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Artists Show Us How to Make Outrageous Costumes for $100

ByKara Weisensteinphotos byElizabeth Renstrom

Not sure what to be for Halloween? Let these creations inspire you.

Deciding what to be for Halloween is the most stressful part of an otherwise fantastic holiday. Who doesn't love a sanctioned excuse to behave like a monster, binge on candy, and perform hexes on your exes?

But #WinningHalloween (or whatever) always comes down to costume execution, and this year we're not messing around. We commissioned three New York artists—Erica Prince, Mukunda Angulo, and Ziggy Mack-Johnson—to design us the Halloween costumes of their dreams. We gave them a budget of $100 to create their looks, and we asked them to document the whole process with disposable cameras. This is what they came up with.

Erica Prince

Erica Prince is a multidisciplinary artist based in Brooklyn, known for her Transformational Makeover project. In it, Prince gives her subjects an exhaustive questionnaire to shed light on their psyche, then wields makeup, wigs, costumes, and other cosmetics to temporarily transform them into something or someone else. Getting gussied up is this artist's modus operandi, so we wanted to see what she could come up with for a Halloween costume.

VICE: What is your costume?
Erica Prince: It's basically myself in the future. Sci-fi costumes are always my go-to, and I wanted to incorporate some elements having to do with my Transformational Makeover project. Essentially, she is a woman of the future and the past—sort of retro-futurist. I'm very interested in the way people foresaw a utopian future from a mid-century standpoint.

What is it made from?
It's all made out of things I bought at the 99-cent store, plus some fabric. It's a plastic bucket, the framework of an umbrella hat, drain strainers, wire, art supplies, lipstick, and a bunch of other random stuff. I wanted to take items that are sort of goofy and ubiquitous and turn them into something bigger than the sum of their parts. I wanted to make drain strainers, for example, almost glamorous.

What's important to you when you're choosing a costume?
I like costumes that are humorous but take their construction very seriously. One of my go-to strategies is taking things and seeing how I could possibly wear them on my head, because I think it's funny to turn something unexpected into a hat. My great-grandmother was a milliner in the Victorian era, so I think there's a part of me who wants to wear things on my head.

I think people really limit themselves when they invent costumes that are particular people or things, so whenever I make a costume, I keep it really open-ended. I end up with something based on my material choices. Or sometimes it comes from a very vague idea, like making a makeup gun. It's not so much about achieving a costume that's of something.



Do you remember your first Halloween costume?
Can I do my favorite one? I was Elvira when I was maybe eight years old, and it was so fun because I got to wear this long black wig and do really goth-glam makeup. As an eight-year-old that was incredible, because I felt like this sexy, evil woman. My mom helped me make a dress out of black crushed velvet that had a mermaid shaped skirt. It was elaborate. And I had a ring with a bat attached to it, so i could make the bat fly around.

What's the best Halloween you've ever had?
My old gallery in Philly, Vox Populi, used to throw a huge annual Halloween party. And one year, I had a getting-ready party at my house, and all these people came over, and I did everyone's makeup. But I still didn't have a look, because I was so focused on everyone else's looks, so at the last minute I made myself into the most disgusting man I could possibly be.

I parted my hair in the middle, and I greased it down, and I contoured my face to be really, really manly. I was wearing these grease-monkey clothes, like pale denim with stains on it, and I taped down my boobs and wore a wife-beater with a car mechanic's shirt, and I named myself Wayne. And then all night long, I was just as masculine and smarmy as I could possibly be. I stayed in character all night, dancing with my boyfriend in a really nasty, smarmy way. It was just so much fun, because no one recognized me. I think Halloween is too often an opportunity to be sexy, and not often enough an opportunity to be disgusting.

Mukunda Angulo

Mukunda Angulo is one of the six brothers featured in the award-winning documentary The Wolfpack. As fans of the film are likely aware, he's a master prop and costume builder from the years he and his siblings spent reenacting their favorite films from the confines of their New York apartment. Since the film's release, Angulo has been using his newfound freedom to travel and pursue filmmaking—for much larger audiences. We knew he'd be able to make a dope costume on very little cash, so we turned Angulo loose.

VICE: What is your costume?
Mukunda Angulo: The costume that I have made today is the Arm from the latest season of Twin Peaks. It looks like a talking tree—a very weird-looking talking tree.

What is it made out of?
It's made out of cardboard, paper, scotch tape, and regular wall paint.

What is important when you're choosing a costume?
It has to feel real. It shouldn't look like a costume. It should feel like a creature or something not-human. One of my favorite past costumes is Michael Myers from Halloween. I always seem to come back to that for inspiration. And two Batman costumes that I made over the course of five years. I also made a series of costumes for a short film we did for VICE. I made a telephone man and an octopus.

Do you remember your first Halloween costume?
I believe my first costume was Darth Maul from the Star Wars prequels, the very first one. I grew up watching those, and for some reason, I always love characters dressed in black or dark characters. At the time, I wasn't able to make a Darth Vader costume, but Darth Maul was easy because it was just a painted face and a two-way light saber. I made the face out of cardboard and painted it. And that was my very first Halloween costume.



What's the best Halloween you've ever had?
That's a tough one. I would think it was the first Halloween where I was no longer… Um, the first Halloween I was free from my chains, as I would call them. It was the first Halloween where I felt I could have complete creative control, and we could just do whatever we want, me and all of my brothers. It was just the six of us, just the family hanging out. We didn't really do much, but we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted on Halloween night, to enjoy it and embrace the Halloween spirit.

That's one I always go back to, to remember how exciting and inspirational and magnificent I find Halloween to be. I think a lot of it has to do with how creative Halloween is. You can be anything you want on Halloween, literally anything you want. And I think that process and freedom to be whoever, or dress however you want creatively, is why Halloween is my favorite holiday.

Ziggy Mack-Johnson

Ziggy Mack-Johnson is a 21-year-old fashion influencer from Brooklyn. Growing up in Clinton Hill, he was influenced by fashion everywhere he went and sees clothes and accessories as a means through which to truly express himself. We knew that whatever he came up with would be the coolest costume in Brooklyn, and he did not disappoint.

VICE: What is your costume?
Ziggy Mack-Johnson:
My costume is half man, half woman. And it's both street-style chic. So it's a mixture of both of my personalities.

What's it made out of?
It's made out of camo, a twill skirt, a studded bra, and an army jacket. All of the clothes I got from L Train Vintage, one of my favorite thrift shops. On budget!

What is important when you're choosing a costume?
I want it to relate somewhat to me, because if I wear something, I want to wear it to the best of my ability. So if I'm wearing something that's more related to me, I can wear it the best.

Do you remember your first Halloween costume?
I was Batman, and my twin sister was Super Woman. We were superheroes in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, going to all the brownstones for candy, and it was fucking fun. I remember the weather was so good at that time, because we didn't have jackets.

What is the best Halloween you've ever had?
I feel like it's this year. Halloween hasn't even come yet, and I've had so much fun, because I've hosted two Halloween parties so far. It has to be this year, because I don't usually do much for Halloween, but this is the first year where I'm doing a lot.

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