The Complete History of Halloween Costumes & It’s Origin

Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution

History of Halloween Costumes – amongst the most-loved festivals of the Europe and America, that comes with several exciting traditions where donning of costumes came top on the list. Dressing up in specific Halloween costumes is a modern tradition developed in the early millennial decades. Before this become an annual event for kids, the adults used to dress in detailed costumes for evening bashes known as Masquerade parties. Before the 1930s, the Halloween costumes were not available in apparel stores.

Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
Halloween Night

The festivities of Halloween are somewhat loosely based on Old Celtic legends. The celebrations are not merely limited to costumes but also encompass bonfire and jack o lanterns. The celebration of three different events known as;

– All Halloween Eve

– All Saints Day, and

– All Souls Day, have culminated to be popularly known as Halloween.

The Origin of Halloween (Samhain)

The All Hallow’s Eve or Halloween has been originated from pre-Christian Celtic festival around November 1, almost 2 thousand years back. According to Indo-European Etymological dictionaries, this festival was known as Samhain; pronounced as “sah-win” that means “summer’s end” in Gaelic. Due to fragmented availability of data, the exact nature of this festival is not understood, except that it was an annual communal meeting that was celebrated at the end of the harvest year. It was taken as a time to gather resources for upcoming winter months bringing the cattle back from the meadows.

Reportedly, the Halloween was also thought to be a time of communing with the spirits and dead. According to the folklorist John Steno, this day was believed to be the time when spirits and dead would crossover to the other world. Since these supernatural moments of transition have always thought to be something extremely special therefore, the celebrations and festivities have to be observed.

Halloween gives a secure way to recreationally engage with the concepts of death, the hereafter and the worlds of other dimensions. At the other times of the year, the spooky ways of celebrating the pagan rituals arbitrated in feasts and parties won’t be accepted.

However, Nicholas Rogers, the author of “Halloween: from pagan rituals to party night” and a history professor at Toronto’s York University, totally disagrees with the link of Samhain to ancestor worship or dead devotion. He took the history of Samhain to another level by incorporating it with paying tributes to the conquerors when the magnificent palaces of gods of the underworld might reveal this day. According to him, Samhain is more about the changing of seasons and rebirth of nature then evil or death.

Although, these studies proves that there is no direct connection between Samhain and Halloween, many scholars believed that the close dates of All Saints’ Day and Samhain influenced these festivals to merge together and formed a new festival to call Halloween.

The Traditions of Halloween

The Halloween traditions are basically derived from multiple rituals and customs, having roots to different continents. It highlights the concept of shedding away the evil spirit. The costume is the key in reflecting the disguise. To get rid of evil spirit or to evade it one disguise by wearing a Halloween costume and then evil spirit might assume that ghostly sprits are around so they must not be disturbed or bothered. The roots of this very concept can be traced back to another festival in which disguises were to be worn to get rid of any spirit with bad intentions. The most important component that we need to understand the dressing up during Halloween there is no doubt that over the years, its celebrations have been modified from one form  to another one which is attracting more for loving people towards it.

Trick and Treating

The trick and treating event can be related to middle ages as it was a common practice during the Christmas season for poor people to go wassailing, which is a ritual/ practice to get involved in asking for food by going from one door to another. During medieval ages, another ritual was called as ‘soiling’. This was a very kind express of mutual benefit and sharing one of the popular thing was less fortunate people with beg for food and money and in exchange always offered prayers which then become all soul’s day.

Jack o lanterns

Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution

Most mesmerizing fact is that the history of this custom is medieval and primitive the European immigrants to North America brought their traditions along and became people ever as well. Pumpkins were used to carve lanterns out of these as they were easily accessible to become a substation to carve out lanterns instead of using trumps.

The Story

The jack o’ lateen comes from a man named as jack who was a miser and well known and dishonorable drunk. He used people and enjoyed playing with them through his jokes. He played tricks with innocent people of local while he was drunk and made from of them. Once he played to be devil and managed to convince Satan to climb up the tree. He then himself surrounds the truck of the tree with crosses, thus restricting the powers of devil and trapped him inside. Jack asked the devil that he can only be released on the condition that he promises never to take out lives soul.

Since this was the only hope and option available to devil so he promised and accepted the deal. Eventually, when jack died he was worst and evil enough to go to heaven but devil fulfilled his promise to jack and kept him away from hell also. So since he could not go heaven and hell, he was to roam around for eternity. Here devil gave a gift to jack a parting gift, which was an eternally burning ember. Jack kept that inside a hollowed out so that which roaming he could use it as a source of light.

