Halloween should stop being a fast-paced fashion show

It will be a homemade Halloween for many families this year, sewing outfits and making decorations that they usually buy in a store or online. Supply chain shortages and port congestion have disrupted the ritual of dressing up children as Star Trek characters and Disney princesses.

It’s a pivotal point for Halloween, celebrated both in the United States and around the world. The American trick or treat method has been exported to many countries in the 21st century. Modern Halloween is sweeter, less spooky, and more commercial than Samhain, the Celtic festival it came from.

Americans plan to spend $ 10 billion on Halloween this year, buying costumes, decorations and candy to put aside last year’s pandemic-limited event, according to the National Retail Federation. In the United States, some 1.8 million children plan to dress up as Spider-Man on Sunday night, while adults celebrate as witches, vampires and pirates.

But sought-after decorations, such as Indiana Bones, a 12-foot skeleton sold at Home Depot, fell short, and the characters’ costumes had to be mounted on domestic sewing machines. The fast fashion Halloween parade, with its Sassy Scarecrow and Sexy Bride outfits, will be more artisanal this year.

It’s hard to regret. Halloween, John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher movie that spawned 11 sequels, including this year’s Halloween kills, is the most famous Hollywood representation. But remember another – the scene in Kill a mockingbird when two young children are attacked in the woods on their way home from a Halloween contest.

The Scout costume, which obscures his vision of the assault, is a raw ham made of chicken wire and brown fabric, and the contest is a harvest festival event to celebrate county produce. The scene is set in the Great Depression and has a distinct flavor of Samhain, which marked the start of winter.

In 1962, when the Harper Lee novel film came out, Halloween was evolving from craftsmanship to mass production. Costume designers such as Halco and Ben Cooper have licensed the rights to movie and television characters, from Snow White to Superman, and their outfits reflect pop culture as well as ghouls.

A huge range of disposable tattoos are now produced each year for Halloween to wear or display briefly and then throw away. Indiana Bones was rare, but families could have bought a $ 199 five-foot bone throne instead from Home Depot that has a distinct Game of Thrones feel.

Halloween meets anime and manga in Japan, where the love of dressing up in pretty costumes matches the occasion, and Tokyo hosts parades. The confused example set by American expat neighborhoods in London such as Hampstead and St John’s Wood has spread Halloween across the city, making Guy Fawkes’ night darker and more dangerous.

It’s as far from Celtic tradition as Starbucks Frappuccino is Italian espresso, so what? Halloween is fun for kids and for adults who want to show off or flirt and, as Russell Belk, who pioneered the study of consumer culture, wrote: “Celebrating the harvest and the return of herds no longer have much meaning, even anachronisms.

The difficulty is the waste involved in the night of the party. Halloween itself isn’t one of the world’s great environmental challenges – it only happens once a year, after all. But the 1960s masquerade outfits turned out to be the forerunner of a broader global shift to fast fashion. Zara, Boohoo and Shein turned the everyday into a discount costume festival.

“Halloween is the only night where anything goes. No rules, no limits, no restrictions. You are free to be whatever you want, ”promised Rent the Runway, the fashion rental site that went public in New York this week. But it’s just a night away, fashion is ubiquitous.

Rent the Runway promises “a new frontier for fashion, one in which women buy less and wear more,” rather than the average American buying 70 pieces of clothing a year. But its $ 135 monthly subscription allowing members to rent clothes (followed this week by a Jean Paul Gaultier rental launch) is a tough sell. He wants millions of subscribers but had 127,000 in July.

Robert Gentz, co-managing director of Zalando, Europe’s largest online fashion retailer, said this week that fast fashion must be ditched within a decade to solve the ‘global sustainability problem’ of the industry. But it will take a lot to prevent consumers from buying more clothes than they need and putting a lot of it in the back of the closet, or getting rid of it.

We could start with Halloween. When I lived in Brooklyn, the majority of the costumes on the streets of Park Slope were homemade, which made the party sweeter and more personal. More families have been forced to return to this practice this year. Producing all of our own clothes would be too much, but once a year is reasonable.

Long ago, Samhain marked the seasons of the ancient world, with its dangers and generosity. If Halloween adapted this spirit to the modern age, it would be worth celebrating.

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