Classic Halloween costumes from 1865 to today

Written by:
October 17, 2020
The Boston Globe // Getty Images

Classic Halloween costumes from 1865 to today

Halloween 2020 will likely look different than in past years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding coming into direct contact with trick-or-treaters, suggests giving candy outside rather than from your front door, and of course, wearing a mask. Though the CDC also specifies that a Halloween mask is not a suitable substitute for a protective mask, and warns against wearing a costume mask on top of a cloth mask because it could make breathing challenging.

With COVID-19 rates still a concern, some may avoid trick-or-treating, parties, and parades altogether. But without a doubt, costumes will still be worn, whether to be shown off on social media or to be admired by socially-distant passerbys.

To celebrate the tradition of dressing up for Halloween, Stacker scoured the archives to find 50 photos of Halloween costumes from 1865 to today. The usual suspects pop up throughout the centuries—cats, witches, ghosts, and ghouls—but pop culture references also make an appearance, from Darth Vader to Ronald Reagan.

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Halloween pumpkin mask

A figure wearing a white cape and a Halloween pumpkin mask takes a person by surprise in their kitchen, circa 1865.

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Ghost

A person wearing a ghost costume behind a table with Halloween decorations in a rural schoolhouse, circa 1905.

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Early 20th-century group photo

Young men in costumes pose for a group photo at the beginning of the 20th century.

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A coven of witches

A group of women costumed as a coven of witches pose for a Halloween photo, circa 1910, in the United States.

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Criminals

Three young men are dressed up as a jail prisoner, Annie Oakley, and spade playing card.

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Halloween elf

A young woman dressed as an elf for Halloween on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Little Bo Peep

A young woman dressed as Little Bo Peep poses for a Halloween photo on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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A mixed bag

A group of children wear costumes ranging from a skeleton ghost to an angry pirate in an undated photo.

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Ghosts

A trio of kids dressed up as ghosts are ready for trick-or-treating, circa 1925.

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Witch

A young woman dressed as a witch holds a broom on Halloween in the late 1920s or early 1930s.

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Good witch

A portrait of a young woman at a Halloween party dressed in a silk party dress and a pointed hat, circa 1940s.

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Nurse and toy soldier

A group of young children dressed up for Halloween trick or treat in Jersey City, New Jersey, circa 1940s.

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Skeleton

Louis Armstrong on stage is frightened by a skeleton during the song "Skeleton in the Closet," from the movie “Pennies from Heaven.”

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Devil

A man dressed as the devil and a woman dressed as an armless sculpture show off their costumes, circa 1940.

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Pig

A woman with a pig mask poses for a photo, circa 1940.

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Pirate

A woman wearing a pirate costume, circa 1940s.

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Jack-o'-lantern

A little girl poses in a fancy outfit holding a paper mache jack-o'-lantern, circa 1945.

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Cowboy

American child—and future photojournalist—Robert Abbott Sengstacke (left) poses dressed as a cowboy with other children at a Halloween party, circa late 1940s.

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Cat

American actress and model Dusty Anderson wearing a Halloween cat costume in the late ‘40s for a publicity shot.

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Rabbit

Children in costumes arriving at a Halloween party, circa 1955. A sign on the door warns “BEWARE GHOSTS ARE WITHIN!”

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Sputnik and a Soviet officer

A couple dressed as Sputnik and a Soviet officer attend a party on Oct. 31, 1957, in Los Angeles.

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Royalty, a clown, and a cheetah

Students (Michelle Gordon, Jimmy Dallarosa, and Wendy Meyer) at Secrest School Plans Carnival in 1969 trying on costumes.

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A knight and her friends

A group of children wearing Halloween costumes wait in a trick-or-treat line to receive apples from an officer at a police precinct, circa 1960.

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Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat

Kirk, 6, and Carey Tressman, 7, wear costumes with reflective tape to keep them safe while trick-or-treating in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1960.

