One of my favorite activities as a kid was not trick-or-treating, but rather selecting my costume.
We didn't have any Halloween stores where I lived, so ye olde Walmart had to suffice, until the later years when ecommerce was invented.
Now as an adult with a Lydia Deetz-esque penchant for the strange and unusual, shopping for "Halloween" home decor is a favorite pastime.
Sure these things can be DIY'ed or thrifted, in order to be budget-friendly and environmentally conscious (as we'll explore again later).
But since the Halloween pop-up stores have appeared in the abandoned corners of our city, I decided to visit a few to relive the excitement of my childhood.
Boy, was I disappointed.
Firstly, each store was quite barren even approaching mid-October. Supply chain issues, I'm sure. Each one had maybe one row of the animatronic props, and basically no outdoor essentials like half-bodied mummies or skeleton yard stakes.
I did notice a shift towards intellectual property merchandise instead of the typical generic Halloween figureheads.
However, the magic of the packaged, officially licensed Halloween costume has been completely ruined for me over the years.
Children can kind of get away with an ill-fitting costume, and the thrill of dressing up like their favorite character usually outweighs most of the discomfort.
Adults, ehhh not so much. Though I suppose a lot of the simpler costumes are just a shirt or accessories, and you supply everything else.
But there are so many problems to address with this flavor of costumes.
1. A costume can be upwards of $80-100 at a pop-up Halloween store, and though there are cheaper options at the big-name department stores, that is a big chunk of change for a one, maybe two-time outfit. Then you have the wig, mask, props, special shoes, etc.
2. The manufacturers know these costumes will typically be worn once, so they're made with the cheapest of cheap materials. It's a surprise to no one when their costume rips immediately, or some embellishments fall off.
3. This dark corner of the garment industry is usually overlooked when discussing fast fashion and garment workers. 'Tis a drop in the bucket when compared to the garment industry as a whole, but there is no possible way the people making packaged Halloween costumes earn a remotely decent living.
Though these costumes will take less time to make than a properly lined and structured garment, they still take time. Considering that they are sold at a 75-90% markup, this leaves mere pennies for the salaries of the people who make them.
4. And we haven't even gotten to the waste! The garment industry as a whole, again, is a major polluter, and we are seeing a gentle shift towards sustainable materials - but Halloween costumes aren't there yet.
You would be hard pressed to find any single piece of any mass manufactured Halloween costume that is *not* made from polyester, rayon, or some type of plastic. (I.e. cotton, linen, bamboo, or even wool or silk).
These synthetic materials are not great for the environment, which we don't have time to dive into fully at the moment, but lots of everyday clothing is made from them. If you ask me, this effect is less of a concern if they're well taken care of and worn for years and years - and not worn once and immediately trashed and replaced the following year...
So what is the solution to Halloween costumes?
The easier-said-than-done answer would be to DIY or invest in a quality, ethically made costume that can be reused.
For some, the packaged Halloween costume is the best or most accessible option - whether you're a working parent with no time to DIY, unable to make or afford a handmade version, etc.
If you are able - the best way to get a unique costume is to do it yourself!
Find something in your closet that resembles a character's costume, go thrifting to find clothing or other materials to repurpose, dig through the leaning tower of cardboard boxes in your garage and get creative with paint and duct tape, the possibilities are endless.
As usual when discussing environmentally-focused actions - I always say to do the best *you* can!
While Halloween accounts for a small portion of waste each year, it does help to maintain focus on making a change when you're actually interested in it.
So stay spooky, and remember that the majority of pollution comes from just a few corporations!