Social distancing may not be everyone’s first choice for how to celebrate Halloween.
But consider the obvious — it’s the one holiday where masks are built into the tradition.
That is, if you’re OK with dressing up this year.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 31, Halloween enthusiasts started something called Quarantine-O-Ween as a kind of escapist diversion from all the doom and gloom (also, it was something to do). People wore costumes to break the monotony and lighten the mood at home.
But a survey of 1,505 people conducted by Mankato, Minnesota-based HalloweenCostumes.com shows that nearly 40% of respondents said COVID-19 would affect how they celebrate actual Halloween. About 42% said they planned to celebrate at home, and 36% said they intended to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters (just 12% said they were going to attend or host an in-person Halloween party).
For those who do plan to dress up, trending Halloween costumes for 2020 reflect the pandemic and quarantine culture.
Safety is often at the core of the look.
“We have launched an entire line of face masks and neck gaiters,” says Erin Springer, spokeswoman for Spirit Halloween, the national Halloween costume retailer based in Egg Harbor Township.
People are also doing all sorts of creative things to maintain social distancing this Halloween. Trick-or-treat bags called Loot Scoops (see photo above) are designed to help kids keep their distance by allowing them to hold bags at a bit of a remove with a stick.
In anticipation of trick-or-treaters, some homeowners are ensuring that kids stay at a distance by installing PVC pipes and shipping tubes on railings to make candy chutes or candy slides (see video below) for dispensing goodies.
Whether you plan to celebrate at home, quarantine-style, or head out into the streets masked for the masquerade, here’s a costume guide for Halloween in the pandemic.
Trending costumes for 2020 range from hero doctors and nurses to the denizens of “Tiger King.”
From lingerie-and-costume purveyor 3Wishes.com, the people who brought us sexy “Tiger King” costumes (more on that below), comes the Mike Pence fly wig, memorializing a viral moment of the Oct. 7 vice presidential debate.
The online retailer’s “debate fly wig” pays homage to the fly that landed on the vice president’s head during his debate with Sen. Kamala Harris. (Sure, the hairstyle doesn’t exactly match Pence, but we’ll go with it.)
The insect stayed there for about two minutes, captivating viewers at home and helping presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden fundraise after the event. The campaign sold nearly 35,000 “truth over flies” fly swatters.
Enter the plague doctor — because what makes us think about other pandemics more than being in the middle of one?
Big-beaked mask costumes are inspired by the ensembles worn by medical professionals during the various bubonic plagues, also called the Black Death, starting in the 1600s — “the OG sort of pandemic,” says Angela Poch, a marketing specialist at HalloweenCostumes.com.
Doctors used to put herbs and spices in the beaks of their masks to protect themselves from miasma, or bad air. At the time, foul air and smells were believed to arise from decay and cause disease. They would also use canes in order to touch people so they didn’t have to.
If anything, wearing this contraption might make you appreciate your regular, day-to-day pandemic mask.
Appreciation for the frontline workers in the pandemic manifests in the form of “health care heroes,” another big theme for Halloween 2020.
“We have an entire collection featuring them,” Springer says.
Whether you go as a doctor, nurse or first responder, there is one handy detail:
“They all wear medical masks so no one is going to bat an eye if you’re dressed like a doctor or first-responder and wearing a disposable mask,” Poch says.
Another pandemic-related look is the biohazard suit.
The upside: You probably won’t have to worry too much about being protected, especially if you’ve got another mask on underneath to cover those holes!
The proliferation of “Karen” videos on social media during the pandemic makes masks and wigs like these a no-brainer for Halloween.
The one below, from Kamoras Costumes on Etsy, is sold out, but the look can be achieved through strategic use of wigs and accessories.
Spirit Halloween has a “Karen” display featuring T-shirts with “Karen” nametags that say, “Can I speak to the manager?”
Mostly, Karen behavior is all about the (often racist) sense of entitlement and the ability to cause some kind of disturbance — policing other people but not wanting to wear a mask, for instance.
Who would’ve thought characters from a documentary would make prime Halloween costumes?
But that’s just what happened. After all, the beginning of quarantine gave us Netflix’s “Tiger King.” The documentary about tiger enthusiasts of… different stripes… proved to be a sensation, along with its star, Joe Exotic, and his foil, Carole Baskin.
“It’s kind of created its own nostalgia already,” Poch says.
Joe is a natural pick for a costume, given his distinct wardrobe. But you could also make this a group costume, with a Joe, a Carole and a few tigers to boot.
All a DIY Joe Exotic look requires is a mullet wig, a disco-style shirt and a hat.
“We’ve got a hippie poncho costume that’s kind of Carole Baskin,” Poch says.
One of the picks in the retailer’s selection is a Joe Exotic mugshot mask, a gaiter that pulls Joe’s actual likeness over your face.
“That’s what a lot of people are looking for, costumes that come with masks,” says Sarah Chamberlain, co-founder and chief marketing officer at 3Wishes.com.
Don’t forget, COVID-19 wasn’t the only danger we faced this year.
“We saw some great TikToks bringing murder hornets back to top of mind,” Springer says.
How to DIY a murder hornet look? Wear a black-and-white tutu, black tank top, wings and carry a bloody knife, she says.
One of the most popular costumes of recent years has been an inflatable Tyrannosaurus rex.
This year, inflatable costumes present one option for people who wouldn’t mind a little extra cover.
“Kids love dressing up in the inflatables,” Springer says. The bonus: The look can “add some humor to your social distancing” by offering an entire air pocket between you and others, she says.
Yes, people have been making DIY Lori Loughlin/Aunt Becky costumes.
Now that Loughlin, the actress who played the character on “Full House,” is headed to prison for her role in the college admissions scandal, you may well see a bunch of prison Beckys floating around.
This irresistible, diminutive breakout star of “The Mandalorian” was everywhere for a while.
The meme of Baby Yoda holding a cup of soup became the new Kermit the Frog sipping tea. Still, he didn’t make the costume pool in 2019.
“They didn’t really have stuff by Halloween last year,” Poch says (“The Mandalorian” premiered on Disney Plus in November 2019).
Baby Yoda is a perfect costume for dogs, she says, as well as babies and children who can be part of group “Star Wars” costumes with their siblings and parents.
“The Handmaid’s Tale”-inspired hoods and cloaks have been used at protests in support of women’s reproductive rights, like when Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court in 2018. Now that there’s a seat open on the court, the costumes inspired by the Hulu series may well come into play in the coming weeks and months.
“Political costumes are definitely on this year,”
says, though with the presidential election pending, looks depicting former Vice President Joe Biden have not really become a trend.
President Donald Trump, on the other hand, has been generating costumes for years now. It’d even be reasonable to say that Trump costume fatigue is nothing new. Starting with the run-up to the 2016 election, he became his own subset of political costume.
Everything ’80s and ’90s is always good for an ensemble costume.
“We’ve been seeing a bit of trend towards nostalgia things,” Poch says, whether it be “Ghostbusters” (1984), “Beetlejuice” (1988), or more current looks that give a wink to the ’80s, like “Stranger Things.”
“Cobra Kai” and “Karate Kid” costumes are buoyed this year by the Netflix (and former YouTube) series.
The 1995 movie “Clueless” celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020 and remains a draw for costumes, too. So does “A League of Their Own” (1992), especially when it comes to group and family costumes.
And while the Joker associate Harley Quinn has been a popular character in the superhero/villain space for years — she was a top costume back in 2015 — this year she gets a fresh look thanks to her most recent movie, released in February. The “Birds of Prey” gang could make a very 2020 ensemble look.
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Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at [email protected].