9 Halloween Costume Ideas from Poland
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from Poland, 'Mr. Inkblot in Space', directed by Krzysztof Gradowski, 1988, photo: Filmoteka Narodowa / fototeka.fn.org.pl, center, halloween_pan_kleks2_fototeka.jpg
Although Poland isn’t known for its Halloween celebrations (All Souls Day on 2nd November is the more important date), Polish culture is filled with plenty of costume ideas to choose from. Cinephiles, history buffs and those looking for last-minute inspiration will all find something worth dressing up as.
Bring back the 1980s through ‘The Lure’
Can anyone say group costume? Perfect for a couple or a trio, these flashy 1980s-inspired outfits from the world of Poland’s dancehalls are sure to make a splash wherever you choose to party. The sequins, glitter and stewardess-style hats are appealing enough on their own, but the indie film reference seals the deal. Even Criterion, the renowned distribution company, has given The Lure its stamp of approval. In an interview with Criterion, the film’s director Agnieszka Smoczyńska described the dancehalls of her youth and the inspiration between the film’s style and visuals:
During the breaks, sweating musicians in their sequinned jackets would sit in a small dressing room, pulsating with highly erotic energy. On the dance floor, beautiful, perfumed women would be dancing – they were elegant, and sometimes increasingly drunk. Skinny waiters would bustle about in between guests.
Doesn’t that sound like an ideal Halloween night?
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Get psychedelic as Czeslaw Niemen
There’s a singer who helped define more than one musical era in Poland, and his style went through the same transformations as his music. Born Czesław Juliusz Wydrzycki, he took on the last name Niemen (the Polish name for the Neman River) to help court international success. His dream came true, making a name for himself in Poland before touring Germany, France and Yugoslavia.
Although Niemen and his stiff-brimmed hat are his most commonly referenced style, his 1960s psychedelic period is perhaps the most fashion-forward. With a blunt bob and a multi-coloured shirt, try wowing the party with your rendition of Dziwny Jest Ten Świat. If you’re tired of mainstream references, dust off your Pulp Fiction costume and repurpose that old Uma Thurman wig to become this three-time platinum artist from Poland.
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Pile on the freckles as Pan Kleks
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'Mr. Inkblot in Space', directed by Krzysztof Gradowski, 1988, photo: Filmoteka Narodowa / fototeka.fn.org.pl
Despite inducing nightmares for some children, the films about Pan Kleks (Mr. Inkblot) are popular viewing. Pan Kleks is the owner of an academy for boys whose names begin with the letter ‘A’. He makes food out of paint, lives next to fairytale characters, and owns a pet starling who is really a cursed prince.
Stickers and glitter are all the rage, so this is a safe choice for those looking to indulge their colourful desires. The look comes courtesy of Piotr Fronczewski, who embodied Pan Kleks in the films, but the original version comes from Jan Brzechwa’s books. If you’re more interested in the literary version of the character, you’ll be happy to hear Pan Kleks started the fake freckle trend, as described by the narrator from Akademia Pana Kleksa:
I can’t remember if I already mentioned it, but Mr Inkblot’s face is simply covered in freckles. At first I was astounded at what might be causing his freckles to change location every day: one day they decorated Mr Inkblot’s nose, the next they moved to his forehead just so that on the third day they could congregate on his chin and neck. (…) It turns out the reason for this is Mr Inkblot’s absent-mindedness since he takes off the freckles each night and hides them in a golden snuff-box. In the morning, he places them back on, but in a different place each time.
From ‘Akademia Pana Kleksa’ by Jan Brzechwa, Trans. AZ
To complete the fake freckle look, the rest of Pan Kleks’s outfit goes above and beyond:
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Mr Inkblot is of medium height, but it’s not at all clear if he’s fat or skinny, because he simply drowns under the size of his clothes. He wears wide pants, which, during windy days, resemble a balloon; a remarkably spacious and long frock coat of either deep purple or chocolate brown; a lemon-yellow velvet bow tie instead of a tie.
Become the mushroom queen
For someone who prefers a more subtle reference to Poland, the muchomor, or fly agaric, is the perfect way to go. Though that red-and-white-speckled cap has solidified its place in popular culture, mushrooms are arguably even more important in Poland. Mushroom dishes, mushroom picking, even a children’s character named Muchomor.
The love of mushrooms run deep, so what better way to honour it than by dressing up as a human-size mushroom? Although this famous varietal is poisonous, it is also abundant in Poland and resourceful villagers made use of its deadly cap. In the days before bug spray, the buzzing presence of flies was even more of a household nuisance. To get rid of them, villagers would use a muchomor, whose sweet scent lured in flies; once the fly had settled on the cap, the mushroom’s poison quickly acted, and the flies dropped off before they knew it.
