Friday, June 21Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

The Dos and Don’ts of Halloween Costumes in 2021

Ah, Halloween; a strange time of year. For some, it’s a day of celebrating old traditions, a way to honour the dead and make them immortal through our memories. For others, it’s a time where you can get discounted chocolates and binge horror movies.

Regardless of how you celebrate the end of October, one thing is certain: whether they are meticulously planned or thrown together at the last minute, there will be copious numbers of chaotic costumes. However, if you don’t know where to start, here are some Dos and Don’ts to help you get your act together.

DO: be sensitive to other cultures.

Although we have made great strides in bringing attention to insensitive costumes, unfortunately, common Halloween attire still includes ‘Mexican’ ‘Native American’ & ‘Tribal’ outfits. These costumes (including a range of others) further harmful stereotypes about different races and nationalities, and often end up turning races into caricatures.

Before choosing a Halloween costume, do your research. There is a line between costumes displaying cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation, and if you choose to dress up then the responsibility is on you to ensure that you aren’t being insensitive.

Treating people with kindness and respect is key to ensuring that everyone has a happy Halloween, and when it comes to creating costumes out of cultures, it’s best to err on the side of nope.

DON’T: harass people based on their costumes.

With that being said: a costume is never an excuse to harass somebody. There’s a huge difference between educating somebody about an offensive costume and harassing somebody because their outfit provokes you. It’s an issue that women in particular know all too well. The inherent fear every woman has walking alone at night is massively amplified at Halloween — a costume isn’t an excuse to pay somebody unsolicited attention.

Nobody should be afraid of harassment, sexual or otherwise, regarding their clothing, especially not on a night of wearing fun costumes that only come out at Halloween. If you’re thinking of going out just to cat-call or give unsolicited comments on people’s outfits, then you should probably take Boris’ iconic 2020 advice and stay at home

DO: stay safe and look out for your mates.

Further to my last piece of advice, staying safe and keeping an eye on who you’re celebrating with is a must. Whether that means going outside when a club gets too hot or sticking by a friend’s side when they’ve had one too many, safety is a priority. 

October’s weather is fiercely fickle, and you never know what kind of weather Halloween will bring. Make sure you’re warm enough for the walk home, but if you’re planning on drinking, remember that alcohol will probably warm you up a fair amount. At Halloween it can be easy for your non-costume belongings to go AWOL, so keep track of your coat, keys, phone and stay aware and stay safe!

DON’T: push people too far.

Halloween is fun for lots of people, but can also be a huge source of stress and anxiety for many people. The use of fake blood, gory decor and jump scares can often trigger post traumatic stress disorder. If you know someone who has experienced trauma, be the friend who protects them, not the friend who thinks it’d be funny to freak them out.

It’s impossible to know everyone’s triggers, especially if you’re newly acquainted, but instead of trying to scare someone, you’re likely to gain far more respect from keeping Halloween fun!

DO: have fun!

At the end of the day, Halloween is about enjoying yourself. If your idea of a good Halloween is staying in with bulk-bought sweets and treats, go for it. Likewise, if your idea of a fun Halloween includes group costumes with friends, planning outfits months in advance, and staying out until the early hours of the morning, then do it. Do what works for you, be respectful and above all, have a happy Halloween!

Photo credits: Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash