To celebrate the start of the most terrifying #SPOOKYSZN in living history, VICE asked a few of our favorite artists and photographers to create costumes based on prompts forged from the depths of our brains. Armed with nothing but $25 and their own wild imaginations, the artists were tasked with building cheap Halloween costumes and sharing their scary good savings tips. Supported by GEICO.
Multidisciplinary artist Jaimie Warren has long been obsessed with the concept of transformation. Oft-described by critics as a 21st-century drag version of Cindy Sherman, Warren’s work fuses pop culture references with knowing nods to classical art, using her body and the bodies of others as fluid, living canvases.
After spending years warping herself into a wide variety of celebrities, objects, foods, and characters, Warren feels empowered by the process of artistic mutation. Through sheer creativity and craftiness, she can become a recognizable version of anything—man, woman, zombie, or Justin Timberlake’s early ‘00s Top Ramen hair.
Our challenge for her? Take a favorite object and turn it into a Zoom party-worthy Halloween costume that is both “HUGE and WEARABLE.” Following the prompt, Warren used materials from the $0.99 store to morph into a terrifying, pop-art washing machine straight out of The Brave Little Toaster.
We spoke with Warren about her costume, her love of Halloween, and what transformation means to her.
Tell me a little bit about your relationship to Halloween? What is the first Halloween costume you can remember putting together?
I have always been obsessed, of course. I feel like all the wonderful weirdos who grew up wanting Halloween to last all year always find each other as adults and have a special kinship. It is crazy to think that there might be people that exist that don't like Halloween! Being scared is amazing, candy is amazing, making your own costumes is amazing, homemade haunted houses are absolutely unbelievably amazing. Haunted hayrides?! Graveyard tours?! Witches’ cauldrons?! Dancing skeletons?! Seances?! Do kids go out and trick or treat at night anymore? Because that is (was?) amazing!
My oldest Halloween costume memory is being “static cling” and wearing a sweatsuit with socks and undies and dryer sheets stuck all over me.
What was your initial reaction to our costume prompt?
I loved it; I love assignments and usually get more stressed if a project is super open. This prompt was just open enough to generate a handful of fun ideas.
I wasn't sure if I should be taking a tiny object and making it huge, or taking a huge object and making it wearable, but I went with the latter and focused on your standard giant objects and how you could wear them.
I have always loved appliances as props and costumes, and the idea that you can make something that looks and acts functional out of cardboard. So I was debating between making myself into a refrigerator, or being a giant waffle with a toaster in the background. In the end, I thought becoming a washing machine was super cute and super easy to source cheaply, because your own clothes can be a big part of the props.
Describe the costume you created.
My inspiration was 'DIY and homemade Halloween costume internet searches! You get the COOLEST WEIRDEST BEST inspiration from this. My costume is myself inside of a washing machine, with my head sticking out of the top in a pile of clothes, with a laundromat wall of washing machines behind me. I was able to make simple wall and cube structures out of cardboard and fabric, and they can be hand-activated to move, which is a really fun idea.
A lot of Halloween parties are going to take place on Zoom this year, how was this costume tailored to fit that idea?
I can use my hands to move the clothes in my washer whenever I want to, and this would be hilarious to do for an entire Zoom party. I was thinking I could get a friend to sit behind the fake laundromat wall and have them randomly puppeteer machines to make those clothes move, have someone hop over the set during the party and act like they’re putting money in a machine, or even have sound effects ready for when things begin to move (rumbling) or stop (buzzer).
It’s a bummer to have a Zoom party instead of being able to be with your friends in person. But if you are stuck inside, you might as well take advantage of the cool pros of the situation: You can have a costume that’s essentially a living set! Try to make it super fun and weird and unique and you’ll forget all about that pesky global pandemic…at least for a couple of hours.Walk me through the process of making your costume.
First, I did an internet search for DIY versions of what I was doing to see how other people have done it before so I could use their tricks. I also looked up images of vintage laundromats to look at designs and color palettes. Then I sketched out what I wanted and wrote a list of everything I needed to buy, to make, and to find.
I first set out to find and buy all of my items out in the world. I searched for a while for big cardboard sheets, because if you can find nice, big ones, everything goes pretty smooth. Smaller boxes with these big sets means you have to spend a lot of time connecting them in a way that is very sturdy and smooth, which can be time consuming. I found some big sheets, free newspapers, good sheets of fabric from the thrift store, and a few dollar store items I needed.
When I got everything together in one spot, I began laying out the basic structures in front of the camera so I could make sure my main prop was not too big and my backdrop was not too small. I cut the basic shapes and put them in place so I knew what I was working with, then dove into the detailed work. I wanted to hand-make my laundry props, because I thought that would be a nice touch. I used loads of tape to connect everything together as smoothly as possible, then covered my props in fabric.
Finally, I made little puppeteer-style washing machines for my backdrop and directed a friend on how and when to operate them. They also helped style my laundry-pile costume around my face, since I was sort of helpless once I got into the costume as only my head is exposed. Make sure you buy your buddies a sandwich or something nice in exchange for their help; it’s always more fun to work on these things with a friend!
How did you use the $25 budget?
- $0: Paint sticks (free) from the hardware store
- $0: Clothes from my closet
- $0: Cardboard from the dumpster and street
- $0: Newspaper from the free newspaper bins
- $0: Paint and brushes, hot glue gun and sticks, scissors and box cutter I already had in my studio
- $9.03: XL plastic circles. (This was an excessive cost, as I could have just used plastic wrap or pie tin tops that would be much cheaper, but I thought they would look cool if they were bigger. Had I needed to purchase paint, I would have gone with smaller plastic tops.)
- $1.29: Pack of zip ties
- $1.29: Masking tape roll
- $1.29: Pack of construction paper
- $5.20: Sheets from the thrift store
What advice do you have for DIY costumers looking to save money on a Zoom-worthy Halloween costume?
First, learn how to find free materials. For example, cardboard from the street is one of my favorite things to snag. I like to go for the dumpsters in the back of art crating businesses and art supply stores and try to find the largest, cleanest, most un-bent pieces I can. Grocery stores and hardware stores will often set aside dry cardboard boxes for you if you ask a manager and you are willing to come back later.
When it comes to paint, there is no need to buy 100 colors. You can make any color with these five basic colors—red, yellow, blue, black, and white.
Finally, use your friends/roommates/partners to be puppeteers and lighting coordinators during your Zoom party. Costumes with moving components are always a showstopper, and you can buy ‘em lunch as a thank you with the money you saved.
Supported by GEICO.