Sometimes the best Halloween costumes are not from the latest trends but from classic Halloween themes such as a ghost, bat, black cat, spider, witch, or mummy. When I look back at vintage Halloween costume pictures, I see these themes come up again and again from all decades — Victorian to now.
Choosing one of these classic vintage Halloween costume characters is an easy way to dress up a historical or vintage outfit you already have. Of all the times during the year that I dress up vintage, I almost never end up wearing them for Halloween. All that changed this year as I teamed up with a few friends and turned our favorite vintage fashions into Halloween costumes.
Take a peek, be inspired…
18th Century Corpse Costume
Nothing has Halloween creepiness like a corpse that has come back from the dead. The unfortunately beheaded Marie Antoinette has been a classic Halloween costume for centuries. She and countless others who lost their life in a most gruesome way come back to haunt us each year. If you have a 18th century costume in your wardrobe, by all means, bring it out, add an oozing neck cut, ghostly makeup and the story of your demise.
- Chemise Dress and Hat handmade by Lauren Stowell
- Clocked Silk Stockings in white
- 18th Century Leather Shoes “Kensington” in Oxblood red (even the color is spooky)
Victorian Witch Costume
I am not sure how the wicked witch became such a popular Halloween character but she is. I have seen photographs from the Victorian to the 1960s each with its own spin on the look. My favorite witch era is the Victorian. A asked Lauren to wear her fabulously gothic Green Acres 1880s Bustle Dress for the photo. I then took inspiration from the above image and added some black cat cutouts along the skirt. Adding the cutouts was a very popular thing people did in the Victorian times to give a common dress a Halloween theme. The broom I made from branches lying around my yard (easy DIY project).
- Dress handmade by Lauren Stowell. Shop Victorian witch costumes. Find Victorian dress patterns here
- Shawl in Black
- Winding Witch Hat
- 1928 brand necklace. See similar Victorian jewelry here
- Vintage gloves
Shop more Victorian-era Halloween costumes.
1910s Ghost Costume
Whenever I see pictures of vintage ghost costumes, they always seem to be wearing Edwardian clothes. White Edwardian tea dresses work very well as ghostly clothing, as do black lace gowns. For my ghost costume, I wore my lace Nataya titanic gown under a velvet bathrobe. Say what? This purple velvet bathrobe with ruched shawl collar is a perfect fit for the Edwardian era. You never know what you are going to find in a thrift store that can double as a historical coat. I completed the look with white makeup and a little white dusting on the collar to look like a frostbitten Titanic passenger ghost searching for her buried loved ones.
- Nataya Titanic Tea Dress in Black Gold
- Thrifted robe
- Thrifted hat. See similar Edwardian style hats
- Heart of the Ocean necklace (of course!)
- Astoria Edwardian shoes
- Vintage gloves
Shop more Edwardian Era Halloween costumes.
1920s Mummy Costume
I saw this fabulous pinup mummy costume on Pinterest and just had to recreate it! Since the 1920s had an Egyptian revival, it seemed fitting to put together this Flapper Mummy costume. You don’t have to wrap yourself entirely in gauze to get the mummified effect. Here I wrapped Lauren’s legs in a sheer ivory fabric and used lacey white scarves for her arms, neck and shoulders. I love how the scarves give a shredded drape effect. This costume treatment could work for any retro white or grey clothing.
Shop more 1920s Halloween costumes.
1930s Bat Costume
How do you make a black bat look beautiful? Set it in the 1930s. Following this picture as inspiration, I wore a long black velvet ’90s does ’30s Jessica McClintock vintage dress, vintage opera gloves and a bat mask. The crafty bat wings is a rectangular piece of sheer embellished fabric. I gathered the fabric into a bustle effect and secured it on with safety pins, raised my arms and viola! Bat wings. So glamorous!
- Vintage dress. Find similar 1930s style dresses here
- Long Black Gloves
- Deco costume earrings and bracelet
- Lace Bat Mask
- Lanai 1930s Heels (sold out) – see more 1930s shoes
Shop more 1930s Halloween costumes.
1940s Black Cat Costume
A 1940s Rosie the Riveter is a classic Halloween costume today, but back in the 1940s, the sexy pinup girls were black cats (and witches). This look is easy if you have the confidence to pull it off. Start with a black playsuit (romper), swimsuit, or shorts and a blouse. Add sexy peep toe high heels and some cat costume pieces (ears, collar, tail). Instead of just ears, I opted for an adorable cat mask. 1940s Victory rolls have a natural way of creating cat-like ears as well. Finally, I happened to have fuzzy velvet gloves, which were another purrrfect cat-like accessory.
- Forever 21 Playsuit/romper. See similar rompers
- Cat tail, collar, ears
- Don’t Cross My Path Glittery Black Cat Mask
- Vintage fur cuff gloves
- 1940s Ankle Strap Pump shoes
Shop more 1940s Halloween costumes.
1950s Spider Web Costume
Last year I decided I was going to create an iconic 1950s spider costume like the one above. I found an amazing vintage 1950s dress with faux diamond buttons, then hand sewed rhinestone strands into a spider web pattern. I could have glued them if this was a repro dress, but for genuine vintage, I didn’t want to permanently damage the dress. Most vintage spider dresses or skirts also have a spider crawling up the web.
For accessories, I used my vintage velvet hat with veil, vintage black wrist gloves, pearls, seamed stockings, and glittery retro shoes. Almost 100% vintage head to toe!
- Vintage dress. See similar 1950s style dresses here
- Vintage hat. A 40s/50s black fascinator would look great too
- Vintage gloves. Similar gloves here
- Vintage pearls. New pearls here
- Backseam stockings in black
- Glitter Mary Jane heels. See similar shoes here.
Shop more 1950s Halloween costumes!
Our final vintage Halloween costume ends on a happier note in the swinging sixties. A pumpkin or Jack ‘O Lantern if you have the face on it is timeless and cute (or scary?). This is another easy DIY costume, that is if you can find an orange shift dress. I copied the Jack ‘O Lantern face from this ’20s pumpkin costume onto black twill fabric, cut it out, and glued it on. Be careful of the placement. Too high and the eyes are uh…and too low the mouth is er…. you get the idea. Just be careful.
Of course, you don’t have to put a face on the pumpkin. An orange dress with a green scarf, hat, or headband gives enough of the pumpkin idea for something less costume-y. You could add orange tights for even more color and authenticity to the ’60s style. Orange flats are very ’60s as well as tall boots (go go boots would be awesome!). This is a fun little dress that brings just enough Halloween spirit to a costume or everyday fashion in October.
- Forever 21 shift dress. See more ’60s dresses or Halloween themed clothing
- Bohomonde scarf
- Shoes from Target. See similar ’60s shoes
Shop more 1960s Halloween costumes! (There are some really creative ones here)
More Vintage Halloween Costumes
Halloween costume shops have really great vintage Halloween costumes both as inspiration for something you can DIY or ready-made if time is short and you need something now! Here are some of our favorites: vintage inspired Halloween costumes
Debbie Sessions has been teaching fashion history and helping people dress for vintage themed events since 2009. She has turned a hobby into VintageDancer.com with hundreds of well researched articles and hand picked links to vintage inspired clothing online. She aims to make dressing accurately (or not) an affordable option for all. Oh, and she dances too.