In costumes, novel trumps naughty

All you sexy devils can forget it. Likewise for the sexy nurses, sexy angels, sexy schoolgirls and sexy French maids.

Barely-there Halloween costumes may get you noticed, but they won't earn you much cash in Halloween contests.

"They're never going to win," says Karrie Bates, 37, of St. Petersburg. "Costume contests are looking for something really cool, not slutty, just because they look beautiful. Have one of those kinds of parties if that's what you want to be."

In 2006, Bates won the $1,000 first prize at Jackson's Bistro for her portrayal of Mystique from the 2000 movie X-Men. Wearing bikini bottoms, Bates had a friend spray paint her blue with nontoxic paint from Features Costumes in Tampa and added fabric paint for a scaly look. She also wore glowing yellow contact lenses from wild-eyes.com and, being a hairdresser, she used hair stain to dye a wig the right shade of red. Bates estimates she spent about $90 on the costume.

The key to winning, she says, is to pick a costume that can't be bought in a shop. And avoid anything too trendy.

This Halloween, Bates will revive the Van Helsing vampire costume she wore to parties last year. She didn't enter any contests in 2007, so she's hoping to win big at several venues this year. She'll paint herself gray using an airbrush machine from Harbor Freight Tools. But instead of coloring her skin directly, Bates will wear a body stocking, which she hopes will be a good fit for more conservative costume parties. To make wings, she covered cardboard with felt from Jo-Ann Fabrics.

"I have to be something nobody else is going to be now," says Bates, who's also been the Grinch, Cindy Lou Who and Catwoman.

Jeremy Gaffrey also subscribes to this theory. Last year, Gaffrey parlayed his $90 Edward Scissorhands costume into prize money in three contests: a few hundred dollars at Guavascream, $1,000 at Bricktown 54 in Clearwater and $650 at the Chic-a-Boom Room in Dunedin.

Gaffrey, 34, who moved from Clearwater to Seattle in August, got the idea while watching a DVD preview for Edward Scissorhands. He and Bates agree that it's crucial to work from a good picture of the character, so he bought the movie and studied freeze frames of Johnny Depp's costume.

Gaffrey found his gray pants at a thrift store, the white shirt from Ross Dress for Less and the rest from Lowe's. He took work gloves, cut off the fingers and used nuts and bolts to attach scissors, covering the sharp ends with duct tape. He fashioned the longer blades from sheets of hard plastic and spent four months growing out his dark brown hair, which he darken with black hair paint. His girlfriend, a former makeup artist, did his face. To make fake scars, she rolled toilet tissue between her fingers, attached it to Gaffrey's skin with spirit gum and covered it with makeup.

His strategy was simple: "I went for the places that had the most money." He found that he had better luck at contests that were determined by crowd applause rather than a panel of judges.

"Every contest I went to, I really felt like I was some sort of celebrity — almost like I was Johnny Depp," Gaffrey says. "The girls love Johnny Depp. Of course they fell in love with the cuteness and the character and the Johnny.

"If the girls are into it, then the guys pretty much follow."

This Halloween, Gaffrey plans to debut his Edward Scissorhands costume on the West Coast.

"I'm just going to milk it for as long as I can," he says.

Cash in on your costume

Skipper's Smokehouse's 29th Annual Freaker's Ball

Oct. 24. 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. First prize is $500 cash plus a $500 AAA travel voucher. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 day of. Must be older than 21 or accompanied by a parent. 910 Skipper Road, Tampa. (813) 971-0666; skipperssmokehouse.com.

Guavaween's The Features Costume Contest

Oct. 25. 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Best costume gets $2,000 and a Blu-ray DVD player. Winners will be determined by applause, so bring your posse. Admission is $15 and includes access to all nighttime Guavaween events. All ages. Judging will be at the entertainment stage at the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue and 15th Street. (813) 248-0721; cc-events.org/gw.

ARTpool's Halloween ART pARTy

Oct. 31 from 8 p.m. to midnight. Dress as your favorite artist. Prizes include gift certificates to the gallery and local restaurants, items from the Dali Museum and artwork. All ages. $10. 919 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg, (727) 324.3878; artpoolrules.com.

The Florida Aquarium's Nauti-Night 2008

Oct. 31 from 8 p.m. to midnight. There will be one $2,500 prize. Admission is $50 in advance or $60 day of. Includes beer, wine, food and live music. Ages 21 and older. 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 273-4568; flaquarium.org.

Push Ultra Lounge's Halloween

Oct. 31 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. First place gets $300, a bottle of your choice up to $250 and a weekend for two at the Hampton Inn & Suites St. Petersburg. Ladies get in free all night. Guys get in free before 10. Cover is $5 after 10. 128 Third St. S, St. Pete. (727) 895-7874; pushlounge.com.

Seminole Hard Rock's Rockoween

Oct. 31. 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Cash prizes. Ages 21 and older. Cover is $10 until midnight, $20 after. 5223 Orient Road, Tampa. (813) 627-7676; myspace.com/floydstampa.

The Venue's Vampire and Vixen Ball

Oct. 31. $5,000 total in prizes. 2675 Ulmerton Road, St. Petersburg. (727) 571-2222; thevenueclub.com.

In costumes, novel trumps naughty 10/23/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 24, 2008 11:22am]

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