There are few days of the year that inspire as much excitement and celebration than Halloween. And if you’re a fan of all-things-vintage, it’s also the perfect opportunity to celebrate a vintage Halloween. And that includes your choice of vintage Halloween costumes.

Costumes have evolved over the years. There are classic Halloween costumes; costumes inspired by the spookiness of the season (like ghosts, goblins, and classic Halloween movies); costumes meant to replicate favorite characters from cartoons, TV, films, and video games; and costumes inspired by different eras of history. And whether you’re looking to score a costume for yourself, your grandchild, or just looking to add some Halloween-themed items to your vintage collection, now is the time to find an estate sale and grab your own piece of vintage Halloween fun.

A brief look at the history of classic Halloween costumes

Before we start looking at vintage Halloween costumes through the years, let’s go over a brief history of where these classic Halloween costumes came from.

According to historians, Halloween as we know it can be traced all the way back to Samhain (“Summer’s End”), the Celtic celebration of the dead, which got its start in the 9th century. Samhain was the equivalent of modern day New Years Eve for the Celts, who believed the dead, demons, and other mythical creatures roamed Earth on October 31. Celts would paint their faces and dress up like animals in order to avoid detection from the evil spirits, which began the tradition of Halloween costumes.

Halloween costumes really gained traction during the Victorian Era, when new, life-changing discoveries (like the Industrial Revolution and Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution) caused people to look for comfort in folklore, nature, and traditions. Masquerade balls were popular during this era, and gave attendees a chance to show off their elaborate, homemade costumes, many of which were inspired by exotic, foreign cultures (costumes inspired by ancient Egypt were popular around this time).

It wasn’t until the 1920’s that Halloween costumes started to be manufactured on a larger scale. There were three Halloween costume companies that dominated the market from the 20’s through the 80’s: Collegeville, Ben Cooper, and H. Halpern Company. Both Collegeville and H. Halpern Company started licensing fictional characters, like Popeye, and turning them into children’s Halloween costumes while competitor Ben Cooper popularized dressing up like pop culture icons. The popularity of these types of costumes exploded once television hit American homes in the 1950’s, with children dressing up like their favorite characters every October.

Vintage Halloween Costumes: A Look Through The Years

Let’s take a look at some of our favorite vintage Halloween costumes through the years:

Popeye, 1930’s

Mighty Mouse, 1950’s

Clown, 1950’s

Cowboy, 1950’s

Vintage kids cowboy costume • listing tonight

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Witch, 1960’s

Gorilla, 1960’s

Fairy, 1960’s

Casper the Friendly Ghost, 1960’s

Moe, The Three Stoges, 1960

Raggedy Ann, 1965

Flash Gordon, 1970’s

Devil, 1970’s

Bamm-Bamm, The Flintstones, 1971

Batman, 1973

Jaws, 1975

Mickey Mouse, 1974

Bullwinkle, Rocky and Bullwinkle, 1975

Luke Skywalker, Star Wars, 1977

Darth Vadar, Star Wars, 1977

C3PO, Star Wars, 1977

Godzilla, 1978

KISS, 1978

The Count, Sesame Street, 1979

Raphael, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 1980’s

PacMan, 1980’s

Strawberry Shortcake, 1980’s

Rambo, 1980’s

Daffy Duck, Looney Tunes, 1982

Conan the Barbarian, 1982

Skeletor, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, 1982

Smurfs, 1982

E.T. The Extraterrestrial, 1982

Megatron, Transformers, 1984

Robocop, 1987

1980's robocop costume with box

Now that you’ve seen the all the great classic Halloween costumes out there, it’s time to get out there, shop some estate sales and online auctions, and find the perfect costume for your vintage Halloween celebration!

Special thanks to the following for the images in this post:

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