A Guide to Relevant and Easy Halloween Costumes in 2022
by Cathleen Freedman
I have one rule when it comes to dressing up (or down) for Halloween: don’t be boring.
This doesn’t rule out traditional costumes like “witch” or “vampire” or “ghost.” It just means you need to up the ante. Commit to the bit. If you’re going to be a cat, be the coolest cat.
I recommend choosing a costume that has some connection or relevance to that year. This isn’t a rule for Halloween costumes, but it is sage advice. I treat Halloween costumes like editors receiving article pitches and ask, “Why this? Why now?” I remember my own costumes based on what was happening in the cosmos that particular October, either for me personally or generally. For example, I remember that I was Robin Sparkles for Halloween in 2014 because that was the same year How I Met Your Mother ended.
Word of the wise: it’s usually always best to make/forage your own costume versus buying a set from Spirit Halloween. Keep your look sustainable. If you do need to buy anything, get something you’ll wear after October 31st. It’s scary to think of all of the latex suits and polyester wigs that get thrown out after one use.
Now that we have a general Halloween framework, let’s get into possible costumes. This guide is broken into a few sections:
My Personal Tried and Tested Costumes
In these examples, "couple" can be used to loosely mean two people of any relation to one another. It is also my personal belief that couple costumes are entirely androgynous. Gender bend any duo you want. Anything goes on Halloween.
Greg and Tom from Succession
In reality, you could do any combo of Succession figures, but I have a soft spot for Cousin Greg and Tom. Aim for corporate chic. Wear a button-down with slacks. Throw on a bulky watch. Slick back your hair. Nice.
Yung Gravy and Your Mom/Grandma
Come on. That’s funny. You really don’t need much, and you can get creative. Whoever is Yung Gravy, just find some chains and a bathrobe. I like the idea of someone dressing up in mom jeans a la the 2010s SNL skits or dressing up like a senior citizen. You could also do a Yung Gravy and Martha Stewart costume, too.
Some inspiration for your
Grease and Greece
Rest in peace, Olivia Newton-John. For this couple, one person should go as a character from the Grease franchise. Sandy or Danny or Rizzo or whomever you want. The other person should dress up like an Ancient greek or a mythological deity of their choice.
Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase
With the Disney version of Percy Jackson in production as I type, there’s no better time to represent Camp Halfblood. Actually, I take that back. There is. Halloween 2010. I went as Annabeth Chase. I drew the centaur on my orange shirt and designed a beaded necklace out of Play Doh.
But I understand not everyone has my stenciling ability and may want to wear a shirt with a logo that more closely resembles a centaur instead of an overweight cow. You can order Camp Halfblood shirts on Etsy or Redbubble. (I even have an embroidered Camp Halfblood baseball cap, and it’s one of my favorite things in my closet.)
À bout de Souffle
In honor of Jean Luc Godard’s passing, this might the year to dress up like Jean Seberg in his French Wave film. The New York Times sells a near-exact version of the original top. Find it here: https://store.nytimes.com/products/herald-tribune-breathless-t-shirt?variant=12158591107142. Maybe one day I’ll get it. Not even for Halloween purposes.
Turn this concept into a couple’s costume or just wing it on your own. Gosh, I love this shirt.
I'm mostly using this opportunity to convince myself that I should just go ahead and get this shirt.
When I see group costumes, I love to imagine what the group chat must have looked like before Halloween. Just picture the intrigue and brainstorming! If you have a group of people who are game to coordinate outfits, that’s a great group of friends.
Now this ought to be fun. There’s never been a more opportune time to dress up in that iconic Elvis one-piece or carry a cane and try to impersonate the Colonel. I guess this could be a couple’s costume too. Swap the Colonel and Priscilla perhaps, depending on whether you want to wear a cute shift dress or a stuffed button-down.
Don’t Worry Darling
I’m over this movie’s hype, too, but it would be a fun 2022 costume with a group of friends. Plus, your pictures will look great. Dress 1950s glamorous OR emulate the cast’s outfits from the Venice Film Festival.
Apparently, there may be a new season of Scream Queens coming out. Be ahead of next year's curve, and wear a Scream Queens inspired costume. You only need put-together pastels and pearls to pull this off. Optional: bloody makeup. If someone doesn’t want to be a Chanel (??), they can go as the Red Devil.
Now here's the real tour de force of the group costume: Jamie Lee Curtis. She was featured in this season as President Munch, but Curtis is historically known as one of the premier "scream queens" of the silver screen. Someone can dress up like her in this season of Scream Queens or in the Halloween films. But whatever they do, they should carry some Activia around. It's Jamie Lee's trademark accessory!
And Just Like That or Sex in the City or Emily in Paris
Have fun delegating who’s Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, Samantha. If there are only three in your group, then go ahead and spray some gray coloring into your hair. Now you can be Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda in the later installment, And Just Like That.
For the American Scandals, Vandals, and Icons party my friends and I threw, I went as the ultimate recent American scandal/vandal/icon, Emily in Paris. I wore a beret and carried an Emmy.* It’s that easy.
*Old Arnold Palmer glass with an award figurine taped on the front.
Ken dolls, Barbie dolls, the upcoming Greta Gerwig film. Just dress in pink and angle your arms like you’re inflexible plastic. Considering that Barbie has worked every odd job in career creation, you could also dress up in any profession's work uniform, wear heels, and say you're ___ Barbie.
American Girl Dolls
Pivoting from Barbie dolls to American Girl dolls. My American Girl dolls gave me nightmares, so I guess they make for scary Halloween costumes. Pick your favorite history period/whatever works from your closet and go from there. If you really want to keep this costume DIY, you could be a "Look-Like-Me" American Girl Doll and dress like you normally do. These dolls are supposed to be your AG doppelgänger. While it might seem like a clever marketing ploy, in hindsight, this sounds like a new Jordan Peele film premise.
