38 Clever Pop Culture Character Costumes That You Can't Just Buy At A Halloween Store

September tends to bring an icy cold blast of anxiety that makes people frantically type into Google, "What should I be for Halloween?"And, well, it’s a hard decision to make. We already know what costumes will dominate the streets this year, the first level of go-to costumes: the Harley Quinns in hot pants, the plethora of Jedi, and of course, the yearly influx of sexy cats. Bu,t if you want to be (slightly) better than that, I have a round-up of clever TV and film character costumes that should give you a bit more Halloween cred.

See, in the past few years, my hard and fast rule with Halloween is this: you want something quirky, but still recognizable. Usually siphoning ideas from pop culture is the way to go, although the past four years have had me rotating wigs around to be different rock stars. Regardless, today I'm going to throw out some costume ideas that manage to be relevant without feeling too obvious. Not the most highly demanded costume in Party City this year, but, well, not so avant-garde that you’ll be fielding questions of “Who are you supposed to be?” all night.

Welcome to the second level, friends.

1. Helga Pataki From Hey Arnold!

Ideal If: You're in between eyebrow waxes.

2. Olivia Pope From Scandal

Ideal If: You're trying to establish a sense of calm in these horrifying political times, and you're finally catching up to Season 5 of Scandal.

3. Veruca Salt From Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

Ideal If: You want to subtly honor Gene Wilder's memory, but really don't think the sexy Willy Wonka costume is the right way to do it.

4. Elle Woods From Legally Blonde

Ideal If: You have a hodge-podge of assorted pink garments leftover for from 2001, and now seems like the time to use it.

6. Audrey Horne From Twin Peaks

Ideal If: You want something a little dark, sexy, and vintage-y now that Mad Men costumes feel passé. Also if you want to impress everyone in your freshmen year of art school.

7. Kimmy Schmidt From The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Ideal If: You are high-spirited, and you are super grateful that you have your ex-boyfriend's dad's Netflix password.

8. Jessica Jones From Jessica Jones

Ideal If: You're super grateful that you have your ex-boyfriend's dad's Netflix password but, um, maybe not high-spirited.

9. Sailor Moon From Sailor Moon

Ideal If: You really want to fight evil by moonlight and win love by daylight.

10. Blair Waldorf From Gossip Girl

Ideal If: You have to repurpose either an old Catholic Schoolgirl uniform in a unique way, or you have about eight headbands leftover from 2009 (same, girl).

11. The Powerpuff Girls From The Powerpuff Girls

Ideal If: You only have two friends or you don't have enough people to make the effort for Sailor Scout costumes or you spent a lot of the early '90s being empowered by children's shows.

12. Enid Coleslaw From Ghost World

Ideal If: Your default tone is deadpan, but you don't want to go as Daria because it feels too expected.

13. Daria Morgendorffer From Daria

Ideal If: Your default tone is deadpan, and you don't care what anyone thinks.

14. Cookie Lyon From Empire

Ideal If: You want to use a cheetah pattern for good, not for evil. Or OK, maybe a little bit for evil.

15. Hannah Horvath From Girls

Ideal If: Your friend wants to go as Carrie Bradshaw a decade and a half too late ,and you're all like, "Ugh, whatever, Emily," but you also live in Greenpoint with her and it would be super-mega ironic if you go as two generations of entitled HBO New Yorkers.

16. Abbi Abrams And Ilana Wexler From Broad City

Ideal If: You're looking for a still-funny, but definitely more respectable, BFF costume featuring TV New Yorkers.

17. The Heathers From Heathers

Ideal If: You need something that says, loudly, "I loved Winona Ryder before Stranger Things, and I sure as hell love her more than that person in the Lydia Deetz costume."

18. The Chanels From Scream Queens

Ideal If: Your sulky Winona-obsessed friend suggested the Heathers, but it's 2016. Or if you couldn't pick out a season of American Horror Story to target for your group costume.

19. Buffy Summers From Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Ideal If: You need a costume that works in case this is the year a magic spell turns us into all our costumes. Duh.

