Whenever the word vintage or retro is spoken, it evokes memories of the past that are most often, very pleasant. Baby-boomers especially remember parties at Halloween with old fashioned games that didn’t need blood and gore to give the kids a thrill, and costumes weren’t composed of intestines and worms and zombies and flashing red lights and green eyes. Sure, there was a bit of that but a lot was left to the imagination, and that’s why vintage Halloween is so popular. Think The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock and you’ll get the idea.
An easy fix to your vintage cravings for costumes, at least, is a trip to the local thrift or vintage store. If you live in the country then the Internet is also a vast resource to partake of. Here are a few ideas to stir the pot.
Prom & Wedding Dresses or Old Formals
Use these for the Bride of Frankenstein (with gray streak in hair of course), Prom or Beauty Queen (dead, half-dead, or alive), and “ex” wife, or a princess. The latter can be good or evil or just plain Halloween-style. This look is good for an ex-silent film star who’s seen better days. For zombies, don’t get carried away because, after all, this is retro and not Zombieland.
Farmer’s Coveralls or Overalls
These work great for the vintage Halloween look. The more faded and ragged they are, the better. You can put these on and be a scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, or a real hill dweller or country person, even a serial killer from those 70s and 80s cult favorites. Other characters and real people who would be great dressed in overalls, are farmers, plumbers, Super Mario Brothers, Rosie the Riveter (don’t forget a curly wig and bandanna), and Bob the Builder (use some safe and oversized tools in a belt).
These may cost a bit more but other than some suitable accessories, they are worth looking after because the look is usually perfect. Try for any military, nurses, cheerleaders, sports team members, and flight attendants. They can be sexy or slightly starchy, but don’t get carried away with either look.
With the 1920s we had flappers and gangsters. Flappers wore a drop-waisted dress and a headband or cloche hat, and cut their hair short and swingy. Gangsters need a pin-striped regular suit, a fedora, and a fake machine gun or violin case for pretend. In the 1930s there were swing kids and jazzmen and they often wore a hat and cane and sported a long pocket watch with chain and a zoot suit. Bonnie and Clyde wore high trousers, a suit jacket and a fedora (for Clyde) and a depression era dress, beret, and trench coat (for Bonnie).
In the 1940s there was Carmen Miranda with her tropical sarong, swimsuit, halter top and sandals. Add lots of fake fruit, fringe, pompoms and ruffles to this outfit. The 1950s produced a lot of icons, such as James Dean and Elvis, and a Greaser girl or Doris Day look. The basic look for men is easy — dark jeans with rolled cuffs, boots, leather jacket and a white T-shirt with rolled sleeves. Girls wore tight pants, a scarf and high heels, a leather jacket and a boatneck (curved) shirt. Doris Day and Sandra Dee loved a cardigan, saddle shoes, circle skirt and petticoat. You can add appliques to a plain circle skirt if it doesn’t have any.
The 1960s produced Go Go girls such as twiggy (opaque tights, shift dress, heavy eye makeup and patent leather belts etc.), and Hippies (dig through your old stuff) had bellbottoms, loose and flowery shirts, fringe and headbands). They still make tie-dye T-shirts and you can purchase these online. The 1970s meant disco and think of John Travolta dancing… Anything in glittery lame or platform boots or polyester and big wigs would work. The 1980s had leather, acid washed denim, studded belts, and on the other end of the spectrum — preppy.
Vintage Halloween Games
You can often find these in antique stores and sometimes thrift stores. Fortune telling and predicting the future were popular. Halloween was a time when spirits could communicate with the living. Harry Houdini followers hold a séance every year per his wishes when he passed on. Bobbing for apples (either in water or hanging from a string) has been popular for many years and anyone can participate. It’s cheap to set up as well.
Victorians used to predict when they’d get married by blowing out a candle (they were blindfolded). The number of puffs it took meant that the time was lengthened and if 3 or more it meant forget about it for the rest of the year! Another rather quaint game was to put a bunch of colored ribbons in a pile, blindfold a girl, and the ribbons she chose meant her future husband’s college would have that color. Of course, this works both ways nowadays.