Madeline DePetto
Costume Competition Attracts Creativity

Clowns, robots, reptiles, superheroes, pilgrims, astronauts and the band KISS were among the costumed crowd that lined North Halsted Street. Each block became a mosaic of costumes, carefully made-up faces and bodies and, in general, an exhibition of months, weeks, days and hours of planning and creation. Chicagoans competed to be recognized as having the best costume in one of five categories—six including the best pet costume group. Winners not only won prizes, but bragging rights, as well. 

The best original adult costume category had many unique entries, but only one won the category on October 31 at the 15th Annual Northalsted Halloween Parade in the Boystown neighborhood of Chicago.

Diane Capasso, dressed as Ursula the octopus from “The Little Mermaid” won this honor. 

The costume entailed a long, shimmery purple and black sleeveless dress decorated with a scaly pattern. Eight long appendages were fastened to the middle of her back. A thin mesh material separated each. The appendages were made out of floating swim noodles, Capasso said. She created and styled the wig herself, which consisted of three blonde wigs, hairspray and six or seven hours of styling and teasing, she said. Also in six or seven hours, a friend of Capasso’s created the dress, she said.

How did Capasso think of the costume idea? “My daughter was in ‘The Little Mermaid,’” she said, and Capasso was in charge of costumes for the production. From there, the idea took off.

This was Capasso’s first time entering a costume into the parade, she said.

The runner-up for the most original adult costume was dressed as a geisha. He wore a mask, platform shoes and carried a stick with a tassel.

Bob Gauden also entered in the most original category. He was dressed as a dining room table. To provide the flat table shape, he wore a cardboard box, he said. He fastened a plastic tablecloth to the box. During the parade, however, the ends of the tablecloth blew around with the wind. On top of the tablecloth, Gauden arranged a full table scape including place mats, plates, silverware, napkins, wine glasses and grapes. Items were either stapled or pinned to the cardboard box, he said. 

This masterpiece took about four hours to execute because, “I had to twist and turn and cut and measure everything,” he said. It was especially challenging to cut the hole for his head to a comfortable size, he said. 

His costume did not win the parade, but he came in second place for the best costume at his work, he said. This was Gauden’s first time entering the Northalsted parade.

Another entry into the most original category was made by Cat Roberts who dressed as a spirit alter-ego. As her first entry into the parade, her spirit alter-ego costume entailed a skirt, shirt and scarf. She designed her own outfit and did her own white and red painted makeup, she said.

Martin Lopez, dressed as a bumblebee transformer, entered into the parade for the first time after being inspired by the movie “Transformers,” he said.  After buying his own yellow, black and silver materials, the entire costume took him about five months to make, he said. “It took so long because I made mistakes and had to repeat what I did,” he said.

At 5 p.m., costumed crowds began arriving at the corner of Belmont and Halsted, the starting point of the parade. Those wishing to be judged for most original adult costume, best pet costume, scariest adult costume, best couple, best group and best drag costume were instructed to check in, receive a number and wait in the their category’s line. Pets waited in line with their owners.

While waiting for the parade to start, onlookers photographed the crowd in costume; Fred and Wilma Flintstone, Gumby, Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” and even Oprah and friends posed for pictures.

Rick Doherty was one of the many crowd members with a camera in hand for the duration of the parade. “I really like [the parade],” he said, “I make a point to come out.” Doherty did not attend the parade in 2010, however, because of rain, he said. He spoke about people’s costume choices. Doherty feels that many costumes tend to involve events that happened that previous year, he said, one example being Amy Winehouse’s death. Many parade-goers dressed as Amy Winehouse with black wigs.

Each category of costumes was judged at 6:30 p.m. Tunes such as Thriller and Tubular Bells played while line leaders lead each costume category to a panel of eight judges, most of whom work for the Northalsted Business Alliance, a group of business owners whose businesses are located on North Halsted Street. According to it’s website, Northalsted works to “to maintain a diverse, safe and thriving shopping and entertainment district.”

After the judging was completed and 7 p.m. struck, the parade began. Each costume category marched the length of the parade together. Charity groups and businesses such as the Chicago Spirit Brigade and Judge James Shapiro also walked down North Halsted toward West Bradley to advertise and raise money.

At West Bradley, a stage was erected. Emcee Miss Foozie, dressed in a sparkled dress and heels, stood on-stage and announced the winners of each category. $300 in prizes was awarded to each category winner. Prizes were donated by various local businesses, including hair salons and film festivals, in the area.

Ursula from “The Little Mermaid” was the most original adult costume. The best pet costume was awarded to a dog dressed as a house. The scariest adult costume award went to a woman dressed as a purple people eater. This large costume included a purple hump with masked heads and eyeballs on the side. The best couple costume was awarded to two gremlins. The best group costumes included Biblical figures Adam and Eve with a third person dressed as the Tree of Knowledge. The best drag costume was awarded to a magazine covergirl who wore a dress covered with Elle, Bazaar, In Touch, Bride and other female magazine covers. 

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