On Halloweekend, your social media feeds were likely filled with an array of Halloween fit checks, your friends' jaw-dropping pictures, and tags such as #AmazonHalloweenCostume. Earlier in September, the National Retail Federation predicted Halloween spending to reach $10.6 billion. While many may claim to care about the environment, they are ignorant to how their costume purchasing patterns impact the planet.

There is nothing wrong with wanting a new costume every year, or for the fashion industry to seek novelty. However, it is wrong to purchase costumes from unethical companies, wastefully throw away your single-use outfit, and not adjust your purchasing behaviors when plenty of costumes are already in circulation. How do we create a sustainable costume culture?

For Gen-Z college students, fashion is “the favorite entertainment category to spend money on, outranking categories like dining, video games, and music” (Business of Fashion). Fast fashion companies capitalize on this by producing millions of cheap costumes, and utilizing social media to encourage consumers to wear multiple head-to-toe outfits over the duration of Halloweekend. Interestingly, consumers care more about a garment's end-of-life more than where they bought it from; few actively seek out sustainable brands to shop from, but many claim to donate their clothes when done with them (McKinsey).

Hopefully, Gen Z's increased commitment to thrifting is lightening the post-Halloween thrift store load. Still, we must be more conscious of our habits around holidays associated with clothing waste, such as Halloween. Amber Rochette, visionary for Sustainable Fashion Week, says, “We share the same planet, and we all get dressed every day- so it makes perfect sense to work collectively in making fashion fair” (Fashion Revolution). Here’s what we can do better: 

  • Host a costume sale/swap right after Halloween; chances are people won’t know what to do with them. An apparel recycling program would be effective, as 92% of surveyed consumers in California last year said they would participate in a recycling program if offered the opportunity. (McKinsey

  • If you go out multiple nights of Halloween, share costumes! Help your friends mitigate the impact of their fashion choices. 

  • DIY costumes- save up pieces until then; it’ll be more fun. Also, it’s much cooler to strut your stuff in a costume no one else is wearing, rather than being a copy-paste version of others who purchased from fast fashion brands. Remember, “no cheap, mass-produced versions can beat the real thing” (Good On You). 

  • Post your DIY costumes online. The leading source of Halloween costume inspiration is online searches. Plus, “social platforms have given Gen-Z tastemakers an unparalleled ability to convene and speak to audiences” (Business of Fashion). 

Bozarth, Danielle, et al. “Closing the Loop: Increasing Fashion Circularity in California.” McKinsey & Company, McKinsey & Company, 15 Sept. 2022, https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/closing-the-loop-increasing-fashion-circularity-in-california.

Rees, Lauren. “Sustainable Fashion Week 2022.” Sustainable Fashion Week 2022: Fashion Revolution, Oct. 2022, https://www.fashionrevolution.org/sustainable-fashion-week-2022/.

Robertson, Lara. “The Ultimate Guide to Having a Green Halloween.” Good On You, 2 Dec. 2021, https://goodonyou.eco/ultimate-guide-green-halloween/

Schneider, Benjamin, and Diana Lee. “Bof Insights: Gen-Z and Fashion in the Age of Realism.” The Business of Fashion, The Business of Fashion, 12 Oct. 2022, https://www.businessoffashion.com/reports/retail/gen-z-fashion-in-the-age-of-realism-bof-insights-social-media-report/?cid=other-eml-mtg-mip-mck&hlkid=aa79c6e776d64e09a4fec235487de61c&hctky=13466705&hdpid=2aca0cfa-6346-40c1-93d6-48680a8382a4.

Watts, Lottie. “Halloween Participation Returns to Pre-Pandemic Levels with Record Spending.” National Retail Federation, 19 Sept. 2022, https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/halloween-participation-returns-pre-pandemic-levels-record-spending.