All Hallows’ Eve is upon us, and in just two days we’ll be dressing up in our freakiest outfits to scare the children that come to our doors, imploring us for sweet treats—or in our sexiest attire as we hit up popular destinations like the Granville Strip. More still will collaborate as cleverly dressed groups and couples, and head to house parties where pumpkin beer-fueled conversations will centre on who might be winning the unofficial contest for the most amusing outfit. Whoever you decide to impersonate on Saturday, creativity—and sensitivity—seem to be coming out on top this year.
Looking back at the Straight’s October 24 to 31, 1996 issue, Angela Murrills’ story, “Wigs and Wee Hands Help Halloween Handicapped”, opens with a description of popular and not-so-popular ensembles for children.
“…the Georgia Straight has learned that the formerly high-profile Princess Jasmine has bitten the dust. Gone, kaput, last year’s news. Instead, on this year’s night of ghouls and ghosts, cool Grade 2s will be tricking and treating in the guise of Pochahontas and Esmeralda, while older kids will be emulating a Japanese animated character called Sailor Moon.”
Murrills spoke with Joyce Wilson, then-manager of Halloween accessory goldmine Dressew Supply (337 West Hastings). Wilson highlighted the store’s extensive selection of out-there accessories, including everything from elf shoes to whips to strap-on plastic breasts.
While some stores have ignored requests to stop carrying certain attire that might exemplify cultural appropriation, many people are agreeing that costumes that play on specific ethnicities should become a thing of the past. (So long, Jasmine and Pochahontas). Dressew’s current manager, Jessica Bowie, says this year, customers seem to be buying fewer accessories like bindis and headdresses, and looking towards more classic costume options.
“Most of those kinds of accessories end up getting worn for plays or theatre; we haven’t seen too much for Halloween. I did have somebody complain about the fact that we carried Viking horns because they were Icelandic though,” says Bowie. “A lot of kids want to be cats this year, and we’ve seen tons of witches and Red Riding Hoods. It’s nice to see people going back to the more tried and true styles.”
Across the board, Bowie says superheroes seem to be the most popular option for both children and adults. Animal onesies come in at a close second. “The onesies are good because people like to wear them as pajamas after,” she says.
While Wilson told Murrills that a great choice for couples in 1996 was a wig-wearing judge and hood-donning hangman, this year’s most purchased options are food-inspired.
“Bacon and eggs is a huge one this year. We’ve got two different versions of the bacon costume: one’s a bacon dress and one’s more of a bacon strip with a suit,” says Bowie. Fruit and veggies seem to be big too—think bananas, pineapples, and pickles.
Dressew does sell complete costumes, but its biggest selling items are accessories like hats, wigs, and ears. Bowie says most of her customers are the DIY type, with many taking advantage of the store’s massive selection of textiles and fabrics.
“Our customers are quite creative. Some come in and get fabric to make capes and clothing—it’s nice that people still want to create their own outfits.”
But in the final two weeks leading up to the last day of the month, the store definitely sells more pre-packaged costumes.
For those that are completely stumped, Bowie suggests a time-honoured choices like a pirate, vampire, or witch, because “they’re easy to put together and they’re comfortable”.