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Our Halloween costume drama

Recognise anyone? Sports presenter Denise Watson, Citybeat's Emma Fitzpatrick and TV personality Pamela Ballantine delve into the dressing up box

By Stephanie Bell

It's the most spook-tacular night of the year and this week, as Halloween approaches, it won't be just the kids who will be getting excited at the thought of dressing up in their ghoulish gear to go trick or treating.

Adults too will be indulging in fancy dress for a packed programme of parties and festivals being staged in towns and cities right across Northern Ireland.

From fun character costumes to the downright gruesome the choice, it seems, is limitless. For some partygoers, though, it takes a bit more thought than simply picking the weirdest, scariest or wackiest outfit which might jump out at them from the shelf.

According to Elliott's in Belfast – one of Northern Ireland's biggest and longest established fancy dress shops – and local family firm Mackey Opticians, people who wear glasses give the most thought to what they will wear on Halloween. Indeed, glasses have become such a fashion accessory these days that people are now selecting their Halloween costume to show off their lovely frames.

And the companies have revealed the top choices that people who wear glasses are opting for in Northern Ireland this Halloween.

According to Elliott's, who have been supplying costumes in Ann Street for 90 years, the top three are Where's Wally?, Velma from Scooby Doo and as a doctor.

"People who wear glasses regularly ask us for advice on which costume would be a natural fit for their glasses," says James Elliott, from Elliott's Fancy Dress. "Our advice is, while anything goes, there are costumes that would be a more natural fit than others.

"Where's Wally? is proving to be a very popular choice for people of all ages, with Velma from Scooby Doo also an attractive option.

"Doctors, secretaries and geeks are also very popular – this may sound boring but you will be surprised at the many varied interpretations people have for Halloween. We think we have seen it all but every year we get a surprise."

Richard Mackey, from Mackey Opticians, says: "Halloween needn't be a frightful time for people who wear glasses and Elliott's Fancy Dress has shown just that.

"It's all about having fun but at the same time ensuring that you are looking after and considering your eye health. There is such a wide range of stylish frames available now that people today are encouraged to make them a feature – much like a favourite outfit – and there's no better time to have fun with it than at Halloween."

Three local personalities decided to get in on the fun and put these top costume choices to the test.

TV personality Pamela Ballantine donned a doctor's costume while UTV sports journalist Denise Watson looked a treat as Velma from Scooby Doo and Citybeat presenter Emma Fitzpatrick went wacky as Wenda from Where's Wally?. All three will be joining in the fun this week with plans to celebrate Halloween in very different ways.

Denise: 'Velma was a childhood hero of mine'

UTV sports journalist Denise Watson (41) from Lisburn is married to David (44), an academic, and they have two children, Samantha (8) and Elizabeth (5). She says:

My girls love Scooby Doo and they would love me in this costume. I like the idea that if you wear glasses you can choose a Halloween costume to complement it. Velma was a childhood hero of mine so getting a chance to be her is a childhood ambition.

"Halloween will be filled with trick or treating and spooky tales with my two girls. We have been making our own costumes this year and have had great fun doing it.

"We got felt from the craft shop and fabric pens and the girls have been cutting out ghosts and witches' hats and sticking them on to their outfit. They've had a lot of fun making their own costumes.

"Sam decided she wanted to be a cat and Elizabeth is going to be a witch. They can't wait to dress up and will be going to as many parties as they can.

"I will take them trick or treating around a few neighbours' houses and I will have a big pot at my door filled with sweets for the children who call.

"We will also bob for apples and some years I have hung apples from the door and the children have to try and bite them with their hands behind their back.

"It's my birthday today and my parents, husband and my girls all spoil me with lots of nice presents. Halloween was always special for me as a child because my parents went over the top because it was my birthday.

"I remember we didn't have pumpkins then so we would have carved turnips instead and my mum would have baked apple tarts which she hid coins in.

"I always liked the idea of having my birthday at Halloween. It's a lovely time with pumpkins and all the food and leaves falling off the trees.

"It's a pleasure now as a mum to see the girls having fun and enjoying it."

Pamela: 'There were spirits in my house'

Pamela Ballantine (55) is a Belfast Telegraph columnist and TV presenter. She says:

This Halloween I will not be going out but hope to have a spooky night in with close friends. I loved the doctor's costume. Its fun, easy to put on and you can have endless entertainment. I wear glasses every day and I'm not surprised this is a popular choice for people who wear glasses as it does complement my glasses and makes them a feature.

"I love the black Rayban frames which Mackey Opticians choose to go with it. It's amazing how you can change your appearance with a pair of glasses and a wig.

"I do believe in ghosts. At one stage I had to get a ghost clearer into my home. I was waking up and feeling as if I was being suffocated. A friend put me in touch with this nice gentleman who came and cleared the spirits out of my home.

"I didn't really do trick or treating as a child. We had a holiday home in Ballyhalbert which was in the middle of a big field and we would go there every Halloween and have a fireworks display in the garden.

"I still love the smell of fireworks because it brings back those lovely childhood memories.

"I don't mind kids trick or treating but in a house I used to live in a few years ago, my doorbell was going constantly for about a week and I would open it to hordes of teenagers in masks asking for money. I found that quite menacing.

"Who doesn't love a fancy dress party? I think if someone goes to the trouble of organising one then you should make an effort with your costume. I have friends who are really good at it and really embrace it.

"I don't like hiring costumes. I prefer to create my own and maybe buy a prop or two. I recently had to dress up for a photo shoot for the NI Hospice as a highwayman and I was able to put it together with a long black coat I had, my riding boots, a scarf and I had a mask from a previous party which I wore. Years ago when they had local people switching on the Christmas lights in Belfast, sports presenter Adrian Logan and I dressed up as Sonny and Cher and I had all the gear in my wardrobe for that too.

"I think when you see the whole American Desperate Housewives thing going on at Halloween it's cute but spare me the person rapping my door with the Scream mask on."

Emma: 'As kids we planned our outfits for months in advance'

Citybeat presenter Emma Fitzpatrick (36) from Belfast presents the evening show on Citybeat from 7-10pm, Monday to Friday. She says:

I loved the Wenda costume from Where's Wally? I am going to a fancy dress house party in my friend's for Halloween and plan to wear it – it's brilliant.

"It's a great idea if you wear glasses, to use them as part of your costume. I plan to have some fun in this one.

"Every Halloween one of my friends will organise something but I'm usually working so I haven't been able to go for a few years. This year it is on the Saturday night so I am looking forward to dressing up for the first in a long time.

"It's nice to see people with serious jobs dressed up in silly costumes and having fun.

"I've really good memories of Halloween as a child. My family celebrated it big time. Every year, all of my aunts and uncles and cousins would go to my granny's house on Halloween night for a big family party. We would be planning our costumes for months in advance and really looked forward to it every year.

"We played all the games, like dunking for apples and trying to catch the apple on the string. That was pretty disgusting, you had about 15 people trying to bite the same apple and slabbering all over it, but we survived.

"My granny lived in a block of houses and the man next door dressed up every Halloween and chased all the children round the block for hours. We were terrified but we loved it.

"That poor man was a werewolf, a vampire, a ghost – every year he dressed in something different.

"We never did trick or treating. It was the '80s in Belfast and with the Troubles you didn't really go round knocking strangers' doors in Belfast.

"But it's all a bit of fun and it's a chance to be silly for a night and catch up with friends so why not celebrate it?"

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