Come as you aren’t: Halloween costume inspiration by decade

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Draven Jackson

Arts and Living Editor

Halloween, the time of year when all the ghosts and ghouls come out to play, revolves around two major elements for most of America: costumes and candy. 

A tale as old as time: it’s the afternoon of Halloween, your best friend is throwing a party that starts in less than 3 hours, and you still don’t know what you’re going to wear. You’re not the first person to experience this dilemma, and you certainly won’t be the last. 

If you’re still looking for a little Halloween costume inspiration, we at the Tropolitan have compiled a timeline for you of the most popular costumes in every decade of the last century (according to The Chicago Tribune article “The Most Popular Halloween Costumes of All Time”).

The 1920s: Clowns became the most popular costume of the ‘20s due to their simplicity. As Halloween changed into a secular occasion and trick-or-treating became a staple of the holiday, people turned towards Pierrot clown costumes and their simple, black-and-white face painting.

The 1930s: As Halloween shifted from homemade costumes to mass produced ones, Mickey and Minnie Mouse became a big hit due to the fact that they were easy to buy and consisted of slips and rubber masks. This trend led to decades of characters costumes and cosplay.

The 1940s: Witches became all the rage with the rise of sexy Halloween costumes. During the ‘40s, women transformed classic Halloween costumes and made them “sexier,” a tradition that continues into today.

The 1950s: A trend that would be considered cultural appropriation in modern times, the ‘50s saw people dressing in Hawaiian inspired outfits, with bright floral tops, leis, and grass skirts.

The 1960s: With comic books growing in popularity, the rise of Superhero costumes followed close behind. The most popular heroes to dress as were Superman, Spider-Man, Catwoman, and Batgirl. 

The 1970s: Charlie Brown and the Peanut Gang became a popular staple of the 1970s as kids donned rubber masks and became their favorite characters. 

The 1980s: The 1980s saw a rise in pop-culture oriented costumes, with the most popular being sexy vamp Elvira and professional wrestler Hulk Hogan.

The 1990s: Children of the ‘90s dressed as their favorite rangers – that is, the Power Rangers. What color would you have been?

The 2000s: Celebrities, now so central to our society, and the costumes they inspired became all the rage in the 2000s. Celebs like Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, and Hannah Montana were common costumes during the decade. 

The 2010s: Of all the culturally iconic costumes of the last 9 years, Frozen characters have proven to be the most popular looks. They’re followed closely by the Avengers, Harley Quinn (mainly her costume from “The Suicide Squad”), and “Game of Thrones” characters. 

Now that you’ve seen the evolution of costumes through the last century, it’s time to get out there and launch the next trend!

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