Still looking for a Halloween costume that makes a statement? Look no further than your grocery aisle, if you dare.
Ever since Carmen Miranda danced her way onto the silver screen with a fantastical fruit-laden hat in the 1940s, food as costume has provoked reactions of both delight and horror.
Costumes made of real food have sparked discussions about race, hunger, vegetarianism, commercialism, sexuality, morality and the ever-popular female body image for decades. Here are a few of the more memorable examples.
Trying a fashion-forward tactic to protest meat eating, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals created the “Let Vegetarianism Grow On You” campaign in 2009, featuring an 82-year-old Cloris Leachman dressed in strategically placed red and green cabbage leaves fashioned into a ballgown.
Going green never looked so good, and cabbage is about the cheapest and most widely available vegetable around.
But for a really bold statement, there’s the other of the spectrum: a raw meat outfit like the one Lady Gaga wore at the 2010 Video Music Awards.
While she acknowledged that wearing a meat costume could mean many things, Gaga says she was wearing it to protest the ban on gays in the military. “If we don’t stand up for what we believe in and if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And I am not a piece of meat,” Gaga told talk show host and actress Ellen DeGeneres at the time.
Still, as outrageous as the dress (and matching hat and shoes!) was, it was far from original. Critics called her out at the time as a copycat, noting the similarities between her look and artist Jana Sterbak’s 1987 work Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic.
“The VMA garment of draped steak could be seen as a reflection of pop culture’s cravings around exposed female flesh. At least, that was one way observers saw Sterbak’s 50 pounds of raw flank steak, stitched together into a slowly rotting garment and displayed, to a sizable hue and cry, in a 1991 exhibition at Canada’s National Gallery,” wrote L.A. Times culture blogger Christopher Knight.
After Sterbak but before Gaga came the silly yet stylish website Hats of Meat, where people have posted pictures of themselves wearing – you guessed it – meat hats. This website appears to have been taken down, but if you Google “hats of meat,” you’ll still find unusual fleshy fashion, like a baseball cap made out of ground beef and a brisket yarmulke.
For a truly vintage look, there’s always the deli department. This beauty, with hot dogs dangling from her wasp waist and wrapped around her graceful neck and arms, was crowned the Zion Meat Company’s “sausage queen” during National Hot Dog Week in 1955.
For those of you more into the veggie look, you could always bury yourself in some spuds, like this lady, who is widely cited as 1935 Miss Idaho Potato. Or take haute couture inspiration from this gorgeous corn husk gown from the first season of Project Runway.