Poorly Executed Costumes: An Instructional

In my defense, last year I really pulled it out for Halloween. About three days before, while watching Dont Look Back in a class, I realized: BOB DYLAN. I needed to be him. On most people it would be stupid, but I would pull it off like it was nobody’s business. It was one of those perfect costumes– simple, yet everybody knew exactly what I was supposed to be. And in the West Village, when people want you to think they’re cool, they let you know that they “get it.” And Bob Dylan is so… relevant. Suffice to say, I got a lot of compliments that night. Obviously.

This year, I was hoping something similarly brilliant would strike me. It didn’t. But yesterday I realized who I’d most like to be in the world. He is not a man, but a shell. Let’s reacquaint ourselves, shall we?

After Anna from Door Sixteen introduced us all to this brilliance, I was obsessed. I watched it everyday for weeks. For the first week, I’d find myself watching Marcel before bed and upon waking in the morning I’d roll over groggily, open my laptop, find the youtube page still open, and joyfully watch it again. Maybe twice. Maybe three times. What of it? Marcel and I had something special.

Unfortunately, I am not shaped like a shell. And I didn’t really want to be. Don’t get me wrong, I love to watch people traipse around in bulky and unwieldy getups– just tonight I almost wet myself while witnessing two cardboard boxes struggle to hold hands. But I like my costumes to be something I can move in, lest I need to run from the police or stumble upon a discotheque, ideally those two events happening in sequence. Which is my excuse for deciding to embrace a craptastic, poorly planned, poorly executed, but quite comfortable costume with gusto. If you can believe it, all this went down on Halloween, because I’m just that efficient.

Step 1. Gather all your tan/beige clothes. You should have socks, pants, a sweater, and a hat. You’re going to want to wear about 6 layers of sweaters, both to round you out a bit and because it’s like the fucking arctic outside.

Step 2. Mix red and white drugstore kids’ paint together to make pink.

Step 3. Paint the front section of a white pair of Keds. Wipe the excess paint off with a paper towel because you don’t have time for that shit to dry.

Step 4. Write a nametag because otherwise nobody is going to get it. Then again, even then nobody’s going to get it, so do whatever you want. I was really proud of myself after free-handing Marcel’s scrawl. Seriously you guys, sometimes I wonder where I get such incredible talent.

Step 5. “Okay, uh, my one regret in life is that I’ll never have a dog. But sometimes I tie a hair to a piece of lint and I drag it around.” Lint is skeevy, so I used a mix of plastic bags, paper towels, and electrical tape. The tape made it slightly sticky, so it got progressively filthier throughout the night as I did, obnoxiously, drag it around. Perfect, that’s what you want. Tie a piece of black thread to it, loop the other end around your wrist.

Step 6. Build an entire world that’s big enough to make you look tiny. Definitely the hardest part, but so worth it.

Voila, Marcel the Shell with Shoes on. Jenny Slate would probably cry. Of JOY, you jerk.

Okay, I’ve set the bar pretty damn low. Did you dress up? Tell me everything, I’ve missed you.

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 11.1.10
    Lena said:

    :-) did anyone “get it”? With or without the name tag help? I am not sure how famous Marcel really is.

    • 11.1.10

      To be honest, I wasn’t out in the world for very long, but I’m pretty sure the answer to that is NO. Nobody did. But it’s hard to say whether that was the costume’s fault or Marcel’s only moderate internet stardom.

  2. 11.1.10
    ellen said:

    I went as Joan from Mad Men… as I was finishing sewing my costume I made a friend watch this video and told her I would have gone as Marcel if I thought anyone would have known what it was. She laughed (at me.)

  3. 11.1.10
    naomi said:

    good post. Costume…. not so much, jk jk.

  4. 11.1.10

    Aww what a cute video. Guess what I wear as a hat? A lentil. Love it!

    Your costume is better than mine, I think, which I threw together twenty minutes before leaving the house. I was a doll- big white knee socks, a bubble dress, pigtails with ribbons, and big freckles drawn on with eyeliner. Meh.

