This Halloween I decided to wear a costume that I had made a few years back. When I wear this, I seem to get one of three reactions: 1) the rare person who knows what I'm "supposed" to be and really likes the costume, 2) people who just find it to be an interesting Halloween costume in and of itself, without knowing where the idea came from, and 3) people who insist on letting me know that they don't know who or what I'm "supposed" to be dressed as.
Well for those who don't know, this is a costume from my favorite band, The Residents. They're a band who's been making albums since the early 1970s, and have never publicly revealed their identities. In fact "band" doesn't completely describe them, because from the earliest days they also did various film projects, and were one of the first bands to explore other media like multimedia CD-ROM. Regardless, The Residents only perform in full costume and don't give interviews. The main reasoning behind this is reportedly that the band wants to be as artistically free as they can, and they argue that what they do in their personal life should all be completely irrelevant to the music listener; the only thing that should matter is the work they produce. The Residents have worn countless different costumes over the years, but this particular costume remains their most famous, and the eyeball-and-top-hat logo has become a general logo for the band. It first appeared on the front cover of their album "Eskimo":
Other fans over the years have similarly made these eyeball costumes for thsemelves, some of them certainly better than what I have here. Even The Residents themselves have made a few revised versions over the years. But here's how I made mine.
First, the materials that I used:
- Rubber eyeball mask (yep, I cheated big time)
- Top hat
- Two (2) giant 5" safety pins
- One or two strong twist-ties
- Duct tape
- Jacket with coattails
- Tuxedo t-shirt
- Walking stick/cane
- White gloves
- Black pants
- Black shoes
And here are the details:
- Obviously the defining part of the costume is the eyeball-and-top-hat piece. Without this, you might as well tell people that you're supposed to be Mr. Peanut! Items #1-4 were used to create this. The eyeball mask itself (#1) is an actual latex mask that I think I bought from a seller on eBay. The pupil part of the eye is a black screen which allows you to see through. I had thought about other ways of making a mask, such as making and painting a papier mâché sphere with openings at the bottom and front, or finding some kind of already made fiberglass sphere and making holes in that, etc., but getting this already-made latex mask made things much simpler. It was just a matter of attaching a top hat.
- The catch though is that this particular mask is admittedly difficult to find. There are some places that carry thousands of different latex Halloween masks, but most don't seem to carry this one. If you try searching the web for "eye mask", you're going to get those sleeping masks that covers the eyes. If you search for "eyeball mask", you mostly get pictures of The Residents, and some masks that either only cover the face, or look more like a hood. "Eyeball latex mask" mostly gives you assorted halloween masks that happen to feature gross-looking eyeballs in some way or another. The one that I bought had "Huge Bloody Eyeball Halloween Mask" in its eBay headline (unlike the masks used by The Residents, my mask has a giant severed bloody stump in the back). I did find this other one on Amazon.com though which looks like could work: click here.
- Now that I had the mask, I just needed to attach the top hat. The top hat itself is just a cheap black top hat (#2) that I got from a Halloween outlet. Remember that the hat doesn't have to fit your head, because it's going to be attached to the mask, and ultimately be suspended over your head.
- When it came to attaching the hat to the mask, the short answer is that the two giant 5" safety pins (#3) essentially hold the hat on to the mask. You can find these pins in most places that sell sewing materials. But I wanted to prevent any possible mishaps of the pins stretching the holes out and ripping a really big hole through the mask, or having to reattach the hat if I didn't position it correctly, etc. So here's how I did the attachment:
- I wore the mask (put your chin in first, then pull it over your head!), then with the aid of a mirror, positioned the hat in a way that made sense on top of the mask. I made a few light pencil markings on the left and right sides of the mask where it touched the hat, and markins on the hat itself. Then I took off the hat and mask.
- Inside the mask, I put two strips of duct tape (#5) on the left and right sides. These mark where the pins should go. Additionally, I figured the tape would help prevent the pin holes from stretching any bigger. So starting on the left side on the inside of the mask, I opened one of the two safety pins, stuck the sharp end through one end of the duct tape (and thus through the mask too), then into the hat, coming back through the hat, through the mask, and to the pin's clasp inside.
Now I could have just done the same exact thing with the right side, but I decided to do something slightly different. Instead, I just attached the pin to the mask, but not through the hat. Then I put a twist-tie (#4) through the hat where the pin would normally be, and attached the twist tie to the pin on the outside of the mask. The reason I did this is that I could then tighten or loosen the twist tie so that the hat looked good and fit well over the mask. This made it adjustable!
- With the mask done, the costume from the neck down is really just a tuxedo with the "ultra formal" look and accessories. While I suppose you could wear a normal tuxedo jacket, I wanted to wear a tuxedo jacket with coattails (#7). If you search around, you can find a cheap one that doesn't cost much money. I actually bought mine at a costume shop for about $10. According to the label inside, it used to belong to a tuxedo rental shop. Likewise, you can find a used cummerbund (#8) for cheap if you search around thrift stores and the like.
- I do have a "real" tuxedo shirt and bow tie, and I have worn the costume with these before. But this time I decided to keep it even simpler and just wear my tuxedo t-shirt (#7) underneath the jacket. This is just a t-shirt with printing on the front to make it look like a tuxedo. Most big t-shirt shops will carry these. If you do a search on-line for "Tuxedo T shirt", you'll find plenty of people who sell them.
- The white-tipped walking stick (#9) and white gloves (#10) are easy enough to find in costume shops or stores when they carry Halloween supplies. You could even get away with wearing a thin pair of white winter gloves.
- This just leaves the black slacks (#11) and black shoes (#12) to finish the costume. Remember that this is a costume for Halloween, not formal wear for the opera, so really any pair of black pants and black shoes should do.
And there you have it!
I leave you now with a music video from The Residents. It's hard to pick just one thing from them, since they have dozens upon dozens of albums. But here's a video with the eyeball masks in some scenes. In 1980, The Residents created the "Commercial Album", an album made up of 40 songs that were each exactly one minute in length. They picked four of the songs to make four mini movies, and put them together to make a video: