Culture

18 pop culture costume ideas for Halloween 2021

The meme-ified moments and iconic looks to mimic this year.

The meme-ified moments and iconic looks to mimic this year

(L to R: Instagram/@katmainpp; Marvel Studios; Theo Wargo/Getty Images; Instagram/@lilnasx; Instagram/@oliviarodrigo; Netflix; Instagram/@ladygaga)

In a world dominated by screens, it's fitting that some of the best Halloween costume ideas would come from the media we've consumed all year long. Behold, a collection of pop culture-inspired costume ideas (think: meme-ified album covers, cinematic ensembles and iconic red carpet looks) perfect for all your Halloween hangs — whatever shape they may shift into this year. 

1. Kim Kardashian West (and designer Demna Gvasalia) at the 2021 Met Gala

Calling all fashion girls, goths, stage managers: if you're the kind of person whose closet is already full of black clothing, this costume is for you. After a hiatus in 2020, the Met Gala traded the first Monday in May for the second Monday in September, conveniently gifting us with a new crop of celebrity looks just in time for Halloween. The night's standout ensemble was arguably Kim Kardashian West, stepping out alongside designer Demna Gvasalia, in head-to-toe black Balenciaga.

Kim's getup did what all great Met Gala looks should: it provided one of the more interesting takes on the night's theme and inspired some of the evening's funniest memes

As a Halloween costume, KKW's outfit checks off even more boxes: it's chic, warm, requires no makeup (though she did full glam anyway) and offers the kind of playful anonymity you'd get at a masquerade. It's also the kind of look that can mostly be cobbled together from what you already own. 

Here are a few elements you'll need to really pull it off:

  • A black minidress (bonus points if it has bell sleeves)
  • Long black gloves
  • Two long black tablecloths or scrap pieces of fabric that can be fastened under your dress at the back so they hang down like a train (a black cape from an old costume would also work in a pinch)
  • Opaque black nylons worn over stilettos (just poke holes in the nylons so your heels can come through!)
  • A black full face mask, which can be found at Halloween stores or on Amazon for around $10 to $20
  • A long black ponytail

To bring along a pal as your Demna, be sure to grab: 

  • An extra black full face mask 
  • An oversized black hoodie
  • Black sweatpants
  • Black slippers

2. Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X was responsible for look after internet-breaking look this year. The award-winning artist wore all white with a crown of roses for his album-release maternity shoot, suited up in three layers of gold for last month's Met Gala and stripped fully down on the album artwork for Montero, to name just a few.

But there are two looks we feel are particularly fitting for a Halloween homage this year: Lil Nas' pole-dancing ensemble in the video for Montero (Call Me By Your Name) — a perfect reference for the most devilish day of the year (it even inspired a new wave of Satanic Panic) — and this bridal moment from the video for Thats What I Want. Besides keeping you a little warmer at outdoor gatherings, the latter look can also be pulled together pretty easily — wedding dresses from the '80s and '90s remain a staple at most thrift stores.

For the costume inspired by Montero (Call Me By Your Name), you'll need:

  • Thigh-high black boots
  • Red braids
  • Black boxers or shorts — even better if they're adorned with the Calvin Klein logo

Turn it into a couples costume and have your partner dress as a hot devil.

To recreate the Thats What I Want look, you'll need:

  • An old wedding dress
  • A white blazer 
  • A very long veil

3. Bernie Sanders at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration 

Every now and then there's a meme so ubiquitous that it nestles its way into the collective consciousness. The image of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders at then president-elect Joe Biden's inauguration this past January — sitting socially distanced on a black folding chair, masked, arms crossed, while wearing a parka/dress pants/knit mittens combo (perhaps best described as waiting in line at the post office-chic) — became just that. It also gave his brown knit mittens instant icon status

While the meme itself may have become oversaturated fast, the argument for channeling Bernie's look this Halloween is clear: it's so damn cozy, perfect for a year when many gatherings will still be happening outdoors. 

Here's what you'll need:

  • A khaki green parka
  • Black dress pants
  • Brown dress shoes
  • Patterned wool mittens (you can find a variety on Etsy, where there is an entire category dedicated to "Bernie Mittens")
  • Wire-rimmed glasses
  • A blue medical face mask
  • A large manila envelope to tuck under your arm
  • Optional: a black folding chair 

4. Ted Lasso

The second season of Ted Lasso, the feel-good soccer show that was this year's Emmy winner for outstanding comedy series, just finished airing on Apple TV+. If you're already missing the crew from AFC Richmond, you can take inspo from almost any one of the characters in the loveable lineup — but our pick is the show's title character. Start by raiding the closet of a football-loving friend to channel TV's nicest coach.

Here's what you'll need:

  • A windbreaker and track pants (ideally blue)
  • A whistle with a lanyard
  • A soccer ball to carry
  • Aviator sunglasses
  • A fake moustache (the whole costume rests on this!)
  • A box of homemade shortbread, if you really want to win people over
  • An endless supply of puns, a whole lot of optimism and plenty of positive affirmations

5. Wanda and Vision from WandaVision

The Marvel Cinematic Universe continued its mighty sweep of our mortal Earth in 2021, this time taking to our television screens with a slate of buzzy new shows on Disney+, beginning with WandaVision. In this decade-jumping love letter to sitcoms, superhero lovebirds Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) cycle through a range of perfectly retro and contemporary looks, providing plenty of inspiration for a couple's costume. 

Haven't dressed up in a while? Break out a cocktail dress, a string of pearls, slacks and a cardigan to nod to the I Love Lucy-inspired 1950s looks from the show's first episode. For duos looking to make a more dramatic statement, there's their superhero looks — whether you opt for the comic book-style outfits they sported on the show's Halloween episode or the sleeker, more modern Scarlet Witch and Vision ensembles we see in the finale. 

While you can pick up a store-bought Marvel getup from practically any place that sells costumes, these looks are pretty easy to put together yourself.

For 1950s Wanda, you'll need:

  • An A-line cocktail dress or a smock dress in the style of a diner waitress uniform
  • An apron
  • A string of pearls
  • A softly curled bob

For 1950s Vision, you'll need:

  • A slim grey suit with a white shirt and thin black tie, or beige slacks with a white shirt and a cardigan
  • A red Vision mask you can find at a costume store, or face paint and a YouTube tutorial like this one

For the classic comic-style Scarlet Witch, you'll need:

  • A red bodysuit
  • Pink sheer nylons
  • A red cape 
  • Long red gloves
  • Red lipstick
  • A Scarlet Witch headpiece, which you can purchase from a costume store or DIY using art supplies and one of the many tutorials the internet has to offer

For the classic comic-style Vision, you'll need:

  • A bright green hooded bodysuit or long-sleeved shirt (you can craft the yellow diamond for the middle of the chest out of construction paper or draw it on with fabric paint)
  • Bright green nylons or leggings
  • Yellow shorts
  • A yellow cape 
  • Long yellow socks to wear over your shoes to stand in for knee-high boots
  • Face paint

6. Shang-Chi

We anticipate that Shang-Chi from Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be one of the biggest costumes of the year. After all, the Simu Liu–starrer is a global phenomenon and reportedly the biggest-grossing film of the last two years (yay for the return of movies and yay Simu!). And while you can purchase a Shang-Chi costume from a store, we have some ideas on how you can make this MCU superhero's ensemble at home.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Black pants
  • Black sneakers 
  • A red long-sleeved shirt or jacket
  • Some black fabric paint or electrical tape to replicate the pattern of his suit 

Turn to tutorials on YouTube for how to make your own version of Shang-Chi's bo staff (like this one that uses PVC pipe, poster board and a flashlight), or pick up a ready-made version from a toy store

7. More from the MCU: Alligator Loki and Agatha Harkness 

After its year (if not decade) of total domination, the MCU earns a third entry on our list with two more beloved characters. Channel Kathryn Hahn as WandaVision villain (and runaway star, who reportedly nabbed her own spinoff) Agatha Harkness in all her big haired, brooch-wearing glory, or throw on an ultra-warm, full-body alligator suit in homage to one of the most beloved Lokis we had the pleasure of meeting this year.

For Agatha Harkness, you'll need:

  • Teal and purple velvet garments — whatever's long, heavy and can be easily layered will do the trick here (and keep you warm)
  • A cameo brooch with a white motif on it (you may find similar versions at your local antique or thrift store)
  • Big wavy hair
  • Dark, filled-in eyebrows
  • Purple glitter slime to represent her magic 

For Alligator Loki, you'll need:

  • A full-body alligator suit from Amazon or a big-box costume store
  • A store-bought or DIY Loki headpiece

8. The crew from Bridgerton

Get out your ball gowns and finest coats and tails for this fancy, Regency-inspired group costume. Back in very early 2021, it seemed like the whole world was burning for this steamy show (Netflix announced it was the platform's most-watched original series shortly after its debut), but since we just got tossed a teaser for next season, this still feels like a very of-the-moment costume. Here's how to channel Bridgerton's vision of the London social season. 

The dukes will need:

  • A tailcoat or any Regency-esque waistcoat you've got access to 
  • A top hat and cravat are key to this look

The ladies will need:

  • Cascading curls or an updo with a jeweled headpiece
  • Lace or satin above-the-elbow gloves  
  • An empire-waist dress, which you can thrift, buy at a Halloween store or make with the help of this sewing tutorial from withwendy

9. Bennifer 

Will the couple the internet can't get enough of become the Halloween costume the world can't get enough of? The jury's still out, but given how collectively captivated we are by Bennifer's inexplicable-yet-inevitable reunion after 17-plus years apart, there's no denying that the Gigli stars will be inspiring their fair share of couples' looks this year. 

While the outfit options are almost beside the point here — pack on the PDA and evoke the energy of being on a yacht and you'll be fine — the comfiest way to channel these two is via the matching beige athleisure looks they sported this summer in the Hamptons. 

For Jen, you'll need:

  • A cream-coloured, cashmere-like sweater
  • Cream-coloured wide-leg pants
  • White sneakers
  • Silver hoop earrings
  • Loose, beachy curls

For Ben, you'll need:

  • A cream-coloured hoodie
  • Tan khakis
  • White sneakers
  • Scruffy facial hair and unmistakably sad eyes
  • Optional: A cardboard cutout of Ana de Armas to carry around, for the memories

10. Olivia Rodrigo

God, it's brutal out here... but locking in a Halloween look doesn't have to be. Olivia Rodrigo gave us some of 2021's buzziest singles, sweeping both TikTok and the Billboard charts in January before releasing her stardom-cementing first album, Sour, in May. The singer seems to have a natural talent for uniting zoomers and millennials — something few on the internet are able to do — by making them feel all the feels.

Along with Rodrigo's album came two Halloween-worthy looks that echo the artist's ability to channel the angst and outfits of eras past while still feeling achingly of-the-now: her album cover look and her good 4 you video look. Bonus: they're both pretty achievable ensembles, regardless of the generation you belong to. 

For the Sour look, you'll need:

  • A pink tank top
  • A blue plaid skirt 
  • Some silver chains and a bunch of rings
  • Black nail polish 
  • A face full of stickers that look like they belong on a homeroom binder
  • Bonus points for occasionally sticking out your tongue throughout the night, showing off the word "sour" spelled out in stickers

For the good 4 u look, you'll need: 

  • A cheerleader outfit, whether thrifted or ordered from a costume store 
  • A middle part and a couple of flower clips 
  • A pair of black latex above-the-elbow gloves 
  • Optional: a red (empty) gasoline can to go full vengeful cheerleader

11. Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani and Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci in House of Gucci

"Father, Son and house of Gucci" — when Lady Gaga uttered those six words using that Italian accent in the trailer for the upcoming House of Gucci film, everything changed. And by "everything" we mean our ability to concentrate on anything other than the movie's hotly anticipated release in November. But we don't need to see another frame to know that Gaga's portrayal of Patrizia Reggiani is worthy of paying homage to this Halloween season. 

Go it alone by sporting a similar all-red snowsuit (if you happen to own one, how could you possibly resist?), or grab a friend and recreate Reggiani and Maurizio Gucci's coordinating '80s aprés-ski looks. 

For Patrizia, you'll need:

  • Black high-waisted jeans
  • A black belt
  • A black turtleneck
  • Chunky gold jewelry of all varieties: layered chains, thick bracelets, hanging earrings, rings 
  • A white faux-fur Cossak-style hat
  • A dark pixie cut or hair pulled back

For Maurizio, you'll need:

  • A cream-coloured cable-knit sweater 
  • White snow pants
  • Black aviator glasses

12. Princess Diana in Spencer

The late Princess Diana had many iconic looks. Back in 2019, we suggested channeling "running errands" for Halloween, but this year, we're inspired by Kristen Stewart's black and red ensemble in her portrayal of Diana for the upcoming film Spencer

While many of us won't have the chance to see the film until after Halloween (it's mainly been screened at film festivals, including Venice and TIFF, thus far), considering that people have been whispering "Oscar" alongside Stewart's name since the first still from the movie dropped, it's safe to say you'll be right on time with this costume. 

Get the onscreen look with: 

  • A red blazer
  • A black pussy-bow blouse or black turtleneck with a makeshift pussy bow 
  • A short blond wig 
  • A wide-brimmed black hat with a black birdcage veil

13. The Ever Given, a.k.a. the ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal

Stuck on what to wear this Halloween? (Sorry, we had to.) This container ship stopped the world in its tracks and spawned endless memes while we all waited for it to finally be freed. So if you're in the market for a costume with "big impact," this may be the one for you. 