20. Miss Frizzle From The Magic Schoolbus

Ideal If: You're looking to be the coolest student teacher at your school this year and don't realize your students grew up on an iPhone, although maybe if you told them the series is on Netflix they'd get the reference.

21. Penny Lane From Almost Famous

Ideal If: You're going to at least six of those Brooklyn Bands-Covering-Other-Bands Halloween shows this October, and you might as well dress in theme.

22. Jo Stockton From Funny Face

Ideal If: You can't do the Audrey Hepburn Breakfast at Tiffany's costume on principle (i.e. you'd feel like a human dorm room poster), but you still basically just want to wear black and feel chic.

23. Megara From Hercules

Ideal If: You feel like going with a rogue Disney pick that says, "Yes, I most definitely grew up in the '90s."

24. Mary Poppins From Mary Poppins

Ideal If: You feel like going with a rogue Disney pick that says, "I have tubes upon tubes of matte red lipstick, and feel comfortable borrowing clothes from my great aunt."

25. Kelly Kapowski From Saved By The Bell

Ideal If: You claim you love the '90s, but really all you remember is a lot of high-waisted acid wash jeans and neon. Like, the rest is a blur, because you were a literal child.

26. Carrie White From Carrie

Ideal If: You're a strong woman-in-horror, who isn't afraid to get a little bloody and also want to side-step the strangely timely Samara-From-The-Ring costume, at least this year.

27. Luna Lovegood From The Harry Potter Series

Ideal If: You spent a lot of time writing fanfiction about Harry Potter crackships as a youth, so Hermione feels a little vanilla to you.

28. Candace and Toni From Portlandia

Ideal If: You are hilarious and willing to stay in character all night. Or if you live in an area that has more than seven wine bars within a mile radius.

29. Lumpy Space Princess From Adventure Time

Ideal If: You are a godd*mn disaster (and proud of it).

30. Lisa Simpson As The State Of Florida From The Simpsons

Ideal If: Every Monday in October is going to be dedicated to watching old Treehouse of Horrors at your local bar's Simpsons Club, so, yeah, you have to go for a slightly obscure reference to impress your squad.

31. Suzy Bishop From Moonrise Kingdom

Ideal If: You were born about seven years too late to capitalize on that wave of Margot Tenenbaum costumes. Or if you have a very cooperative boyfriend and sizable discount at the vintage consignment shop that employs you.

32. Mia Wallace From Pulp Fiction

Ideal If: Sans syringe and bloodied nose, you are definitely not afraid to look like a dorm room poster, or you really want a clean, minimalist look. With syringe and bloodied nose, you pay for a Tarantino ticket for both the over-exaggerated gore and the dark humor.

33. Vivian Ward From Pretty Woman

Ideal If: You wanted to cut out the middle man (middle cat/bunny/minion/Willy Wonka) when it comes to a provocative costume, so "hooker with a heart of gold" felt like the right move.

34. Kiki From Kiki's Delivery Service

Ideal If: You're pretty sure that Miyazaki is near-Disney level in terms of animated feature recognizability. At worst, though, everyone will think you're a witch, and that's fine with you.

35. Nancy From The Craft

Ideal If: It is very, very, important that people target you as a specific witch, and very important that you use up all that black make-up from your Hot Topic days.

36. Jessica Day From New Girl

Ideal If: You pretty much just wanted to go as Zooey Deschanel, but you have bad vision, so.

37. Any Molly Ringwald Character In Basically Any John Hughes Film Ever

Ideal If: You just want something timeless... or really '80s centric... which I guess is pretty time-centric... you know what I mean.

38. The Gilmore Girls From Gilmore Girls, OMG


Ideal If: You and your best friend are both blue-eyed brunettes who want to capitalize on this great time we're living in, especially since thus far the idea is still pretty invisible on social media. There is no excuse not to make this costume happen.

Good luck to all my fellow Halloween lovers out there. With a little creativity, you can rock your friend's boyfriend's cousin's Halloween party with flair.

Images: Netflix; Instagram (38); Giphy