Scrambling for a last-minute Halloween costume with a NJ political theme? We have you covered here at NJ Globe, with four DIY costumes you can easily make in your own home last minute, each depicting an iconic moment in (somewhat) recent NJ history! Surprise your friends! Win all the contests! Totally be “that guy” who spends all day on his costume only to walk into a bar in central NJ and maybe one person gets the reference. Maybe! It might work if you’re in Trenton but not really anywhere else! But take that chance!
Iconic image #1:
Phil Murphy wears a shirt with lemons on it to a Labor Day event in South Plainfield, in September 2018.
It’s always been a little unclear what is happening with this shirt. At first, it pained me – it struck me as the sort of rich guy nonsense where something that’s actually quite tacky is packaged and branded as a high end luxury item and suddenly now instead of embodying bad taste, it goes around in a complete circle and comes out the other end as very good taste and somehow the joke is on all of us for ever doubting it. But then I chilled out a bit, and I started seeing it as irreverent and fun. I admired it as a gutsy choice for Governor to wear to such a public outing. Now, I’m not really sure what I think of it, except that I’ve thought about this outfit far too much over the last year or so. That, more than anything else, qualifies it to be a perfect Halloween costume.
Breaking down the look:
Shirt: wear a salmon-pink-colored button-down shirt. Then, on a color printer (ideally inkjet), print out a few copies of this file (which I have prepared for you) onto full page sticker paper. Carefully cut out the lemons and the wedges along the dotted line, remove the sticker back, and apply them to your shirt in roughly a grid formation.
Pants: just wear some white pants. Linen is preferable, but it doesn’t matter.
Shoes: In other shots of this same event, you can see that the Governor wears his ubiquitous Allbirds shoes in “Kauri Melon.” Those shoes are sold out everywhere, so I’ve included this page that, if you print it out on heavy stock paper and carefully cut out, you should be able to apply it over a pair of Vans or other similar shoes and tape down to make some fake Allbirds. You might need to uh, fudge this part a bit.
Mask: download here.
Iconic image #2:
Steve Sweeney making pasta on a PBS Show.
It’s on my perpetual to-do list to start a low-rated political chat program on Youtube where I teach various NJ politicos how to knit and make bobbin lace while we chew the fat about – oh, I have no idea – Camden or whatever. It really doesn’t matter what we’re talking about. It’s the visceral image of these tough guys sitting down with a total lunatic like me and learning how to do a form of intricate, manual, and also feminized, labor – that’s it, that’s the schtick, that’s what people are tuning in for.
I was beaten to this idea by many years by Politifax’s Nick Acocella, who hosted a cooking show on PBS with NJ politicians back in 2015. In episode two, the show begins with introductions of Acocella and Steve Sweeney, both wearing large aprons, and the effect is obvious – Sweeney is taken down several notches, which is the whole point of the show (“cooking makes us human,” basically). The terrifying State Senate President seems chastened and young, almost like a small child. He is dressed in a white button-down shirt, tie, and suspenders under the apron, as if he’s come straight from work; he exudes vulnerability as he speaks lovingly of his grandmother who cooked for his family when he was growing up. Also, there’s this:
Acocella: We need to pull the burnt skin off the peppers.
Sweeney: [fumbling, slightly] Well, you see the size of my hands.
Acocella: [laughs] well, that’s the ironworker in you! [laughs, pauses] Were your hands always like that before you were an ironworker?
Sweeney: yes, well, that was a problem – I used to eat with them all the time.
Yes, yes, that’s all extremely normal. Nothing could possibly be more normal than a journalist making rigatoni with a powerful politician, in his Hoboken home, joking about the size of his hands. I love New Jersey.
Anyway: the look is iconic. Sweeney is a very good sport for going along with this show, and I look forward to teaching him how to crochet. Meanwhile, here’s a breakdown of the look:
Outfit: white, button-down shirt. Keep the sleeves buttoned at the cuffs and do not roll up the sleeves, no matter what. It would be acceptable if you wanted to do it because you’re going to be sautéing butter and dry cleaning is a bitch, but resist that urge. You’ll need a tie with diagonal stripes and suspenders, too. On top of that you’re going to wear a simple apron dyed khaki; given the relative obscurity of this entire reference, embroidering “hi I’m Steve Sweeney on Nick Acocella’s cooking show” on it would not be uncalled for.sweeneymask
Iconic image #3:
Young Bill Bradley, either trying out for the Olympics or playing for Princeton or the Knicks, whatever.
