A white t-shirt reads "I only trick or treat in 15-minute neighborhoods"
Urbanist Halloween Costumes. (Created at CustomInk.com)

Organized by what you already have on hand.

It’s been weeks since we began celebrating Halloween. The Danny Elfman music, the pumpkin spice, and the rejection of sun all promptly started after Labor Day. But with all this business about smoke and city budgets, we never really got around to making our costumes. Now it’s the last days before the parties really kick in gear. What’s an urbanist to wear? We’ve got you covered (in most circumstances) with these ideas for costumes that really display your love of cities and all us whackos who live here.

Tycho, the Greek goddess of fortune also had the job of extending that prosperity city-wide. (Photo by G.Dall’Orto via Wikipedia Commons)

If you have: A toga
You should dress as: Tyche, the goddess of fortune

For those who have extra linens on hand or have started the semester on Double Secret Probation, the toga is the pinnacle in versatility for personifying the ancient city dweller. We take so many concepts of urbanism from the Ancients, including a rolling misunderstanding of whether we’re talking about the Greeks or Romans, that you can say you’re a citizen headed to the agora or the coliseum and no one will give it a second thought.

For the record, Tyche is the Greek goddess of fortune who also gets city prosperity lumped into her portfolio. Whether regarded one of the daughters of beautiful Aphrodite or one of the Oceanids, she personified the universe’s complexity beyond even the whims of arbitrary gods. This put her on the altar for many cities looking to boost their good fortune. Bonus, Tyche’s mural crown depicts a city’s historical struggles. In Sparta, this featured Spartans repelling the Amazons. Make that as locally political as you need. 

Necessary accessories: A tiller, cornucopia, and the wheel of fortune.
Optional Accessories: A toddler to play Plutus, Tyche’s child and the god of wealth. A useful reminder that cities generate a nation’s riches.

If you have: Mid-century businesswear
You should dress as: Jane Jacobs and/or Robert Moses 

A sensible black skirt and top or a double breasted suit and tie can take the discerning urbanist costumer back to compete as diametrically opposing visions of New York. Whether you’re dressing to stop the completion of a highway through The Village, or swinging the wrecking ball yourself, some simple businesswear can reflect the formality of the early 1960’s city planning deathmatches.

Moses is often pictured with a sheaf of papers or an extensive model of towers, showing the Time Magazine visual shorthand of Getting Things Done. Legos or the King County Voters Pamphlet can stand in for those. Most photos of Jacobs put her bespectacled gaze somewhere off camera, as if there’s a street that needed eyes upon it. 

Necessary accessories: Thick framed round glasses. A fedora.
Optional accessory: A bulldozer to drive or stand in front of. 

A sixplex apartment building in Queen Anne. (Credit: Google Street View)

If you have: A desire to go shirtless
You should dress as: Abdominal Sixplex

Clothing-optional Halloween parties should not prevent the determined urbanist from supporting dense walkability. WikiHow has a very good explainer on using makeup to create six-pack abs. There is nothing to stop you from stepping up your torso painting game to provide some affordable housing. Put a couple windows above each of the ab divisions and draw some porches heading into the obliques. Voila, you are showing the neighbors how attractive multi-family housing can be.

Necessary accessory: Self-esteem.
Optional accessory: Nair. 

Linus and Sally wait for The Great Pumpkin in the most sincere pumpkin patch in a still from “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” (United Feature Syndicate Inc.)

If you have: Need for a couples outfit, a red and black striped shirt, and a blue dress
You should dress as: Linus and Sally

Peanuts is the pinnacle of Halloween. Between the rejection, the failed costumes, and the unleashed pets wandering the French countryside, it’s 22 minutes of animated perfection. Peanuts is also deeply urban, with each character recognizing the ways their personal lives are improved by the public lives of others who live nearby. And they walk everywhere.

No one personifies urbanism more than Sally and her sweet baboo, Linus. Slow to anger, but devastating when disappointed, they both see the fundamental hope in people and offer far too many chances to get there. Much like our relationship with the city. And Linus tends to monologue.

Necessary accessories: Sincerity. A comfort blanket.
Optional accessory: Dog kisses.

Make a simple shirt commemorating a universally mundane trauma. (Created at CustomInk.com)

If you have: A blank T-Shirt
You should dress as: Advocating Advocacy Advocate

This costume requires the smallest bit of preparation. Taking a page from the excellent “Mundane Halloween” parties, you’ll have to think of (or stumble upon) a micro-irritation that is devastating, universal, and completely invisible until now. Whether it’s the steel doors in a sidewalk that make a “wubba” sound on just one corner or the feeling of emptiness at an intersection after choosing the wrong first crossing when trying to get to the opposite corner, there are mundane tragedies everywhere. 

The costume goes a step further, recognizing that no urbanist movement is really underway until they hand out shirts. Create an organization to advocate about your observation and use letters or paints to wear it proudly across your shirt. People Against Wubba! Pedestrians Insist Scrambling Seattle! Sidle up to the keg at the party and enlist your new friends to your cause. Sprinkle your conversations with the word “praxis” to complete the character.

Necessary accessories: Stick-on block letters/fabric marker.
Optional accessory: Ennui.

The protected bike lane on the new Fairview Bridge was one of the projects that opened in 2021 during a productive year for the department. (Photo: Ryan Packer)

If you have: Whatever you’re wearing to cycle to the party
You should dress as: The Stare Down

Just because Seattle’s mayor refuses to lead with bicycles doesn’t mean you need to surrender the sanctimony of using the best means of transportation in the world. Show up at your Halloween party and bring your bike inside with you. If anyone questions it, don’t reply. Just give them the same look that you normally reserve for the swerving mother of three in a Subaru at Green Lake and Ravenna.

Necessary accessories: Iron will.
Optional accessories: Ice pack. A ride home

A selection of urbanist-adjacent books that absolutely have not been staring at me for the better part of a year. (Ray Dubicki)

If you have: One of the many Amazon boxes still in the hallway
You should dress as: The book you spent last year meaning to read

It’s been a long time since last Halloween, with tension levels right up there with the two years that immediately preceded it. So you’re not totally to blame that there’s still a lot of books you picked up last Christmas that are still collecting dust on the nightstand. Use them as a source of inspiration for your costume. 

The traditional book costume requires cutting some head and arm holes in a big box then decorating it. Really, at this point in the year, that may even be a bit too much effort. Leave the box brown and just tell everyone what book you are. It shows you started industriously and covered the book with brown paper to protect it. Like a childhood textbook, back when those were a thing. So very long ago. Really a reflection on aspirations and dashed hopes.

Bonus, you’ll likely use the box that the book came in.

Necessary accessories: Duct tape.
Optional accessories: A book mark.

Article Author
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Ray Dubicki is a stay-at-home dad and parent-on-call for taking care of general school and neighborhood tasks around Ballard. This lets him see how urbanism works (or doesn’t) during the hours most people are locked in their office. He is an attorney and urbanist by training, with soup-to-nuts planning experience from code enforcement to university development to writing zoning ordinances. He enjoys using PowerPoint, but only because it’s no longer a weekly obligation.