how to choose a halloween costume

1. Get a group together. Or don’t.

Decide whether you want to go solo or organize a small army of matching college girls. Group costumes can be fun, but they sort of require that you stay with the people involved for most of the night. (It’s hard to explain that you’re a “What Does The Fox Say” backup dancer if you’re by yourself. You just look like a waiter who happens to be wearing whiskers.)

Group costumes also require that everyone involved have a similar vision for the costume. Otherwise, you might find yourself an unwitting member of Swat Team Sexy. But if everyone’s on the same page, they’re a super high-impact halloween costume, and you get to take lots of group pictures.

2. Decide how slutty you want to be.

Everyone is going to have a different opinion on this. Your mom wants you to dress up like an elephant like you did in kindergarten. (True life: I used to love elephants so much that I told people I was a republican. And that was the day I first brought shame to my family.) But in the sage words of Cady Heron, “Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”

This is a golden opportunity! Don’t let it go to waste!

Then again, let’s ask the boys what they think! Andrew, a rare male writer for Her Campus, reports:

We don’t need to see “the goods” out in the open at a party. A lot of guys are actually turned on by outfits that leave more to the imagination. Francis from Loyola New Orleans, remembers one Halloween when a girl in a flight attendant costume caught his eye. He says that she “looked sexy but didn’t show too much.”

There you have it: Be sexy, but don’t really be sexy. Alternatively, accept that some guys will be turned on and some guys won’t be turned on no matter what you do, and make your choice based on something other than Francis’s boner.

3. Decide how clever you want to be.

Every year, there’s a long list of timely and relevant halloween costumes. Be Sharknado! Be the VMA version of Miley Cyrus! Be the government shutdown! Last year, you were probably a binder full of women. Rock on!

Alternatively, you could aim for punny wit. Or try to make some kind of cultural commentary. Or be a cat, if you want. Not-being-clever is always an option.

4. Decide how lazy you are.

Some people are really crafty and impressive. When I was in fourth grade, I had a babysitter whose day job was puppeteering. She helped me construct the most incredible halloween costume I’ve ever pulled off: a severed head on a plate. It required heavy duty styrofoam, hours of work, weeks of anxiety, and more dedication than I realized my 9 year old self possessed.

I’ve never accomplished something so amazing. Every year since then, I’ve fallen short of that great dream, the shining city on a hill of Halloween costume ideas. Sometimes you just won’t have it in you. Know thyself.

5. Execute.

Go to the mall and figure out what you need. Hit up Claire’s, Charlotte Russe, Forever 21, SMART TOYS, Newburry Comics, and Hot Topic. Buy a twenty dollar leather corset, but only if it fits. Buy a pair of mouse ears, just in case. Figure out a whole new idea while you’re there. Halloweekend is at least three nights of partying, so you might as well be prepared.