By Lisa Manfield
It’s one of the frequently asked questions you’ll hear this month, and potentially a tough one to answer: what are you going to be for Halloween?
For kids, the appeal of Halloween is perhaps equally split between costume and candy. But for adults, Halloween is not so much a chance to gorge on treats as it is to play out their costumed fantasies and explore their deep-seated fears or desires.
Or so I thought. Until I started to dig into the psychology behind Halloween costumes. I, for one, struggle every year to come up with a costume I’m excited about: something unique, interesting and somehow representative of both my current psyche and the year’s Zeitgeist. This year, I decided to enlist some good old-fashioned help in the form of an online quiz entitled What’s Your Halloween Costume Personality? Surely the internet knows all about how my deepest, darkest fears and desires can translate into a cool costume.
The quiz asked me questions about my style, shopping habits, and Halloween costume goals, and after what I’m sure was a very scientific calculation, revealed my Halloween costume personality to be: girly. Interesting, given I’m not much of a girly girl.
Taking the quiz gave me a chance to reflect back on costumes from Halloweens past: one year I turned a fancy yet unworn gown into a costume for Carrie from Sex and the City. Girly? Definitely. Another year,
I converted a high-collared lace top and long skirt into a suffragette costume. Girly? Well, certainly reflective of the style of femininity prevalent during the late 19th century. Another year I found the gawdiest mumu ever, paired it with a curly red wig and brash lipstick and became Mrs. Roper from Three’s Company, who epitomized a certain femininity, if not the most desirable kind. But none of these costumes really reflected my innermost desires and fantasies. So why, I wondered, had I chosen them?
Well, practicality certainly played a part. I prefer shopping my own closet for a costume I’ll only wear once. But further research on the psychology of Halloween costumes uncovered something interesting: people don’t typically choose costumes representing what they wish they could be. Instead, our costumes tend to reflect exactly what we aren’t. In fact, Halloween is a chance to try on a character or lifestyle we’ll likely never live out in real life.
For me, what the quiz illuminated was that Halloween is a time to get all dolled up — girly, sexy and a little provocative — which is something I don’t generally do in my daily life. And I think there might actually be something to that. I’ll never be Carrie, a suffragette or Mrs. Roper (although I suppose time will tell on that one!), but it’s fun to put on the dresses, makeup and wigs and role play for a day. Happy Halloween, players!