The Ever Given is also an ideal costume if you've been craving a crafting session. Here's how to make it happen:

  • Find a large cardboard box (big enough for you to wear around your torso), and remove the top and bottom flaps so you can step inside
  • Use the flaps to fashion a point on the front of your box (this will be the ship's "bow")
  • Add some fabric over-the-shoulder straps 
  • Use paint and/or construction paper to add "shipping containers" of various hues and sizes to sides of the box, as well as a red stripe along the bottom and the word "Evergreen" in white 
  • Wear all black underneath (black tights and a bodysuit will lend some theatre flair)
  • Accentuate your massive stature by carrying around a tiny toy bulldozer

14. The Weeknd at the Super Bowl LV halftime show

The Weeknd's 14-minute set at the Super Bowl LV halftime show featured his signature After Hours look — and honestly, if you plan to spend your Halloween night shredding up the dancefloor, where Abel's songs are almost certain to play, it's hard to think of a more fitting costume. To make yours Super Bowl–specific, you can pull inspo from the dizzying mirror-filled part of the night, or turn it into a group costume for your whole crew by mimicking the outfit below and grabbing some white drama masks from the dollar store. 

Here's what you'll need:

  • A red blazer — the sparklier the better
  • A black dress shirt 
  • Black dress pants
  • A black tie
  • Black leather gloves 
  • A pair of black and white creepers
  • A crafted cardboard headpiece with mirrors glued to it
  • For the group costume: white masks with the eye holes cut wider into geometric shapes

15. Drake's Certified Lover Boy album cover

If you're looking for an easy last-minute group costume, take inspo from another release that spawned a million memes: the emoji-filled cover of Drake's latest album, Certified Lover Boy. This look works especially well for Zoom parties, allowing you to truly recreate that grid. 

You can go as any of the subsequent iterations, but here are the basics of what you'll need:

  • Long-sleeved tees in a solid colour 
  • Pregnant bellies, real or pretend  

For added cohesion, get the whole group to don shoulder-length bob wigs. 

16. The Roy family from Succession

Sure, this acclaimed HBO drama chronicling the misadventures of the prickly Roy family and their increasingly precarious media empire has already had its time in the Halloween limelight. But with the launch of the highly anticipated third season, there's no doubt it's going to be the show on everyone's lips come the 31st. 

The real beauty of this costume is in its versatility: you can go solo or as a group; there's a plethora of characters to choose from; and if you've ever worked in an office, chances are you can source everything you need right from your own closet. While this makes the Waystar Royco clan particularly perfect inspiration for dress-up day at the office, Succession does air on Halloween night, so you can even stream the latest ep while donning your on-theme outfit. Synergy! 

For Shiv, you'll need:

  • High-waisted wide-leg pants
  • A grey or black tucked-in turtleneck
  • A thin chain necklace
  • Straight hair parted to one side

For Kendall, you'll need: 

  • A fitted dark suit
  • A pair of sneakers
  • Oversized headphones, to tune out the world 
  • Short gelled hair
  • The life draining from your eyes

For Roman, you'll need:

  • A blue collared shirt with the top button undone
  • Dark dress pants
  • Dress shoes
  • Dark sunglasses with thin rims
  • A phone you can turn to for quips — and use to watch live streams while hiding out in the bathroom 

17. 480 Otis, the four-time champ of Fat Bear Week

Of all the festivities October tends to usher in — from fall feasts to haunted hayrides — Fat Bear Week, described as "an annual tournament celebrating their success in preparation for winter hibernation," may be our absolute favourite. To dress as the recently crowned four-time champ, 480 Otis, don a big, cozy bear suit and be as relaxed as he seems to be. 

Here's what you'll need to get the look of the fattest bear in the Katmai National Park and Preserve: 

18. The robot doll from Squid Game

Squid Game is the Korean Netflix drama that is truly on everyone's mind (and screen) right now. It's currently No. 1 on Netflix in 90 countries, has been dissected by seemingly every podcast out there, has surpassed Bridgerton to become the platform's most-streamed show, and at the time of publishing, the hashtag #squidgame boasted a truly wild 43.4 billion views on TikTok. We think the show's most frightful look to go for is obviously the giant robot doll

Here's what you'll need to transform yourself into this 10-foot terror:

  • A yellow Peter Pan-collared shirt
  • An orange dress
  • White knee-high socks 
  • A pair of black Mary Janes
  • Pigtails

You can yell out the occasional "red light!" or "green light!" throughout the night. Transform this into a group costume by making your friends don teal track suits and white sneakers — easy and comfy! 

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