Still looking for a Halloween costume? Get inspired by our archives

·2 min read
Still looking for a Halloween costume? Get inspired by our archives

There's less than one week to go until Halloween, and now that election day is out of the way it's clearly time to focus on your costume.

Halloween will look different this year because of the pandemic, but according to the Retail Council of Canada, nearly one in five people say they still plan to dress up.

Whether your costume will be on display as you shoot candy down a chute for neighbourhood kids, party with your household, or venture out to a small gathering with your social bubble, the CBC Archives offer a wealth of inspiration.

Reality vs. fiction

Apparently 2020 has been freaky enough that the hot costumes this year are those based on reality — front-line workers, doctors, nurses and police. And of course a few zombies thrown in for fun.

But as you may recall from the Before Times, top Halloween costume picks have often been firmly grounded in fiction. According to the CBC Archives, never was this more true than in 1984 when films like Gremlins, Ghostbusters and E.T. topped the charts.

But store-bought costumes can get pricey. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Halloween is big business. By 2014, it had become a $1-billion industry in Canada.

(Also according to the encyclopedia, Vancouver is home to North America's first recorded instance of dressing in disguise to celebrate the holiday — but I digress.)

In 1981, the people of Saskatoon balked at paying at least $9 for a mask or other disguise, which is about $24 in today's dollars.

"Whether you want to look scary, or just plain silly, it can be expensive," reporter Paul Lewis told viewers on The National, as part of a report filed from a crowded local costume store.

Face paint and porcupines

However, parents on a budget have long found ways to torment their children by circumventing societal norms and piecing together Halloween costumes themselves.Such was the case in 1995, when a Midday correspondent demonstrated how to do away with pricey and troublesome Halloween masks and replace them with face paint made from things already lying around the house — including washable markers, free lipstick samples and $2 tubes of fake blood.

But why limit the discussion to costumes when so much of Halloween is about the celebrations?

Take, for instance, this delightful segment from 1963 on how to host a haunted Halloween party, beginning, of course, with a hearty bowl of chili con carne and a "grapefruit porcupine."

In the segment, party planner Barbara Kirschenblatt also suggests some spooky party games to entertain teens.

If you're still feeling bummed about how different Halloween will look this year, keep in mind that this isn't the first time officials have mandated major changes.

In 1982, some Canadian cities — including Toronto, Saskatoon and Halifax — moved the whole celebration ahead by one day so it wouldn't coincide with daylight savings.

That year, kids went trick-or-treating on Saturday, Oct. 30.