Each year Wendy and I put a ton of pressure on ourselves to come up with Halloween costumes that we, and guests of our party, think are equal parts amazing, hysterical, creative, and entertaining. We typically try our best to come up with a good couple's costume, and we always treat Halloween in the same way a sitcom does their Halloween episode -- always trying to outdo their previous year. Halloween is a major holiday in our home, so the pressure and any resulting effort should be expected. This year we decided on what we feel is a great costume idea, and we feel like we pretty much knocked our implementation out of the park. The best part is that it turned out to be a pretty simple set of costumes to put together but looked exactly as we had anticipated!
Behold, our submission for the 2013 Old Town Home Halloween Costume: Piper Chapman and George "Pornstache" Mendez from the hit Netflix Original Series Orange is the New Black.
Hopefully you've seen it and are a fan of the show (although admittedly it's not for the faint of heart), but if you need a point of reference here are the two characters we were trying to mimic.
Wendy and I actually decided on this costume idea back in the beginning of October. Our goal was to do a topical pop culture couple's costume that was not incredibly expensive or difficult to achieve, while also being familiar to a fair number of people. After extensive brainstorming and drawing a blank on what we should do, I came up with the idea when I was thinking back on some of our favorite TV shows and movies of the year. As I ran through the list (Homeland, Walking Dead, Dexter, Shameless, Mad Men, True Blood, etc.) that's when it him me to do Orange is the New Black, the drama about a privileged woman turned unlikely felon, and her experience in a female prison.
Right away I knew Wendy could be the show's main character, Piper Chapman, but I wasn't sure who I should be. Wendy suggested Jason Biggs' character, Piper's fiancé (who just dresses like a normal guy), but that seemed lame and too easy/not apparent. I figured I could either be another inmate in drag (maybe Red or Pennsatucky), or one of the prison guards.
Of the guards, the one that has both the most distinguishing characteristic and is also written as the most seedy/disgusting character is Corrections Officer George "Pornstache" Mendez, aptly nicknamed due to his creepy and 1970s porn-like mustache. By that description alone, it was settled. I was going to be Pornstache.
With our character choices settled, we started to plan our costume and collect the various items. And while this post is coming a little bit close to Halloween, if you want to do the same costumes there's a pretty good chance you can still order everything you need and receive it before October 31st (but you might have to pay for rush shipping on much of it). We'll break it down for you on a per character basis.
Wendy's costume for Piper Chapman only required a few critical items to really pull it off. One thing she absolutely had going for her is she's already a blonde haired female of roughly the same height, weight, and build as the character, just with slightly shorter hair. So we kicked off the search by looking for the most critical costume element, a pair of orange scrubs to build the base for the overall costume.
We selected a set of "Burnt Orange" unisex V-neck scrubs, purchased from an Amazon seller. And while this seemed like the best color on the monitor, it wasn't really an exact match to the color, and a true orange probably would have been better. However, either color is acceptable and the most critical part is the V-neck top and left side pocket.
Beyond the scrubs the only remaining "soft" parts necessary are a short or long sleeve white undershirt with a crew neck, and either blue slip-on Vans or black boots to round out the footwear section of the outfit.
The one of the very critical accessory item for the Piper Chapman costume is the very important identification card that each inmate character wears on their left shirt pocket. There are many somewhat clear views of what the badge looks like on the Internet, and while there are plenty of eBay and Etsy dealers that are offering them for varying prices, I couldn't find an example of a free one that we could easily print out online. Rather than purchase a somewhat expensive card we decided to make one for ourselves that you can use if you're looking for one.
I put together a nice layered PSD of the Piper Chapman badge, so if you're searching for an example or are trying to make one for yourself, be sure to download the image from the link or in the list of costume necessities below. If there's one thing I'm a real stickler for it's accurate props. You can pretty much trust this is almost identical to the real thing. The way I setup the layers it should be very easy to add your own photo and adjust the name and information to read as you'd like, as long as you have access to Photoshop. As you can see from our badge, we took an intentionally unflattering photo of Wendy that turned out almost mugshot like. It's all about being authentic. If you're doing it, be sure to use a plain background and wash out the subject with a harsh flash.
Once you have your badge looking the way you want it to look, just print it out on photo paper and tape or glue it onto a used gift card or other standard credit card sized card (like one of the many hotel access keys or VIP club cards it seems people always have laying around).
If you're looking for a plain old Alex Vause or Piper Chapman badges to round out your costume. Here you go:
Full Size Download
Full Size Download
Okay, so here's the rundown of items you'll need if you want to become Piper Chapman yourself.
One thing to note is regarding proper scrubs sizing. Wendy ordered a size medium set of scrubs, but since they were unisex they were a little big. Though the baggier look is probably rather appropriate, keep this in mind when you're ordering if you want your scrubs to fit. Ideally Wendy would have ordered a size small. Beyond this detail, pretty much everything went smoothly...almost.
On the day of our party Wendy decided her hair was just too short to be truly representative of Piper Chapman. Though we were short on time, she was absolutely right, so Wendy conferred with her friends that know a thing or two about fake hair (extensions or pony tails) and we headed out to a local beauty supply store to pick up a set of blonde hair extensions and clips to finish out Wendy's look. Wendy selected the color that was second up from the lightest blonde. It had a tinge of auburn in it and matched her hair quite nicely. The extensions were only $20 but made all of the difference in how her outfit looked as she and a friend carefully layered in the "real human hair" blonde locks.
