While they say clothes may make the man, Ebone Bell, aka E-Cleff, says it really has more to do with the facial hair. And with years of strutting her drag-king persona under her belt, she ought to know. Better, she's willing to share some of that knowledge for women hoping to be king for a day this Halloween.
''If you have a more feminine face, you might want to darken your eyebrows,'' she begins, pointing out what may easily be missed: Men generally have heavier brows than women. Grab an eyeliner pencil and you're in business. But if you're hoping to continue the pencil method to other parts of your pate, think again. Instead, you'll need a stick of spirit gum -- a widely available adhesive -- and some hair. That hair might be your own if you have a lock to spare, or a synthetic ponytail or similar from a beauty supply store.
''You cut it up very fine for the best look,'' says Bell. ''Just put the spirit gum where you want it.''
Investing in an inexpensive ''blush brush'' is the best method of application. Simply dip the brush in your pile of whiskers and brush them into the spirit gum.
''It can get a little messy,'' says Bell. ''The first time I did it, it...was blotchy, coming off in spots. You should really take your time putting it on.''
At the other end of the spectrum are the fellas who need to rid themselves of hair if they're to pull off a worthwhile lady-look. Andre Hopfer of Capitol Hill's Ava Salon & Spa says the trick to the trim is the skin.
''If you do remove body hair, I recommend strongly that you exfoliate with a salt or sugar scrub,'' says Hopfer, adding that you can make your own by simply combining granulated sugar or table salt with vegetable oil to make a paste. The exfoliation will help keep that stubble from spawning ingrown hairs. After the exfoliation, use clippers to rid yourself of most unwanted hair, followed by a razor if necessary. Think neck, chest and hands, primarily.
For the face, men with a light beard can follow shaving with ''pan stick,'' which is like a greasepaint that can be blended with a sponge. For stubborn 5 o'clock shadow, you may also need Dermablend, or a similar waterproof concealer. ''It will cover anything,'' Hopfer promises.
If you're in a rush and a last-minute shave leaves your skin irritated, Hopfer recommends witch hazel and an antihistamine to soothe it.
As for your legs, don't bother.
''The clever way to do it is dance tights -- at least two pairs,'' he says. ''Over those, you put on pantyhose. They will hide the hair on your legs.''
And don't skimp on a costume wig. Instead, invest at least $35 or so at a wig store to get a wig that can be styled. The fibers of a costume wig, warns Hopfer, cannot be brushed or set. What you see is what you get.
Bell and Hopfer agree on the easiest way to rid yourself of the spirit gum, whiskers and Dermablend is mineral oil. Hopfer, a skin expert, says the oil is not good for your face repeatedly, but once a year is just fine. Adds Bell, ''With soap and water, it will come off -- eventually. With baby oil, it comes right off.''
Whether it's whiskers or razors, says Bell, ''Hair is huge. That's what Halloween is all about: the illusion. It's not worth it otherwise.''