Costume tips from Cirque du Soleil

Ah, the cheesy tourist look. Classic.
Photo: Scott Den Herder

For Ruben Permel and Kathy Wusnack creating a Halloween costume is a little like going to work. As head and assistant head of wardrobe for Cirque du Soleil’s KA, Permel and Wusnack help turn an empty theater into an exotic foreign world for every performance by outfitting the cast in creations that make imaginative an understatement.

So when Halloween comes around what do Strip professionals look for in a costume and what can an average Joe or Jane do to create a Cirque-like look on a used clothing budget? We took Permel and Wusnack to Savers on East Tropicana in Las Vegas and set them loose with $50 dollars to create a one of a kind Halloween get-up. The results were incredible, and along the way they dropped these nuggets of costume shopping advice. Read. Memorize. Craft the best damn costume possible.

1) Be inspired by what you see. You can hit the stores with a particular look in mind, but you may miss out on some incredible pieces. Keep an open mind when you shop and be willing to try anything. If you go with your heart set on the sexy cop look, you’ll miss out on that to-die-for Pimps-R-Us bathrobe with the red satin trim.

2) Go for uniforms. When you’re a construction worker, donning a hard hat and orange mesh vest is probably the last thing you feel like doing on Halloween, and the same goes for any occupation that requires a uniform. But other people’s jobs are endlessly exciting and other people’s uniforms make fabulous costumes. Second hand stores like Savers are where uniforms go to die and be reborn as Halloween hits.

3) Customize. Just because something doesn’t fit perfectly or appear in the right color doesn’t mean you can’t work with it. Our Cirque guides suggested painting shoes to match your outfit or making a few minor alterations to clothing to take it from so-so to so right.

4) Look for eye-catching centerpieces. One good item can make an outfit. That green leather pea coat with the gold buttons? It’s dying to be the core of your military general costume. The scandalously short plaid micro-mini? Saucy schoolgirl, of course. Find just one signature item and the rest of your outfit will come together like clockwork.

5) Bring a cheat sheet. If you have a solid costume idea for All Hallow’s Eve, don’t go shopping without a visual guide. A regular grocery list won’t help you here. Print out a photo of the character you’re trying to emulate, suggests Permel, then go around the store finding the individual pieces to create your complete look. Easy to find get-ups include Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones and Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men.

6) Think decades. Less than five days until Halloween and you’ve got no ideas, little money and even less time. Don’t throw up your hands and go as yourself; go period chic. Just pick your decade and hit the store. For ‘60s search out tie-dye, bell bottoms and polyester goodness or swing ‘70s with a white leisure suit. “It may not breathe,” Permel warns, “but it will definitely give you a look.”

7) Die already. Find a shirt, a dress, a jacket - anything that evokes a certain style or time - add scary makeup, a dash of fake blood, maybe a large weapon and voila! “You can be a dead anything,” offers Wusnack. After all, Halloween is the one time all year that you can pretend to be a cold-blooded killer and not get thrown in the slammer as a result.

Accessories can make the outfit.

8) Remember accessories. A white shirtdress is boring. A white shirtdress with a matching diner style hat, a pair of cat-eye glasses and some old roller skates is an adorably retro roller waitress waiting to happen. Savers carries sporting equipment like roller blades, bowling balls and tennis racquets, too. Just what you need to complete your Halloween ensemble.

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