What Halloween costumes looked like the year you were born

Jacob Shamsian,Erin McDowell
·12 min read
2008 halloween costume joker dark knight einstein
Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker stuck in everyone's minds in 2008. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

Coming up with an original Halloween costume is hard, so why not take some inspiration from the past?

Every moment has its own Halloween trends: 2008 was the year of the Joker from "The Dark Knight" and the past couple of years had a lot of "Star Wars" and Donald Trump costumes.

But in general, you'll see the same types of things over and over again. Disney characters, the Wizard of Oz, and classic characters like Frankenstein's monster are constantly reappearing year after year.

Here are what Halloween costumes looked like every year you — or your kids — were born.

1976: Horror movies have long been an inspiration for costumes.

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Bill Schuck outside his parents' home in Miramar, Florida, in 1976. AP Photo

Bill Schuck's cape, ruffled shirt, and moustache could make him the villain of any movie with a spooky castle.

1977: Burlesque-like costumes are also nothing new.

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Halloween revelers at New York's Studio 54 dance the night away in costumes ranging from burlesque to stellar. AP Photo/Richard Drew

Here are two revelers at New York's Studio 54.

1978: Pharaohs and bug-eyed aliens are Halloween perennials.

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Bug-eyed monsters from outer space and pharaohs from ancient Egypt vie for attention at the Halloween party at Studio 54 on October 31, 1978. AP Photo/Richard Drew

The annual Halloween party at Studio 54 was a major event.

1979: Halloween costumes can double as a wedding dress and tuxedo.

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The bride wore white and the groom rose out of a coffin at a real wedding held on Halloween eve. AP Photo/Woolliscroft

At a wedding in Grants Pass, Oregon, a couple got married in Halloween outfits. Their guests showed up in costumes, too. A Bride of Frankenstein dress is still a bridal dress, after all.

1980: The Groucho Marx glasses are always in vogue.

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Policemen from an upper Manhattan precinct, dressed in matching Groucho masks, gaze from the window of their car on Halloween night, Oct. 31, 1980. AP Photo/Luongo

If you want to lighten the mood, Groucho glasses, eyebrows, and a mustache will do it.

1981: Everyone loves it when people swing a big ax.

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Customers scream while an actor swings an ax at a victim in Halloween Haunted House for charity. AP Photo/Jeff Hinckley

Want to bring your haunted house up a notch? Have a woman pretend to be a psychopath and swing around a big ax. The image is a Halloween classic, especially after the release of "The Shining."

1982: "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" was all the rage.

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Youngsters wearing E.T. masks look at a phone at a Halloween party at the Museum of Science in Boston. AP Photo/Mike Kullen

Steven Spielberg's charming and creepy alien, introduced in his blockbuster the summer of that year, had a pop culture moment during Halloween.

1983: Clever costumes have always been important.

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A participant in the 10th annual Village Halloween Parade. AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine

Making a witty costume has always been a fun part of Halloween. This Mona Lisa one at New York City's Halloween parade is one great example.

1984: Raunchy costumes are also a classic choice.

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A big banana was seen with a fudge sundae. AP Photo/Richard Drew

This group costume at New York's 11th annual Halloween parade seems to be a banana split, but it looks like the banana has something else going on.

1985: In space, it's hard to get the materials for an impressive costume.

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Space shuttle Challenger crew members in Halloween disguises. AP Photo/NASA-TV

Members of the Challenger crew did their best with the materials they had.

1986: Even professional baseball players dress up.

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Al Nipper of the Boston Red Sox sports a Halloween mask before a game. AP Photo

Putting on a mask that makes you look like an old man is sure to disarm any opponent on the field.

1987: The Wall Street crash didn't stop people from dressing up as bulls.

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A herd of bulls on stilts outside the New York Stock Exchange. AP Photo/Mario Cabrera

Wall Street "bulls" are optimistic and aggressive about a growing market.

1988: Every four years, people dress up as presidential candidates.

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Mark Gordon as Vice President George Bush, left, and Ray Caban as Gov. Michael Dukakis pretend to fight it out. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

In an election year, Halloween takes place just a few days before Election Day. In 1988, eyes were on George Bush and Michael Dukakis.

1989: Realistic, scary masks inspired by horror movies were all the rage.

