We may earn a commission from products linked in this post.


Want a Halloween costume that really rocks? Then go retro. One of this year’s hottest trends, the retro costume is welcome at any party. Try our handy tips to create your very own blast from the past.

Why Retro?

Certain periods in history seem to bring about feelings of nostalgia and happiness—even if we didn’t actually live through them. Thirty-year-olds in full Lucille Ball regalia and teenagers in 80s neon are far from uncommon at today’s Halloween parties and parades. If you’re looking to capture that feeling of days gone by, a few simple tricks will transport you from the New Millennium to Old School. Pick your time period and come along with us on a trip down memory lane for one of the most fun costumes you’ll ever wear.

The 1950s: Grease is The Word

Grease Poodle Skirt & Sweater Adult Costume  Grease Danny's T-Bird Adult Plus Costume

Greased Lightning!

For women, try very bright, deep or dark red or coral lipstick and face powder one-half shade lighter than your skin tone. The eyes should be lined on top, but leave the bottom lids and lashes bare for an authentic look. Any length hair can “go 50s” – if you have bangs, curl them slightly under and wear them as a heavy curtain rather than in today’s wispy style. Pile the rest of the hair on top or in back of the head, or wear down and pin-curled. For men, try darkening your hair (a temporary spray-on dye covers well and washes out easily) for super-shine. Add some wet look gel to slick the hair back on the sides and “poof” it high at the crown. Once you’ve lifted the hair up and gelled it, push it just slightly forward; a lock over one eye is particularly 1950s.

Women can wear a wide skirt; cut a poodle out of black felt (inexpensive and easy to find at any crafts store) and glue it onto the front. Glue rhinestones onto the poodle’s neck for an ultra-glam faux “collar”. A tight, short-sleeved top or one with capped sleeves is the perfect complement to your skirt. A brightly colored scarf and a pair of sunglasses (the more colorful and outlandish the better!) complete your look. (Hint: If you’re going as the “bad girl,” wear a pencil skirt instead, and make sure your top is low-cut.)

For men, wear relatively close-fitting jeans if you’re dressing as the bad boy/”greaser”; pressed slacks if you’re going as the jock or class pet. A white T-shirt or button-down shirt complete with pocket protector and a pair of dangling glasses finishes off these two looks. Accessories like super-cool shades or a thrift store letter sweater add pizzazz.

The 1960s: Fashion and Flower Power

Far Out Man Adult Costume  Woodstock Girl Adult Costume

Peace, Dude!

If you love the 60s, you’re in luck: the freedom and “anything goes” mentality of this time period makes putting together a Halloween costume a snap. The flower child is perhaps the easiest 60s style costume to create. Jeans—the more worn the better—and a loose tank top work for both men and women. Look for bright colors and large floral or geometric patterns for your shirt choice, and sew an oversized flower patch on one back pocket. Pick up a peace sign pendant at a thrift shop, teen store or online; these can often be had for $3-5 or less. Wear it on a slightly bulky chain around your neck. For hair, looser is better; wear it sleek and straight or curly and free.

The mod look is another popular 1960s Halloween pick. Shirts with a stand-up or “clerical”-style collar and wild patterns are perfect for your mod costume. If you have leather pants, great! If not, see whether you can find a pair at a thrift shop or borrow from a friend or neighbor. Pull on a pair of high heeled boots (for both women and men) and you’re set for the party!

The 80s: Shout, Shout, Let it All Out

Super Mullet Blonde  Funky Pop Star Adult Costume

You turn me right round, baby!

The 1980s gave us neon, leg warmers and big, big hair. Shop teen stores for neon touches; paint your nails hot pink or lime green and curl just the top or sides of your hair, then tease the curls as high as possible. For men, puff the top of the hair up and hold in place with a light application of hair gel or a little hair spray.

Jeans tended to be very tight in the 1980s. Men can also seek out slacks in white or black. Online auctions or thrift stores may have balloon or parachute pants (or, gasp!, maybe your closet!); both men and women can wear these for an 80s costume. Head bands that tie across the front of the forehead can also be worn by either sex. Make your own with inexpensive ribbon from any department or crafts store. Go wild—the 80s were all about bright colors and outrageous personal style.

You may have your very own favorite time period; if so, look in thrift stores, clearance bins and even the back of your own closet for clothing and accessories. Use your imagination—with retro costuming, the sky’s the limit.

Happy Halloween!

One thought on “Halloween Costumes: Go Retro!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.