In Adam Mickiewicz’s beloved epic Pan Tadeusz, mushroom picking is often referenced as a traditional Polish activity. But the character Wojski Hreczecha only collects the poisonous muchomors – perhaps to ward off flies as well? Tie on a red hat and don some white garments for this deadly look.
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Take the lead as Marshal Józef Piłsudski
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Still from 'Piłsudski' directed by Michał Rosa, 2019, NextFilm. Pictured: Borys Szyc, photo: Jarosław Sosiński / SF Kadr
Not only was he an important military and political leader, but Marshal Józef Piłsudski remains one of the most visually striking members of Poland’s past. A thick moustache with the wiriness of a broom plus a splendid eyebrow spanning the face is bound to attract everyone’s attention. In addition to his unforgettable looks, Piłsudski was the founder of the Polish Legions, a highly lauded army that aided Poland’s road to independence (Poland even released two films in 2019 about its history). Piłsudski went on to help build the Second Republic of Poland and become a key player on the international scene, coming a long way from his past as a freedom fighter. Live out your military fantasies and let down those moustache hairs!
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Recreate the fear of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’
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Mia Farrow (Rosemary Woodhause) and Sidney Blackmer on the set of Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, 1968, photo: Copyright 1968 by PARAMOUNT PICTURES / Forum
A blue nightgown and a knife are all you need for this pop culture reference. It might be the easiest to pull off – and the one most likely to be recognised. Roman Polański’s 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby helped invigorate the horror genre, and Mia Farrow’s iconic looks cemented its popularity as a costume. But be careful: there are rumours the film is cursed.
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Win all the prizes as Maria Skłodowska-Curie
The first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics, Maria Skłodowska-Curie is a good choice for those looking for a less time-intensive outfit. Simply tie your hair back and frizzle it up, then find a plain black or blue frock. To complete the look, you can carry around a beaker of some mysterious-looking liquid, or even find someone to be the Pierre to your Maria.
Skłodowska-Curie’s utilitarian look probably comes from the difficulty of her work. For four years, she and her husband worked tirelessly to prove the existence of radium, extracting tiny amounts from uranium ore. Skłodowska-Curie suffered from the thankless work. As she wrote in her husband’s biography:
Carrying those heavy containers was an exhausting task. I was also very tired with boiling the ore for long hours while keeping it in constant motion with an iron stirrer.
It was all worth it once recognition came from the Nobel committee. Perhaps to give the Nobel-winner her due, consider adding two Nobel Prize medals to your outfit, since she is one of the only double-winners – Skłodowska-Curie might not have been a braggart, but there’s nothing stopping you from celebrating both her Nobel accomplishments!
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Get some straw & become the ‘Miś’
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'Miś' directed by Stanisław Bareja, 1980, photo: Filmoteka Narodowa / fototeka.fn.org.pl
Stanisław Bareja’s brilliant dark comedy is a cultural touchstone for many Poles. Although the whole cast has a fun and period-specific style to pick through, go the extra mile and dress up as the eponymous Miś, or teddy bear. The bear book-ends the film: first as a method of smuggling vodka out of the country, and in the end as a 10-metre effigy crash landing from the sky.
The bear straddles the line between cute and unnerving, with its straw-covered exterior and large, button-like eyes. Miś, or misiu, is also a common term of endearment between couples, one the main character Ryszard Ochódzki receives multiple times, lending an extra layer to the film’s title. The film is chock-full of witty lines, though they may lose their effect in translation. Feel free to try out a few: ‘Every Rysiek is a solid lad’, ‘That’s exactly why I’m calling, because I can’t talk’, or ‘How could I possibly run over my mother when she’s sitting in the backseat?’.
Show off your love of good movies and wry sense of humour by encasing your body in straw. Why not? After all, it is eco-friendly.
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Yeah, baby! Become a member of Skaldowie
Finally, do you have an old Austin Powers costume lurking around the house that you haven’t used in years? Try wearing it this year but instead tell people you’ve come to the party as a member of classic Polish rock outfit Skaldowie.
Skaldowie - Cała jesteś w skowronkach (1969)
If you watch the video for their beautiful 1969 ballad Cała Jesteś w Skowronkach (You’re Covered in Larks), you’d swear it had to be the inspiration behind the look of Mike Myers’ comedy spy. But thankfully, you don’t have to make cringeworthy catchphrases when dressed up as Skaldowie – just look forlorn and wistful. And try singing harmonies with everybody you end up meeting that night.
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