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October 31st, 2008
Hap Mansfield’s Blog: How not to dress for Halloween

It’s fun to wear a costume for Halloween, even for adults, and it can be amusing to wear a costume to the workplace. Many employers encourage this as a sort of “creative outlet” for their employees. It’s certainly cheaper and easier than actually allowing their employees to be creative at their jobs and it gives insight to an employer of just how dangerously creative their employees might be. Then again, some people may feel their work clothes are their costume.

I used to work for Walgreens as an assistant manager and the company was not averse to costumes (since we sold them) and was, at the time, generous about giving candy to trick or treaters at the store. But it was there that I learned a very important lesson about costume wearing at work: never wear anything too complicated or cumbersome to work.

Every year, some employee somewhere dresses in something that is inappropriate, cumbersome or confusing. It may or may not affect their careers, but it will certainly turn what is supposed to be a festive celebration into a nightmare of grooming problems, constant explanations or political incorrectness.

I have examples of these faux pas to serve as cautionary tales.

I think the most tasteless “politically incorrect” Halloween costume I’ve seen was one worn by a female co-worker just a few years back. She wore a blood splattered pink business suit and pillbox hat and said she was Jackie Kennedy. It had been more than 30 years since the assassination of JFK had taken place, yet  it still reeked with tasteless historical indifference. Nobody could even look at her the whole day. Work is a very dangerous place to exhibit such tackiness regardless of how “open” your employer claims to be.

Then there is the fellow I know who wore purple pants and a purple shirt. He duct-taped purple balloons and baggies filled with purple paper all over this lurid ensemble and came to work as a bunch of grapes. There was nothing wrong with this costume, it offended no one, but it was certainly difficult to maintain. The poor guy couldn’t sit properly or use the copy machine or go to the bathroom without great difficulty and the purple Baggies and balloons were constantly deflating and falling off of him everywhere he walked.  Most of his lunch landed directly on his costume. Not cool. I won’t even tell you the off-color comments he got all day, neither will I mention the nickname he received for this costume (which he still has to this day), but it’s similar to the name of a healthy cereal Ewell Gibbons used to hawk. Be warned, the messy costume of today could become the embarrassing nickname of tomorrow.

For an example of the confusing costume, I can reach directly into personal experience. One year I decided to go as the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. I wore white pants, a white turtleneck, white socks over my shoes, a white curly wig, rabbit ears and bunny teeth. I wore a vest with a pocket watch under a plaid suit coat, and I easily supplied my own portly stomach. It was a really clever outfit. However, I did not realize that this children’s classic, a favorite book of mine, was not as well known as I had thought. I totally miscalculated its fame. All day long I was fending off questions and weird guesses as to what or who I was. The weirdest guess I got was the “were-bunny” (is there such a thing?) the most alarming guess I got was Eleanor Roosevelt. Seriously.

The next year, I got smart. I wore my business clothes and just carried a broom. Everybody knew what that meant.

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