This one was supposed to be super easy – make a Princeton or Knicks tank top with the right player number on it, put on a pair of incredibly short shorts, and – you’re done! Everybody loves Bill Bradley!
But as I googled pics of Bradley during this time, I was stunned. The photographs of him playing aren’t just of a random guy playing basketball; the man floats, in an otherworldly sort of way. It’s absolutely stunning and it’s much more like watching a dance carefully choreographed rather than a quick response during a game. On a court filled with lanky, fit young men, Bradley is the lankiest, and he flicks away the other mere mortals surrounding him like you would a mosquito. I pretty much hate all sports, but I hate basketball the most – and yet, even I was struck by the incredible beauty of these pictures.
You’re never going to jump as high as Bradley did in his prime, so the key here is to replace all the other people in the photo with those doing your bidding. Perhaps you have friends who are into pain and degradation, and willing to assemble Transformer-style, assembling a scene where you kick their asses in basketball, whenever a command is given. That can be a win-win – you can get a cool costume; they can get publicly humiliated while enjoying it. But suppose you don’t know people who are into that. Then what?
You’re just going to have to buy inflatable people and attach them to your body.
After some very cursory research, I’ve found the cheapest “life size male inflatable body form” available can be purchased for just less than $13. I mean, that’s pretty good. I haven’t actually ordered them, but the reviews just speak for themselves:
Works for me!
Breaking down the look:
Outfit: recreate one of Bradley’s best known team uniforms, either number 42 for Princeton or number 24 for the Knicks. The Princeton one is probably the easiest because it’s white and you can just write all the info on it with a Sharpie. Also, you should wear very short shorts, tube socks, and sneakers.
Props: buy two or three of the inflatable dummies and tape/glue them to your body in an arrangement similar to one of the photos above, so you can be our former Senator forever frozen in mid-dunk. Don’t worry – you’ll have your team number on you, so you’ll be instantly identifiable! Even small children will see you with your homemade basketball uniform and inflatable dummies taped to your body and yell out with delight, “Bill Bradley!” Probably also helpful if you carry a basketball.
Mask: look I’m not even making a mask for this one. You don’t need it. No one is going to be looking at your face.
Iconic image #4:
Governor Tom Kean in a classic “NJ and you, perfect together” commercial
Governor Kean was the first NJ politician in my memory, and much to my parents’ chagrin, I adored him – based solely on these cheesy commercials. It was a little kid thing. He was proud of NJ, I was new to NJ; it all worked. I dunno, when you’re seven, that’s enough. Perfect together. Let’s just go with that.
Breaking down the look:
Sweater: This sweater is a pretty conventional small cable knit. I’d guess it’s in a sock weight white yarn, but my big life hack these days is using slightly thicker (like, worsted) on very small needles (say, size 4 or smaller if you can) to make a very dense fabric. Ok, you wouldn’t want to wear it every day and it might add some bulk to your figure, but the stitches stand out and it’s great for art projects or Halloween. Given the design seen here, I’d recommend a simple mock cable, as described in the Vogue Guide to Knitting as such:
Multiple of 4 sts + 2 extra
2-st right twist (RT): K2Tog leaving both sts on needle; insert RH needle between 2 sts, and k first st again; then sl both sts from needle
Row 1: *K2 P2 rep from * to end
Rows 2 and 4: K2, * p2 k2 rep from * to end
Row 3: P2, *RT P2 rep from * to end
Rep rows 1-4
Shirt underneath sweater: a blue collar shirt, I guess
Pants, etc: doesn’t matter
Props: nice to have some cutouts of NYC landmarks (but remember: this is an ad for NJ!) held by some friends behind you. If you don’t have any friends, you can always tape inflatable people to your body and tape landmarks to them.
Pro tip: practice saying “perrrrfect together” and someone will definitely buy you shots at some point in the evening.
Mask: here. I know, I used a closer-to-present-day Kean photo to depict Young Kean, but I had my reasons.
 Less than 24 hours after I watched this episode, I found myself grocery shopping with zero clue as to what I was going to make for dinner for the next few nights. So, I made the rigatoni, with a few substitutions. I let the burnt parts stay on the roasted peppers because that’s the very best part, subbed out olive oil for butter (because butter is gross), and used vegan cheese instead of parmesan (I don’t actually recommend this step; stick with the real parm). It was really good!! 10/10 will make again!