Written by Sarah Provost
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Dressing up in costumes is fun for all ages. Since the 1970s, Halloween has become more and more popular, and has been transformed from strictly a children's holiday to one of the favorite holidays of adults as well. You can do without jack o'lanterns, you can do without trick or treating. But you can't do Halloween without costumes.

Let's face it, we dress up infants in pumpkin buntings because we enjoy it. As long as they're warm and dry, they don't care, and are willing to tolerate being cooed at and photographed extensively. But as soon as they're old enough to notice what they're wearing, kids love costumes.

Halloween Costumes for Kids

These days, the most popular purchased costumes for kids are licensed characters from the movies and TV shows they love. Superman is as popular on Halloween as he is every other day of the year. But even more in demand are the costumes based on that summer's hot movie. This year, you can pretty much guarantee a bumper crop of green ogres.

Pirates and princesses, robots and ghosts, and other kinds of generic costumes still work, too. For older kids (and many adults) gore rules. Party and costume shops now offer a range of horror makeup--blood, fangs, scars, wounds, and gruesome appliances--that would do a Hollywood studio proud. And if Mom can't stomach it, so much the better.

On the other hand, Mom might look pretty macabre herself. As more and more adults rediscover the delights of dressing up, grown-up costume parties have skyrocketed. Licensed characters are still popular: there will be a lot of larger ogres and ogresses this year as well. But adult costumes range far and wide.

Halloween Costumes for Adults

Couples often like to dress in related costumes. Historical costumes are very much in demand, such as togas, medieval knights and ladies, or outfits from the Roaring Twenties. There's also a wide category that includes his-and-her convicts, pirates, vampires, cowpokes, etc. One reason for the popularity of this genre is that the ladies' costumes all seem to come with short skirts and cleavage!

While kids generally want the same purchased costume that their friends will be wearing, adults often like to use their imagination and create their own unique costume. I've seen a lot of superheroes, for example, that never appeared in any comic book. Individually created costumes can be extremely complicated or very simple. Concept is what matters, the more original the better, and a clever idea simply realized will be every bit as admired as the most ornate getup.

While Halloween is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of costumes, it's not the only occasion for dressing up. Kids, of course, love to dress up as a matter of everyday play, and may well insist on wearing their Halloween costumes for several weeks before and after the event. For adults, there are Renaissance fairs, Mardi Gras and other ethnic or cultural events that call for costumes. And as Halloween has grown in popularity, other holidays have begun to be used as a good excuse for a costume party. I've been to several "famous couple" costume parties on Valentine's Day, for instance. And some of us just enjoy putting on a gorilla suit whenever we feel like it!

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