The boulevards and venues of Montreal are always filled with interesting looks, both ready off-the-rack and cobbled together from finds in fripperies. But this Halloween weekend, the cement catwalks and bodyheat-heated clubs became an innovative monster mishmash of the ghoulish, the garish, and the great.
Whether it was the chilly weather or a burgeoning sense of good taste among Montrealers, people seemed less inclined to confuse fetishwear and lingerie for good costumery in the clubs and flats of the City of Sin. The well-established trend of slapping “sexy” before any species or classic Halloween concept may be on its way out; when skin showed, it was usually in service of costume accuracy rather than exhibitionism. (Whatever you think of the movie they’re from, the Nav’vi of Avatar just don’t wear very much, so a modest t-shirt would be out of place there.)
Another stroke of decency was the relative absence of racist costumes. The poster campaign launched by Ohio University’s Students Teaching Against Racism in Society, with its byline “We’re a culture, not a costume,” may be making its message clear. But not clear enough: “sexy squaw” and “me-love-you geisha girl” costumes were readily available in most of Montreal’s major Halloween supply stores, and a few–store-bought and home-made–still made it out onto the streets.
Outside of the few who had a bigger craving for candy and drinks than a taste for taste itself, Montreal’s costumes trended towards the classic or the clever, with a strong emphasis on pop culture characters and icons. Duos were out in full force: Kick-Ass and Hit Girl from the 2010 film Kick-Ass, perfectly height- and age-accurate, crossed upper Saint-Laurent in broad daylight. Princess Bubblegum and Jake from the animated series Adventure Time hopped from house party to dance floor. Batman and Robin kept du Parc’s Cabaret Playhouse safe from doldrums.
Solo acts included Velma from Scooby Doo, well-done but lonely without the rest of the gang on the Metro with her. An Audrey Hepburn took advantage of a natural resemblance for a celebrity homage, and Animal from The Muppets rode the bus with a robot. (Guess which one was shedding everywhere.) A ballerina outfit became a unicorn with the simple addition of a cardboard forehead horn, and Wonder Woman resisted the urge to use her golden lasso for mischief.
The quality of the costumes was impressive all around, reflecting the city’s love for pageantry with its parties. Also out in noticeable numbers were a cadre of classics: zombies at every venue, each uniquely bloody; clowns ranging from funny to frightening; pirates with enough missing legs and eyes between them to feed the aforementioned zombie army; and enough sailor boys to sink a ship.
A few costumes stood out from the pack, privileging uniqueness over aesthetics—and sometimes comfort and mobility as well. A person encased their head in a cardboard box emblazoned with the likeness of Mariah Carey, a nod to her album “Music Box.” More mobile ingenuity included the use of a white shirt, white pants, and cleverly applied marker to make an iPhone out of an otherwise plain ensemble. Less inspired, but certainly serviceable in a pinch, were a jogger, a DIY devil composed of mis-matched red clothes and a pair of horns, a mechanic in a jumpsuit, and Skittles in colour-matched outfits with white ‘S’s. Steampunk was not steambunk this year either, with a few inventors and airship captains in combo store-bought and home-engineered ensembles on display. All of this was just the first course before the real treats, spotted on streets and in parties the weekend preceding Halloween itself.
Whatever menagerie, quarantine zone, gothic cathedral, or happy hodgepodge you found yourself in this Halloween, hopefully you had the opportunity to take a bite out of Montreal’s costume culture while taking your bites of candy, too.