This store requires javascript to be enabled for some features to work correctly.



Halloween Costumes Over Time

Halloween Costumes Over Time


@jointhecovn halloween costumes, vintage or modern? #pasthalloweencostumes #halloweencostume #vintagehalloween ♬ original sound - Covn | Days Til Halloween 🎃


I think we can be pretty confident in the fact that Halloween costumes this year are going to be full of Barbies + Kens, Oppenheimers, Taylor Swifts + Travis Kelces, and Little Mermaids, but we wanted to look back and see how they've changed over time.

The first important thing to remember is that for the majority of the time that Halloween costumes have been worn, they have been homemade.  Ever since the late 19th century, Americans have been dressing up for Halloween. From the 1870s to the 1890s, simple to make costumes, such as witches and the classic bedsheet ghost, have been popular. 

Victorian era America’s costumed were heavily influenced by the far east. Any costumes that were what people would have called "exotic," such as Egyptian princesses, were popular choices in the late 19th century. Thankfully today this is less common as we have better understanding of cultural appropriation. 

Mass produced paper costumes and masks hit stores between the 1900s and the 1920s, as Halloween became more popular. Almost everyone was wearing costumes made by the Dennison Paper Company, including aprons, hats and masks printed with cats and witches on. It is from here that the typical Halloween colour scheme of orange, black and purple was established. These costumes were meant to be worn once and thrown away.

Boxed character costumes were introduced in the 1930s and 40s. Often including a plastic mask and rayon costume, they featured well-known characters from cartoons, books and the radio. Costumes such as these were considered a luxury and were only made more accessible after World War II. 

Halloween costumes of the 1950s were heavily defined by television. Sought after characters included Little Orphan Annie, and Disney’s first characters like Mickey and Minnie (truly horrifying), Peter Pan, and Snow White. 

This influential pop culture trend continued into the following decades. The 1960s had characters such as the Adamms Family, (original) Barbie and The Beatles, and the 1970s had Saturday Night Fever and Grease. ET dominated in the 80s.

Bloody, gory Halloween costumes also became popular in the 1980s following the release of the horror movie “Halloween”. The 1990s featured a lot of brand name costumes, such as McDonald’s fries, and Tootsie Rolls.

The Halloween costume trends of the 2000s were heavily political in theme, with presidential masks having had high sales every US election year.  Also in the noughties was the rise of ‘sexy’ versions of occupations and characters. 

Since then, it’s really always come back to pop culture. What were the best selling movies? Most talked about celebrity moments? Or even the most viral memes? If you want to know what the next big Halloween costume will be, just pay attention to pop culture and big stories that everyone is talking about.


Further Reading:

Popular Halloween Costumes Over Last 150 Years

The Halloween Costume Everyone Was Wearing The Year You Were Born


Purchase options
Select a purchase option to pre order this product
Countdown header
Countdown message