Sexy Halloween costumes are 'almost unsellable': Here what's most popular (and unpopular) this season

Elise Solé
·7 min read
Women's Mrs. Incredible Costume. (Photo: Party City)
The Mrs. Incredible Costume is a big seller this year at Party City. (Photo: Party City)

Costume parties and trick-or-treating aren't advised during the coronavirus pandemic, but the spirit of Halloween is still strong: According to the National Retail Federation, at least 148 million adults will celebrate this year by decorating their homes, carving pumpkins or dressing their pets in costumes.

This year, 46 percent of people plan to wear a costume (a one-percent drop from 2019), per the September poll, with 30 percent flocking to online retailers for their Halloween shopping (compared to 25 percent last year). Princess, superhero, ghost, witch, vampire and cat costumes are top costume choices among children and adults, while pets will be decked out as pumpkins, hot dogs and even bats.

To learn what costumes are actually selling ahead of a very unique Halloween, we asked four popular retailers, along with the largest designer, manufacturer and distributor of such costumes, for the lowdown on their best-selling trends.

People feel nostalgic, says HalloweenCostumes.com

With the pandemic delaying the production and release of anticipated movies slated for 2020, people are wistful for classic looks.

“We have seen a high demand for nostalgia costumes this year,” a HalloweenCostumes.com spokesperson tells Yahoo Life. “Usually we see sales and trends revolve around new movie releases and new show releases. This year with everything being pushed back, the nostalgia category — The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, A League of Their Own — is performing very well.”

Popular costumes include A League of Their Own’s Dottie (the catcher played by Gena Davis) and Coach Jimmy (Tom Hanks), Kansas Girl and the courage-seeking lion based on Oz and a sassy figure from Greases’s “Pink Ladies” clique.

Not as popular this year? Costumes with themes like Game of Thrones, Disney’s Descendants and Pixar’s Toy Story, as well as horror films IT and IT: Chapter Two.

A League of Their Own Dottie Girls Costume (L) and A League of Their Own Coach Jimmy Men's Costume (R) are nostalgic costume choices for customers. (Photos: HalloweenCostumes.com)
A League of Their Own Dottie Girls Costume, left, and A League of Their Own Coach Jimmy Men's Costume are nostalgic costume choices for customers. (Photos: HalloweenCostumes.com)
"The Wizard of Oz" costumes like Kansas Girl Long Dress Women's Costume (L) and Kid's Deluxe Lion Costume (R) are Halloween hits. (Photos: HalloweenCostumes.com)
"The Wizard of Oz" costumes like Kansas Girl Long Dress Women's Costume, left, and Kid's Deluxe Lion Costume are Halloween hits. (Photos: HalloweenCostumes.com)
The film "Grease" is timeless. The "Women's Grease Pink Ladies Jacket" is selling fast. (Photo: HalloweenCostumes.com)
The film "Grease" is timeless, and the "Women's Grease Pink Ladies Jacket" is selling fast. (Photo: HalloweenCostumes.com)

Tiger King rules at 3 Wishes

Tiger King, Netflix’s series on the cutthroat underworld of zoo operators, premiered in March, but controversy kept it hot for months. The show, starring Joseph Maldonado-Passage, a.k.a. “Tiger King” the former owner of Oklahoma’s Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, inspired the police to reopen a cold missing person case and has, apparently, led to big sales for retailer 3 Wishes.

The Joe Exotic Tiger Honey Costume and the Joe Exotic Costume are two of the company’s best-sellers, a 3 Wishes spokesperson tells Yahoo Life, along with The Sexy Joe Exotic Costume. “Pair this look with a pair of jeans or shorts,” reads the product description, “and you'll be ready to burn down the place.” Need only an accessory or two to complete your look? The company sells handlebar mustaches and hoop earrings in Tiger King’s likeness.

Overall, individualism overrides conformity. “For this season, styles with petticoats and puffy skirts, corsets have declined drastically over the years and especially recently,” the spokesperson tells Yahoo Life. “Customers have preferred [costumes] that more closely mimic their personal style and those seen on the red carpet or runway — like catsuits, high-cut hips, sleek silhouettes [or] rompers.”

Costumes like Heaven Sent Angel, The Wizard of Oz-inspired Dorothy Girl and fruits like Sweet Strawberry and Blue Berry Girl, meanwhile, took a backseat.

Grrrr! The Joe Exotic Tiger Honey Costume (L) and the Joe Exotic Costume (R) by 3 Wishes are top-sellers at 3 Wishes. (Photos: 3 Wishes)
Grrrr! The Joe Exotic Tiger Honey Costume, left, and the Joe Exotic Costume are top-sellers at 3 Wishes. (Photos: 3 Wishes)
The Tiger King-inspired Sexy Joe Exotic Costume is popular this season. (Photo: 3 Wishes)
The "Tiger King"-inspired Sexy Joe Exotic Costume is popular this season. (Photo: 3 Wishes)

Superheroes are in style but “sexy is almost unsellable,” says Rubie’s Costume Company

The Aug. 28 death of actor Chadwick Boseman, 43, who played Black Panter, a.k.a., T'Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Films, was tough for fans, especially kids. So the popularity of the Avengers: Endgame Black Panther Deluxe Child Costume by Rubie’s Costume Company is an “incredible tribute,” founder Howie Beige tells Yahoo Life. His 68-year-old family owned-and-operated company manufactures and supplies costumes to retailers like Target and Amazon.

