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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.

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.

Top 10 Shopping Destinations in Downtown Iowa City

24 Oct

NOTE: These are in alphabetical order and are not rated individually because they all offer something unique!  Click here to go to the map and find out where each store is located in relation to each other.

Active Endeavors: located at 138 S Clinton Street. This store is targeted to the outdoor enthusiast, selling winter apparel, hiking boots, sleeping bags, etc.  They carry brands such as Patagonia and The North Face.  (Don’t know which brand one to buy?  Check back in a couple days for my next post comparing Patagonia and TNF jackets.)

InBox: located at 114 S Clinton Street.  The owner buys some of her apparrel from U.K. brands–you know what that means, they are always on top of trends!  Don’t be afraid to try on a fringey shirt or holey leggings, you may surprise yourself and will be ahead of the pack in terms of fashion.

Iowa Book: located at 8 S Clinton Street, right across for the Old Capitol building. Haven’t you heard the commercial?  “Iowa Book… It’s a one of a kind book store.”  Yes, yes it is–tons of Hawkeye gear including the Victoria’s Secret line.

Catherine’s: located at 7 S Dubuque Street.  Catherine’s is a bit more pricey than the rest of these stores so I’d only go here for nice quality designer jean–they carry 7 For All Mankind, J Brand and Hudson Jeans.

Cheap & Chic: located at 105 S Dubuque Street.  This store is actually owned by the same people who run Catherine’s just down the block.  Always check this place before Catherine’s as they sell some of the same things here…FOR LESS!  Definitely a place to go for a reasonably priced cute shirt.

Dulcinea: located at 2 S. Dubuque Street.  This corner store always has a variety of dresses in stock.  If you’re looking for anything from a babydoll dress to a floor length dress check here.

Lorenz 2.0: located at 109 S. Linn Street. Two words: Shoes galore.

Raygun: located in the pedestrian mall at 103 East College Street, this funky shop makes funny T-shirts featuring Iowa.  For example a popular one is: “Iowa City: all of the creativity went into its name.  You can also have them print your own designs.

Silver Spider: located in the Old Capitol Mall at 201 S Clinton Street #154.  JEWELRY JEWELRY JEWELRY! This place has it ALL.  No joke, anything you could want is at this place.  And don’t forget to add an inappropriate magnet to your bag when you go to check out.

Textiles: located in the Pedestrian Mall at 109 S Dubuque Street. This store targets a bit of an older crowed i.e. not college students, more like college students’ moms.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pop in to check out their Hobo International handbags and belts, they also always have a huge stock of scarves!

Jackets: Patagonia vs. The North Face

2 Oct

Patagonia or The North Face? That is the question.

These two brands target the same audiences, attracting the average joe looking for a jacket to the hardcore outdoor enthusiast.  I’m comparing the brands’ most popular fall-winter jackets.  They’re both full zip, fleece jackets worn by men and women.

The North Face: Denali Jacket .

Price: $165

Features: Full zip, mostly fleece with abrasion-resistant fabric overlays shoulders, chest and elbows.  Standard fit, two hand pockets, one chest pocket

Patagonia: Full Zip Re-Tool Jacket .

Price: $139

Features: Full zip, polyester fleece, “feminine” silhouette, two hand pockets, one chest pocket

I’ve always been partial to TNF jacket, as I bought a few in high school.  They’re great and roomy inside, which is good for layering OVER a sweatshirt it.  Now, if you’re looking for a jacket that is contoured a little more to your figure, I would go with the Patagonia, it is a good layering piece but would work best UNDER your main winter coat. It’s just too body skimming to fit anything bulky like a sweatshirt under it.  Also the Patagonia texture is super soft, which is a plus.  So depending on how you want to wear it, as your main coat or as an inside layer, choose accordingly!  But of course, go to a store and try both on before you determine what you want–Active Endeavors downtown Iowa City carries both, so stop by after class.

Blue Jeans vs. Colored Jeans

27 Sep

Colored Jeans are one of the newest trends this fall.  They have been seen on tons of celebrities, and continued to blow up the runways that foreshadow next spring and summer (not going anywhere soon).

