Some families dress up for Halloween as characters from a shared universe. Elsa, Anna, and Olaf. Black Widow, Captain America, and Ironman. This year, my kids’ costumes could not be more different: my youngest child is going as a manga superhero, my oldest child is too cool to dress up, and my middle child is going as a duck. Not exactly cohesive!
Jokes aside, Halloween costumes have become a kind of cultural index for us in the United States. What our children dress up as reflects the themes, trends, characters, and historical moments of the year.
This month, we’re analyzing the top Halloween costumes by year—not exactly scientific, but seasonal and fun. Enjoy!
First, we loaded five “top Halloween costumes” lists into Domo.
To measure costume popularity, we found five lists of top Halloween costumes by birth year and pulled them into Domo. We sourced lists from Reader’s Digest, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, POPSUGAR, and Give it Love. The year I was born, Reader’s Digest says the top Halloween costume was Michael Myers…the serial killer.
Then we categorized the data to see which spheres have influenced costumes the most. The characters on these lists came from movies, toys, Broadway, comic books, and the music world. Even politics—Richard Nixon was apparently a top costume in 1974, the year he resigned the presidency.
Looking at our categories, we see that movie-based costumes are by far the most popular. Politicians are least popular, with only three entries.
Next, we looked at brands or themes of costumes.
Knowing that the costumes we choose suggest something about the culture at large, we decided to zoom out and consider the most popular themes represented. Superheroes, Batman, Disney, and Star Wars come to the top. To create this visual, we used a new bubble chart that was part of Domo’s October 2023 feature release.
We’ll note that, although Disney now owns both Indiana Jones and Star Wars, the Disney category refers to characters from the main franchise: Mickey Mouse, Elsa, Princess Tiana, etc.
If you’re wondering, the “Brady Bunch” theme refers to specifically Marcia and Jan. Sorry, Cindy.
We also looked at repeats of the same costumes across lists and across years.
We had to do a little data cleaning, of course, to align with how each list names things. For example, Cosmopolitan listed “Tony Manero from Saturday Night Fever” and Reader’s Digest listed “John Travolta (well, sort of)” in 1978. These are essentially the same costume, so we labeled them collectively as “Tony Manero (John Travolta) from Saturday Night Fever.” Garbage in, garbage out, as they say.
Here’s what we found: Spider-Man was the most-repeated costume, showing up five different times across our lists. Captain Jack Sparrow also had a strong showing, as did Ghostface, Batman, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Big props for longevity to Morticia Addams, who showed up in 1967 and 1991.
See every top Halloween costume—by year, theme, category, and frequency.
Lastly, here is a detailed compilation of all the rankings. We’ve also included a little picture thumbnail, too, since a picture tells a thousand words. You can filter, search, and export.