Shoot, it's only a few days until Halloween and you don't have a costume yet!
Relax - you're in the same boat as many a costume designer for a science fiction movie or TV series. Except that instead having to create a whole group of identical alien costumes for a bunch of extras by Friday, you only have to create one cool-looking costume for yourself. We talked to few actual costume designers, including Joss Whedon's favorite costumer, and came up with some cool ideas for costumes you can throw together in the next couple of days.
Brown Coat, or random frontier person. We talked to Shawna Trpcic, costume designer for Joss Whedon's shows Firefly, Serenity, Dr. Horrible and Dollhouse. She's all about adapting easy-to-find materials - she cut up her own wedding dress to make Inara's ballgown in the Firefly episode "Shindig."
Thrift stores are a treasure source. You don't feel bad cutting something up to make it a-line or off center, to make it other-worldly. I love the "Towns" in cities - Chinatown, Little India, Thai-town - you can get amazing costume pieces for very little, [with] all the embroidery and beading. Crazy shoes, neat jewlery. The stores that supply "work" clothes are also great, for Amish, prairie, or cowboy. You can get thick pants, prairie dresses [or] patriot shirts. Again usually not very expensive. Then the planet you choose to be from will determine the make-up.
Random cyborg mutant. We got a similar answer from Ruth Secord, who's worked on a slew of TV movies including Threshold, Bugs, Terminal Invasion, and Encrypt. Go down to your local Army surplus store and "Value Village" type stores and look for random stuff that you can put together into a ramshackle survivor of the purge of humanity.
What you'll need: Scraps of rubber and leather. Pieces of chain mail. A pop riveter. Bits and pieces of electronics. Old Army uniforms.
Nerd Herder from Chuck. We talked to Augusta, aka burlesque performer Penny Starr, Jr., who works as a costumer on NBC's series about a nerd in an electronics store who gets the CIA and NSA databases plugged into his brain. And not surprisingly, Augusta suggests dressing as a member of the Nerd Herd, the team of computer fixers that Chuck belongs to.
What you'll need: "Black pants, white short sleeve shirt, grey tie and pocket protector."
Mork From Ork. The manic, happy-to-go-lucky, finger-drinking visitor from a crazy backwards planet, from the classic sitcom. He's due for a come-back, and I'm frankly shocked the Mork movie hasn't been announced yet.
What you'll need: Shaggy hair, vertical stripey suspenders, glue-on chest hair, and heaps of cocaine.
Steampunk person. Another suggestion from Augusta, the Chuck costumer. "There's nothing more 'in' these days than steampunk!" she says. For those who slept through the past two decades, Steampunk is about imagining an alternate Victorian era that achieved high technology (including cyborgs and stuff) powered by steam.
What you'll need: Victorian clothing. For men, a white shirt and fitted (not pleated) trousers. For women, a long, full skirt. Turn up your collar, and then buy a women's silk scarf and wrap it around your neck, with a knot, to make an ascot of sorts. Buy some goggles from the Army/Navy surplus store, and while you're there, ask if they have any gaiters, which are canvas leg coverings that go over your leg like spats. "Add a suit vest from the thrift store, and get a length of chain from the hardware store for your 'pocket watch' - buy a connector to clip it to the second to last button hole and connect the other side to your iphone!"
Bodypainted superhero. If you're bald and skinny, paint yourself silver and go as the Silver Surfer. (It may help to have a surfboard, also painted silver.) If you're a bit bigger, paint yourself green and go as the Hulk. (Or She-Hulk if you're a tall, buff woman.)
What you'll need: Bodypaint. And, if you're the Surfer, a surfboard and some silver paint.
Random Stargater: Our resident Stargate expert, Meredith, points out that the basic Stargate uniform is pretty simple - and very close to actual Army fatigues.
What you'll need: Basic Army fatigues. And a patch. You can be lame and just laser print it, or you can try and track down someone like this guy who makes the real thing. Ahh... just laser print it.
Off-duty Battlestar personnel. Particularly in the Battlestar Galactica miniseries, the Galactica crew had a pretty simple uniform for when they were off duty. And yet it has the advantage of being pretty recognizeable, because who wears a tanktop over a T-shirt normally?
What you'll need: cream/tan-colored T-shirt, olive-green or dark green tank top, and green fatigue pants. Bonus points if you're female and have short blonde hair.
Col. Doctor Irina Spalko, from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. She's awesome and distinctive, but also quite simple. The only hard part is the sword, but you can probably use a toy for that.
What you'll need: A blue/grey jumpsuit, similar to what maintenance workers wear. Try your local thrift store and uniform supply store. Big black gloves, big black boots, and a big black belt with a gold buckle. (You can paint the star on it yourself.) And then there's that sword, which could totally be a toy, unless you can borrow someone's real sword. And finally, a shiny straight black wig with a bowl/fringe cut, which you can find in my neighborhood for $10. Boom, you're done.
Starman. This one's a suggestion from Annalee. Jack Knight takes over as the superhero Starman, the hero his dad invented, after his brother dies on the job. Jack spurns the spandexy costumes and big fins the original Starman went for, and instead goes with a simpler, but more kick-ass, outfit.
What you'll need: Black leather jacket, T-shirt, jeans. Big goggles. And you'll have to figure out a way to make your own power rod - Annalee suggests a broomstick with a globe attached.
Another T-shirty superhero costume: Captain Hammer, who just wears a black T-shirt and cargo pants. You just have to attach the trademark logo somehow, either by glueing it on or by getting it from a custom T-shirt store. (In my neighborhood, they have a two-hour turnaround now.)
And here's a bonus idea, that's a bit harder but still pretty doable:
Cassandra from Doctor Who. Okay, this one is a bit more ambitious, but not really as hard as it seems. Stay with me here. Cassandra is the self-proclaimed "last human," who's had so much plastic surgery that she's now just a piece of skin stretched across a frame. She's bitchy and fabulous, and always seems to be hatching plans to destroy all of the zillions of other people who could lay claim to being among the last humans.
What you'll need: A metal garment rack on wheels, some kind of thin tarp or flesh-colored plastic sheeting, some paints, a rubber brain, a glass tube, a white smock, white pants, some bandages, some goggles. What you do is, stretch the fake skin across the dress rack, and attach the brain to the base of the rack inside the jar, and paint eyes and mouth on it, plus maybe a few little veins. Then you dress in all white, with the goggles, and wheel "Cassandra" around. If you can throw your voice so it sounds like she's telling you to moisturize her, so much the better.