36 Vintage Halloween Costumes That Could Still Be Worn Today
Hello, nostalgia! These cute Halloween costume pictures might make you long for the past.
Headless woman (1910)
“That Washington-Irving type headless girl is actually my mother, Helene Winans, being escorted by friends in Mohegan Heights, Tuckahoe, New York, in 1910,” says Bruce Mitchell of Greenfield, Indiana. Consider dressing up as a couple of lovers who lost their heads, or one of these Halloween costume ideas for couples.
All kinds of characters (1987)
A family trick or treats on State Street in Chicago in 1987. Two dressed up as bears, one as Kermit the Frog, and one as a superhero.
“At age 3, Edwin Leech had his picture taken while playing fireman in 1913,” says daughter Judy Farmer of Mansfield, Ohio. With a coat that long and boots that high, young Edwin didn’t even need suspenders! Although this is a vintage Halloween look, being a fireman never goes out of style.
Portable shower (1988)
Groups of people march down the street at the annual New York Village Halloween parade. The person in the center is dressed up as Jason from Friday the 13th and his friend on the right is dressed up as a portable shower in reference to the film, Psycho. Check out the most popular Halloween costume from the year you were born.
Wizard and co. (1921)
“This is my most favorite picture of my father; Lester Warren Bartley! He is with his sister Helen and younger brother Clarence (Bud). It was taken about 1921 or 1922 in front of their house in Swissvale, Pennsylvania, on Halloween,” says Katrina Syska. These are the most popular Halloween costumes of the year.
Cowboys and clowns (1940s)
A group of children poses for a picture at a Halloween party in the 40s. Some appear to be cowboys and one young boy is a clown. On a budget? Check out these costumes you can get for $25 or less.
Hats and masks (1940)
Friends Sandy, Phyllis Guth, Betty, and Molly, enthusiastic trick-or-treaters, get set for their school Halloween party in the 1940s. You might want to skip wearing a mask to the office, however, and opt for one of these clever Halloween costumes for work.
Costume party (1930)
A group of young adults pose in front of a car on their way to a Halloween costume party. Even though it just looks like they’re dressed up for a nice event, wearing clothes from the ’30s would be a great costume today. These are the best mommy-and-baby Halloween costumes.
WONDERful kids (1947)
“In 1947, I went to Green Street School. Mrs. Dunklee, our teacher, thought it would be great fun for us to make costumes from Wonder Bread wrappers for the Halloween parade. We scoured our neighborhoods, begging people to save the dotted wrappers for us. Mother sewed, stapled, and pleated the one of a kind costumes, and we thought up slogans for our signs. Marilyn Brooks and I were the heels,” says June Anderson of Brattleboro, Vermont. So many great vintage Halloween looks are also punny costumes, too.
Masks galore (1965)
School children participate in a parade sporting all different kinds of fun masks. Check out the best cat costumes for Halloween.
“Growing up, my mother made costumes for my six brothers and sisters. Houses in the country were too far apart for trick or treating, so we dressed up and went to our elementary school for the annual Halloween party,” says Deborah Pack. On Halloween evening, Deborah dressed as a flower (right).
Chilly parade (1986)
The cold weather didn’t stop these kids from dressing up. Two witches, a flapper, and a masked man line up for their school parade. This year you’re going to need to wear one of these funny Halloween masks.
Joyce didn’t go on to become a nurse, writes Ralph Carroll of Mabank, Texas. But back in the 1950s, at least her doll got good treatment. All you need is a paper hat and some accessories for this cheap Halloween costume.
Bride and groom (1950)
“In 1950, when I was three years old, I was the bride and my sister Earleen, 6, was the groom in this Halloween photo taken in Redmond, Oregon,” writes Linda Arensmeier Rud of Juneau, Alaska. “We won first place in a local costume contest. My mother, Tonie Arensmeier, made the outfits, and we played with them until they were in shreds.”
Hopping back to Halloween 1950, here’s a photo of a vintage Halloween costume—an adorable bunny—from Dolores Sabia of Carlstadt, New Jersey. “My dad worked for the Passaic Rubber Co. and made the carrot by dyeing and shaping some rubber,” she writes. If bunnies aren’t your thing, try one of these punny Halloween costumes guaranteed to make everyone chuckle in amusement.
“In 1954, we lived on 42nd Street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My mother must have had some old sheets to spare, as she made me and my older brother, Ken, ghost costumes for Halloween,” writes Patricia Kasbohm Sohley of Fishers, Indiana. “All went well until my brother donned his costume—I hadn’t seen him put the costume on, so I refused to pose next to him for a photograph until I made sure that it was really him under that sheet. After taking a peek under it, I was satisfied and posed alongside him. Let the trick-or-treating begin!” Nothing screams vintage Halloween like wearing a classic sheet ghost costume. Don’t miss these scary Halloween costumes that will give you nightmares.
A bandit, a ghoul, and a cowpoke (1956)
A seafaring bandit, a bloodsucking ghoul, and a cowpoke were ready to head out in search of Halloween loot in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1956. “I’m the vampire in the middle, my brother Terry is the pirate, and our cousin Jeff Alexander is the cowboy,” says Ron Holley of Chandler, Arizona. “We were sometimes disappointed we couldn’t wear more than the masks when the weather got too cold.” If you’re looking to create fake blood for your costume, it’s easy.
Zorro and gypsies (1957)
“Standing in front of our 1956 Nash Rambler are our four children,” writes Ursula Harper of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. “The picture was taken in 1957 as they were headed to a Halloween party wearing their Zorro and gypsy costumes.” Vintage Halloween costumes are only as interesting as the vintage candies that need to come back.
