Vintage Halloween Costumes

I love Halloween.  I’ve always loved it, though I think it was a lot more special when I was a kid back in the 1960s.  That was before people were too afraid to let their kids wander about after dark, dressed in weird clothing and begging for candy.  Today Halloween is “safe” and “organized.”  Not really to my taste, but I do have my memories.

By the time I started trick or treating in the late 50s and early 60s, most of us were buying costumes at the dime store.  They were cheap, and you could “be” pretty much anyone.  One year I was Lucy Ricardo.  Looking back, I can see how cheesy the costumes were.

But go back even further, to the 1920s and 30s, and you’ll see that kid’s costumes used to be downright scary.  The commercially made masks were constructed of a stiffened gauze with the features painted on.  Above you can see a black cat mask from the 1930s.  I found this mask, believe  it or not, in the Goodwill clearance bins.  Since then I’ve seen photos of the entire costume that includes a black glazed cotton jumpsuit and a white ruffled collar.

The costume was in a box like this one, only I do not have the entire box – just the lid.

Today all the photo sites like pinterest and instagram have been full of vintage photos of kids and adults in creepy costumes.  It’s amazing how truly scary some of them are, all without the benefit of stupid fake blood.  I never see these photos when sorting through stacks of them at flea markets, so I’m betting that they are popular with collectors.

In the good old days of the 1980s I collected Halloween decorations, but then someone published a book and the prices soared.  I rarely buy anything to add to the Halloween stuff, but it is interesting that the last two items I bought were things to wear.

I recently bought this crepe paper party hat because it was too good a deal to pass up.  Plus, I really, really like the pumpkin guy.

I spent some time on ebay today, looking at the sold prices of vintage Halloween collectibles.  I only wish all the investments I’ve made in life were as good as the dollars I spent on Halloween tin and paper.  And that does not even take into account all the fun I had finding my treasures.

UPDATE:  My friend Amanda alerted me to a fantastic page of vintage photos of people in costume.


Filed under Collecting, Holidays, Proper Clothing

21 responses to “Vintage Halloween Costumes


    Lovely tiara dahling ! ♛


  2. S Geiger

    Beautiful! Hat? NO. Model? YES!


  3. the little pumpkin man is adorably ghoulish and the cat is magnificent


  4. Ultrawoman

    I like your hat!!!


  5. Brilliant! That spooky pumpkin looks like he’s got his hand on your shoulder. Eeeeeeek!


  6. There is something a lot more wholesome about vintage each piece has a story..same goes for Christmas decorations.. xxx


  7. I don’t remember a single Halloween costume I wore as a child. On the other hand, I could quickly list every single one my daughter ever wore. My favorite–a Papageno costume made by her aunt.


  8. I love your Halloween hat, Lizzie! I had such fond memories of the neat old Halloween decorations my parents used to hang (which, of course, my mom got rid of, argh!) that I bought a repro set of them. I love how much spookier the old costumes look.


  9. You have the best blog posts. I love Halloween collectibles!.. Vintage Christmas also. Basically all the holidays!


  10. I love you in the hat!

    My 1970s Halloweens were all about homemade costumes made with a lot of energy on a budget of nothing, but I was lucky to come from a creative family. My younger sister was always an iconic figure of powerful womanhood – Isis, Wonder Woman, a pretty awesome Ozma of Oz – courtesy of my mother’s sewing machine and my dad’s skills with bandsaw and tinsnips for the accessories.

    I was not interested in power, but transformation. One year I was a tube of toothpaste: my dad made a wooden disk that sat on my head, with a white cloth tube hanging from it painted by both my parents with the Crest logo. We saved the corrugated white liners from packages of Danish all month to cover the lid. The next year I was a box of crayons. And one year, long pre-reenacting, I was a “hoopskirt lady,” which my mother somehow fabricated out of wire hangers and curtain tape and a dismantled curtain lining, after seeing only some period illustrations.

    I was so sad when I got too old to wear costumes any more, and very, very happy when it became okay for adults to wear costumes throughout the day of Halloween. Nowadays my husband and I make elaborate costumes that incorporate his wheelchair. This year we turned it into a Victorian time machine, complete with pulsing Tesla ball, velvet paisley upholstery, and a brass-trimmed wooden console; but it’s also been a 1950s rocket ship, a Viking longship, a TIE fighter piloted by Darth Vader, a satin-lined coffin with him as vampire, a biplane, and a train.


    • S Geiger

      Oh, Jessamyn,
      How I envy the effort your parents put in your costumes. I was the same devil every year. Somehow, the costume grew with me. Thanks for sharing!


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