My Last Minute Halloween Costume Shopping Adventure at Goodwill

Spotted while halloween costume shopping at Goodwill Glassell Park. One mannequin dressed in a red gown, damaltian print stole and devil horns, one dressed as a golfer, one mannequin wearing cow print pants and cowboy hat, one dressed in black. (Photo: Liz Ohanesian)
Mannequins dressed up in the Goodwill lobby. (Pic: Liz O.)

The moment I saw the khaki skirt, I knew that my Halloween costume issue was going to work itself out. I actually found two khaki skirts wedged in a rack at the Glassell Park Goodwill. One was a mini that could work in a pinch. The other was slightly longer and fuller. It had a wraparound belt and some buttons down the front, but still looked a little more like a school uniform. I shoved it into the cart and headed over towards the men’s department to find a blazer. 

Halloween parties are this weekend and I still didn’t have a costume. So, of course, I showed up at Goodwill with no plan.

Last year, I thought of an idea that would be cool, but it’s completely reliant on a wig that would likely fall off while I DJ. There was also the couple’s costume that I’ve been threatening to force upon my husband. That too needs a wig, albeit a less cumbersome one. It also requires a very specific type of dress, one that should be available in abundance at a thrift store, but is not. Instead, I flipped through the dress racks and wondered if people actually do buy Shein secondhand. 

There was also the idea that I exclaimed mid-conversation on the smoking patio at Underground last Friday. I could go without a wig for that one— a plus— but I would need a long white nightgown, of which there are none at Goodwill. On top of that, I would need to make it look like knives have been telekinetically plunged into me *and* I would need to be able to DJ in that ridiculous outfit. 

Spotted while halloween costume shopping at Goodwill Glassell Park. One mannequin dressed as a tennis place wearing purple shorts and t-shirt, teal windbreaker. One mannequin dressed as a witch in a glittery black dress and witch hat with cobweb veil. (Photo: Liz Ohanesian)
A tennis player and witch hanging out at Goodwill in Glassell Park. (Pic: Liz O.)

The worst thing about late capitalism life is that it’s making me hate the things I love. Halloween was always my favorite holiday. Now, I spend October scrolling through my email, rolling my eyes with every mention of the “spooky season” in a press release for a really expensive Halloween “experience.” I Google “Halloween costumes” and cringe through the results, nearly all of which are links to stores selling crap that looks like it will rip midway through the first Halloween party of the month. 

And then there’s the whole issue of practicality when Halloween is part of your job. DJing in a costume is not practical. Headphones get caught in wigs. Masks, gloves and all the other accoutrements hinder one’s ability to do the thing that you are there  to do. Yet, at least if you’re a woman in the booth, there is the pressure to go full-on Halloween for the gigs so you can look cute for Instagram and rack up likes from people who don’t even go to the parties.

Blah blah blah vibe blah blah blah stage presence blah blah blah personal brand blah blah blah content. I just want to be able to drop some Alaska and some Goblin in my set. And Book of Love’s cover of “Tubular Bells.” And probably some Patrick Cowley too. Shouldn’t that be enough?

We really know how to suck the fun out of life. I was reminded of that on the bus ride to Goodwill while scrolling the Apple News app, which served me a story on how to become a morning person. I clicked on the link just to humor the algorithm. Something, something, go to bed before midnight?! I gave up on the story, much like I have given up on mornings. On this particular day, I woke up at 8 a.m., took my allergy pill and fell asleep for another half hour. That’s early enough. On the bus, I kept scrolling until I hit a story on how to become more photogenic. Okay, Apple News is trolling me now. It’s probably a good thing that the story was paywalled. 

Halloween costume rack at Goodwill Glassell Park with brightly colored costumes for children including a Transformer costume and ballerina or princess outfits. (Photo: Liz Ohanesian)
Some of the costumes left at Goodwill the week before Halloween.

That’s when I realized I was better off not having a plan. I would just look around until I found something that could be a costume. I did have some criteria. I didn’t want to spend more than $50, and, more importantly, I wanted to be able to reuse most, if not everything, I buy. Other than that, anything was fair game. 

I stopped by this same Goodwill in August when I was working on a story for Southern California News Group about secondhand Halloween decorations. Two months ago, the store was already made up for the October holiday. The mannequins were costumed. Shelves and racks were filled with seasonal finds. 

Now, there was very little left that screams Halloween. The mannequins were still wearing costumes, though they’ve changed their outfit. One in the lobby was dressed a red gown, Dalmatian print stole and devil horns. A glittery witch stood near the cash register. As for the merchandise, though, most of the creepy wall hangings were gone. A few costumes— like child-sized Transformer suits and ballerina outfits— peeked out of the packed racks. Halloween pajamas sat a few hangers away from a Christmas pair. The seasons are changing, dear reader. 

A Halloween costume and seasonal clothing rack at Goodwill Glassell Park with Halloween pajama bottoms and Christmas pajama bottoms (Photo:Liz Ohanesian)
Where Halloween and Christmas meet. (Pic: Liz O.)

I spotted an orange and gold dress that’s super cute in a 1950s way, but it’s probably not my size and I wouldn’t know what to do with it regardless. So I wandered away from the costumes and towards the regular clothing, feeling a little lost until I spotted those khaki skirts. Then I thought about a costume that I had wanted to do many years ago, back when I was around the age of an adult who could play a horror film teenager. I never wore the costume, but it’s been done a million times since then, especially at anime conventions. It’s nothing original and I’m not sure if it totally makes sense as an individual costume. It’s also definitely no longer age-appropriate for me, but I don’t really care about that. I just need something to wear.

I find two blazers in the men’s section. Both fit perfectly. Neither is the same shade of khaki as the skirt, but it doesn’t matter since clubs are dark and I’m going to be behind a table the whole time. I grabbed the one that best matches the skirt. Back in the women’s section, I found a white shirt. I considered getting one of the Spirit Halloween fake knives that are left in the Halloween section, but there’s a notice on it to beware of stains and I figured that’s a disaster waiting to happen. Not worth the $3.99. I’ll get a toy weapon at the swap meet, and some kind of buzzer that I can tack onto a choker. I have a tie at home, so I didn’t need to worry about that. And the best part, I can wear sneakers with this costume!

Halloween costume shopping at Goodwill Glassell Park. A khaki blazer and white shirt inside a shopping cart. (Photo: Liz Ohanesian)
Getting my costume together. (Pic: Liz O.)

In the end, I emerged from Goodwill with most of a Halloween costume for just under $40 and, even better, everything I bought can be worn again, so long as I don’t get bloody makeup all over it. Maybe I don’t quite hate Halloween yet. 

Liz O. is an L.A.-based writer and DJ. Read her recently published work and check out her upcoming gigs.