Saturday 17 March 2018

From the topical to the tasteless - 13 of the best Halloween costumes for 2017

From the topical to the tasteless, Tanya Sweeney reports on the Hallowe-en costumes for every party that are sure to turn heads this year

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad
Controversial: The Pistorious Blade Gunner outfit
Anne Frank costume
Kim Jong Un costume
Carry Me Trump costume
The Handmaiden's Tale

Tanya Sweeney

Remember when fancy dress meant sticking some holes in a black bin bag and wearing a cheap scratchy mask in order to traipse from door to door in a bid to get a few monkey nuts from the neighbours?

Well, you can forget that sort of half-hearted carry on these days. The humble Halloween costume has gotten bigger and better with each year.

"Thanks to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, people have really started putting in the effort to dress up because it's not just the people at the party who will see your costume," explains Ronan O'Brien, CEO of "It also acts as a great way of bringing down barriers among people on a night out.

"If you're dressed up as Superman and you see Wonder Woman, you have to go talk to her. Dressing up gives people a whole new conversational gambit to work with."

According to James Elliott of Elliotts Fancy Dress, business has increased exponentially in the last five years in Ireland, and is approaching saturation point. In the US, Halloween has long been a calendar behemoth. According to some figures, over 157 million Americans celebrate the holiday by dressing up, with total domestic spending estimated to reach around $7bn. In the UK, sales in the sector were projected to reach £283m in 2017, up from £275m a year before.

Already, some costume ideas are creating headlines for the wrong reasons: quirky kid Eleven from Stranger Things has been given the sexy treatment and the internet is not best impressed. An American company has shortened the hemline and lowered the neckline, making the character's dress much more revealing than usual. Additionally, her sports socks have been taken up a notch, in a thigh-high style, and paired with heels.

Some retailers have been forced to remove an Anne Frank Halloween costume for kids following a massive internet backlash. Meanwhile, a joke shop in the UK is selling a "Blade Gunner" costume: it's an outfit of Oscar Pistorious wearing his trademark running blades, athletics shorts and vest, with a handgun topping off the controversial ensemble. If you want to dress as the athlete jailed for murder, knock yourself out, but perhaps don't be surprised if you find yourself alone by the punch bowl.

Still, if you're not the one making some serious effort, expect to be left out. As usual, there will be nods galore to some of the biggest political and pop cultural moments of the last 12 months, so if you're short on ideas, here are some pointers.

Harley Quinn

Margot Robbie's Suicide Squad character was 'the' costume of 2016, and the fascination with the sexy, pigtail-wearing character shows little sign of letting up this year.

"Already, we've sent out a load of inflatable Harley Quinn baseball bats and the wig has sold out, too," explains Elliott. "About one in every 10 phone calls is someone looking for a child-size outfit."

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad

Mexican Day Of The Dead

Rose crowns and elaborate face painting certainly looks ornate and beautiful, and The Day Of The Dead costume remains a huge draw for women and children (if you can drown out the accusations of cultural misappropriation). "This has moved on as now people are using a lot of transferable tattoos on their faces," says Elliott. "We also have a one-piece jumpsuit for ladies, which is really comfortable."


Kim Jong-Un

Rarely a day goes by that the North Korean dictator isn't out of the headlines, so it stands to reason that he and his rather, eh, fetching haircut will be quite the crowd-pleaser this year. Luckily, you don't need a trip to the barbers for this one.

"The mask used is actually really good and is in fact the spitting image of him," says Elliott. "Trump masks are similarly popular, and many people decide to rope in a friend to go as both leaders together."

Kim Jong Un costume



Clowns are a perennial favourite, but thanks to Stephen King's blockbuster adaptation, Pennywise will be everywhere this Halloween. "Clowns got a lot of bad press this year [after people dressed as clowns harassed people in multiple states], but the trend is bigger than ever," says Elliott.

pennywise 2017.jpg
Pennywise 2017


Game Of Thrones

According to Frank McNally, owner of Costume Corner in Cavan, their biggest sellers this year so far are related to the hit show. "We cover both sexes, and basically long robes, medieval details, light blue caps (like Daenerys') and long blonde wigs are flying out the door."

Characters Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow from ‘Game of Thrones’, a major TV hit for Sky


The Handmaid's Tale

What's not to like about finding a red shroud/dress (right) that hides a multitude of sins, an Amish-style bonnet (no need even for dry shampoo) and no make-up?

Some clever clogs in the US has sexed up the outfit of course, but unless you want to be given a stern lecture about identity politics and reproductive rights, stick to something a little more authentic.

The Handmaiden's Tale


Where's Wally?

If you want to team up with a friend or partner, and you're a smidge on the lazy side and don't want to do the sexy thing at all, Where's Wally? shows no sign of abating. "It's pretty easy to put together the blue trousers, stripy top, glasses and cap. They're easy to put on and wear, and on a night when you don't want stuff weighing you down, this is a good bet."

Where's Wally - Wally with cane.jpg
Image: Where's Wally



Inflatable Unicorn

According to O'Brien of The Costume Shop, many women are aiming for cutesy over sexy these days: "We're not seeing too many sexy short skirts sold so far," he says. "Girls are getting more creative, playful or funny, and this is a particularly original idea."


Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot's superheroine reigned supreme at the box office over the summer of 2017, yet that's precisely why O'Brien adds a note of caution: "There are going to be a few Wonder Womans at every costume party this year," he says.

"Girls tend to not want to end up in the same outfit at parties as a rule. We encourage people to go as Poison Ivy instead."

Gal Gadot


'Carry Me' Trump

This one really has to be seen to be believed (right). "Basically, you step into a pair of trousers with fake legs, and it looks like you're getting a piggy back from Donald Trump," says O'Brien.

Carry Me Trump costume


Melania Trump

With the 'Fake Melania' controversy raging on, the First Lady herself is on the verge of parody. You could go the full 'Texas flood zone chic' hog and add snakeskin heels, a bomber jacket and a stare that could wither house plants.

Donald Trump and Melania Trump after a press conference


Iron Man

At €29.99, The Costume Shop sells the official Iron Man costume and O'Brien advises would-be superheroes to stick to the original costumes. "We've seen a lot of counterfeit costumes, even if they do say Iron Man on them," he says. "For the sake of a few quid, make sure the costume you're buying has the right CE (fire-safe) certification."

iron man.png


For the truly lazy

Want to join in but short on cash, time or actual caring? Get yourself a flat cap (to go as Michael Healy Rae) and short blonde wig (to go in your own clothes and swear you're trying to be Niall Horan) or some snazzy socks and an LCD Soundsystem T-shirt (to dress up as an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar).

Irish Independent

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