It’s all about the spirit.
The idea of celebrating Halloween is relatively new to French culture. As such, most Parisians are blissfully free of the costume-shopping hoopla we experience in the States. “If you go out for Halloween, it is usually to a party at a friend’s apartment, with most people wearing masks that come off after a few drinks,” says stylist Schanel Bakkouche. While there is little pressure to dress up, many embrace the festivities with only slight sartorial detours from their everyday uniform. Parisian journalist Ophélie Meunier, who abides by a strict “dress up but stay chic” policy, advises against anything vulgar, childish, or generic. “Be creative! Take Halloween as an excuse to dress up, but in another way,” she says. Stéphanie Delpon, cofounder of Parisian creative agency Pictoresq, admits that she usually just dials up her evening gear to get in the Halloween spirit, going for a black velvet dress, ripped-up stockings, and a pair of sky-high stilettos. “Add an intense red lipstick and voilà! I have played the game,” she says.
Your closet is your best resource.
Sometimes, a great costume can be staring you in the face—literally. Meunier advises taking a fresh look at one’s closet to see if any of the pieces can be worked from a new angle. “If you have a checkered shirt, just add a dark smoky eye and big glittery earrings, and you can be a mysterious wandering cowboy!” she says. Her best Halloween closet coup involved a floral blouse she bought in Guatemala and styled as part of a Frida Kahlo costume with festive earrings and flowers in her hair. (True to her “stay pretty” guideline, there was no unibrow involved.) Leslie Coutterand, a French activist and director who lives in Los Angeles, suggests pairing the classic French girl “jeans and white-and-red marinière shirt” combo with a red hat for an impromptu Waldo ensemble. Not only will you avoid losing your friends, you may even make new ones. “Stop everything you’re doing, go have fun, and who knows? Maybe he or she will find . . . You!” she quips. Sounds like a win-win.
When in doubt, go for a movie character.
As ardent cinephiles, Parisians often source costume inspiration from their favorite films. Lola Rykiel, founder of PR and consulting agency Le Chocolat Noir, likes to revisit the classics—Sandy in Grease and Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour are personal favorites. (The latter, which involved an Yves Saint Laurent vinyl trench exactly like the one in the film, posed a problem as it was not easily recognizable.) Once again, outfits can be created without leaving the house: “If you have a white shirt and cropped black trousers, then all you need is a red manicure and a short black wig with bangs, and you can be Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction,” she says, adding that you can also apply fake blood under your nose as an homage to the infamous overdose scene should you wish. Delpon’s go-to reference for inspiration is usually a Tim Burton character, although this year, she admits to having Game of Thrones fever. “I would love to be the Mother of Dragons!”she says.
Get eclectic (preferably, on foreign soil).
As it turns out, the French are actually quite intrigued by American Halloween culture, but only in its natural habitat. “When I go to the U.S., I love taking pictures of pumpkins—it fascinates me,” says Delpon. She admits that she always steps up her game when celebrating in the States, recalling the time she wore a cobweb-print dress with Louboutins and her friend painted a very realistic bleeding scar on her check: her most experimental outfit to date. Rykiel, who is celebrating Halloween in New York, is considering getting out of her movie comfort zone and going funny or obvious: Think, a bar of chocolate with a French twist. “I would love to make it edible, maybe from Pierre Hermé or Alain Ducasse. But maybe that’s a bit over the top?” she says. Coutterand, who is celebrating in Paris this year, is planning on bringing L.A. to the City of Light with a Hollywood-themed party. Her costume plan? “I might dress like a bird or butterfly—don’t ask!” Looks like there is no method to the madness, after all.