"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


costumes for development geeks

Following the popularity of last year's post, we here at Texas in Africa headquarters humbly offer some suggestions for your Halloween costuming needs should you be hanging out with other people who understand why dressing as a development economist is hilarious. And, really, everybody else is going to come as the Double Rainbow guy or Christine O'Donnell. Be creative:
  • One Million Shirts - Oh, like you didn't see this one coming a mile away. This is easy for those of you who have lots of t-shirts left over from college clogging up your dresser drawers, but it's also handy if you're on a remote posting in a place that has a market full of cast-off t-shirts. The trick is two-fold: 1) you need to wear as many t-shirts as possible. Layer them, tie one around your head, make them into sweatbands, wear them as pants, whatever. 2) Carry a bottle of hatorade.
  • SWEDOW - In a similar vein, pull all the Stuff WE DOn't Want (as @talesfromthhood so brilliantly named all the throwaway junk Americans have a habit of donating to people who neither want or need it) you can find out of the closet and wear it. TOMS shoes, used lingerie, jeans with too many holes to be wearable - whatever works.
  • Aid Transparency - Wear something floaty and/or transparent, then get a friend to dress as Bill Easterly and chase you around all night. (See last year's post for hints on dressing like the Greatest of All Aid Bloggers.) When asked for data or proof of anything at all, make up answers that blame your inability to answer on someone else's nonexistent lack of permission. Bonus: add in Jeff Sachs, who should run around all evening throwing fake money at problems.
  • Rwanda's New Times - The New Times is, of course, Rwanda's government-supported/written daily. To go in this costume, wear black and white so you look like a newspaper. Spend the entire party denying obvious facts with outrage: "This drink isn't cold, it's hot!" "Halloween isn't in October if we say it isn't!" Bonus points if you ask everyone who questions you, "Why do you want this party to fail?"
  • Omar al-Bashir - Sudan's president/indicted war criminal has quite a few looks as this handy Foreign Policy fashion spread makes clear. Pick one of those to wear. To really pull this off, you'll want to flaunt your obviously well-stamped passport and tout the frequent flier miles you've accrued since the ICC indictment came down. (Tasteless? Possibly. But not as tasteless as what the countries letting al-Bashir get away with this stuff are doing.)
  • Saving Haiti - This is a great costume for two: one of you should go as Wyclef Jean (wearing a Wyclef 4 Prez button or t-shirt) and the other as Sean Penn (with a gun in your belt). This would be another great place to pull out your SWEDOW, but the key to pulling it off is to focus entirely on yourselves and your so-called contribution while ignoring the desires and suggestions of the people around you and all experts.
  • The Sucking Vortex - Some friends and I have been trying to figure out how you could dress up as Time Africa Bureau Chief Alex Perry's infamous description of the DRC pretty much since he made the mistake of calling it that and then made the bigger mistake of reacting angrily (and in public) to criticism of his comment. We can't figure out how you'd pull it off, but we all agree: the creation of the outfit should involve a BeDazzler. If you come up with something, let us know in the comments.
Other ideas?

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Blogger Michelle said...

I imagine the Sucking Vortex to look something like a bedazzled tornado. I'm going hunting for it later this week (I've packed my giant vortex-catching net) -- I'll report back on my findings.

Monday, October 25, 2010 1:42:00 AM

Anonymous Lauren said...

If you have to go to two parties and one doesn't have the same proportion of development geeks, I humbly suggest "Angelina in Pakistan/Sith lord." Just get a black sheet, a lot of pale face powder, and blot and drape accordingly.

Monday, October 25, 2010 7:22:00 AM

Anonymous Rebecca said...


Monday, October 25, 2010 10:52:00 AM

Blogger Tom said...

My suggestion is to dress as a randomista. Go to parties and divide the individuals into control and treatment groups to find which drink will lead to more antics. Also can be replicated with candy.

Conclusions must have heterogeneity and require further research next Halloween.

Monday, October 25, 2010 11:32:00 AM

Blogger Karl said...

Voluntourism- Insert yourself into the middle of complicated tasks of which you have no training for and little understanding of. "I can reshingle your roof!" "Hey, I'm going to help you bake a lemon meringue pie from scratch!"
Leave long before the task is complete. If possible hand off the task, without any type of explanation, to another person. Spend the rest of the party talking about how much the task changed your life.

Monday, October 25, 2010 5:58:00 PM

Anonymous Christopher Vourlias said...

I think ZANU-PF would be a hit with the kiddies. You have to insist that yours is the ONLY party in town worth going to; ensure that all the candy is divided between yourself, your family members, and your closest allies; suggest that all the other parties in town are actually fronts for American and British neo-imperialist interests; and dispatch a team of bellicose North Koreans to prevent anyone from leaving for a party in Matabeleland.

Monday, October 25, 2010 6:34:00 PM

Anonymous Tim Ogden said...

In the spirit of self-mocking, how about: #smartaid activist

Dress in normal clothes but anytime you see anyone attempting to do something helpful or nice, say giving someone some candy, make sure that you put a stop to it by questioning the long term consequences, the lack of sustainability, the availability of candy in the market, the expertise of the giver, etc.

Bonus points for bringing along a Nick Kristoff who can frontrun you by heaping praise on the candy giver for going to extraordinary and unimaginable links to help other people in ways that have never been tried before (but only if they're white) and the wonderful fact that even if they are not helping others they are helping themselves.

Double bonus if you bring along Sheryl WuDunn who can point out through each and everyone of these interactions that the only reason that anything good ever gets done is because of women.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 11:42:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Tim FTW.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 3:19:00 PM

Anonymous J. said...

The anti-the-aid-establishment aid worker:

This costume works best if you're in a group of 3-7 with similar "ethos." Wear matching cargo shorts and golf shirts with the logo and website of your unregistered charity embroidered on it. One of you should wear Tevas (with socks, if it's cold), and the rest should wear Dickie's workboots.

Refuse to go to coordination meetings and never share any information with the clusters. Instead, just go distribute your GIK in any random community (preferably one randomly close to the airport), and then spout off on CNN about how you've been actually helping people while all of the fat cat BINGOs have been wasting their time CORDINATING. Wear your ad hoc and non-strategic approach to humanitarian aid like a badge of honor. Spend down your entire budget within 3 months and then get the hell out of the disaster zone.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 5:44:00 AM

Anonymous J. said...

Any famous celebrity... Bono, Angelina, Brad Pitt, Jessica Simpson, Ben Affleck, George Clooney...

Dress in dusty chinos and a wrinkled adventure shirt. Have a thin African child as a prop.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 5:50:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps this is finally a suitable occasion for the giant poo costume which was unceremoniously ejected from various locations during UN Week. Although you might want to point out to your guests that unlike a billion people throughout the world your apartment does in fact have a working toilet.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 12:34:00 PM

Blogger Derrill Watson said...

I tried out the million shirts version. Fit on 22 t-shirts just layered one on top of the other. No one knew who I was even after reading the sign I taped to myself too. Those who stood around for the explanation appreciated the humor (a sample selection bias if ever I heard one). I would've easily won the most esoteric costume award had one been given.

Monday, November 01, 2010 10:40:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Derrill, I applaud your initiative.

Monday, November 01, 2010 2:40:00 PM


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