Halloween Costumes Throughout the Ages

We all love Halloween. All of us. Even if you don't, you do. Modern day Halloween consists of trick-or-treating, costumes, pumpkin carving, and Halloween parties. It is the one day a year that we can fully let our spookiness out. These days the most common costumes are things like witches, mummies, ghosts, etc. Where did that come from? Were people in the Victorian era dressing up too? Well, let's find out!

It's not really known how or when Halloween started but it is said that the commercialization of Halloween started around the 1900s. However, people have been celebrating and dressing up for Halloween since the 16th century. This picture is from the 1800s. It is unclear what they are supposed to be, but it shows that people were dressing up and celebrating in a way back then. Halloween has Christian, Pagan, and Celtic roots and is a holiday celebrating loved ones who have died. It was tradition for families to attend church services and vigils on Halloween to honor the religious background of the holiday. There was also the belief that the spirits of the dead would roam the Earth on Halloween...spooky!

A very popular historical costume is the infamous clown! Clowns are now a staple in all of our nightmares thanks to Stephen King, John Wayne Gacy, and Tim Curry. Clowns were not always the scary things that they are today. They were meant to make people laugh and smile and they were the most popular costume in the early 1900s. If you were walking around in the 1920's on Halloween, chances are you might see a few people dressed as clowns on the streets! 

The next costume is the traditional witch costume. The witch costume traces back to the 1900s, and it was made extra popular by Margaret Hamilton and her portrayal of the witch in The Wizard of Oz.  People were inspired by the Salem Witch Trials in Salem Massachusetts and that led to the introduction of the classic witch costume we now love so much. The witch costume is so popular, that it has been the most worn costume every year up until 2015. Fun Fact: pointy hats weren't associated with witches until a book published in the 1700's that depicted witches with large funneled hats. 

Next up we have the classic ghost costume. This costume has been popular throughout all time because of its simplicity. All you need is a sheet with two holes cut for the eyes. The reason that the ghost costume consists of a bed sheet, is because many ghosts in the 19th and 20th centuries were portrayed as wrapped in their burial shrouds, which looked like this. Creepy and simple!


Last but not least we have whatever this is. Keep in mind, back then most costumes were homemade so people would just throw on whatever and call it a day. That's not to say that they weren't creative in their costume choices. You can see the popularity of the blackface, and masks. Whatever was spooky or interesting, they would wear and they would have a great time. Above we see clowns, people in masks, and a farmer (?). 

So there you have it! A few of the traditional Halloween costumes that people wore dating back to the 16th century. People back then like the creepy and macabre and their costumes reflected that. We, of course, wear a lot of these costumes today. Halloween is an awesome holiday with a rich history which I would recommend researching. Happy costuming!


Pic Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4 56