Two-year-old Steve was a straight shooter in this vintage Halloween photo from 1957, courtesy of Olga Wolfe of Albany, Wisconsin. Back then, many little buckaroos dreamed of being just like Roy Rogers.
Roman centurion (1960)
“My brother is six years younger than I am and has always enjoyed dressing up. I was his costume designer when we were young,” writes Heather Anderson of Buffalo, New York. “In 1960, at age eight, my brother was a Roman centurion. We made the kilt and cape from an old red tablecloth and the helmet from gold-painted paper-mâché. The dagger was real, but my father would let him hold it only while we took the photos.” Don’t miss these other fun Halloween costumes any adult can make themselves on a dime!
In 1962, when Heather Anderson’s brother was 10, he dressed as a pharaoh. A T-shirt, a couple of dish towels, miscellaneous bits of jewelry, and some creative bending of metal rods created the vintage Halloween look.
When your dad is a service technician for IBM, it stands to reason that all those electronics could be used to make a blinking robot costume for Halloween. Sure enough, Peggy Oels of Glendale, Arizona, wore the uncomfortable suit that her dad and mom made in 1963. “I couldn’t sit down,” Peggy says. “And the battery pack for the lights worked loose and whacked me on top of my head.”
Frankenstein’s monster, a skeleton, a clown, a princess, and an Egyptian (1964)
“This was a Halloween my siblings and I will never forget. My father, Henry Allen Hill, took us out trick or treating in 1964. He was such a big man and played the role of Frankenstein’s monster perfectly. So much so that kids fell off the front porch of my Uncle Bill’s house in St. Ann, Missouri, just at the sight of him answering the door,” says Eric Hill. If you want to go as more of a cohesive front, check out these clever group Halloween costumes.
Two sophisticated ladies (1965)
Nothing is more hysterical than spotting two little girls dressed up as grown-up ladies. As you can see, all it takes are a set of pearls, a silk blouse, and a wig to throw the look together! You can tell the girls are really getting into character with their demure smirks. Anyone can master these easy Halloween makeup ideas.
Raggedy Anne and Little Red Riding Hood (1965)
“My wife, Bette, sewed all three of these Halloween costumes for our children, Lori as Raggedy Ann, Jeff as Raggedy Andy, and Linda as Little Red Riding Hood,” says Charlie VanderMeer of Grand Rapids, Michigan. “The picture was taken in 1965 as they prepared to go trick-or-treating.”
A queen, a ghost, and a doll (1966)
You can tell that these three siblings loved trick-or-treating on Halloween! Karen dressed up like royalty for the night; her little brother, Evart, was a scary ghost; and her sister Janice dressed up as a doll.
Vampira and Dracula (1966)
“We were headed out for a Halloween party in this picture taken at our home in Middletown, New Jersey, in October 1966,” says Dotty Bouchet of Ocala, Florida. “I was playing the part of Vampira, and my husband, Ed, was Dracula.”
An astronaut, a princess, and a ghostly baseball player (1969)
“We wore winter clothing to go trick-or-treating in Milwaukee on this cold October afternoon in 1969,” says Reminisce art director Cheryl Michalek. “My brother Chris’ snowsuit doubled as a space suit after my mom, Judy, put a NASA sticker on it. One of Mom’s nighties served as a princess dress for me, and our friend Bruce Alberts layered up as a ghoulish ballplayer. I remember how those masks mashed our noses, and the eyeholes never seemed to line up right!” Plus, don’t forget to dress up your pet for in a vintage Halloween look, or in one of these hilarious dog costumes.
Sue Jernigan, now of Prattville, Alabama, was living on Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines in 1972 when she helped a seamstress make these fierce costumes for her sons, Garth, Glenn, and Ray.
Milk carton (late 1970s)
“Being a single mom, and raising my daughter, Erin, on a very tight budget, I needed to be creative with her Halloween costumes,” writes Lisa O’Brien of Campbell Hall, New York. “Our town of Hicksville, New York, had a children’s Halloween party, and almost every year, Erin would win the prize for most original costume. It rained the year she dressed up as the milk container, but she stayed nice and dry inside her cardboard carton. I fashioned the costumes so that she could wear a coat underneath and stay warm while she collected her goodies trick-or-treating.” You know this costume is very vintage Halloween since cartons are far and few between today.
Flower power (late 1970s)
Another example of Lisa O’Brien’s creative, budget-friendly costumes for her daughter, Erin. The simplicity of a flower is a vintage Halloween costume that is both easy and simple! Here are some more cheap Halloween costumes for kids that anyone can DIY.
Witches BOO (1978)
While living in Del Rio, Texas, Carolyn Heep’s mom, Opal Phillips, was a talented seamstress who sewed all the clothes for her daughter and granddaughters. In 1978, she made a Halloween costume for Carolyn’s daughter Sandy. Combine all your favorite things about Halloween to pull off this witch costume. Go as a coven since it’s one of the best family Halloween costumes.
“These two happy clowns, who surprised me on Halloween 1979, are my grandsons Matthew and Eric Redden, ages 7 and 5, respectively,” says B.J. Redden of Holyoke, Massachusetts. “As you can see, Matt got into the Halloween spirit by losing a couple of teeth right before the holiday.”
Grim Reaper (mid-1980s)
Lynn Anderson’s teenage son needed a last-minute Halloween costume. Her solution: seven yards of black cotton cut and sewn into a hooded gown. “It was worn for several years by several different family members,” says Anderson. “Sometimes as a ghoul, a monk, or whatever the imagination designed it to be.” Now that you’ve seen these vintage Halloween costumes, check out these 17 genius Halloween costumes you can throw together at the last minute for more inspiration.
For more fun facts, costume ideas, traditions, candy inspiration, spooky entertainment, and updates on how October 31 will look different this year, check out our Halloween Guide.