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Halloween Costumes: Making vs. Buying

10 Nov

Halloween is a capitalized holiday, especially in a college town like Iowa City.  Local businesses offer incentives to visit their establishments, like cash prizes awarded to the best costume…all the more reason to make a unique one yourself!

Halloween is the holiday that allows you to dress up and be someone or something else for the night.  What comes to mind is children dressed up trick or treating and carved pumpkins on home doorsteps.  But Iowa City, a college town who takes holidays to another level, turns it into a four day event with extravagant decorations and incentives to visit local businesses.  The weekend before and including Monday the 31st, college students dressed up in both store bought and homemade costumes.  Making your own costume can be time consuming, expensive (if you don’t know where to shop) and just not worth it when you can buy a fully equipped outfit at Hot Topic.  Why make your own costume you ask?  “I’d say the best reason to make your own costume is that nobody else will have it,”  Andy Jensen, Halloween enthusiast, said.  Jensen who has devoted time and creativity to his Halloween costumes for the past five years takes costume making extremely seriously, and can’t bare the thought of having to buy a prepackaged outfit.  He has been Skeeter from the TV show Doug, a loaf of Wonder Bread, Tim Dwight, among others in the past. His best effort though went into a Big Bird costume he made for this year’s Hallows Eve.

How To Make Your Own Big Bird Costume:

Jensen decided to make this costume as he was dubbed “Big Bird” in high school for his height and blonde hair combo.  He bought most of the materials at Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts in Iowa City.  First, he purchased a few yards of thin fleece fabric (in yellow, of course) for the body.  He sewed that up at home making sure there were holes for his head, arms and legs.  He pasted on yellow feather boas all over his bodysuit he also found at the fabric store.  He also bought a styrofoam cone which he shaped to be a beak; wrapping extra fleece fabric around it to hold in place.   He really got creative for his shoes– Jensen formed paper mache over old tennis, using cardboard as a buffer between the shoes and paper.  He used duct tape to hold it in place.  Once the material dried he again used left over fleece material to give them a yellow glow.  Using the yellow fleece yet again, he sewed yellow gloves or wings I should say.  He came upon orange tights from Ragstock, downtown Iowa City, “I was too tall so I had to cut them into single leg tights,” he said.  He used pink rope from the same store to wind around each leg.  His final purchase, which was his most expensive at $16, was a yellow feather wig off  Finishing touches to the Big Bird were simply yellow face paint and a good attitude!  Overall Jensen said his costume cost around $70, but is worth way more than that to him, “It’s just cool in the fact that you made it yourself,” he said.  Tip: always use extra scraps of material you bought, it will save you money and will definitely take your look up a notch by adding little things.  (Jensen used extra scraps for shoe covers, beak cover, and gloves.)

Taking the time to make your own costume comes with personal satisfaction and in some cases, cash prizes.  Many bars in the Iowa City area offered cash prizes for best costumes on Saturday the 28 and some on actual Halloween night, Monday the 31.  Deadwood hosted Halloween bashes both Saturday and Monday nights.  Each day they set aside $200 for best dressed–$100 to the best male costume and $100 to the best female costume.  “A group of zombies won and split the proceeds,” Andrew, a bartender at Deadwood, said of Monday night.  This just goes to show that a great costume has the potential to break all of the rules.  The bartender also disclosed the bar was at maximum capacity Saturday, 218 people, with “a one in one out rule”.  Bars and restaurants in the Iowa City area stay competitive by giving away prizes on a busy holiday like Halloween.  But not all bars give away cash prizes.  That doesn’t phase UI student Courtney Lenane though, “I’ve never tried to win anything,” she said, “I just go out with my friends and get drink deals.” She is in luck as many venues have incentives that are not a competition to receive, like drink specials, live music and dance parties.  If you’re anything like me though, you’ll simply enjoy the decorations, halloween themed music and people watching.  Check out what you missed this past Halloween on “Where You Should Have Been this Halloween”.  Most places tend to have the same type of deals every year, so keep them in mind for places to hit up next year!

Where You Should Have Been this Halloween:

Click here to go to the interactive map, which shows you addresses and locations in relation to each other.

The Airliner: $500 cash prize went to the best costume on Saturday night (28), decided by the Bar & Grill’s manager.

