Halloween did not become a holiday in America until the 19th century. North American almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries make no mention of Halloween in their lists of holidays. The commercialization of Halloween in America did not begin until the 20th century, beginning perhaps with Halloween postcards, which were most popular between 1905 and 1915, and featured hundreds of different designs.
There is little documentation of masking or costuming on Halloween in America, or elsewhere, before 1900. Mass-produced Halloween costumes did not appear in stores until the 1930s, and trick-or-treating became a fixture of the holiday in the 1950s, although commercially made masks were available earlier.
Typical Halloween costumes have traditionally been monsters such as vampires, ghosts, witches, and devils. In recent years, it has become common for costumes to be based on themes other than traditional horror, such as dressing up as a character from a TV show or movie, or choosing a recognizable face from the public sphere, such as a politician.
After reviewing many surveys and articles, here are what appear to be the most popular Halloween costume categories.
- Classic Ghoul – These would include your generic ghosts, goblins, devils, skeletons and angels
- Classic Horror Movie Characters – Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman and the Mummy. Popular subjects are whatever is hot in the movies today.
- Star Wars Characters – Star wars has served five decades of trick or treaters. (Yoda, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi. Darth Vader and Boba Fett. Chewbacca, C3P0 and R2D2)
- Superheros – Comic book superheroes from Wonder Woman to Might Mouse are always a popular site.
- Pajama costumes for babies – Some of the most popluar being pumpkins, ladybugs, butterflies and pea-in-the-pod one piece outfits.
- Real Life Heros – Firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses, astronauts, soldiers and teachers.
- The Pirate – The Pirate is a classic and one of the simplest outfits to create.
- The Princess – As long as there are little girls who have fun dressing up, variations of princesses, fairies, Barbies, ballerinas, butterflies, queens, and goddesses will be seen every Halloween.
- The Witch – The Witch has traditionally been an ugly, warty green faced hag. Now, being a witch on Halloween can even be glamourous. Popular witches today are Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger and powerful elven sorceresses, Galadriel from Lord of the Rings.
- The Cowboy – The fictional cowboy costume was made popular during the decades of John Wayne westerns and Technicolor film. Today we have have Woody from Disney Pixar.
- Animal Costume – Kids and adults like to don some fur, scales or fins. Nnimal costumes can be as simple as a set of ears and some face paint.