NEW YORK — Halloween costumes have come a long way since cutting holes in sheets or purchasing paper disguises at the local pharmacy.
These days, dressing up for Halloween has a whole new meaning, thanks to fashion putting a stylish twist on all things creepy and kooky. In recent months, designer costumes have cropped up on catwalks, and several retailers have curated collections of Halloween-inspired ready-to-wear pieces, especially for adults looking to get into the spooky spirit.
More than 171 million Americans plan to celebrate Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. Spending on items such as costumes and candy is expected to reach $8.4 billion — an all-time high for the 11-year-old survey — up from $6.9 billion in 2015. Millennials (ages 18 to 34) are the adult group most likely to take part in the frightening fun and one of the top spenders on costumes. Meanwhile, those ages 35 to 44 are anticipated to attend at least three parties, reports the Savers’ Halloween survey by Edelman Intelligence.
While you don’t have to be a kid to celebrate Halloween, that doesn’t mean adults necessarily want to dress like one. Designers and brands are capitalizing on this demand by coming up with costumes that incorporate current style trends. At London Fashion Week, for instance, models in the Charlotte Olympia show paraded down the runway in flirty fruit costumes. While the event was meant to spotlight the designer’s new Brazilian-themed collection of accessories and shoes, the spectacle got the blogosphere buzzing with Halloween ideas.
Last month, Phoenix e-retailer Yandy.com debuted its latest line of costumes at what’s believed to be the first Halloween runway show at New York Fashion Week. Among the looks were sleek animal bodysuits in crushed velvet, a high-waisted skirt and crop top done in a Snapchat-inspired print and a sexy witch with over-the-knee boots, fishnet stockings and tulle skirt attached to a shiny black leotard. Even presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton got a makeover with a royal blue mini dress for the “Capitol Hill” costume and a fitted blazer, booty shorts and signature red tie and ball cap for the cheeky “Donna T. Rumpshaker.”
“We wanted to showcase our collection and show that Halloween is not only fun but is fashion,” says Pilar Quintana, Yandy.com’s vice president of merchandising. “We are influenced by everything and all fashions going on in the world.”
Yandy.com has been offering Halloween costumes for its target demographic of women ages 18 to 34 for a while now, but the interest in them and their costume options are growing.
“There are multiple outfits needed for Halloween,” Ms. Quintana says, as more people attend more than one party. “Now with social media being everywhere, it’s a constant battle to upstage yourself and not wear the same thing twice.”
As an alternative to a costume, other brands have come up with eerie everyday wear that can be worn beyond the bewitching season. British fashion site ASOS and Pittsburgh-grown ModCloth.com are a couple of e-retailers that curate a yearly collection of fit-for-Halloween apparel and accessories that can be dressed up for a party or incorporated into a regular wardrobe.
“Our customer wants to continue to be on trend even at Halloween. We reference the key styles of season when designing our Halloween range,” says Aisling McKeefry, head of design for accessories at ASOS.com. “For example, chokers and hair accessories are big for autumn/winter, so we have done several options for these categories.”
The site’s U.S. market was an early adopter of these kinds of pieces, but now their popularity is increasing in the United Kingdom and other territories, she says.
Even at Halloween, ModCloth merchandise buyers stay true to the site’s staples, including fit-and-flare frocks and Peter Pan collars, except for they’re done in bats and glow-in-the-dark skeletons this time of year. Another favorite this fall has been a bomber jacket with a Ouija board print on the back.
“Our customer comes to us to embrace the joyfulness and whimsy of Halloween,” says senior fashion press specialist Aire Plichta Reese. “This year’s assortment is the strongest I’ve ever seen.”
Why are so many adults gushing over ghostly garments? It’s tough to pinpoint, although social media and the prevalence of Halloween in pop culture are often noted as some of the reasons. Or it could just be a way for people to rekindle their inner kid.
“The ’90s are having a bit of a moment in fashion overall,” Ms. Plichta Reese says. “For a lot of us who were children in the ’90s, I think it just takes you back to the fun of the day.”
Sara Bauknecht: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter and Instagram @SaraB_PG.