Halloween And The Art Of Costuming

Halloweenalcohol_1950sAh! It is that time of year when people ask you “what are you doing for Halloween?”

So this year I said, “Nothing much, just celebrating Halloween the same way I always do… by murdering a bunch of teens by the lake.”

As for my friends, well most of them are going as a drunk this year.

Wanna find out how many licks it takes to get to the center of my Tootsie Pop? Here we go.

Are adults adulterating Halloween?For Halloween some 75 million adults will put on costumes.

“Adults have hijacked Halloween,” the Chicago Tribune reported in 2013. “Two in three adults feel Halloween is a holiday for them and not just kids.”

True, that when the holiday was imported from Celtic nations in the mid-19th century — along with a wave of immigrants fleeing Ireland’s potato famine — it was essentially a younger person’s game. But a little research reveals that adults have long enjoyed Halloween — right alongside young spooks and spirits.

Zeta Tau Alpha sorority at Halloween, 1912. (University of Southern California History Collection)

Zeta Tau Alpha sorority at Halloween, 1912. (University of Southern California History Collection) Wikimedia Commons

Revelers And Rabble-Rousers

Back in the mid-19th century, new Americans introduced to these shores new games like bobbing for apples and harmless pranks, such as taking a neighbor’s garden gate off its hinges, according to a National Geographic report. “Young pranksters wore masks, so they wouldn’t be recognized.”

The pranks turned more sinister, and by the 1930s, young people of many origins were threatening to vandalize stores and homes. On Halloween in 1933, “at the height of the Great Depression,” writes Jonathan Zimmerman in the Christian Science Monitor, “hundreds of young men overturned automobiles, sawed down telephone poles, and taunted police.”

Eventually, the rabble-rousers began asking for sweets, threatening tricks unless they received treats.

Twentieth-century consumerism — candy and costumes and decorations — helped reduce the vandalism, Jonathan tells NPR. So Halloween became “less of an adolescent night and more of a kiddie night.”

Halloween party game at Shafter Migrant Camp in California, 1938.

Halloween party game at Shafter Migrant Camp in California, 1938. Dorothea Lange/Library of Congress

Frightfully Fun

But throughout the history of Halloween in America, adults have participated right alongside young people — wearing costumes and playing parlor games.

In the 1870s, members of Caledonian Clubs — Scottish heritage groups — and other Celtic celebrants staged Halloween parties in various cities across the country. They played games with stalks of cabbage and bouncing nuts. At one soiree in New Britain, Conn., the Hartford Courant reported, “refreshments were served and games indulged in peculiar to the festival and the people observing the same, closing with ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ “

Jonathan, who teaches history at New York University, tells NPR that in the early 20th century, “there were silent movies and books about Halloween for adults.”

Adult parties remained popular after World War II, despite the increased focus on children. A 1962 Halloween bal masque in Chicago drew 600 adults, decked out in costumes and dancing to jazz music, the Daily Tribune reported. In 1974, according to the Los Angeles Times, a hospital group staged a Halloween fete for adults ages 35 to 55 that included square-dancing and costumes.

Washington, D.C., has a long tradition of otherwise mature people hiding behind goofy masks and expecting free stuff. One memorable Halloween, in 1997, adults dressed in costume and stood outside the White House as the President Bill Clinton “Investigation Committee,” The Washington Post reported. “Outfitted as ghouls, prisoners and the first couple, the group members gave out candy and fake money and posed for bemused tourists.”

The nation’s capital “always has a high old time on Halloween,” the city’s newspaper explained way, way back in 1913, “and among those taking leading roles in the hilarity will be found statesmen, diplomats, society leaders, admirals, generals, judges and bankers.”

It is the one night a year, the 1913 Post article continued, “when a perfect lady can don masculine attire and promenade the streets without fear of arrest; and this year men who have a penchant for disguising themselves in costumes of feminine attire will have the additional privilege of reveling in slit skirts.”

Adults drinking, carousing, cross-dressing: Sounds like Halloween in America a century later — circa 2015.

So eat, drink and now you can really be Mary.

10 Sexy Vintage Halloween Costumes from 1908 – 1951

vintage sexy plan costume

Did you, like me, think sexy Halloween costumes were a modern day thing? Turns out, they’re not.

In fact, I found retro skin-baring or skintight costumes dating all the way back to 1908. Who knew?

I included exact dates when I had them — but the awesome sexy airplane up top is undated.

Enjoy the vintage wackiness!

1900s Costumes

These extremely form-fitting sexy mermaid costumes, circa 1908, look very restrictive.

sexy vintage mermaids

1920s Costumes

10 points for creativity for the sexy spiderweb ladies!

Vintage spiderweb costume

Here we have a pretty tame sexy bee costume by today’s standards, but I suspect it was a whole lot of leg by 1920s standards.

sexy vintage bee

This woman strikes a thoughtful pose in her super-authentic bikini-esque sexy Native American costume, complete with heels and pearls.

Vintage native american costume

1930s Costumes

This is as wholesome a sexy witch in a super-short skirt could possibly get. It’s from 1938, specifically.

Vintage witch costume

Things got a little crazier in 1939 with this costume labeled “Radio Queen.”

Vintage radio costume

1940s Costumes

Here we have a whole sexy crew from 1947. Anyone know what the woman in the middle is dressed as? I do not.

Vintage women's costumes

1950s costumes

I’m probably divulging some biases here, but I think these sexy alcohol costumes hold up!

Vintage alcohol costume

This photo is from 1951 actually, and I just don’t even know what’s going on.

Weird vintage costume

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