Much like Brittani, I spent a fair bit of my childhood re-enacting 90s television shows. When I wasn’t dreaming about winning a trip to Space Camp I was corralling neighborhood kids away from Barbie Dreamhouses and into backyard obstacle courses.
Luckily Halloween offers the chance to relive those glory days when getting slimed and impressing Marc Summers were realistic life goals. Throwback costumes are huge hits at Halloween parties and make for pretty simple DIY projects. Do them right, and you’ll be the coolest queer at the party — assuming the the other guests grew up in the 90s too. If they didn’t, be prepared to spend the evening trying to explain the concept of the Aggro Crag to baby gays who think you’re a mountain climber. It’s impossible, trust me.
So let’s talk about some costume ideas that would impress your childhood self and ’90s lesbian brethren all the same.
Double Dare Contestant
In college my friend and I needed last-minute costumes for a Halloween party and decided to go as a Double Dare team. The best thing about this outfit is that any of the supplies you don’t already own can probably be found in your parents’ basement, the Salvation Army or borrowed from a friend.
What You’ll Need
- clear construction or lab goggles
- skater/bike helmet
- knee pads + elbow pads
- red or blue tee shirt
- red or blue athletic shorts or sweatpants
- iron on shirt transfers
- clear plastic cup
The only craftiness required is for the t-shirt making and even that is pretty simple. I used an iron-on transfer to put the Double Dare logo on a plain blue shirt. It turned out fine, just make sure your shirt is light enough for color transfers to show up or get some made specifically for darker shirts. If you’re looking for a higher level of difficulty you could stencil on the logo or use puffy paint for an ultimate homage to the 90s. If you’re not crafty but want to look super official you can buy a Double Dare logo tee shirt from Amazon for $15-20. Once you have your shirt logo-ed up and matching pants (or shorts) you’re basically set. For props, my friend and I drew a red line around the top of a clear plastic cup made up nonsensical games involving ping pong balls. The helmet, knee, elbow pads and goggles will come in handy for physical challenges like preventing spilled drinks from getting in your eyes and avoiding injuries associated with drunkenly stumbling out of the bar in search of late night burrito.
Nickelodeon GUTS Competitor
The GUTS costume takes about the same amount of equipment as the Double Dare costume plus electrical tape. After failing hard at sewing a yellow helmet cover out of cloth, I ended up covering my bike helmet, elbow and knee pads in yellow electrical tape. Contact paper would work just as well though it tends to be slightly more expensive. Just like Double Dare, GUTS replica tees can be found online if you’re not up for making your own.
What You’ll Need:
- skater/bike helmet
- elbow + knee pads
- black shorts or pants
- yellow, green and black electrical tape or contact paper
- styrofoam or cardboard
For the GUTS trophy (a.k.a a piece of the Crag), I cut up thick styrofoam and covered it in green and black electrical tape. Again, contact paper would work too as would cardboard and paint if you’re artsy enough. Unfortunately, I was working on this costume late in the game and didn’t even have time to let paint dry. I also printed off a few GUTS logos and to put on my helmet and the trophy. That’s really all it takes. Bonus points if you can convince a friend to go as Mo or Mike O’Malley/Burt Hummel.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This year, my friends and I are doing a TMNT re-imagination. We’re aiming for comfortable costumes but still want to be recognizable as the fearless and loveable sewer-dwelling reptiles. We’re steering clear of bulky suits and hyper-feminine outfits (read: shiny green skirts) which means we’re essentially dressing like the Saudi Arabian soccer team and converting backpacks into shells using green fabric and paper mache. Someone just volunteered to go as April, so I have high hopes for this year. This is still a work in progress but I’ve included our supplies list below and will post an update with instructions as the costumes come together.
What You’ll Need
- green shorts + long-sleeved shirt
- green soccer socks
- enough cloth in your turtle’s signature color to make bands for your head, wrists and knees
- brown belt
- yellow or gold felt for the “undershell”
- backpack (if you don’t have this)
- green fabric for shells
- paper mache supplies
- props: empty pizza box, ninja weapons
Other 90s Costume Ideas
Pete & Pete
Remember Pete & Pete? The badass gingers are probably the 90s characters most aligned with stereotypical lesbian fashion (okay, Alex Mack, we see you too). You’ll need a red checkered shirt, blue jeans and red hair. For maximum authenticity get yourself a Petunia tattoo and find a dapper queer to dress as Artie.