Brother’s Bar & Grill: This franchise bar held a costume contest the Saturday before the 31st. $600 total was split up between 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners.

Deadwood:  $100 cash prizes given to best dressed male and the best dressed female for both Saturday the 29th and Monday the 31st.

The Englert Theatre:  Showed the Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight on Saturday the 29th.  Read this article by Brianna Johnson to learn more about the movie, it may inspire you to go next year!

Macbride Hall–Natural History Museum:  Every year UI’s natural history museum decorates the exhibit for Halloween.  The community really comes together as local families are known to bring their kids.  It’s a great change of pace to your regular Halloween activities.

The Mill:  This bar and eatery is known for hosting live music from local talents every Halloween.  So of course they rounded up bands for Friday the 28th.

Sports Column: No costume specials but when you accept the fact that you most likely won’t win the big bugs why not save money on drink specials at SpoCo with $3 Big Beers and $3 Three Olives Vodka drinks.  (No cover!)

The Union Bar:  Let’s be honest people like to let loose on Halloween and where else to do it than on the dance floor of the biggest bar in the big10…all the incentive is already there.

Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon: Saturday night before Halloween they hosted the Robby Michael Band.  This bar is on the east side of Iowa City but worth the drive–it has a mechanical bull!

The Yacht Club:  This hidden bar (in the alley by Sports Column) held Halloween parties Friday, Saturday and Sunday before the 31st featuring Dead Larry and Roster McCabe–all for only $6 admission each night!

Halloween: Night of the Flapper

Mara Hilgenberg, as a flapper, expresses her feelings toward all Hallows Eve.  The slideshow takes place in downtown Iowa City at local bars including Martinis, The Airliner and Brothers Bar & Grill.

Nails: Nude vs. Colored

6 Nov

You can’t go wrong with neutral colored nails.  A nice manicured clear or light pink is easy going and pretty.  The good thing about a natural/nude color is they’re not as high maintenance as colored because chipping is not as noticeable.  But this winter rich dark colors are in, and can be played up as an accessory to an outfit.  If you take the time to do your nails the right way–with a base, two layers of color and  a top coat–your nails can look newly polished and chip free for a week and a half or two before any noticeable deterioration.

My favorite brands are essie and OPI.  These are both carried at Trade Secret.   I find these have high quality colors that are less likely to chip and crackle.  Always apply a clear top coat over colors to give it a polished look, and to prevent chipping and staining your nails.  My favorite color from essie’s winter collection is called “size matters” described as, “a blazing hot ruby red”.  And another great color for this time of year is OPI’s “Lincoln Park After Dark”.  It’s a dark, pretty purple that will go with your darker coats and outfits this season.

But if you’re someone who dances to your own beat you might consider Nicki Minaj’s collection by OPI.  She has six funky colors, including lots of sparkles!

PS- What do you think about men wearing nail polish?  EvolutionMan has put out a line specifically for the guys…click here to learn more.

Tights vs. Socks

31 Oct

Knee high and over the knee socks are booming back into stock, replacing the traditional tights you may wear with an outfit.  This classic school girl look is actually pretty cute and fun to play up.  You can pair them with anything– heels, flats or boots.   For this time of year, in the midwest, I would pair the socks with penny loafers or tall riding boots. You can buy knee highs/over the knee socks at H&M, TopShop, Target, and  Complete the look with a tan or patterned skirt or sleek black shorts, a tank and cardigan.  I love this look shown in American Apparel (left). 
You also have a lot of options with socks–texture wise.  Wear thick durable knit socks for cold weather, or thin breathable nylons for a bit warmer weather.  Essentially you’ll get the same overall look, but it’s fun to play with texture when appropriate.  Also, there are many different designs and colors on socks, has a lot of options so check out their website.  This photo from H&M has a cool spin on the style–wearing both tights and knee high socks.  This model displays thin nylon tights with a pattern, layered under solid black knit knee highs.

Earrings: Studs vs. Statement

17 Oct

A go to earring for me has always been the classic stud. Basic silver/gold ball or diamond studs are so versatile, they are simple enough to wear daytime and sophisticated enough for night wear.  Studs will always be in though, so when a new trend arises its nice to mix up or traditional look.  Two new trends are long feather earrings and wrap around earrings.

