In photos: Classic Halloween costumes from 1865 to today.


Halloween 2020 will probably look different than in previous years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding direct contact with candy dealers, handing out candy outside rather than on the doorstep, and of course wearing a mask. However, the CDC also states that a Halloween mask is not a suitable substitute for a protective mask, and warns against wearing a costume mask over a cloth mask as this could make it difficult to breathe.

As COVID 19 rates remain a cause for concern, some of them may avoid trick-or-treating, parties and parades altogether. But there is no doubt that costumes will continue to be worn, whether to be shown in social media or to be admired by socially distant passers-by.

To celebrate the tradition of dressing up for Halloween, Stacker searched the archives to find 50 photos of Halloween costumes from 1865 to the present. The usual suspects emerge over the centuries – cats, witches, ghosts and ghosts – but references to popular culture also appear, from Darth Vader to Ronald Reagan.

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Halloween Pumpkin Mask

A figure with a white cape and a Halloween pumpkin mask surprises a person in her kitchen, circa 1865.


A person wearing a ghost costume behind a table with Halloween decorations in a rural schoolhouse, circa 1905

Group photo from the early 20th century

Young men in costumes pose for a group photo at the beginning of the 20th century.

A coven

A group of women costumed as a coven pose for a Halloween photo around 1910 in the United States.


Three young men are dressed as a prison inmate, Annie Oakley, and play spades card.

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Halloween Elf

A young woman dressed as an elf for Halloween on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Little Bo Peep

A young woman dressed as Little Bo Peep poses for a Halloween photo on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

A mixed bag

A group of children wear costumes ranging from a skeleton ghost to a witch in an undated photo.


A trio of children dressed as ghosts is ready for “trick or treat”, around 1925.


A young woman dressed as a witch holds a broom in her hand on Halloween in the late 1920s or early 1930s.

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Good witch

The portrait of a young woman at a Halloween party, dressed in a silk party dress and a pointed hat, around 1940s.

Nurse and toy soldier

A group of young children who had dressed up for Halloween “trick or treat” in Jersey City, New Jersey, in the 1940s.


Louis Armstrong is frightened by a skeleton on stage during the song “Skeleton in the Closet” from the movie “Pennies from Heaven”.


A man dressed as the devil and a woman dressed as an armless sculpture show their costumes, ca. 1940.


A woman with a pig mask poses for a photograph, around 1940.

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A woman in a pirate costume, around 1940s.

Pumpkin lantern

A little girl poses in a fancy costume and holds a papier-mâché pumpkin lantern, ca. 1945.


The American children and future photojournalist Robert Abbott Sengstacke (left) poses as a cowboy dressed as a cowboy with other children at a Halloween party in the late 1940s.


The American actress and model Dusty Anderson wore a Halloween cat costume in the late 1940s for a commercial shoot.


Children in costume arriving at a Halloween party, circa 1955. A sign on the door warns: “WARNING GUESTS ARE INSIDE!

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Sputnik and a Soviet officer

A couple dressed as Sputnik and a Soviet officer attend a party in Los Angeles on October 31, 1957.

Royalties, a clown and a cheetah

Students (Michelle Gordon, Jimmy Dallarosa and Wendy Meyer) of the Secrest School plan the 1969 Carnival by trying on costumes.

A knight and her friends

A group of children in Halloween costumes waits in a trick-or-treat queue to receive apples from an officer at a police station in 1960.

Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat

Kirk, 6, and Carey Tressman, 7, wear costumes with reflective tape to protect them during the trick-or-treating tours in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1960.

Boy from Mars

Four-year-old William Caban, dressed like a boy from Mars, visits a police station in Los Angeles on October 31, 1961.

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A scarecrow, a pumpkin lantern and some friends

A group of children dressed for Halloween stand up together on a porch of a house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 21, 1961.

A record player and a ghost

Five-year-old Stephen Knapp, dressed as a record player, and seven-year-old John McNichol, dressed as a ghost, ask for donations for UNICEF on October 31, 1974 along Newbury Street in Boston.

A gypsy woman, Groucho Marx, and a witch

Four kids in Halloween costumes get ready for trick-or-treating, circa 1975.

Mary had a little lamb

A girl dressed as Mary from “Mary had a Little Lamb” for Halloween, ca. 1970s.

C-3P0 and Darth Vader

Louis Seltvitella as C-3P0 and Jim Webb as Darth Vader walk down the stairs of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 31, 1977.

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Paul Stanley from Kiss

An 11-year-old Kiss fan poses in his Paul Stanley make-up on Halloween 1971.

A cook and Uncle Fester with thing

A cook with a knife in his head stands next to Uncle Fester and Thing from “The Addams Family”, ca. 1980s.


A toddler playing trick or treat in a Spider-Man costume in Suncook, New Hampshire, around the 1980s.


Ghostly phantoms on Halloween night, about 1980, in Salem, Massachusetts.

Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan

Two children wearing masks of President Jimmy Carter and GOP presidential candidate Ronald Reagan go trick-or-treating on October 31, 1980.

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Various children costumes

Children and adults dressed up for Halloween 1985.

Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, Snow White, a ballerina and a soccer player

An adult and children in Halloween costumes, Webster Groves, Missouri, circa 1990.

A cat and some ghouls

Children who wear trick-or-treating costumes on Halloween in the UK, around 1990.

A witch, a ghoul, a ninja and a pirate

Children in Halloween costumes in Oak View, California, 1996.

Where is Waldo?

Terry Hartshorn and Sharon Hartshorn pose for a cartoonist in “Where’s Waldo” costumes during the Halloween party for the Stopgap theater group in 1996.

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Aliyha Alleyne, 3, left, and Kadeem Dixon, 5, dressed as the lions from The Lion King, pose during a costume contest at the annual Zoo Howl at Franklin Park Zoo in Boston on October 31, 1998.

Uncle Sam and Statue of Liberty

Heidi Miller, a Bloomington, Minnesota police officer, distributed candy to trick-or-treaters at the Mall of America on October 31, 2001.

Dr. Evil

A person dressed as “Austin Powers'” character Dr. Evil for the Halloween parade in Manhattan.

Donald Trump

Katie Couric dresses up as Donald Trump in the Halloween episode of “The Today Show” at NBC Studios in New York City on October 29, 2004.

Scream and Monster

Children in costumes look in through a window in Peebles, Scottish Borders, United Kingdom, on October 31, 2005

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A little boy poses in a “scream” mask with an axe on Halloween in North Bondi, Sydney, Australia, on October 31, 2008.

An iPad

Oscar the Bichon Frise dressed as an iPad during the 20th annual Halloween dog parade in Tompkins Square Park on October 23, 2010 in New York City.

Donald Trump

Masks depicting Donald Trump will be on display for sale at a Halloween costume store in Mexico City on October 21, 2016.

Mail Malone

Rita Ora dresses up as Post Malone for the KISS Haunted House Party at the SSE Arena in London on October 26, 2018.

Captain America and Wonder Woman

The participants dressed as Captain America and Wonder Woman – and Baby Wonder Woman – will be on display at the Haute Dog Howl’oween Parade at Marina Vista Park in Long Beach, California, on October 27, 2019.

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