Legends of the Hidden Temple Contestant
Another 90s Nickelodeon staple, Legends of the Hidden Temple was basically a marriage of Indiana Jones and American Gladiators for kids. This costume requires same supplies as GUTS and Double Dare, but swap in a Legends tee shirt and paint your helmet gold. Olmec would be proud.
Clarissa from Clarissa Explains It All
Clarissa was my first style icon. I also felt like we lived parallel lives because she was the only girl I knew who also owned a skateboard and was totally content being “just friends” with the boy next door. “The Clarissa” is open to interpretation as long as you wear colorful baggy clothes and lots denim. If you add a grandma cardigan and a hat with a flower you’re basically Blossom so there’s that option too.
I remember being a huge snob when Carmen Sandiego made the jump from popular computer game to game show. I complained that it was “dumbed down” for tv and had nothing to do with the original vision of the game I’d logged hundreds of hours on when I should’ve been socializing with my peers. Even so, it didn’t take long for me to get hooked. I mean, she was basically a cooler version of Waldo and the show encompassed my career goal at the time: To be a world traveler specializing in mystery and geography.
All you really need for a Carmen Sandiego costume is a red trenchcoat, a red hat and black gloves. Then proceed being the coolest bitch on the block — or run and hide — depending on how much you want to get into character. One note for authenticity geeks, old school school Carmen Sandiego has a yellow stripe on her hat but in more recent depictions it’s black so that’s your call. Thrift stores and Salvation Army should have what you’re looking for for cheap. I love this costume because it can really be butched or femmed up depending on your style.
Do you have favorite 90s TV costumes? Do you know how to dress like a Hey Dude! character without looking like a common cowboy? And why couldn’t anyone ever get past the Shrine of the Silver Monkey?
Felling really young and Canadian that Double Dare made me think of Uh-Oh
also so weird when I reference Carmen SanDiego to lezzers and everyone looks dreamily into space and starts thinking about TLW
I’ve been thinking about going as Daria. Carmen Sandiego could be fun, though. I’ll see what the Goodwill gods provide me with and go from there.
I was going to go as Daria!!!
Also, what do fellow NYC’ers have planned for halloween?
For a couple of years, I went as Spinelli from Recess.
Another idea: Quailman.
Also, I am definitely going to be a Double Dare contestant this year. Thank you.
a girl in my class was quailman our senior year! we were all like “what are you?” and then “OHMYGOD YES DOUG!”
I dressed up as April O’Neill from TMNT a couple of years ago. I had to deal with guys coming up to me and telling me that I was fulfilling a childhood fantasy. (Creepy, right?)
Did any hot queermos come up to me? No :(
Time to pull out my Quailman costume.
Or I might change it up and go as Shari Lewis.
Or you could go as a Figure it out contestant and make up some really cool but probably useless invention!
yessss. summer sanders forever.
My roommate and I already made our dinosaur costumes by sewing spikes and teeth onto hoodies. I will look like a 3 yo’s drawing of a purple dinosaur with yellow spikes who is drinking a pumpkin beer. However, these are such fantastic ideas, I might just throw a 90’s themed party just for shits and giggles. Thanks Carrie, you certainly do have GUTS.
“If you add a grandma cardigan and a hat with a flower you’re basically Blossom so there’s that option too.”
the first cat that my parents deemed my very own, I named Blossom. nuff said.
I am totally going to go as a Guts contestant.
how could i forget about legends of the hidden temple?! i did halloween as carmen sandiego, when I was in 5th or 6th grade, and most people thought I was a weird nerd girl (i suspected they were all closeted carmen supporters, or just didn’t get it). and guess who grew up to be a real-life world traveler and geographer? that’s right laydeez.
I’m going as Where’s Waldo thanks to an awesome buy-a-sweater-get-dorky-glasses-free deal I found and I’m trying to convince my girlfriend to be Carmen Sandiego!!
my sister and her boyfriend are doing that too! it’s such a good idea.
Legends of the Hidden Temple is the shit. I would totally go as Olmec just so I could scream “THE SHRINE OF THE SILVER MONKEY!!” at people all night. Why couldn’t those kids ever put the puzzle together quickly? It was like THREE PIECES.
Yuss! Costume sorted! My uni climbing club is doing a Halloween climb and I’m going to make a tee shirt with a panther on it!
