Historical Halloween Costumes Men vs. Women
History has helped inspire many of today’s Halloween costumes. This might be through looking at some of the more advanced civilizations of our past, focusing on time periods popular in the cinema, and famous historical figures. Rather than being concerned with authenticity, these costumes find their own aesthetically pleasing concepts.
Halloween costumes depicting Egypt in the time of Pharaohs and the ancient pyramids are probably some of the most equal opportunity costumes between men and women. Men costumes that show off a good amount of the upper body and include short skirts are not uncommon. Perhaps this is because of the hot desert climate. However, men also have a lot of full body covering options to choose from. Women rarely get the option of covering their bodies completely.
When we think of Greek fashion two things come to mind; the toga and naked Olympic games. Since their Olympians did not have clothing and the Greek’s wore chitons, not Togas, a lot of liberties were taken when designing ancient “Greek” costumes. Men costumes consist of full body garments that expose the forearms and maybe a little ankle or calf. Women have pieces of fabric covering various parts of the body but not by much. Both sexes liked to have headwear and apparently leaves were all the rage back in ancient Greece. Unlike today where women like to wear sashes in beauty pageants, here it is the men who prefer to throw them on.
The Medieval Knight was a male dominated occupation and when creating a woman’s Halloween costume there is not as much source material available for reference. However, I doubt very much that a woman’s armor would resemble what modern designers have envisioned. Men are covered head to toe in fabric that is supposed to resemble chain mail. (In Monty Python and the Holy Grail all the knights armor were made of knitted wool. Only King Arthur had chainmail, weighing 25 pounds.) We will forgive the use of fabric instead of actual metal. Female knights’ armor does not offer full body protection. Their legs are always left unprotected and their arms are rarely shielded. As the Black Knight would inform anybody, the limbs are a vulnerable area during combat and should be guarded.
Pirates have always been a relatively popular costume around Halloween but with the success of The Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise it has exploded. Men costumes are decked out in layers of clothing, offering them protection from the harsh elements found while sailing out in the rough seas. Often times the classic eye patch, pirate hat, or bandana are thrown into the mix. Women pirate costumes are made as if they will never have to leave the island of Tortuga. The high heel boots won’t do them a lot of good walking around the slippery deck of a moving ship and there definitely is not enough fabric to warm them from the frigid ocean air. At least they don’t have a lot of loose fabric to get snagged while working the lines.
The caveman/woman did not have textile factories, so they were forced to wear fur. Sorry PETA, but at least Halloween costumes are made of faux fur. Actually, it is just cheap fabric with fur pattern painted on. Anyway...the caveman costumes are envisioned as if the animal was simply skinned and then wrapped around the body to keep warm. The shoulders and calves are left exposed but if the limbs were left on then these costumes might start looking more like the respective animal than a caveman. Cavewoman costumes appear to be more concerned with covering private parts than offering warmth or protection. The bikini style is very popular and when a one piece is created, there seems to be the need to make it a low cut as possible.
Roman and Greek Halloween costumes are interchangeable. Most costume shops list them under the same category in their inventory. For the purpose of this article we will focus on the Roman Gladiators and Warriors, who get a unique costume design. The costumes for both genders almost always have short skirts. While the men costumes continue up to the neck, women costumes tend to stop at the bust. A lot of the time men are given a full helmet. while women only get a headband. I am sure two different headgears offer equal protection for our warriors. As is the case with almost all costumes; women are given high heels, while the men get more practical footwear.
As I write this article the space shuttle Endeavor is being transported to its permanent home at the California Science Center in Los Angeles . Although space exploration is still in our future, one chapter in that story has been closed. Astronaut costumes for men are very similar in appearance to the actual space suits, but a lot less bulky. These costumes are baggy white suits, completely enveloping the wearer in order to protect them from the vacuum of space. Sometime a large round helmet is worn to show the need for oxygen. On the planet Earth they actually inhibit the ability to breath comfortably, so are often left out. Women astronaut never have to worry about the uncomfortable helmet or even the unbearably hot suit. Their costume tend to resemble something worn to the racetrack, rather than space. These space suits include a mini skirt with shirt that opens up at the top. If that gets too hot there is always the skirt with separate halter top that exposes the midriff. For some reason that costume comes with leg warmers and opera gloves. Perhaps they are hoping it will draw attention away from the fact that the costume is not actually covering much up. The full bodysuits costumes offered are so tight that there is not a lot of room for much else, like oxygen.
When describing the American Wild West, people tend to think of the classic cowboys and Indians. Halloween costumes put their own spin to this classic time in American history.
A Cowboys job is a tough one; riding horses in the blazing sun, herding cattle on the dusty fields, and maybe even having a duel at high noon. Halloween costumes representing these stereotypical gunslingers involves lots of layering; the jeans are covered in chaps, the long sleeve shirt has a vest over it and the vest is covered by a trench coat. The big belt buckle keeps the holsters at their hips and no cowboy outfit would be complete without the hat and boots. Cowgirl costumes keep the big hat and boots but shrink everything else. Short skirts or shorts are more popular and the few pants available are the opposite of baggy. Short sleeve shirts are available but the bikini tops are easier to find. The vest appear to be fitted for a toy doll, instead of a real sized person.
The Native American Indian costumes don’t fare much better between the men and women than the cowboy outfits. Men might have their arms exposed but that is about it. The long pants and long sleeve shirt are extremely common. Fringes are almost always added to the cuffs and collar areas. The costumes only vary in how much fringe they add and possibly some decorative patterns added to the tanned fabric. Rather than a cowboy hat, these costumes come with a really bad wig and feather headband. Women costumes don’t need a bad wig but they could use some more fabric. The female Indian costumes are low cut and show a lot of leg. The lack of solid fabric is compensated for by adding longer strands of fringe but it does not have quite the same effect as one sturdy piece of cloth.
In popular media, Vikings are often depicted as fierce warriors who must survive savage winters. Viking Halloween costumes often depict this survival of the fittest idea in their design. Men costumes are created as if they are wrapped in layers of clothing made from the animal pelts they have personally killed The historically inaccurate but modernly accepted horned helmets helps top off these savage costumes. Female Viking costumes get the same fur clothing, horned helmets and weaponry as the men, however it is draped over them as if they were going down a fashion runway and not to pillage a nearby coastal community.
The costumes above were displayed multiple times in google image search results. These are the sites that I went to for the images. If you know of an image that belongs to a different site please let me know in the comment section below and I will make sure to give appropriate credit.