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Boy from Mars

Four-year old William Caban, dressed as a boy from Mars, visits a Los Angeles police station on Oct. 31, 1961.

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A scarecrow, jack-o’-lantern, and some friends

A group of children dressed for Halloween stand together on a porch at a house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Oct. 21, 1961.

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A record player and a ghost

Five-year-old Stephen Knapp, dressed as a record player, and 7-year-old John McNichol, dressed as ghost, ask for contributions to UNICEF along Newbury Street in Boston on Oct. 31, 1974.

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A gypsy, Groucho Marx, and a witch

Four children in Halloween costumes get ready to trick or treat, circa 1975.

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

A girl dressed as Mary from “Mary had a Little Lamb” for Halloween, circa 1970s.

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C-3P0 and Darth Vader

Louis Seltvitella as C-3P0 and Jim Webb as Darth Vader walk downstairs at Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Oct. 31, 1977.

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Paul Stanley from Kiss

An 11-year-old Kiss fan poses in his Paul Stanley makeup on Halloween 1971.

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A chef and Uncle Fester with Thing

A chef with a knife in his head stands near Uncle Fester and Thing from “The Addams Family,” circa 1980s.

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Spider-Man

A young child trick-or-treating in a Spider-Man costume in Suncook, New Hampshire, circa 1980s.

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Phantoms

Ghostly phantoms on Halloween Eve, circa 1980, in Salem, Massachusetts.

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Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan

Two kids wearing masks of President Jimmy Carter and GOP presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan go trick-or-treating on Oct. 31, 1980.

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Various children's cosumes

Children and adults dressed up for Halloween 1985.

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Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, Snow White, a ballerina, and a football player

An adult and children dressed in Halloween costumes, Webster Groves, Missouri, circa 1990.

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A cat and some ghouls

Children trick-or-treating wearing ghoulish costumes on Halloween in the U.K., circa 1990.

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A witch, ghoul, ninja, and pirate

Children dressed in Halloween costumes in Oak View, California, 1996.

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Where’s Waldo

Terry Hartshorn and Sharon Hartshorn pose for a caricature artist in “Where’s Waldo” costumes during the Halloween bash to benefit theater company Stopgap in 1996.

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Lions

Aliyha Alleyne, 3, left, and Kadeem Dixon, 5, dressed as lions from “The Lion King” pose during a costume contest at the Franklin Park Zoo’s annual Zoo Howl in Boston on Oct. 31, 1998.

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Uncle Sam and Statue of Liberty

Heidi Miller, an officer with the Bloomington, Minnesota, Police Department passes out candy to trick-or-treaters on Oct. 31, 2001, at the Mall of America.

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Dr. Evil

A person dressed up as “Austin Powers’” character Dr. Evil for the Halloween Parade in Manhattan.

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Donald Trump

Katie Couric dresses up as Donald Trump on the Halloween episode of "The Today Show" at NBC Studios in New York City on Oct. 29, 2004.

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Scream and monster

Children in costume look in through a window in Peebles, Scottish Borders, in the U.K. on Oct. 31, 2005.

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Scream

A young boy poses in a “Scream” mask with an axe on Halloween in North Bondi, Sydney, Australia, on Oct. 31, 2008.

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An iPad

Oscar the Bichon Frise dressed as an iPad during the Tompkins Square Park 20th Annual Halloween Dog Parade, Oct. 23, 2010, in New York City.

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Donald Trump

Masks depicting Donald Trump are displayed for sale at a Halloween costume store in Mexico City on Oct. 21, 2016.

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Post Malone

Rita Ora dresses as Post Malone for the KISS Haunted House Party at the SSE Arena in London on Oct. 26, 2018.

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Captain America and Wonder Woman

Participants dressed as Captain America and Wonder Woman—and baby Wonder Woman—are seen at the Haute Dog Howl'oween Parade at Marina Vista Park in Long Beach, California, on Oct. 27, 2019.

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