It had to be said. Got aviator glasses?
The Royal Family
You can have a lot of fun with this one as a group. Meg and Harry, Will and Kate. Someone can be Princess Di. The couple-friends can be Charles and Camilla. (Someone can even be the alleged love child of Charles and Camilla!) You can get edgier than this and throw in some political commentary, but I’ll let you figure out the tone that’s best for your friend group.
Any Kind of Family or Entourage
Depending on your group numbers, just pick a favorite group of figures. The Irwin family, the Kardashians, the Proud family, the Even Stevens, the New Girl cast, Venus and Serena, the Roy family, the Biden cabinet, Hilaria Baldwin and her ‘Baldwinitos.’ Honestly, ask the group chat what TV show they’ve been watching lately and then coordinate from there.
Cathleen’s Tried and Tested Halloween Costumes
I really like dressing up, especially when you can be clever about it. Cleverness > put togetherness is one of my personal northern stars of style. (Both sartorial and metaphorical.) Thanks to my mom, I’ve always had fun Halloween costumes. The only outlier was my costume in 2002. I was a pumpkin. My older cousin got to be Glitter Barbie. I’m not a jealous person, but that nearly pushed two-year-old Cathleen over the edge. Here are some of the better costumes from my Halloween career lookbook.
Smartie Pants Nerd
Hot-glue Nerd candy to a shirt and Smarties candy packets onto your pants. Wear glasses, knee socks, and pigtails. There you go, you’re a Smartie Pants Nerd. Better yet, you’re my 2012 Halloween costume.
This look is also genius because you can pull candy off yourself as the night goes. But be warned: other people may try to as well. This isn’t a costume for wallflowers. It is such a conversation starter. Plus, every step sort of sounds like you’re shaking maracas. Those Nerds cardboxes make for surprisingly impressive acoustics.
Halloween 2020 was spent at home. Felt right to dress up like The Nanny who often found herself working from (the Sheffield) home, too.
These are possible variables you can input into your Fran Fine equation: colorful platform heels, black tights, a tight miniskirt, a bright button-down, and a patterned blazer. Smush on some lipstick, tease your hair, and try saying a nasally “Mr. Sheffield!”
Nancy Drew But Specifically Emma Roberts's Version from the 2007 Movie
Halloween 2019. I really loved this movie when it came out twelve years earlier. I had a plaid skirt and a headband. That was all I needed to dress up like Emma Roberts’s Nancy Drew. I can’t speak to the other Nancy Drew iterations. I haven’t seen them.
This goes back to my only Halloween costume rule. Don’t be boring. The Halloween costumes that other people wear and I still think about tend to be concept costumes. I know someone might be like, “I don’t want to wear a costume I have to explain.” I personally think the costumes that people have to ask about are the best--so long as they know what it is after you say it. Don’t be too niche. Or do. Just don’t be boring.
Life Imitates Art
If you have a favorite artist, think about their body of work. What are defining motifs, elements, and colors in the oeuvre? For example, splatter paint your white clothes. When people ask what you are, you tell them, “A Jackson Pollock painting.”
I’m still not sure what I’m doing this year, but there’s a chance I might be van Gogh’s Starry Night or the Statue of Liberty, which brings me to my next suggestion…
Something Specific to Your Locale
Wherever you’re trick-or-treating or bar-crawling this year, go as something that reflects the locale. If you’re in New York City, wear yellow, blue, and black and call yourself a Metrocard. You could even get a meatball marinara sub from Subway and consider it a prop. Here’s another one: those hot dog costumes, except hot glue trash and wrappers. Now you’re a New York City hot dog! If you’re in Texas, be a bluebonnet or a space cowboy. You can even go as someone who serves as a cultural ambassador for the region. If you’re in New Jersey, dress up like Snooki or Bruce Springsteen.
At this rate, I could do all fifty nifty united states, but I won’t. I trust you to find something emblematic of your locale and embrace its intricacies for your costume.
You know what’s boring? Not liking puns. And what’s my first and only Halloween rule? Don’t be boring.
This list has some cute suggestions: https://www.popsugar.com/smart-living/Pun-Halloween-Costumes-25587340
If you want to throw in a 2022-inspired twist to the typical sheet-with-eye-holes costume, say you're "the loser who ghosted you." You can even use your phone as a prop. Feel free to swipe on Hinge and leave your matches on read. It's all part of the costume.
For Halloween 2021, friends and I went as different kinds of “beetles.” One person was Lydia Deetz, Beetlejuice’s bride. I was a beetle bug. Someone else was John Lennon, Beatles member. Another was Victoria Justice’s ouija board costume with the “VW” missing. What does “VW” stand for? Volkswagen, AKA the beetle car. (A stretch, but it works!) Point being: you can make anything work if you think about it hard enough. Just don’t be boring!
A Literal Concept Costume
I’m a big fan of not having to buy anything for your costume, so look in your closet for a novel item. Maybe you have funky glasses or a tutu you’ve never had a reason to wear. Work backward and think of what you can be based on that piece. For example, I have a star headband. Thus, I can be the entire galaxy if I wear celestial-inspired items with it. Or I could be a Michelin star. In 2018, I had a floral headband. I wore a green dress with it and said I was a flower bouquet.
If you’ve ever been told you look like a public figure, then congratulations. You already have a pool of suitable Halloween costumes. If someone told you that you look like young Willie Nelson, there you go. If someone has said you remind them of Anne Hathaway, go as Ella Enchanted.