This all led to the tradition of carving out turnips (eventually now pumpkins) to make jack o’ lantern us this all is being traced back to the story narrated above. If we look at the old customs for the holidays the resurgence of these can be seen in Irish and English traditions. Even people of the United States of America have started to dress up and go door to door for asking food and money go with the passage of time, this practices is becoming very popular at Halloween. This practice was less pronounced during World War II. But today which in chides dressing up tick and treats along with jack o’ lanterns has become part and parcel of Halloween thus enhancing greater visibility and cohesiveness. More than 40 billion children dressed up in Halloween costumes are associated with ritual of tricks and treats on Halloween day. They ask a question from going one door to another trick or treat? Most of these kids are dressed up in their favorite costumes of popular superheroes.

Halloween in 1800s

The Halloween traditions and its celebrations have penetrated to different regions with flow of immigrants and reach North America in mid 1800’s. During this period of history people from different races were coming to North America to get settled there and start a journey of new generation of reserved powering in America. They brought with them new traditions and customs, those which were very popular and dear in their countries. Few of these traditions were quite primitive so were passed on from one century to another. Halloween can be teamed as a mixture of many European folk love rituals as well as unique Celtic practices.

Halloween Costumes

The concept of Halloween is associated to darkness and from the inception of this Celtic people desired to dress up in tapering customs to ward off evil spirits. The dressing is designed in such a way that it may differ from normal or causal costumers but has effect of super natural beings, Shelton’s ghosts and monster.

Nowadays, people love to dress up like a scary movie character during Halloween celebration. Over the years, there has been great evolution in spooky creatures and scary cartoon characters inspired attires.

People love to be like whimsical beings, popular culture icons, and popular TV stars on Halloween. The old legacy of this tradition is still being maintained because of the fact that it is based on unique aspects and provides an opportunity to be different in appearance.

Halloween costumes in 1800s-1900s

At the turn of 1800, costumes were homemade by using paper-mache and fabric. Skeletons were painted on fabric, hats and other props were used along with bulky homemade masks to create haunting attire. By the 1900, there was a shove to turn Halloween into a holiday gathered around the community and neighbourhood themed parties, rather than just a spooky mischief.


1920s Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
1920s Halloween Costume

By 20s, Halloween became a secular holiday where communities throw parades, parties and gatherings to celebrate October 31. However, the spooky pranks and acts of vandalism were still there. The costumes were still homemade however, the looks got more polished as the elite class started to throw lavish themed parties. The popular Halloween costume for women was that of the basic witch with pointy hats and toed shoes. While, pierrot clown attire was trendy for 1920s’ men.

1930s Halloween Costumes

Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
1930s Halloween Costume

The 1930s was the decade when Halloween costumes officially hit the apparel stores. The adults used to wear masks with specific attire to form a costume for the themed parties. The clothing apparel industry started to thrive with mainstream fashion and the span of professionally designed costumes of skeletons and spooky ghosts for kids and adults prevailed. Since then, the Halloween festival became a family event.

The Halloween Costumes of 1940s

1940s Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
1940s Halloween Costume

The movies and fashion industry started to gave innovations in costume ideas and designs and people began to idealize the movie characters and fairytales for their Halloween costumes.

1950s Halloween Costumes

1950s Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
1950s Halloween Costume

The cartoon characters started to become popular in kids and thus undertook the Halloween costume inspirations for kids. Alfred Hitchcock and gangster woman costumes were widely accepted in adults.

1960s Halloween costumes

1960s Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
1960s Halloween Costume

60s was the decade when people were influenced with entertainment industry and hipster lifestyle. That gave the Halloween costumes a new twist of dramas, movies, and cartoons disguises along with the traditional witches, skeleton, clowns, and ghosts costumes. The rock n’ roll culture with bohemian fashion merged to provide a new era of Halloween costume designs.

1970s popular Halloween costume styles

1970s Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
1970s Halloween Costume

In 70s, the super heroes and newly started space adventures took the Halloween costume themes to another level. This was the time when Halloween became the most exciting event for kids. Superman and Batman were the most sought ones, while the planet of apes brings a new twist in animal inspired Halloween costumes.

The 1980s styles of Halloween Costumes

1980s Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
1980s Halloween Costume

The free range trick-or-treating and so many horror movies were the biggest things of 80s Halloween. Themed outfits with plastic masks were the innovation for Halloween costume ideas.

The 90s Halloween costumes

1990s Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
1990s Halloween Costume

Till 90s, the Halloween has made its way to become the biggest shopping festival after Christmas. It’s the time of celebrating fall season, partying hard, family feasts and bringing the inner creativity out in form of themes, decorations, party menus and trick-or-treating. The most popular Halloween costume style was the pop star attire and pop music was the new-big-thing of that decade.

