Ten Halloween costumes that will save you from dressing up as Miley Cyrus

Thinking of reaching for a leotard and a suggestive foam finger so you can twerk your way through the spookiest night of the year? Think again!

Halloween is nearly here, and we’re preparing to be invaded by an army of twerking, wrecking ball-riding Miley Cyri. The Miley Cyrus costume has already reached ubiquity and you can learn how to make one here, here and here. As the more traditional and wholesome Halloween get-ups (the Frankenstein, the Dracula, the Maggie Thatcher) are replaced by ones that scream, “Look at me. I get popular culture”, here are ten costumes a bit better than a leotard and a suggestive foam finger:

1. An open letter

From Sinéad O’Connor to Sufjan Stevens, the verbose outpourings of several public figures have rendered 2013 the year of the open letter. And what could be more frightening than a celebrity dying of altitude sickness, atop its high horse? Plus, this makes for an easy costume; just look papery and sanctimonious.

2. A penis beaker

It was a dark and stormy night. The wind howled through the trees, the stairs creaked and the sodden, post-coital willy went splosh, into a cup. The Mumsnet-spawned internet sensation, “Penis Beaker”, is by far the scariest story of the year. Although I’m not entirely sure how to dress up as a normal beaker, let alone a penis one; if well-executed, this costume is a guaranteed hit. Hint: you will pull.

3. Morrissey’s ego

The Smiths frontman’s autobiography just made history by instantly moaning its way into the lofty realms of Penguin Classics. Why not celebrate by going to a Halloween Party as This Charming Man’s ego? It’s easy; just dress up as big as possible. This can be achieved with five jumpers, a puffer jacket and a duvet cloak. What’s more, Morrissey’s ego also works as a two-person costume. Just get a friend to dress up as a penguin and massage you all evening.

4. Jeremy Paxman’s beard

As far as controversial facial hair goes, Paxo’s stubble is the fuzzy apex. This costume is a sensible choice for cat/dog owners. Just cover yourself in PVA glue and rub little Mittens and/or Rover all over your naked body. Try not to look like 1970s porn.

5. A poisonous vagina

Michael Douglas made head(ha!)lines earlier this year, when he loudly and publicly announced that he got throat cancer from going down on too many women. What a great day for hypochondriacal lesbians everywhere. Meanwhile, a Brazilian woman tried to murder her husband by lacing her vagina with poison. So, move over Open Letter, 2013 may actually be the year of the toxic twat. Combine Poisonous Vagina with Penis Beaker for the perfect couples’ costume.

6. Taylor Swift

I don’t understand all the quacking, frenzied hoo-hah about Miley Cyrus. As far as I can tell, aside from having enough money to buy Luxembourg, she’s the most normal 20-year-old girl who ever lived. Taylor Swift, on the other hand, gives me the heebie-jeebies. Maybe it’s that permanent half-smile that seems to say, “I buried my governess in a shallow grave”; maybe it’s the fact that I’ve spent actual minutes wondering what’s hiding underneath that porkpie hat. Either way, a Taylor Swift costume this Halloween will guarantee a shudder from me, at least.

7. Vladimir Putin

A Putin mask is an excellent way to lampoon one of the foremost bogeyman of 2013. For extra authenticity, remove your shirt, strike a devastatingly camp pose and refuse to engage with any gay people or women who might be at the Halloween party.

8. Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange

I repeat; not just Julian Assange, but Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange. To mark the release of The Fifth Estate, in which the angular actor plays the arsy activist, I suggest a combination of a Cumberbatch face cut-out and a mop placed jauntily atop your head. Assange was eerie enough before he morphed with Cumberbatch to make Cumbersange; the pallid truth-seeker of your nightmares.

9. A One Direction fan

. . . Or a “Directioner” as one is known, rather ominously. Fans of the world’s most attractive embryos have outdone themselves in buttock-clenched devotion this year, tweeting death threats at anyone who isn’t that keen on their favourite band. Harry Styles has over 17 million Twitter followers. It’s been scientifically proven that at least 87 per cent of those people can and will garrotte you while you sleep. Forget the zombie apocalypse, the Directioner apocalypse is well on its way. To get the look, scrawl “1D 4 EVA” on a T-shirt, in your own blood.

