Spooky, Scary, Halloween Costumes

By Emma Barhydt

What are you dressing up as for Halloween this year? I’ll probably dress up as my go-to costume vampire, but I might mix it up and go with a witch this year instead. Whatever you’re dressing up as for Halloween, your options are nearly endless!

You can tell a lot about a certain period in American history based on what the popular Halloween costumes of the time are. Not only can you tell what people are afraid of (clowns… it’s always clowns) but you can also see what they love, the media they consume, and in recent years. even who’s running for president. These days, Halloween is the main costume event of the year, but way back at the beginning of the 20th century, Halloween was just one of many events people would dress up for.

Because there were so many costume opportunities in the 1900’s, Halloween set itself apart by being mainly in the spooky genre of costumes as opposed to current events. The costumes weren’t made specifically to evoke images of a certain person, but to conceal your identity in a spooky way by evoking themes like ghosts, black cats, and witches.

While people used costumes and makeup to take on spooky personas, it was all homemade. The only commercially made costumes were paper masks available only for children. These masks were used not to give the exact likeness of a ghoul or goblin, but to conceal the child’s identity in a creepy way. The disguises were especially important for kids and teens who often spent most of Halloween playing tricks or vandalizing by throwing flour at people, stealing neighbors’ fences, and even sometimes stealing dead bodies. That all changed, though, during the great depression. Particularly in the year 1933 the vandalism became so bad and so widespread that communities and concerned adults began to organize Halloween events in a way they hadn’t before. Trick-or-treating, haunted houses, and costume parties all became commonplace events in an effort to keep kids from vandalizing. This organization of Halloween also led to a new emphasis on Halloween costumes for kids.

As Halloween became more and more about keeping kids entertained, the variety and availability of costumes began to grow. Characters from popular radio shows, comics, and movies, began to make appearances on Halloween night. Sears also began offering box costumes for children, but those were a luxury not many could afford during the Great Depression, so most families continued to make their own costumes. In the 1950’s box costumes became more affordable, so kids started using them en mass. Princesses, mummies, and clowns were popular choices along with pop culture characters like Batman and Frankenstein’s monster. The 1970’s saw more changes to adult costumes as the kids who’d loved the tradition in the 50’s began to grow up but wanted to continue celebrating. The 70’s was when Americans began wearing presidential masks. The 70’s and 80’s also saw the rise of the slasher film as well as the costumes to go with them, but fantasy and sci-fi movies also had a big influence on Halloween costumes too. Costumes from Star Wars and E.T. became all the rage.

Today there’s no limit to what kind of costume you can create, whether it is a pun, historical, pop culture or current events related, traditional, or scary. The number of options for putting together costumes now are also at an all-time high. You can make your own, thrift one, or pick one up from Party City. Whatever you dress up as, remember not to jump at your own reflection!

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