Jillian Markowitz of South Philadelphia grew anxious when all of her comedy gigs got canceled.
Looking for a way to keep busy, she turned to Facebook on March 12 with a challenge:
“Name a Halloween costume and I’ll do my best to dress up like it using only the materials in my home,” her post read.
Suggestions from friends started to pour in — anything from Joan of Arc to “sexy refrigerator.” Markowitz settled on “Star Wars’” Kylo Ren for her first pick and ended up doing eight costumes that first night.
Soon she started posting pictures of homemade costumes to social media and continued the challenge after receiving positive feedback. She now posts new costumes daily under the Instagram handle @quarantween_costumes and has racked up more than 80 costumes so far.
“When I started doing it, it felt so stupid. And now I realized that it’s the perfect type of entertainment because it doesn’t require any attention span whatsoever,” Markowitz said. “And I’m engaging with people. And it’s not controversial. There’s nothing polarizing about it. It’s just fun.”
Markowitz said her goal isn’t to replicate the exact look of a character, but rather to capture their essence using household objects to create a DIY Halloween costume. Each assignment takes about 15-30 minutes to create.
“And then probably like an additional 15 minutes of agonizing and sending the costume out to my friends (and) be like, ‘Is this good enough? I can’t tell anymore,’” she said.
After getting approval from at least two people, she shares them online.
A lot of her costumes rely on using household objects in creative ways.
For the green dinosaur Yoshi, she made a mask out of a neck pillow and a cardigan. For the brown fox-like Eevee from the “Pokemon” series, she used toilet paper rolls to make ears and then put on a Chewbacca onesie and a white scarf to complete the look. Other costumes rely more heavily on makeup, like Rocky Balboa and Captain Jack Sparrow.
It’s these kinds of transformations that’s impressed Markowitz’s boyfriend, John Deary — and his family.
“My mom loves them,” Deary said. “She doesn’t believe that they’re real. She’s like, ‘How does she have all this stuff at home?’”
From Abraham Lincoln to all members of “The Brady Bunch,” Markowitz is open to tackling nearly any character. In the beginning, she was worried that many pitches would be lewd suggestions from strangers online. But she’s been happy to find that most are just from people trying to challenge her.
“Like I can do literally anything. It just might be bad,” Markowitz said.
One pitch she got was from her friend Joshua Machiz. He pitched Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor in the O. J. Simpson murder trial. Markowitz accepted and, to Machiz’s surprise, the costume was reposted by the real Clark on Instagram.
Aside from Clark’s approval, Machiz said he’s happy Markowitz has been able to find a creative outlet and put her craft to good use.
“Anybody doing anything creative and productive during this time is the healthiest way we can spend this quarantine,” Machiz said. “And if it makes other people happy, that’s even better.”
While quarantining will eventually come to an end, it doesn’t appear like Markowitz’s costume challenge will slow down anytime soon.
“I really don’t want to stop,” she said. “I feel like anytime that I catch myself falling into a depression or a funk, if somebody messages me and it’s like, ‘Hey, can you do this costume?’ I can focus on it no matter where I am, no matter how tired I’m feeling, no matter how much of a funk I was in before.
“So as of right now, I can’t see myself stopping anytime soon. I’m just having too much fun right now.”
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