When did Halloween become a glorified fashion show?

Elijah Chacko | Graphic Artist

Last year, I remember waking up one morning a few days after Halloween, recovering from a panic-inducing nightmare of a massive worm chasing after me. Once my heart rate had slowed down, I got to thinking about the source of such a petrifying dream, or what revelation is held about the state of my psyche. 

The conclusion hit me like a truck: the night before. I had scrolled through Instagram and been stunned by numerous photos of actress Heidi Klum’s outlandish worm costume, complete with prosthetics, that she wriggled around in at her annual star-studded Halloween bash in New York City.

It’s not Halloween until Klum unveils her costume — each more theatrical and over-the-top than the last. This year, she transformed into a multi-person peacock with the help of 10 Cirque du Soleil performers. 

Klum is just one of many big names to take Halloween seriously. When you have the money to pay for professional stylists, makeup artists, and photographers — the sky seems to be the limit. A-listers frequently throw on multiple lavish costumes and document them accordingly.   

Besides the Met Gala, Halloween is the main occasion that prompts me to scour the internet to see what crazy disguises celebrities are donning. I eat it up, and so does my subconscious — if the Heidi Klum worm incident is any indication.

But it’s not just celebrities who go all out for Halloween. 

As a student in college, where typical Halloween activities such as trick or treating have given way to a “Halloweekend” synonymous with late nights out and a suspicious lack of wholesomeness, I generally buy at least three costumes whenever October rolls around.

It feels like every year, I see costumes get increasingly complex. In the weeks leading up to Halloween, I scoured the internet for inspiration for costumes, stumbling upon countless extravagant Halloween looks from celebrities and influencers alike. 

On TikTok in particular, influencers will often post links to their Amazon storefronts, promoting product lists that will make for unique, eye-catching costumes. 

Unfortunately, this is a pretty wasteful industry — and many journalists have commented on the link between Halloween costumes and our growing problem of fast fashion. 

Many of my own costumes wind up being worn once then discarded, or shoved to the bottom of the closet because maybe I’ll wear it next year. Except this hope seldom comes to fruition — partially because I feel like another expectation for costumes is that you outdo yourself every year in terms of flair and originality.

It’s horrible for the environment and horrible for my wallet, as well.

I also believe that the expectations involved with choosing a Halloween costume unequally affect women, specifically when it comes to celebrations among college-aged students. 

In the cult classic film “Mean Girls,” narrator Cady Heron famously noted, “In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it. The hardcore girls just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears.”

If you’re like me, chances are, you might question the influence of watching such a movie during your formative years.

I am an untiring advocate for wearing whatever you want, and I think that there is absolutely nothing wrong with expressing your femininity through costumes — wearing as much or as little as you’re comfortable with. I would even venture to say that plenty of the outfits I’ve worn for Halloween in the past few years would strongly disappoint my grandmother. 

It seems the issue arises when people feel like they have to wear something revealing or overly expensive for Halloween — or when it’s hard to find other options.

Societal pressures plague us all the time, especially in the age of the internet where everything is documented and publicized — can’t we have one day a year off? 

It’s essential to remember that Halloween should be about self-expression and having fun, not conforming to outlandish standards or breaking the bank for a costume. 

Maybe, next year, I’ll just go as a cynic.

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