Blue jeans will always be in, but I hope colored jeans stick around longer than the average fad, because they’re just fun!  It’s a different way to add color to your outfit.

Photos courtesy of The Gossip Avenue.  Top, from left to right: Fergie, Kim Kardashian, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Victoria Beckham. Bottom, from left to right: Rachel Bilson, Anna Kendrick, Khloe Kardashian, Cameron Diaz.

All of these ladies are wearing skinny jeans.  The skinny jean is a great style to compliment a colored wash.  This way you can wear heals, or boots, incorporating the color into any outfit.

My personal favorite colors for this fall are the dark blue and red, (the Kardashian girls know what’s up!)  Yellow, and light pink are definitely not something you should be caught in this fall, save those for the summer.  Pair the jeans with nice fall colors like browns, and neutrals.  Black and white are always good choices, obvi.

Notice: every girl above is wearing a solid colored top.  Even if you think a printed top may match well, it will most likely look like too much is going on, so stick with solids.

Check out Hot Topic for decently priced colored jeans (approx. $30)!

Flare vs. Skinny

15 Sep

The flare jean is back!  After a long few years of skinny jeans, NY fashion week last spring showcased the flare jean for a Fall 2011 look.  After models tore up the look on the runway, celebs have been seen wearing the 70’s chic pant on the streets.  Just look at Gwyneth Paltrow, Gisele Bündchen and Zoë Saldana:

Photo courtesy of

I’ve been a huge fan of skinny jeans because they allow you to show off your boots–one of my all time favorite looks is a skinny jean with a classic leather riding boot–but I have to admit I’m a little excited the flare jean is making a come back.  Flare jeans are pretty flattering, especially in a darker wash.  By adding a heel under your flare, you can make your legs appear longer, thus looking a bit slimmer which is always a plus!  You can be pretty flexible in what top you pair with flare jeans–as you can see above the look can be completed with a blazer, casual shirt, or tucked in oxford and look great all ways. The style is back and I think adding a pair of flares to your wardrobe is a must for this fall!

Floral Prints: How much is too much?

11 Sep

A new trend that has been on the rise for a while now, is floral prints on clothes and accessories.  I saw a lot of women sporting the floral print as a top when I studied abroad in London this summer.  The print was usually on a sheer shirt which the ladies tucked into a dress pant, jean or high-waisted skirt.

I really like the flowy look of a floral top matched up with high-waisted skinny jeans.  Try riding boots with the outfit for daytime and heels to take it up a notch for night-time.  If you wear a floral design as a dress, pair it with a skinny belt to give some shape to your silhouette.  I’m not a huge fan of wearing prints on bottom but this months Glamour has an article, “These-Aren’t-Your-Grandma’s Floral Pants” that describes how to rock the new trend.

And don’t forget–always always always flatter your body.  If you don’t think the floral top, pant or dress you try on at a store suits you, do not buy it!  Trust me, it can make you look bigger in places you don’t want to!  This doesn’t mean you can’t wear floral at all, just try to incorporate it into your outfit through a scarf or handbag.

Personally, I always opt for a scarf in new prints I’m not completely in love with–this is for a few reasons:

1.  I try to stick to basics, like a black or white top with a scarf as an accent piece, because it’s usually more flattering on my body.

2.  Scarves are usually cheaper than a shirt or pant, thus if the design turns into a fad, you won’t be too bummed you spent money on it.

3.  You don’t have to fully commit to it.  If you decide you’re not into your look later in the day–just take it off, and stash it in your handbag!

Because of these reasons I’m going to have to say a floral print scarf takes the cake over the print in a shirt/pant/dress.  I think such a bold statement piece should be smaller rather than larger.  In my opinion floral print pants are just too much.

Check out stores like Forever21 and H&M as they have a lot of floral to choose from for decent prices.

Will you try and mix some floral prints into your wardrobe this fall?  (If you already have–what’d you buy and from where?)