Other kid hits: "The Child" Star Wars the Mandalorian Costume and the Boy's Star Wars Mandalorian Beskar Armor Costume (inspired by the 2019 Disney+ series), along with Paw Patrol and Baby Shark, and superheroes Spider-Man (in any iteration), Captain America, Thor and Hulk.

For grownups, the Jurassic World Inflatable T-Rex Adult Costume is a hot purchase (even for a Texas bridesmaid who wore it to her sister’s wedding) and horror figures such as the Nightmare on Elm Street product lines (the sweater is sold separately from other items) and characters from the horror gaming series Five Nights at Freddy’s.

Surprisingly, a once-simmering trend at Rubies has fizzled: “Sexy is almost unsellable — the line died for us in 2008,” Howie Beige, founder of Rubie's Costume Company, tells Yahoo Life, referring to that year’s recession, reportedly the worst since the Great Depression. Beige also posits that with increased family time brought on by quarantine, people are exchanging sexy for silly.

Wakanda Foreve! The Avengers: Endgame Black Panther Deluxe Child Costume based off Chadwick Boseman's famous character is popular at Rubie's Costume Company. (Photo: Rubie's Costume Company)
Wakanda Forever! The Avengers: Endgame Black Panther Deluxe Child Costume based off Chadwick Boseman's famous character is popular at Rubie's Costume Company. (Photo: Rubie's Costume Company)
Calling all Star Wars fans! Two costumes — Child "The Child" Star Wars The Mandalorian Costume (L) and Star Wars The Mandalorian Beskar Armor Children's Costume (R) — are huge hits. (Photos: Rubie's Costume Company)Calling all Star Wars fans! Two costumes — Child "The Child" Star Wars The Mandalorian Costume (L) and Star Wars The Mandalorian Beskar Armor Children's Costume (R) — are huge hits. (Photos: Rubie's Costume Company)
Calling all Star Wars fans! Two costumes — Child "The Child" Star Wars The Mandalorian Costume, left, and Star Wars the Mandalorian Beskar Armor Children's Costume (R) — are huge hits. (Photos: Rubie's Costume Company)
Rubie's Inflatable Adult T-Rex Costume was viral sensation in 2020. (Photo: Rubie's Costume Company)
Rubie's Inflatable Adult T-Rex Costume was a viral sensation in 2020. (Photo: Rubie's Costume Company)

Politics are a sure bet at Yandy’s

Mail-in ballots may not contribute to election fraud, but the controversy makes Yandy’s Mail In Ballot Costume one of its most popular sellers. The look features a white tube dress that resembles an envelope marked “Official Ballot Enclosed” and “I Voted” symbols.

Yandy’s Fake News Costume also made its best-selling list — the newspaper-printed dress which is covered with, ironically, real headlines, was released in 2017, when President Trump adopted the phrase to describe any bad press about his administration, according to the Washington Post.

The topical garb does push the envelope, but Yandy won’t be capitalizing on any coronavirus trends. When asked by Business Insider whether it will sell "sexy COVID" costumes, Pilar Quintana-Williams, the vice-president of merchandising replied, "I don't think there's anything sexy about it."

“Across the board, vampires, ninjas and witches are the most popular,” a company spokesperson tells Yahoo Life. “Some of our biggest sellers this year are the Ride Em Cowgirl Costume, Princess Of Darkness Costume, and a Yandy Exclusive, Yandy Cat Fight Costume.” The spokesperson adds that costume sales are up 35 percent over 2019.

Yandy's Mail In Ballot Costume is a timely Halloween costume. (Photo: Yandy)
Yandy's Mail In Ballot Costume is a timely choice. (Photo: Yandy)
Political Halloween costumes like Yandy's Fake News outfit score big. (Photo: Yandy)
Political Halloween costumes like Yandy's Fake News outfit score big. (Photo: Yandy)

“Everyday heroes” are celebrated at Party City

"A trend we are seeing in costumes this year is everyday hero costumes — doctors, nurses, firefighters and other essential workers,” Julie Roehm, chief marketing and experience officer for Party City, tells Yahoo Life. Doctors in adult and child styles make the list, along with a girls nurse costume.

“In a year that has gone mostly digital, it is also unsurprising that movie, TV, and video game character favorites like Spider-Man, Frozen, and Minecraft Steve are also flying off of shelves,” she adds. “And then there are pandemic favorites, like Tiger King-inspired, that are in demand as well.”

Party City parents are snatching up kid costumes like Princess Audrey Rose and Mal from Disney’s Descendants 3 and Elsa from Frozen 2 (whose summer gown was shortened and paired with boots for the sequel, which is set in the fall). The company says adults are gravitating toward Harley Quinn from Batman and Mrs. Incredible from The Incredible.

On the horror front, the Adult Tattered Pennywise Costume off the film It Chapter Two and the Glow-in-the-Dark X-ray Skeleton Costume score big.

An appreciation for healthcare workers during the coronavirus pandemic inspired sales of the Adult Doctor Costume. (Photo: Party City)
An appreciation for healthcare workers during the coronavirus pandemic inspired sales of the Adult Doctor Costume. (Photo: Party City)
Essential workers are emulated this Halloween season. Pictured: Girls Doctor Costume. (Photo: Party City)
Essential workers are popular inspirations this Halloween season, such as with this popular Girls Doctor Costume. (Photo: Party City)

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