The 2000s

The beginning of 21st century could be described in two words that are “so raven”. The boy bands, punk rockstars, pop princesses and Disney teen movies ripen the selection of millennial costume ideas for Halloween.

2001 was the year of Harry Potter. Every millennial have the impact of this book so the most obvious costume choice of this year’s Halloween was of harry Potter characters. The variety of choices from this book is vast and had been the priority of Halloween costumes for a whole decade.

The pirates of the Caribbean characters were the first choice for Halloween costumes in this year. Too many Captain Jack sparrows were spooking off the streets I 2003’s Halloween.

The Most popular Halloween costumes of the millennial decades

Millennials are grown in the environment where technology and entertainment evolved and influenced side by side. They are brought up while they religiously watched cartoons, became hormonal teenager consuming the popular culture and discovering the Halloweens as the movies and cartoons character costumes more than traditional wizards and ghosts. Here is a list of all the popular Halloween costumes of the millennium that has been equally popular in kids, teens, and adults.

Maleficent Halloween Costume
Maleficent Costume
Harley Quinn Costume
Harley Quinn Costume
Gangnam Style Costume
Ganganam Style Costume

The suicide squad’s Harley Quinn attire has been the top selling attire for Halloween up till now. While the sleeping beauty reboot Maleficent performed by Angelina Jolie is also the best selling look since the release of the movie. Whereas, the PSY impersonators are still making it to every millennial Halloween since the Gangnam style become the top You Tube video.

Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
Twilight Style
Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
Hanna Montana Costume

Twilight’s Edward and Bella have become another last minute Halloween costume sensation that is easy-to-go due to the easily available attire. The movie character’s costumes are all in rage since 2005.

The Miley Cyrus starrer movie Hannah Montana is the ultimate clamor of every millennial girl. The pop singer character was every girl’s sensation of their childhood.

Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
Darth Vader’s Style
Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
Spider-Man Costume

The 70s preloved Darth Vader’s style have been rebooted in millennium year of 2005 and become the first choice of every star war fan since then. The Spidey suits have been dominant in millennial Halloweens as the first superhero of 21st century hold a major share in people’s hearts.

Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
Scream Movie Costume

The ghosts got a totally new face and more polished style from the horror movie “Scream”. This iconic mask and costume has been skyrocketed and maintained its top position to startle and spook away people for whole two millennial decades.

Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
Cat Woman Costume
Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
The Joker Costume
Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
The Batman Costume

Batman has been the most loved action figure for decades. The millennial versions of batman maintained to keep the characters of this legendary superhero story on the hit list of Halloween costumes –whether it’s the cat woman, the Joker or the Batman himself.

Origin & History Of Halloween & It’s evolution
The Ninja Turtles Costume

Yep! The 90s sensation ninja turtles got their share to millennium after the reboot of the new ninja turtle movie hit the cinemas. And the character’s costumes are amongst the most popular choice for Halloween.

The Final Words

The concept of Halloween has become so common and embedded in different societies across the globe that it has become a sensation for everyone. With the passage of time, its popularity is increasing day by day and it’s been over the last 100 years that there is no looking back. The West’s most popular event is Christmas and Halloween has become the second one by coming very close to Christmas in the pretext of popularity, excitement and jubilance. Halloween is marking its own impression just after it has taken over the entertainment industry in its costume choices.

Image Source:


  1. I had actually wondered about this for a long time, but then I saw an episode of Supernatural that mentioned Samhain and I ended up googling it to find out more. SUper interesting.

  2. Halloween is my favorite holiday so learning about its origin is so fun! I love watching the kiddos get dressed up and trick or treat!

  3. It was so interesting to hear that there is not actually a direct link between Samhain and communing with the dead. But it is cool how it has evolved over time though!

  4. This was fun to read through – I knew about Samhain but somehow had managed to not really know a lot about the years between Samhain and Halloween, so it was cool to read through the transition and get to look at some of the popular costumes through the 1900’s.

  5. I don’t know what it is. But I have to tell you that the creepiest of the costumes in all of the years I saw on here were the 50s costumes. When society was sanitized, that was when we were the most creepy? Somehow everything now makes sense.

  6. This was a fun read. It’s always nice to know about the history of our loved holidays. This one I’m familiar with and it’s nice going back and seeing the trends in the past.

  7. Halloween def has changed a lot. and i really didn’t knew all the details about it. it was interesting to know about the treat and trick one

  8. Wow this is too advanced post! Though halloween is not my favorite event of the season, i am truly amazed on some that truly give so much efforts on creating costumes, home decorating, etc.

  9. Very interesting!!!! It’s always neat to learn the real meaning behind things since we tend to commercialize everything these days