As someone who used to wear sailor hats and tutus in daily life as a teen, I was quite excited about the idea of incorporating Halloween accessories into my normal, everyday ensembles as a grown-up. I've always loved playing dress up, after all. I even used to take dance classes and I studied drama at school, so I was never afraid of putting on a costume and adopting a different persona.
Thanks to my love of Halloween but my simultaneous awareness that as we grow older, we're not "supposed" to wear superhero capes or animal ears (unless you're Ariana Grande), I grew curious as to how people would react to seeing me in seemingly "normal" outfits with the addition of something kooky. Not only that, but I was also intrigued by how I'd feel ditching my more "adult" look for something a little more "childish." Since I work from home, I knew I'd ultimately be spending the most time with me, myself, and I, and I wondered what (if any) existential crises adopting new styles would yield.
This then got me thinking: Should I choose accessories that could be camouflaged into my outfit or ones that purposely stood out? I had a look through my closet and managed to find a raggle-taggle jumble of suitable accessories that would last me until the end of a weeklong experiment. Among this assortment were pieces that could pass off as everyday yet quirky accessories, while there were others that would help you see me from a mile off. I looked to one of my favorite sartorial icons Gala Darling — who wears novelty animal ears in day-to-day life — and I thought: If Gala can do it, so can I.
Here's what happened during my week of Halloween accessory fun.
Day 1: The Clip-On Bunny Ears
I got these ears back in college when my friends and I decided to dress up as bunnies on a night out around Easter. They were quite cheap and I love the fact that they are fluffy on one side and sequined on the other. In the past, I have worn these with a bunny-themed outfit complete with a fluffy tail.
On the first day of my experiment, I knew I was working from home all day and then babysitting my cousin afterwards, so I wanted to wear something comfortable yet fun.
I put on my Jack Wills slacks and a thin sweater with a roller skate pattern on it from H&M. It's pretty cold in the UK right now, and when you're sitting stationary at a computer all day, you need to wear layers. I hardly noticed I was wearing these bunny ears, aside from the fact that one was a little worn so it kept annoyingly flopping down. I also sort of felt like a wannabe Playboy Bunny.
On this day, the coolest thing happened, though. When my 6-year-old cousin got dropped off to have dinner with me, I noticed straight away that she was wearing cat ears. She loved that I was sporting my bunny ears and my uncle thought it was a comedic coincidence, telling us, "You'd never guess you two were from the same family!" Day 1 was definitely a Halloween accessory win.
Day 2: The Skeleton Gloves
When I was 17, I dressed as a skeleton and wanted a quirky accessory to complete my outfit. I bought some skeleton costume gloves that didn't fit me, cut the "bony" parts off, and reattached them to some fingerless gloves in my size. However, I didn't have any black thread so I had to make do with blue. This, coupled with the fact that I'm not the best at sewing, made for a pretty scruffy pair of gloves.
I decided to go all-out with this one and paired my gloves with an old sweater that boasts a skeleton design. I thought I might look a bit too insane wearing skeleton gloves inside all day, so I tried to create a theme with my skeletal sweater.
Upon going to the local grocery store, it dawned on me that I probably looked pretty kooky. There was a moment when a group of young teens passed me that made me feel surprisingly uncomfortable. FYI, I live in a small, northern town in England where some people (albeit not everyone) can be a little close-minded. The quirkiest thing you might see someone wearing is a leopard print fur coat. If I had worn these gloves on the streets of London, I don't think anyone would have batted an eyelid. But in my town, I felt the need to shove my hands fast and deep into my pockets.
The gang was too busy being rowdy to notice me, so I breathed a sigh of relief. But my next challenge came when I reached the store. I tried to make my movements as swift and subtle as possible when reaching things off the shelves, while trying to avoid looking like a shoplifter. When I got to the register, however, the jig was up. I had to use my skeletal hands to reach into my purse and hand the cashier the money. Thank goodness for the politeness of British people. The cashier didn't say a word, appeared to avert his gaze from my weird gloves, and ignored their existence. Bless him. Somewhat surprised at my discomfort, I power-walked home and didn't leave the house for the rest of the day.
Day 3: The Cat Ear Headband
With this particular accessory, I realized I had lucked out due to the cat ears being leopard print. This meant that I could theme my outfit around them and try to look a little less insane.
