Hannah Conkling


The Evolution of Halloween Costumes

As everyone is more than aware, Halloween is a little less than one week away. It’s finally that time of year where people scour the internet for costume ideas, hunting down the cutest and coolest outfit to wear to the dozens of Halloween parties they may be going to for the holiday. For the past week, I’ve watched my friends plan out their costumes, all the way down to cute knee-high socks, as if their lives depended on it. Which, for some college students, it does. Even I have gotten trapped on websites like Amazon and Party City, lunging for my laptop if I think up a new costume idea. I’ve thought about Sandy from Grease, Daphne from Scooby Doo and even Coraline. Thinking of new things to be each year is always the toughest part, though. Every year, people dress up as cats, witches, and even Harley Quinns. My personal favorite, however, is the cheesy couple costumes. The other day, I found an article online talking about costume ideas for couples and came across a costume that truly takes the cake. The guy was wearing a taco outfit, and the girl was dressed up as Princess Belle from Beauty and The Beast. Together, they made the popular Mexican fast food restaurant; Taco Bell. I laughed about it for hours.

Picture Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Today, it seems like the most popular costumes are either highly sexual or overboard cheesy. Seriously, look up ‘sexy panda Halloween costume’ on Google and you’ll be sent to fifty different websites. But what were costumes like in the early 1900s? How have our costumes evolved over the years? I did a little searching and discovered some pretty bizarre stuff. Back then, people didn’t have the money to make, let alone buy, costumes as high quality as the ones we wear today. Women made witches hats out of paper-mâché, and children wore sheets as ghost costumes. Little girls would dress up as princesses and little boys would dress up as their favorite superheroes, just like they do today. However, they weren’t given the luxury to buy these costumes wrapped up in plastic from their nearest Walmart. They were hand-made, giving them the vintage look we think of today.

Picture Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Although costumes from the past were innocent and playful, the pictures documenting them say otherwise. I’m not sure if it’s the quality of these photos that make them eerie, or if it’s the costumes themselves, but something doesn’t sit quite right each time I look at them. There’s a photo of an ‘Invisible Man’ I found that should explain just how ominous these vintage photos are. We try so hard today to make masks gory and scary, using things like fake blood to enhance the horror. But the mask on the Invisible Man is genuinely scary without any special effects. The people in the photographs weren’t trying to make their costumes scary, which is probably the scariest part of all. There’s an unsettling atmosphere to the way old Halloween costumes used to be, and the way they were photographed.

Picture Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In a way, I enjoy seeing the off-the-wall costumes that we have today. I think costumes evolve to whatever time period they’re in. We live in a more modern society than people in 1920 or 1930 did, and this obviously affects what we wear on Halloween, and even how we view Halloween. It seems like today’s Halloween is a great deal darker than it was in the past, where it was just a time for kids to dress up as their favorite Disney characters and collect candy from neighboring houses. Today, we have things like Scarowinds and R rated horror films that play with our minds and make us scared of the dark. Will people in the future view our costumes as bizarre or strange? Time can only tell.