Over the years, Halloween has grown to become the third biggest party night every year behind New Year's and Super Bowl Sunday. The evolution of the Halloween costume has its roots in Druid traditions that saw them dress up in animal hides and heads to mark the end of harvest and the beginning of winter.
In ancient times, Samhain was recognized by the Celts as the first day of their new year and was celebrated on November 1. They believed that on the night before, the veil between our world and the spirit realm slips enough to allow interaction between the inhabitants of both worlds. Wearing masks allowed mortals to avoid detection by their ghostly counterparts. Considering the intent to blend in, it is easy to understand why most costumes were spooky and a bit macabre.
Food was placed in bowls outside the home as an offering to the ghosts to discourage them from entering the house. Some people believe this could be the basis for the tradition of trick-or-treating practiced by children today.
People in the United States started wearing costumes for Halloween celebrations during the second half of the 19th century after the custom arrived with the first European immigrants from Ireland. The first Halloween costumes sold commercially were made available in the 1930's. This was when people turned to popular culture for inspiration when choosing how to dress up.
This was around the same time that Hollywood was busy making wildly popular monster movies. That combined with the traditional connection to ghouls and ghosts meant that spooky was still in. People loved to transform themselves into witches, vampires and werewolves and the custom continues today.
As children got into the act, costume ideas exploded as pirates, clowns, fairy princesses and various animals became favorites. Superheroes also joined the group as Batman, Spiderman and Superman sprang off the comic book pages and ran around in miniaturized versions.
Cartoon characters and celebrities started to compete with the ghouls and ghosts. By the 1960s the focus had started to shift to real life heroes and notorious news makers of the moment.
These days we see all those and more. People love to wear uniforms and that is why you will see plenty of firemen, policemen and nurses. Military uniforms, both historic and modern versions, are also in demand.
The twenty-something crowd has made Halloween their own by adding the sexy costume collection to the list. Nurses are prominent in this category as well. School teachers, devils and vampires are favorites as well.
Halloween costumes are all about transformation and living a fantasy life. That transformation proves liberating for most people. Hiding in the skin of an otherworldly being allows them to let their hair down and get a little wild, if only for one night out of the year. Most people welcome the opportunity to shed their own skin and see what it is like to take a walk on the wild side. Add in the anonymity factor and it is really hard to resist going with the flow.