What Do Our Costumes Say About Us?

It’s that time of year when I find myself searching “College Halloween Costumes” on Pinterest in an effort to find the perfect disguise. Cringing, I scroll past an endless array of sexy cop, sexy school girl, and sexy lifeguard costumes. I am uncomfortable, but at the same time amazed, that costume designers make every possible outfit, even a gumball machine, sexy. Most of what we wear on Halloween would never make an appearance in our daily lives. I have yet to see a guy in a zombie costume walking past Gasson on his way to class. But there is a reason why we go out of our comfort zones on Halloween— something that explains our decision to twist our hair into little buns and channel our inner Miley Cyrus for one night. Halloween is more than candy, costumes, and parties. It’s our time to express who we want to be, and, perhaps more importantly, who we don’t want to be.

Halloween, and the idea of wearing costumes, dates back 2,000 years to the Celtic festival Samhain, which took place on November 1. The Celts saw the night before Samhain as the transition from the summer to the winter, bridging our world to the world of the dead. They believed that the ghosts of the dead roamed around, and they protected themselves from the ghosts with masks. According to the National Retail Federation, nearly 75 percent of young adults ages 18-24, plan to dress up for Halloween. In Psychology Today, one psychologist explains that the majority of this age group is not pleased with all aspects of their personality, and Halloween costumes allow them to take on different personas. Further research suggests that Halloween costumes say a lot about who we are or who we want to be. People dress up as political figures to show off their knowledge of current events. They don superhero outfits to feel powerful and to hide their feelings of inadequacy or weakness. Others may wear princess costumes because they are feeling sentimental or romantic. The inclination that many young women have to bare their skin on Halloween may be attributable to their desire to be noticed. Sometimes, women who are more conservative in their daily lives go all-out for Halloween to experience an alternate self.

Halloween costumes are an even bigger deal on college campuses, where many schools have annual traditions. At Georgetown, students watch the movie The Exorcist, parts of which were filmed on campus. Students at MIT throw frozen pumpkins off the tops of buildings, while UCLA students open their doors to elementary and middle school students, allowing them to trick-or-treat on campus. Of course, along with these traditions come the typical college parties. At college campuses around the country, a holiday that lasts one evening when we’re young turns into a weekend-long celebration.

College parties can be fun, but at times you feel like you’re navigating a social obstacle course. The sheer amount of thought and planning that goes into attending a party can rival prepping for a midterm. We focus on where to go, who’s going to be there, what to wear, how many people we should bring with us, and whether the atmosphere will be exciting enough. All these factors can lead to high levels of anxiety—maybe this is why college students drink so much. Countless times I have heard friends say they couldn’t dance at a party or talk to the boy they liked without having had anything to drink. Halloween costumes have a similar effect. They give us a false sense of confidence, and for a couple hours allow us to be someone other than ourselves. Dressed as Miley Cyrus, we can hide behind a mask and bravely enter that Walsh pregame or Mod party. Without fear, we can break out that dance move we’ve been practicing in our crowded dorm room, or talk to that boy in our biology class.

Similar to the Celts, we all have ghosts we want to ward off. They may be the ghosts of our shyness, or our insecurities surrounding our ability in school, our performance on the athletic field, or even what course our lives will take after we graduate from Boston College. Halloween lets us ward off those ghosts, if not for the whole weekend, at least for one night. We can escape from ourselves and be whoever we want to be. But what if we could feel like this the other 364 days of the year? What if we didn’t need the gorilla mask or that extra shot to have fun? Keep these questions at the back of your mind as you navigate through the numerous Halloween costume websites or as you scour the aisles of Party City for the perfect disguise. Start living your life like you’re wearing your Halloween costume every day instead of for just one night. Shake off your ghosts and worry less about how others perceive you. You’ll find that your newfound confidence will be admired and well received. So now I leave it up to you—who will you be this Halloween?

Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor