The Positive Power of Our Everyday Costumes

Halloween is an invitation to try out a wildly different identity. But what could we be if we brought our imagination to the everyday?

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Posted in , Oct 27, 2017

Our best self.

There are so many memories from childhood that slip away as the years pass. But some that have stuck with me are my Halloween costumes. The sassy power I felt in a bandana and boots when I dressed as a cowgirl. The imaginative pleasure of being Yoda, posing for a photo next to my sister, Oscar the Grouch. And possibly my favorite—the frilly dress I wore with a ghoulish mask the year I went as a Gremlin bride.

Actors and other theater folks often talk about how integral costumes are to the process of becoming a character, inhabiting a role. Halloween costumes, especially for children, are less laden, perhaps, but no less of an invitation to visit another world, another life, for awhile. 

“I love costumes,” the actor Alessandro Nivolo is quoted as saying, “I love getting dressed up because it helps my imagination make the leap to believe that I am who I say I am.” 

This quote makes me think of something I’ve heard at most Halloween parties I’ve attended as an adult. Someone always comes in regular clothing, saying, “I’m dressed as a grown-up/parent/professional/regular person.”

The comment is a joke meant to deflect their failure to come up with a clever costume idea. But isn’t it also accurate? Don’t we all dress up every day in a costume of sorts? Outside of Halloween season, our costumes typically reflect the identity we want to project into the world—the confidence we hope to imbue, how we hope others will perceive us. At this time of year, we might enjoy trying on a completely different identity—an animal, a fantastical creature, a scary beast—just because it’s fun to take a break from everyday life.

But regardless of what costumes we wear, Nivolo’s words can guide us toward a positive view of what people see when they look at us.

Who do you say you are? With the right costume, your imagination can help you make the leap to believe in that person.

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