TV Halloween specials are replete with unrealistically expensive costumes, but you’ll find none of them here.
The Blues Brothers – from Uncle, Series 2 Episode 4, ‘Seven Minutes in Heaven’
Comedian Nick Helm shone in the titular role of this BBC Three fan favourite. In the show’s only Halloween episode, Andy King and nephew Errol don the iconic hat, suit and glasses from 1980s classic The Blues Brothers.
A masterclass in low-effort costume work, the look is instantly recognisable, even to those who don’t get it. No-one at the party’s seen The Blues Brothers? No problem: you can spend the night being complimented on your Agent Smith costume, or Men In Black costume, or undertaker costume.
Whatever people think you are, they’ll love it, or at least not hate it. Everyone will know you’ve made an effort, and you’ll know you put it together in 30 seconds. The clothes don’t even have to be black: in low light, any dark tie and blazer will work.
True, it’s a touch lazy, but wouldn’t that make Jake and Elwood proud?
Fisherman – from Peep Show, Series 7 Episode 6, ‘New Year’s Eve’
This is technically a New Year’s Eve costume, but works for just about any occasion where fancy dress is required.
In this episode of Peep Show, Mark Corrigan drags himself through another day of humiliation and self-loathing, this time in a yellow fisherman’s outfit. This includes a Sou’wester hat and waterproof trousers, but all you’ll need to get the meaning across is the signature raincoat.
Mark doesn’t seem to approve of his costume, deeming all fancy dress “a joke for people with no sense of humour”. If someone as bereft of joie de vivre as him can make the effort, though, so can we all.
During the episode, he flits from party to party, where embarrassment and personal setbacks abound. Through it all, his costume proves resilient, even when he has to tunnel his way under a fence to make amends with his girlfriend, Dobby. That’s right: not even burrowing through literal dirt will diminish this look.
Allie from The Notebook – from BoJack Horseman, Season 5 Episode 8, ‘Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos’
The first thing you will need for this costume is a blue dress. It’s also the last thing you’ll need.
In a flashback to 2004 in this episode of BoJack Horseman, Mr. Peanutbutter’s then-wife Jessica Biel wants to dress up as the characters from The Notebook. Her husband dutifully turns up in a giant, spiral-bound tome. If you’re after a more high-key costume, by all means follow Mr. Peanutbutter’s lead, but we all know that’s not the reason you clicked on this.
Jessica Biel, voice-acted by herself, provides another quick and easy costume that only just passes muster as a costume, rather than something you’d wear every day.
There’s just one catch: you will need to splash water over yourself. If you’re a fan of Halloween or catching a cold, this is the look for you.
Narrator of The Raven – from The Simpsons, Season 2 Episode 3, ‘Treehouse of Horror’
Before Treehouse of Horror episodes ventured into heavy-duty 3D and anime work, they were barer bones affairs.
The first in the now-iconic series of Halloween-themed Simpsons episodes featured Homer Simpson as the narrator in a no-frills adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s 1845 poem The Raven. Appearing in a smoker’s jacket and cravat (read: dressing gown and tea towel), it’s never been easier to steal his look.
A quick explanation of this costume will earn you kudos from the party’s Simpsons fan, and there’s always one. You run the risk of earnest discussion of Edgar Allan Poe’s contribution to Gothic literature and use of trochaic octameter, but no outfit’s perfect.
If you’re looking for group costume ideas, Marge Simpson also makes an appearance in the episode in painting form as the narrator’s widow, Lenore. Bart also appears as the actual, eponymous raven, but that one might be harder to pull off.
Hanging Chad – from How I Met Your Mother, Season 1 Episode 6, ‘Slutty Pumpkin’
This one combines two Halloween essentials: last-minute costumes and Y2K electoral politics.
The look consists of a giant voting ballot, drawn on a sandwich board and worn around the neck, with a shard or ‘chad’ dangling off the edge. This is in reference to a flaw in some of the ballots used in Florida for the 2000 American presidential election. This is, of course, thrilling, and should be explained to everyone at your party.
It’s also a reference that’s hopelessly out of date. That’s the point.
By the time we see How I Met Your Mother’s Ted Mosby wearing the costume in 2005, it’s already old news. In the episode, we learn he’s donned the costume for multiple years, in hopes of reuniting with the girl he met the first time he wore it. In short, it’s a costume for romantics.
For the more practically minded amongst you, it’s cheap. This particular look will set you back the cost of a sandwich board and marker pen.
Big Brother contestant in the zombie apocalypse – from Dead Set
For this costume, you will need late noughties clothing and the breakdown of society.
Before finding international success with Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker penned five-part horror show Dead Set. The programme follows the cast and crew of a fictional series of Big Brother, which is cut short by an outbreak of bloodthirsty zombies.
To fit in with the look of the show, simply pick out some clothes you’ve not worn for a few years, cover them in cranberry juice (optional) and head out.