When you're getting ready for this year's Halloween party and taking one last glance in the mirror, no matter how old you are, here's a really crucial tip:
If you see a super hero staring back at you, you're good to go. Same thing if your reflection reveals a hideous zombie. Or, if you're a kid, it's great if you look like a Disney character or if you're wearing something mom or dad made for you.
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But if you look in the mirror and see somebody resembling PSY, that Korean singer who became such a sensation last year with "Gangnam Style," run, don't walk, to the nearest closet and immediately change your outfit. Because if you know nothing else about 2013 Halloween costumes, know this: PSY is hopelessly 2012.
Just ask Lisa Barr, senior director of marketing and creative for Spirit Halloween, the New Jersey-based company that operates 1,050 stores throughout the United States and Canada.
Barr is very positive about all things Halloween, as is befitting somebody in charge of marketing, but with some prodding even she'll admit anybody trying to pull off Gangnam Style this fall "would be the doofus of the year."
This knowledge is more important than, say, being able to find Finland on a world map, because dressing up for Halloween is one of those things that involves both kids (candy!) and adults (eye candy!) and nobody -- not even a zombie -- wants to be caught dead wearing an outfit with a time stamp that expired in 2010.
"Halloween is a time of year when kids and adults can dress up and be whoever they want to be," Barr says, as long as you don't want to be PSY.
Barr knows a little something about all this because Spirit Halloween is celebrating its 30th anniversary and because if you drive by a strip mall in the Chicago suburbs and don't see one of its stores you might want to consider asking somebody important to investigate why.
"We have a finger on the pulse of what costumes people will want," she says.
The hottest of this year's hottest costumes, she says, involve zombies, and Spirit Halloween has an exclusive deal on costumes featuring characters from TV's "The Walking Dead."
Super heroes also are big for both kids and adults, but with different twists. Kids like Ironman and The Dark Knight. Adults like super heroes, too -- especially those with a sexy twist aimed at adult women because, Barr says, "women want to dress sexy."
Also popular for kids, she says, are costumes that tie in with Cartoon Network programs like "The Regular Show" and "Adventure Time." And you can't go wrong with Disney Junior costumes from shows like "Sophia the First" and "Jake and the Neverland Pirates."
Not everyone, of course, wants to buy their outfits. Michelle Krzmarzick is a Naperville mom and substitute teacher who prefers to make Halloween costumes for her young daughter Lucy and sons Henry and Charlie.
Disney characters are always popular with young kids, she says, and so are super heroes.
She says it's not unusual these days for parents who make costumes to play off themes. Last year, for example, Charlie dressed as Captain Hook, Henry was Peter Pan and Lucy was Tinker Bell. A little further back the kids went as Peanuts characters with Charlie and Lucy as, well, Charlie and Lucy, and Henry as Snoopy.
This year, Krzmarzick says, the family watched "The Wizard of Oz" and her two sons asked to go trick-or-treating as scarecrows, "although we're not trying to be movie-specific."
Krzmarzick says she's tried buying costumes on the Internet but "a lot of prices for costumes are extremely high and the quality is very poor."
She says she prefers to find "quality used material" to make her own outfits. Not only are the homemade costumes better made and less expensive, she says, but they're easy to sell after her kids are finished wearing them.
Still, making your own costumes comes with its own set of challenges. It took about six hours, for example, to pull together the Captain Hook outfit.
There are, of course, plenty of other options for finding the perfect costume. You always can check out the aisles of your local Costco or Target or, if times are tighter than the shirt on the Hulk's back, places like Goodwill, Savers or other secondhand stores. The challenge with the latter is there's go guarantee about selection or the availability of sizes, but with a little effort almost everyone can find something that will work and won't break the bank.
Whether you buy your costumes new or used or simply make them, Barr says the secret to putting together the ideal outfit is finding the perfect accessories, from swords to hats to socks to wigs.
She calls it "finishing the look."
"You have to go beyond just grabbing the bag," she says. "If you're going to be a zombie, get the makeup and the face applications … get the blood and the guts."
Of course, while it's always nice to get the blood and guts for Halloween, you don't have to go gross. You can go sweet. You can go heroic. You can go cute.
But please, please, please, don't go PSY.
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