One of my favorite Halloween traditions is dressing up. My friend Tess and I dressed up together almost every Halloween (through High School ha!). My favorite of all our costumes was a life-sized baby giraffe. We took turns being the back vs. the front. We held up the neck with a broom. Lots of fun!
These days, I’m extremely impressed by the level of costume design kids have. They are so awesome! In my day, a store-bought costume was the equivalent of a plastic potato sack with the “outfit” painted on. This was accompanied by lame plastic mask that only covered your face and would get all wet on the inside from your breath. Most of the fancy costumes were homemade.
That difference got me to thinking… How have costumes changed over the years? So I did a little research. Here’s what I found:
Some historians suggest, the practice of wearing costumes at Halloween originated in the Celtic countries (Scotland/Wales). Earliest reference is ~1585 although it could have started even earlier. The tradition was possibly linked with Samhain. Others feel it came with early Christian influences. That people believed the souls of the dead would rise on All Hallow’s Eve and All Saint’s Day and engage in the danse macbre, so the children (live ones) would dress up as dead souls and reenact this event.
Little is known about the costumes at this time. It seems it varied somewhat by region – but in general, sounds like everyone dressed to either represent dead souls or martyred saints or to scare them away. In some areas, children would wear masked or paint/darken their faces to go door-to-door and threaten mischief. In some places they dressed up as the opposite gender. In others both adults and children would dress up as scary local ghouls or legends.
The Victorian era “tamed” the tradition apparently – making it a more private holiday and one where only children dressed up. Costumes were home-made and created to represent more gothic themes. Th 1930s heralded commercially produced costumes designed to look like supernatural or scary beings.
They didn’t give a date when costumes started adding pop-culture references, but it’s been since about the 1950s. Though the end of the 1900s most good costumes were still primarily homemade. It seems that when this change came, it came fast!
They’ve taken mass-producing Halloween costumes of all sorts to an entirely new level. No more plastic potato sacks. The superheros even have built-in muscles and painted on abs. And the monsters – while still available – aren’t nearly as prevalent as the pop-culture references. (Although, now that I think about it, certain pop culture references are probably scarier than the monsters.)
Thanks for joining me on this stroll through the history of a fun tradition. Now for the game!
BEST COSTUME CONTEST
Prize: T-Shirt – “This Is My Halloween Costume” & $5 Amazon gift certificate
How to Play: Share costume ideas. These can be your costumes, costumes you like, historical pictures. Share just a description for 1 entry in the raffle. Share a picture (yours or link to pinterest etc.) for 2 entries in the raffle. Drawing will be 10/24 at 6pm PST!