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Some frightening masks at the Boston Costume Shop. AP Photo/Elise Amendola

The Associated Press ran an item saying that "experts in child psychology say that parents should be careful in exposing small children to the more scary aspects of Halloween."

1990: The most important part of any convincing Halloween costume is the mask, like these here.

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Marchers in the annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. AP Photo/Jonathan Elderfield

Whether for pop culture or politics, putting on a different face is the whole point of a good costume.

1991: Even with scary costumes, the details matter.

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A mummy with a giant rat crawling up its head. AP Photo/Susan Ragan

Want to make your mummy costume creepier? Add a rat crawling up your body.

1992: Comic book characters were popular costumes before they were big movies.

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Marilyn Quayle, wife of Vice President Dan Quayle, handing out treats from the vice president's residence. AP Photo/Dennis Cook

In 1992, Spider-Man was neither a big-screen hero nor the star of the popular animated TV show (that would be a couple of years later), but kids still dressed up as him and other superheroes because of the popular comics.

1993: Costumes that stereotypically depict a culture have always been around, but definitely shouldn't be anymore.

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Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, handing out candy from their home. AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Definitely don't do this, but here's a trick-or-treater dressed up in a stereotypical Mexican outfit at Al Gore's house.

1994: The O.J. Simpson trial gripped the nation and inspired people's Halloween costumes.

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Victor Pahl made a costume with a mask, bloody football jersey, and a fake knife. Sam Mircovich/Reuters

Reporters outside of the Los Angeles courthouse wore Robert Shapiro masks as they waited for him to leave the building. People made custom-made, gruesome costumes of Simpson himself, like the one above, which cost $50.

1995: Disney couple's costumes are a firm staple of every Halloween.

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Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore. AP Photo/The White House

The late 1980s and early 1990s marked the Disney Renaissance, with movies like "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast," introducing their iconic outfits to the world. Here's Al and Tipper Gore dressed as the characters from the latter movie.

1996: Dressing up your kids as peas in a pod is a fail-safe move.

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They're 2.5 weeks old. CP Photo/Winnipeg Free Press-Jeff De Booy

Here's a group of quadruplets in Winnipeg.

1997: Also, dressing up your dog.

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The dog won first prize in the costume contest, which consisted of 40 pounds of dog food, free grooming, and free boarding. AP Photo/Jennifer S. Altman

This golden retriever doesn't really have three heads.

1998: The sexy feline costume is yet another classic look.

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Jamie Lee Curtis. Star Max via AP Images

Here's Jamie Lee Curtis dressed up as a leopard for a benefit event.

1999: The campy costumes of "The Wizard of Oz" are another perennial favorite.

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Where's Dorothy? AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Even in the movie, they look like they're in Halloween costumes.

2000: The Lewinsky Scandal was the butt of every joke.

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Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky Halloween masks. Photo by Tim Boyle/Newsmakers/Getty

With Bill Clinton's presidency winding down, his affair with Monica Lewinsky was still on everyone's mind. It was reflected in the Halloween masks.

2001: Some people chose to reference 9/11 with patriotic costumes.

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A costume shop employee in Atlanta showing off the popular Statue of Liberty one. Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images

The mood was less revelrous.

2002: It's common for businesses to get in on it.

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Bolivia also celebrates All Saint's Day on the day after Halloween. AP Photo/Pablo Aneli

One supermarket in Bolivia had all of its employees dress up as grim reapers and witches, even while they helped customers.

2003: Harry Potter was everywhere this year.

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"Fluffy" from the "Harry Potter" books is much bigger. Mario Tama/Getty Images

With the release of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and "Chamber of Secrets" in theaters, the boy wizard has thoroughly saturated pop culture. The three-headed dog "Fluffy" from the books even makes it perfect for dog parades.

2004: Presidential masks were back.

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President Bush and John Kerry masks. AP Photo/Morry Gash

Buycostumes.com cited Halloween mask sales as a predictor for the election. Their sales, the company said, predicted the elections of President George W. Bush, Bill Clinton twice, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan twice.

2005: Theme parks paid more and more attention to Halloween.

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"Terra Queen." AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove

Hong Kong's Ocean Park planned elaborate costumes for their employees to scare visitors. For Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights, the company created an elaborate mythology of characters like "Terra Queen."