With the hair extensions in place and the full outfit on, Wendy took a moment to pose for a mug shot or two in front of our diamond wall. I think she looks pretty much perfect in a very Orange is the New Black way.
George "Pornstache" Mendez
My costume to become Pornstache Mendez was actually a very straight forward prison guard costume, and I already had some of it on hand. But besides the outfit, the thing I really had to worry about was the hairstyle and signature 'stache of the character, but more on that in a bit.
I started by looking at a few photos of the character by search for "Pornstache" in Google Images. The funny thing is, I searched on that term without thinking, and I was pleasantly surprised to not be overwhelmed by a mass of porn stars with bad mustaches. However, a more advisable search is probably "Pornstache Mendez." Just an FYI.
From the photos I saw that I'd need a light blue polyester security guard style shirt, black turtleneck, shoulder walkie talkie speaker/mic, pair of handcuffs, basic blue dress pants, small key ring clasp, black leather shoes, and (optional) aviator glasses. I already had the black shoes and blue dress pants, so that was easy to check off the list. The other items, all found on Amazon.
I placed my order and it all arrived a few days later. Man, I love Amazon Prime.
With necessary supplies in hand I directed my attention to the most pressing issue, the various hair aspects of the costume. I was just a few weeks out from the party so I put my best efforts towards growing some bitchin' facial hair. Though Wendy had said, "Just use a fake mustache," I knew we might have just had enough time for me to grow a real one. It wouldn't be thick and full like the character, but hey, why not give it a try? I mean, other than due to the fact it sort of completely disgusts my wife.
By the time we reached this past weekend both my hair and my facial hear had reached an acceptable length to give us something to work with. While I could have used an extra three or four weeks to really get the look I wanted, what I had would have to do. Wendy has been my hair stylist for going on 12 years now. She cuts my hair every three weeks like clockwork, but she's always just doing a single level clipper cut. However, for this cut, she needed to give me a bit of a high sided fade, leaving it really long on the top. We took to our salon (aka the basement) and Wendy proceeded to do her best at giving me the fade I needed.
It was going really well until Wendy made a bit of a fateful mistake. She grabbed the clipper and went to trim just a little more off the sides, but she had forgotten that she removed the guard and the only thing left was the bare blade. I heard the telltale sound of hair being cut, quickly following by Wendy saying, "Oh my god!" Yep, she'd just committed the cardinal sin of a hairdresser. No, not by making a mistake, but by verbalizing the mistake that had been made on the back of my head with an exclamatory remark.
Luckily, it wasn't as bad as it could have been, and it gave Wendy an excuse to practice fading a little more and give me a bit of a tighter look. Hey, no harm, no foul.
Next up I had to reduce my goatee I had been sporting for a few weeks down to the signature mustache for the costume. The key here was to get a good creepy looking mustache, flat across the bottom and nothing below the corners of my mouth. After removing the hair from my chin I started working on the signature "Pornstache" look.
We had to do a few more things to the costume to get it in good shape. First I had to iron on my flag patch on the shirt's right arm. This only took a few minutes but I had to be very careful not to damage the shirt with the heat from the iron. Since the shirt is 100% polyester it could melt/discolor very quickly.
Once the flag was on the arm, I needed the missing element on the front of the shirt, the name label. While the authentic shirt is embroidered with G. Mendez over the right pocket, and Department of Corrections in smaller print over the left pocket, we didn't have an embroiderer at our disposal, so we improvised. Wendy grabbed a few pieces of tape to block off the rough area where the lettering needed to go and she grabbed one of her white chalk pencils.
While a white sharpie or fabric marker would have been better, we were working with what we had on hand. Wendy's got a very steady hand and excellent handwriting, so she was in charge of the G. Mendez. Since we were writing it by hand, it took a fair amount of time, and still didn't look perfect, we opted to leave the Department of Corrections writing off of the left pocket, worried it would just look cheesy.
One thing that bummed me out a little is the fact I didn't have the U.S. Department of Justice Prisons patch on the left sleeve of the shirt. I found and ordered the patch from an online store, but hey took their time shipping the item (12 days), so it didn't arrive in time for the party. I'm very disappointed about that.
And with that, I assembled the complete outfit. The cuffs clipped onto my belt, walkie talkie speaker onto the right shoulder epaulette, and keys clipped onto another belt look. Oh, and the most important part, copious amounts of hair styling product to spike my hair as much as possible.
The end result? A pretty darn good example of Orange is the New Black's "Pornstache."
All in all, I'd say we ended up with two great Halloween costumes that achieved exactly what we were going for this Halloween. It's not always easy to come up with a good couple's costume, but I'm pretty sure we accomplished just that. I'm actually pretty shocked I ended up looking like the actor, Pablo Schreiber, as much as I did. It actually makes me feel a little bad for him that he has to walk around with that ridiculous mustache the entire time they're filming the show.
What do you think? Did we hit it out of the park on this costume? Do you have any favorite couple, or even single costumes of you own? What are you planning on going as this Halloween? If you're interested, here's a look back on our Halloween costumes over the years. There are some oldies but goodies in the mix.