Mitt and Barack, McKayla and the gymnastics Fantastic Five -- it must be Halloween 2012.
There are some, of course, who prefer to go old school with costumes (think witches, ghosts, Madonna ...), although in light of the ongoing recession, that old standby, the hobo, just isn't as appealing anymore.
Increasingly, we are looking toward pop culture and politics for dress-up inspiration. Halloween is, after all, a time to indulge fantasies both light and dark. Although store-bought or rented costumes always are a big hit, many of this season's trendiest costumes require only a knowledge of current events and a do-it-yourself spirit.
Front and center -- or behind debate podiums -- there are presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Spirit Halloween has been tracking national sales of candidates since 1996 and claims that elections can be predicted by the percentage of masks sold. As of the middle of last week, the incumbent was leading, with 60 percent of sales.
But Ron Thompson, floor manager and director of visual merchandising for Spotlight Costumes on the South Side, said that at his store, political masks have been a bust.
"We have not sold a single president's mask. ... I think this year, nobody cares because they don't have faith in our candidates."
Spinning off from the debates are at least two hot sellers: "Big Bird" and versions of Mr. Romney's "Binders Full of Women."
The former speaks for itself. The iconic "Sesame Street" Muppet wasn't even on the map a year ago, but after a mention in the debates, "people are wild for the big, yellow bird," said Nick Parrilla of Costume World in the Strip District.
Although an officially licensed version is for sale, an adult-size three-day rental resembling the real thing goes for $200.
Making a literal version of "Binders Full of Women" will be a challenge, but no doubt there are people out there purchasing traditional three-ring keepers and a Barbie doll or two to fill them.
The popularity of memes -- those social media images cooked up to comment on real-life events -- also suggest we'll be seeing a few "McKayla is not impressed" ladies.
Put on something resembling an Olympic gymnastics outfit, grab a bouquet of flowers, and don't forget to look sullen. Smirking optional. Even the real-life McKayla Maroney, the vault silver medalist, will be impressed.
If you have tiny lithe friends, have them join you -- Olympic gold medals for everyone!
The Internet also brings us South Korean K-Pop rapper Psy, whose YouTube sensation video, "Gangnam Style," spread to "Saturday Night Live" and "Dancing With the Stars."
All you need is a flashy tux jacket, black pants, round sunglasses and a slicked-back hairstyle straight out of "Mary Worth." It helps to know the dance, which is addictive and simple.
Reality television is also a great source, from various "Housewives" to the Kardashian of your choice. Upping the ante is Kim Kardashian's relationship with Kanye West -- talk about a costume bling opportunity!
There's also Alana and her mama, June, from "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." Channel your best "Toddlers & Tiaras" vibe, and don't forget the "Go-Go Juice."
Also huge this Halloween are the stars of summer blockbusters "Marvel's The Avengers," "The Dark Knight Rises," "Spider-Man" and "Hunger Games."
"We have maybe one 'Bane' mask left," said Mr. Thompson, referring to Batman's "Dark Knight" nemesis.
"I'm going through Spider-Man, Batman and Thor like you wouldn't believe," Mr. Parrilla said. "Captain America? Just crazy, just running out the door."
Prepackaged costumes are always popular, and the deluxe versions are renting well.
"Our Batman is about $300, but we're talking almost 20 pieces in the costume. You've got the codpiece, the boots, the leggings, arm pieces, the gloves, the gauntlets. I mean, he's got the belt. ... It looks awesome," Mr. Parrilla said.
Last, but certainly not least, we have zombies. Now zombies have been around Pittsburgh forever, so it's easy to forget that they're suddenly the hot supernatural beings.
Grab some raggedy clothing, muss your hair, apply some makeup (we ran a do-it-yourself-guide in Sunday's Post-Gazette) and you're ready to shamble.
"We sell tons of liquid makeup for that," Mr. Parrilla said. "Zombies are always big."
And to further cement pop culture's influence on Halloween garb, consider a recent Fandango poll of 1,000 online movie ticket buyers. The top four men's choices were Avengers characters, with Batman close behind. For women, "The Dark Knight Rises" Catwoman was first, with Katniss as runner-up.
In the "classic" category, men liked Indiana Jones and Dracula; women favored Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" and Disney's Cruella de Vil.
Most Popular Stories
- Prosecutor to Investigate Walmart Police Shooting
- GM to Announce New Jobs in Tennessee
- Mark Sanchez Suddenly a Hot QB Commodity
- Smith & Wesson Misses Target
- Emirates Hit Libyan Targets With Airstrikes
- Michael Brown Funeral: Can Americans Change the Script of Violence?
- American Killed With ISIS Fighters in Syria
- Marco Rubio Warns Obama on Deportations
- Surf's Up! SoCal Prepares for Big Storm Surf
- Ford Hires 300 at Louisville Lincoln Plant