10. A Breaking Bad mourner

Millions were devastated when we said goodbye to the greatest TV programme about methamphetamine, ever. So why not pay your respects and go the full Victorian widow? You’ll need a long black dress, a veil and a locket containing a picture of Bryan Cranston. Extra points for a Woman in Black-style rocking chair.


Vladimir Putin was arguably the foremost bogeyman of 2013. To add extra authenticity to your costume, remove your shirt. Photo: Getty

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

Photo: Getty Images
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I'm far from convinced by Cameron's plans for Syria

The Prime Minister has a plan for when the bombs drop. But what about after?

In the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister set out a powerful case for Britain to join air strikes against Isil in Syria.  Isil, he argued, poses a direct threat to Britain and its people, and Britain should not be in the business of “outsourcing our security to our allies”. And while he conceded that further airstrikes alone would not be sufficient to beat Isil, he made the case for an “Isil first” strategy – attacking Isil now, while continuing to do what we can diplomatically to help secure a lasting settlement for Syria in which Assad (eventually) plays no part.

I agreed with much of David Cameron’s analysis. And no-one should doubt either the murderous barbarism of Isil in the region, or the barbarism they foment and inspire in others across the world.  But at the end of his lengthy Q&A session with MPs, I remained unconvinced that UK involvement in airstrikes in Syria was the right option. Because the case for action has to be a case for action that has a chance of succeeding.  And David Cameron’s case contained neither a plan for winning the war, nor a plan for winning the peace.

The Prime Minister, along with military experts and analysts across the world, concedes that air strikes alone will not defeat Isil, and that (as in Iraq) ground forces are essential if we want to rid Syria of Isil. But what is the plan to assemble these ground forces so necessary for a successful mission?  David Cameron’s answer today was more a hope than a plan. He referred to “70,000 Syrian opposition fighters - principally the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – with whom we can co-ordinate attacks on Isil”.

But it is an illusion to think that these fighters can provide the ground forces needed to complement aerial bombardment of Isil.  Many commentators have begun to doubt whether the FSA continues to exist as a coherent operational entity over the past few months. Coralling the myriad rebel groups into a disciplined force capable of fighting and occupying Isil territory is a heroic ambition, not a plan. And previous efforts to mobilize the rebels against Isil have been utter failures. Last month the Americans abandoned a $500m programme to train and turn 5,400 rebel fighters into a disciplined force to fight Isil. They succeeded in training just 60 fighters. And there have been incidents of American-trained fighters giving some of their US-provided equipment to the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda.

Why has it proven so hard to co-opt rebel forces in the fight against Isil? Because most of the various rebel groups are fighting a war against Assad, not against Isil.  Syria’s civil war is gruesome and complex, but it is fundamentally a Civil War between Assad’s forces and a variety of opponents of Assad’s regime. It would be a mistake for Britain to base a case for military action against Isil on the hope that thousands of disparate rebel forces can be persuaded to change their enemy – especially when the evidence so far is that they won’t.

This is a plan for military action that, at present, looks highly unlikely to succeed.  But what of the plan for peace? David Cameron today argued for the separation of the immediate task at hand - to strike against Isil in Syria – from the longer-term ambition of achieving a settlement in Syria and removing Assad.  But for Isil to be beaten, the two cannot be separated. Because it is only by making progress in developing a credible and internationally-backed plan for a post-Assad Syria that we will persuade Syrian Sunnis that fighting Isil will not end up helping Assad win the Civil War.  If we want not only to rely on rebel Sunnis to provide ground troops against Isil, but also provide stable governance in Isil-occupied areas when the bombing stops, progress on a settlement to Syria’s Civil War is more not less urgent.  Without it, the reluctance of Syrian Sunnis to think that our fight is their fight will undermine the chances of military efforts to beat Isil and bring basic order to the regions they control. 

This points us towards doubling down on the progress that has already been made in Vienna: working with the USA, France, Syria’s neighbours and the Gulf states, as well as Russia and Iran. We need not just a combined approach to ending the conflict, but the prospect of a post-war Syria that offers a place for those whose cooperation we seek to defeat Isil. No doubt this will strike some as insufficient in the face of the horrors perpetrated by Isil. But I fear that if we want not just to take action against Isil but to defeat them and prevent their return, it offers a better chance of succeeding than David Cameron’s proposal today. 

Stewart Wood is a former Shadow Cabinet minister and adviser to Ed Miliband. He tweets as @StewartWood.