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.

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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired Battersea power station in 2012. Initially, it promised to build 636 affordable units. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers already having failed to develop the site, it was still enough for Wandsworth council to give planning consent. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls.

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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