It’s that much-anticipated, oft-dreaded time of year again: Time to play dress up. Or rather, to decide what DIY adult Halloween costumes you’re going to whip up when October 31 rolls around. Based on this year’s fads, from the kids we can probably look forward to seeing a crop of flailing-tongued Miley’s, along with characters from both Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, and perhaps some orange jumpsuits, prowling the streets on All Hallows’ Eve.
Though you may feel you’ve gotten to the age where you’d rather treat your kids to an elaborate ensemble than splurge on one of your own, think again. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., author of The Search for Fulfillment and professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, finds that shedding your own skin (at least partially) is a source of great self-realization. Whitbourne speculates that people who are more into the ritual of costume wearing probably “have high scores on the personality dimension of ‘Openness to Experience’” and enjoy fantasy, play, and occasional bouts of flamboyancy. Sounds like someone we’d want to hang out with.
Conversely, Whitbourne ventures that people who hate costumes, claiming they’re childish and silly, may, in reality, simply feel socially awkward about drawing attention to themselves and their preferences, or may be overthinking the whole concept of dress up. They perhaps see costumes as a sort of “projective test” or a reflection of their fears and inner desires. Relax, you’re not sharing something intimate about your personality with every random passerby.
Don’t get caught up in trying to think of the perfect costume or try to win any best-dressed awards. Those Halloween parties you see on TV and in the movies have professional costume designers working behind the scenes, and no one in real life has the time for that (or expects that of their friends and neighbors).
While our everyday dress may be a reflection of our self-images and tastes, and, whether you dress up, down, or a little bit of both, our peers do tend to judge us based on these outward appearances. Halloween’s a chance to step out of your usual role and adopt a new identity, even if it’s nothing radical.
According to Whitbourne, “if you want to feel just as comfortable and relaxed as you feel under normal circumstances, make sure you’re wearing something that really fits your inner image of yourself…if you can show the side of yourself that comes closest to how you see yourself, you’ll be able to derive a great deal of fulfillment from the opportunity.”
What are her tips for expressing yourself in new ways as you pass out the treats or sip on a fall cocktail? One idea is to transform your favorite outfit into a costume. Another is to base your costume on someone you admire. Always make sure you follow the bounds of good taste (no skimpy referees, but we didn’t have to tell you that). Maybe make a costume that reflects your hobbies. Keep in mind those around you are probably on the fence about dressing up, too. And finally, let yourself go and have some fun with it. Halloween comes but once a year.
Want to know more about Whitbourne’s theories on dress up? Head over to Psychology Today for the full article