On this day, I was going to visit my fiancé's sister and her family to watch rugby at their house. I felt like I wouldn't look too much out of place as she has three kids and a step daughter. I reckoned I'd just look like the crazy aunt who was trying to wear a funny outfit.
I wore my ears with a leopard print dress, a thin green sweater, black leggings, boots, and a red coat. IMO, leopard print and the color red go together like peanut butter and jelly. After a while, I completely forgot I was wearing the cat ear headband and I actually liked how it coordinated with my outfit. I may even try wearing this look once the experiment is over.
Day 4: The Studded Choker
This choker was probably the tamest accessory of the bunch due to 2015's revival of the '90s choker trend. That being said, the spikes were quite long so it did look a little hardcore.
Instead of going all-out goth girl, I decided to tone things down a little with a grungy, tie dye playsuit and some black leggings and socks. My fiancé and I had to go to the supermarket, and I felt a little apprehensive in case we bumped into anyone we knew (it's a small town, after all). However, I worried over nothing and ultimately discovered that the choker actually looked a lot cooler with the addition of my biker jacket. I'd be interested in experimenting with this look again and seeing how it would go down with different styles (like a traditionally feminine dress, perhaps).
Day 5: The Cat Tail
I knew before I put this cat tail on that it would be my least favorite of the bunch. That's not to say I haven't enjoyed wearing it in the past (when I've actually used it for its true purpose as a Halloween accessory), but I had a feeling that this time would be different. Thankfully, I was working from home without the pressure of interacting with many humans. But it still made my day a little uncomfortable.
As you can see, I had to sit at my desk all day while wearing this contraption. In order to be more comfortable, I had to wear it sprouting out of my side like some kind of odd limb. Also, going to the bathroom was a story in and of itself, but I won't gross you out with the details.
On the plus side, I enjoyed how the tail called to mind Sakura from Cardcaptors who always wore elaborate battle costumes, which made me feel empowered and magical.
It also made me more aware of my body in a way. I don't know if it was a placebo effect, but the tail somehow made me feel more balanced. That being said, this Halloween-themed accessory is going to stay firmly in the dressing-up box.
Day 6: The Mickey Mouse Ears
As with the cat ears, I quite enjoyed wearing the Mickey Mouse ears and I found myself attempting to theme my outfit around them.
Thus, I wore a polka dot dress with Minnie Mouse slippers. Even though I looked like I was going to Disneyland, these ears were easy to style because they were simplistic and black. Seriously, the styling possibilities could be endless! I spent most of the day solo, feeling quite cutesy, comfortable, and more like myself than I had in a few days.
Day 7: The Sailor Bib
As a huge fan of anything remotely nautical, I had to incorporate a piece from one of my sailor costumes into this challenge.
I wore this sailor bib with a long-sleeved white top, a pair of high-waisted shorts, and some black leggings. I didn't leave the house on this final day due to bad weather but if I had, I wouldn't have felt self conscious in the least.
What I Discovered
Before starting this challenge, I considered myself quite a fearless dresser. As a teen, I wouldn't have cared about being ridiculed in the street. Now, however, it seems like I am bothered about looking different. This could be down to my location and the mindset of some folks in my area, but I think unless I had been in a seriously busy, eclectic city like London, I likely would have felt the same.
I noticed that I tried to make each accessory appear "normal," as though it intrinsically belonged with the outfit. It's possible that my need to make the looks appear more "stylish" comes down to the fact that I'm a fashion writer. But more likely I was just trying to seek approval from my friends, family, and even strangers.
I ultimately felt more confident in the items that made me look more traditionally feminine, like the animal/novelty ears, while I felt least comfortable in things that made me look like my rebellious teen self. Back in the day, I went through a skater girl phase during which I would wear unusual things in an attempt to deviate from the mainstream. I spent my time rebelling against the fashion "norms" that society had laid out for teen girls, but that several years later I actually gravitate towards naturally.
If this little experiment has shown me anything, it's that I really need to stop giving a damn about what people think. Everyone should feel free to wear whatever they want, whenever they want to wear it. Even if that means a pair of crudely made skeleton gloves.
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Images: Phoebe Waller; Giphy