The typical Halloween-night-out-with-the-girls costume has a few essential components: fishnets, cleavage, and a matching cocktail. But for the office Halloween party, that’s not going to work. Of course, you want to dress up to show that you’re a good sport, but you also don't want to be “that person” who goes over the top (à la Mitchell’s Spiderman suit on last year’s Modern Family) or spend the entire day knocking over monitors with your Kim Kardashian bubble butt padding.

Finding the perfect 9-to-5 costume is all about finding a balance between appropriate and creative. Here are some guidelines to get you in the Halloween spirit—professionally.

1. Do Some Research

Some businesses are known to turn the office into a Halloween extravaganza: Faux cobwebs abound and bobbing-for-apple stations are strategically placed between cubes. Other offices may send out a quick email the day before Halloween along the lines of, “If you want to wear a costume tomorrow, go right ahead.” So try to find out exactly how excited your co-workers get about the holiday—and plan accordingly. You don't want to spend all night hand-beading your zombie bride dress and show up the next morning to a break room full of people in black t-shirts and animal ears. Do some Facebook stalking or check out the office intranet to find pictures from last year's shindig.

2. Replace Sexiness with Irony

Spandex won’t earn you any points with the boss (at least in a professional sense), but creativity and a sharp wit will be highly regarded by the office Halloween gods. So instead of focusing on how stunning you would look in a leather jumpsuit as a retro Britney, spend some time developing a “think piece:” an understated but humorous costume. A favorite of mine: a pregnant coworker wore an evening gown, tiara, and a sash labeled "Miss Conception." She won the costume contest, and shortly thereafter had an adorable prop for next year's party.

3. Be Practical

At a friend's Halloween soiree, you can ditch out as soon as your body paint starts getting itchy. The office party, on the other hand, is an eight-hour ordeal with fun activities like mid-day meetings and performance reviews. Although petitioning your alma mater to allow you to wear your mascot's uniform or strapping on roller skates to complete of your '70s disco queen costume might seem like a great idea, keep in mind that you will actually have to work in the get-up.

4. Have a Back-up Plan  

Shaking a client's hand with your lacy, fingerless Madonna glove is bound to be awkward, no matter how articulately you explain your costume. It's a good idea to have a change of clothes stowed away, just in case something unexpected comes up during the day.

The bottom line: shelve the glitter, bypass any costumes that include the term “naughty,” and craft your outfit with care. Show your Halloween spirit, but make sure you maintain the professional respect you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Photo courtesy of greggoconnell.