Also, that show always seemed surprisingly difficult given that it was being played by children (but I’m with you on the monkey puzzle. I always put that down to nerves).
I know right?! I feel like most of Legends was watching kids fail at putting together that damn silver monkey.
I fully support the Carmen Sandiego idea
I thought of you when they mentioned potential Halloween costumes. I thinking about going as Storm from the X-men 90s cartoon style.
You only support it because you think all the fake Carmens will throw the ACME agency off of your sent. I’M ON TO YOU!!!!
If you go as the GUTS contestant, you also have to climb random objects that you keep referring to as the Crag
Most definitely. The Crag was basically the 90s version of parkour.
I went as Michelangelo when I was in kindergarten, a true 90s kid. And, as a true geek, I’ve re-used that exact same costume and plan on wearing it again this year! Kinda sad really that parts of it still fit.
If only I knew how to type Michaelangelo :)
Re-used the exact same costume? Have you not grown since age 5?
Not that much apparently! There was a bit of alteration, but surprisingly little.
There’s a picture that exists of child me dressed as Steve Urkel. I was/am such a weirdo
Urkel, yes! I wanted to go into all the TGIF character options but decided I would not have been able to stop. Step by Step…Full House…so many options.
If I attempt any 90’s TV costumes, it’s going to be Xena. I just have to find an affordable leather corset in my size.
You can always just get a cheap Amazon warrioress costume and add a chakram. Complete the look with a cute blonde sidekick wearing a tight outfit that gets tighter every season.
Tread carefully with this one. I went as said cute blonde sidekick and I have never heard more bizarre xena themed pickup lines in my life. Luckily my girlfriend is over six feet and was my xena :)
Definitely on board for nostalgia purposes. I recently went to a Disney-based event as Maleficent, it featured my lady putting in two solid days worth modifying my existing Hogwarts robe, a curtain rod, and a pair of carboard horns attached to a headband. Winning that prize was the most badass moment of the past few weeks.
For Halloween, I’m dressing up as a vampire squid.
my friends and I went as the Planeteers a few years ago! Love Captain Planet!
I’m dressing up as Lydia Deetz in her Neitherworld get-up from the cartoon “Beetlejuice.” I’m super excited!
fun fact about clarissa: my acting teacher was her mom! also now you’ve inspired me to try to get my whole class to be clarissa for halloween to surprise her…
That would be the best thing! Please do it and post photos.
I found out recently that one of my close friends has a friend whose parents wrote for Animaniacs and his mom was the voice of Slappy Squirrel. This just about made my day.
Back when Nick was good. I wanna see someone dressed as Kenan & Kel. That was be awesome…and really, who else would have that costume?
I love this idea. Just don’t forget the orange soda.
My niece decided to have a princess party for her birthday/Halloween. Guess who pulled the “Well, she was the princess of Jupiter…” card and got a Sailor Jupiter costume? (I really wanted to be Sailor Neptune but they didn’t have that costume.)
I love the idea of being a Guts contestant, too though. And does anyone else remember “Wild and Crazy Kids”? I kind of want to get that shirt, put my hair in a blown out side ponytail and hit people with cream pies. Either way, I’m going on a massive retro Nickelodeon t-shirt shopping spree.
Oh! I also want to figure out a way to make an “Are You Afraid of the Dark” costume… This article was obviously dangerous for me to read.
I know! Halloween is just too short. There should be more opportunities to dress in silly costumes throughout the year. I might start having costume parties for birthdays, thanksgiving, fourth of july…
Freakazoid would be awesome and simple, if you happen to have a red spandex suit laying around. Such great memories… he introduced me to the phrase “poo gas.”
Animaniacs and the Powerpuff Girls please
True story: I was Leonardo the teenage mutant ninja turtle for Halloween when I was three. It was epic.
“dreaming about winning a trip to Space Camp”
CHICLETS TINY SIZE?!
Also, I’m making a Furby costume for Halloween, so…
Love it! Will you be in town for halloween? If so, come to the meetup on Sat!
>>>>>So much Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle love right here!!!<<<<
I reckon I spent more of my childhood dressed as Raphael than I did in clothing in general ;)
OMG that picture of “alternative lifestyle pete” (this is an amazing title, by the way) is a picture of me! this whole entry is where it’s at.
You were the best Pete! Thanks for the inspiration!