2006: Even before the movie came out, everyone knew who Borat was.

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People dressed up as the main character from "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." AP Photo/Seth Wenig

"Borat" was released a few days after Halloween, but the character was already well-known through the movie's marketing. And making a costume is pretty easy.

2007: Classic Halloween costumes like cowgirl and police officer have been popular for years.

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Two people attending a Halloween party in 2007. Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

Costumes like these practically never go out of style.

2008: Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker stuck in everyone's minds.

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Albert Einstein and the Joker. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

"The Dark Knight" was the biggest movie of the summer, and its villain was unforgettable.

2009: Including pets in costumes is an important tradition.

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Lisa Woodruff holding a pair of chopsticks and posing with her 4-year-old pug dogs dressed as sushi. AP Photo/Richard Vogel

If you can be soy sauce then your dog can be sushi.

2010: Cheerleaders and band members often dress up.

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A member of the University of Las Vegas Rebels marching band. The team lost. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Costumes become part of the fun of sports games, like this trombone-playing sumo wrestler at the University of Las Vegas.

2011: At the height of Occupy Wall Street, zombie bankers roamed the streets.

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It was at the height of the protest movement. AP Photo/John Minchillo

Costumes continued to be a potent visual way to make a political statement in 2011 as Occupy Wall Street protesters held a rally.

2012: Superhero costumes were all the rage.

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Kim Kardashian dressed as Catwoman on October 31, 2012. John Parra/WireImage/Getty Images

The hit movie "The Avengers" resulted in a lot of superhero costumes that year — even if they weren't all part of the Marvel universe.

2013: Sports fans dress up in costume, too.

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Fans at a New York Knicks and the Chicago Bulls game in Chicago. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

It's not just up to cheerleaders and band members to entertain the crowd between plays. Fans will dress up themselves.

2014: Rihanna's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume was better than the movie that came out that year.

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Rihanna in New York City. Tanya Kesey/STAR MAX/IPx/AP

The 2014 "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" came and went without making a mark on pop culture, but Rih's big shell is forever.

2015: After El Chapo's second escape, his face was on every Halloween mask.

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A lot of Halloween costumes are mass-produced in Mexico. AP Photo/Tony Rivera

The drug lord was a bonafide folk legend in Mexico. He was eventually captured again after meeting with Sean Penn in 2016.

2016: The return of "Star Wars" inspired costumes this year.

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Star Wars fans dressed as Stormtroopers, Rey, Leia, R2-D2, Darth Vader, and the Death Star. AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi

With 2015's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," the franchise was back for another generation, introducing new characters along with it. "Rogue One" in 2016 kept it up. The movies led to a resurgence of "Star Wars"-themed costumes.

2017: Disco icons like Cher were a major inspiration this year.

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Kim Kardashian and Jonathan Cheban attend Casamigos Halloween Party on October 27, 2017. Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Kim Kardashian and best friend Jonathan Cheban wowed at a Halloween party wearing costumes inspired by Sonny and Cher. Kaia Gerber and Cindy Crawford were also spotted that year wearing disco-inspired looks.

2018: Costumes inspired by the video game phenomenon Fortnite were all the rage in 2018.

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A person wearing a Fortnite costume in 2018. Quinn P. Smith/Getty Images

In 2018 alone, the game made $2.5 billion. So, it probably comes as no surprise that the hugely popular game inspired people's Halloween costumes. According to Google and Time, Fortnite was actually the most-searched category for Halloween costumes that year.

2019: Many chose costumes based on major pop culture moments.

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Benito Skinner and Terrence O'Connor attend Heidi Klum's 20th Annual Halloween Party dressed as Kylie and Kendall Jenner. Noam Galai/Getty Images

From the Met Gala to iconic 2000s fashion moments, celebrities seemed to be the go-to costume for 2019.

2020: This year's costumes will be basically any costume with a mask — or one you can just wear at home.

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A girl wearing a face mask with her Halloween costume. Xinhua/Xinhua/Getty Images

Halloween in 2020 is expected to be very different from year's past. Major costume retailers like Yandy have released everything from "bedroom costumes" intended to be worn at home to a sexy hand sanitizer costume

However, the most popular — and important — Halloween accessory in 2020 is undoubtedly a face mask. 

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