  5. 11.1.10
    Mom said:

    I am literally laughing out loud. Do you know how hard it was as a mom to get you guys (as children) to focus like on October 1 what you might want to be on Halloween on Oct. 31. Because, it was traumatizing for me that by then the stupid costume you really wanted but couldn’t commit to would, of course, be sold out and I would be left with UGH!!! having to be creative. Now, creative for one isn’t bad, but creative for 3 was more than I could handle. Do you know how many times we were in Halloween stores on Oct. 30 or 31st trying to keep you guys from total breakdowns? Now, thank god, you guys are out in the world and having to be creative all on your own–sometimes, not so easy, right?

  6. 11.1.10
    Laura said:

    Aw cheese, I like your dog. I hope you named him Allen. Looks like you had a more successful halloween than me! But I did figure out how to hook up my computer to the TV so I was able to watch Justin Bieber music videos in epic sizes, which is obviously really fun.

    • 11.1.10

      Not really, it was mostly a series of missed connections and confusing correspondence, which ended up with me falling asleep on the couch watching Clue. But I DID see Officer Dangle from Reno 911!, so that was good. Not a single Snooki, incredibly disappointing.

    • 11.2.10
      JCaza said:

      I saw many snookies (snook-eye?) and wanted to punch them all in the face.

  7. 11.1.10
    Sandra said:

    I’ve been fallowing your blog for a while but never left a comment before.
    Love the costume even though I would not guess who it was of a random person. At least you were original.
    Marcel is the greatest shell ever. Period hehe.
    I went as Amélie Poulain from the movie Amélie because I can pull of the facial expression.

  8. 11.1.10
    Jessica said:

    I would have been all over that costume!

  9. 11.2.10
    Erica Walch said:

    As I was getting my costume together, I realized I would need a name tag to go with it, then I realized, “if I need a name tag for my costume, it’s really not working” so I ditched the name tag and went with the (pretty lame) costume. I wanted to be the Chupacabra and decided to tell everyone that I was the Sexy Chupacabra. I wore a fur coat, a matted old wig, devil horns, and a creeepy plastic mask (unrelated to Chuppy in any way, it was just in box of costumes, I think I got it at a tag sale when I was ten or something). I also carried two straws to demonstrate the goat sucking action.

    No one knew who I was. Even when I told them I was sexy Chupacabra then laughed and said, “the sexy part’s a joke, I’m just regular Chupacabra,” they still didn’t know what I was talking about. And believe me, Chupacapra is much more widely known than the shell. But the straws came in handy because I couldn’t drink the nice apple cider someone gave me through my mask, so I guess it was okay in the end.

    And I did make a kid scream, but it was kind of a jokey scream. He didn’t run away.

  10. 11.2.10


    I can’t even. You are my hero, officially.

    • 11.2.10

      And by the way, you HAVE TO send a link to this post to Jenny Slate.

  11. 11.5.10
    Rose said:

    That video is ridiculous! I hope you had fun on Halloween. I went as a haute couture pirate, which went over pretty well, actually.

  12. 11.7.10
    Annika said:

    Thank you for introducing me to Marcel. That made my day.

  13. 11.23.10
    Ana Herda said:

    I know I’m late to the party but that Bob Dylan is amazing!

  14. 11.24.10
    jaimie said:

    i found your blog while i was reading door sixteen’s post about people who make cool stuff out of other stuff (your upholstered bed). well, i’m your newest fan and also a HUGE fan of marcel the shell. i too watch marcel almost everyday. that little shell makes me so happy. brilliant halloween costume.

  15. 1.17.11
    Nicole G. said:

    Ok, so I normally don’t comment on old posts…well, ANY posts, that is (I’m a serious lurker). But I’ve been reading through your archives and I’ll admit I was already addicted but this just made me your fan forever. You’re friggin’ awesome! *swoon*