, down from $5.77 billion last year. Rummaging through the closet for a full-on '80s ensemble is one way to bargain-hunt. Shoulder pads? Check. Parachute pants? Gulp. Bet you wish you hung onto that Members Only jacket.

"Costumes can seem pricey," says Krysta Delfino, who works at Natasha's Attic costume shop in San Jose. "A lot of people are looking to take a 20-year-old pair of legwarmers and pull it together as an '80s costume."

Monsters remain huge, from the "Twilight" vampires (especially Dakota Fanning's creeptastic red-eyed Jane) to those hipper-than-ever brain-eating hordes from "Zombieland."

"Freakin' vampires, man," says Delfino, who is planning to dress up as a Zombie pin-up girl herself. —‰'Twilight' is so in right now."

The popularity of ghouls and goblins might be one indication that folks are eager to banish their fears about reality with some quality escapism time. "The recession is such a downer," Delfino notes. "People want to get their minds off of it and have some fun."

Indeed, our Halloween rituals are rooted in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Masks were worn to ward off demons and offerings were left on the doorstep to appease evil spirits. Throughout the ages, the holiday has been a way to brighten the deepening gloom of winter.

These days, Halloween costume trends are also a snapshot of the zeitgeist. We dress up both as the icons we want to be (Megan Fox? Sienna Miller?) and the ones we don't (Bernie Madoff? Balloon Boy?). Wish fulfillment rarely comes so cheap.

"Halloween allows us to express some personal side of ourselves," says Dan Vado, founder of San Jose's SLG Publishing, who plans to be a devil. "Whatever it is you want to be or do, there is a place for it."


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