The statement feather earring is best worn in just one ear.  To offset the feather wear your hair in a low side ponytail like Jessica Szohr, below. (Photo courtesy of  Jessica is most famous for her role in Gossip Girl.  Click here to find a similar black feather earring to this one from Hot Topic.

Another fun trend is the wrap around earring–which should be worn with your hair pulled back so you can fully see the design.  There are a lot of crazy designs that wrap around your entire ear, and look like they’d weigh your ears down.  Here’s a simple version of a wrap around earring:

You can find wrap around earrings at and feather earrings at Claire’s, Hot Topic, Macy’s, etc. Let me know if you try any of these looks out!

Tote bag: Vera Bradley vs. Longchamp

12 Oct

Vera Bradley and Longchamp produce two of the most popular tote bags among college aged women. I decided to compare the two brands after seeing countless ladies on the Iowa campus with one or the other:

Longchamp is known for its traditional classic style.  You will always find a leather strap, gold button, small inner pocket and zipper for their signature line–Le Pliage.  This bag is waterproof and comes in a variety of colors.  They are mostly solid colors but sometimes stray to a simple design.  Size is approximately: 12″ x 12″ x 7.5″  Cost: $145

Vera Bradley has branded its bags with bold, recognizable prints.  They are cotton quilted which gives an appealing texture.  The tote is equipped with six pockets and a toggle closure. Rough size dimensions: 19″ x 15″ x 6″ with an 11″ strap  Cost: $80

Although the Vera Bradley tote costs less, I think you get a bigger bang for you buck with Longchamp.  Because Longchamp has a waterproof aspect, this is more ideal for every day wear and tear, and its easily cleaned inside and out with a wet washcloth.  Also a huge plus to the bag is that it folds up into a tiny, relatively flat package so it’s great to take on vacation.  And of course, I’m a big fan of Longchamp’s simple, elegant style.  Their totes never go out of fashion and they match with more outfits as they are solid colors.

I would recommend Vera Bradley for travel luggage–they would be extremely easy to spot at the airport!

Scarves: Infinity vs. Traditional

7 Oct

I just bought a scarf from InBox a couple days ago–had to take advantage of that 25% of sale! Anyways I’m totally obsessed with it. It’s an infinity scarf; basically material in the shape of a donut that you put around your neck!  (Also called neck warmers, circle scarves, and loop scarves).  This has been a trend over the past couple years, but has really become mainstream this year.  The brand of my infinity scarf is Cheap Monday.  Inbox carries this European brand, which is really cool.  It’s pretty awesome that Stevie has the power to bring these looks to the great state of Iowa when they’re in style. (Opposed to coming “in style” in the midwest after the east and west coast have been there and done that).

Jocelyn EXCLUSIVE Short Rabbit Infinity Scarf: Brown
I saw this rabbit fur infinity scarf from Intermix featured on today.  It gives you an idea of how you can play with texture to make your scarf pop from your outfit.

I’ve found that infinity scarves are so easy to throw on over a coat or jacket.  They’re very simple and can look very elegant especially in a solid color.  Although with traditional scarves you have choices of how to wear it (knots, looping, tying, etc.) it’s nice to not have to fuss about it.  You don’t have to worry about traditional scarf ends flying up in your face in windy weather (embarrassing!)  It’s always a little awkward trying to strap down fluttering ends when in public.  The infinity scarf sits like a necklace, pretty snug to your neck, so it’s hassle free.

Inbox and Lyla’s Boutique had infinity scarves in stock the past couple fall seasons, so if you’re in the Iowa City area check out those stores.  Nordstrom is always a great place to look for variety, and you can order offline, so that’s another store to keep in mind.  When buying an infinity scarf look for chunky thick ones, that will be sure to keep you warm.  I really like this Michael Kors fax fur infinity scarf, or “neck warmer”.  The texture will add a lot to any outfit, and stand out from a jacket.  Because it’s an infinity scarf, it has less material than a traditional one, so the fur won’t look like it’s too much.  I also really like the Hunter Herringbone circle scarf–it’s a two toned black and white wool weave.  Can’t go wrong there!

Another plus–if you purchase a circle scarf that has a long width, it doubles as a hoodie.  It can protect your head against wind, light rain and snow just like a sweatshirt hood would.  Here is an example:

Photos courtesy of (This site prices these around $20!)